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Spring Cleaning: Bacteria and Mold are Hiding in Your Dorm Room

Morgan Linstead | May 8th, 2023

Most students don’t realize how disgusting their dorm rooms are. Even if you clean regularly, bacteria colonies are forming in places you probably didn’t think to clean. Thus, in this article, I aim to shed some light on these forgotten areas and urge you all to please, please, please clean your dorm rooms. 

The Floor

While many students arrange their rooms so that their desk is lined up with their dresser drawers, these furniture pieces do not line up perfectly. In fact, the desk makes a large gap between the two. Thus, I suggest that you get in the habit of sweeping regularly, especially around your trash can and recycling bin, around the furniture like your desk and dresser drawers, and in your closet. 

When sweeping, pull your desk out from the arrangement described above, and be sure to sweep in between the two pieces of furniture. Dust and dander will certainly collect here over time, along with run-away pencils, old dirty bandaids, missing self-care products, and who knows what else. If you have access to a Swiffer, I would also heavily advise using that to clean your dorm room floor as well, but sweep first before using a Swiffer. Trust me. It will save you a lot of money in Swiffer wet pads in the long run. 

The Desk/Dresser

You are probably more likely to notice when your desk and dresser surface become dirty compared to your floor or door handle. You can see the outline of the condensation coming off of your water bottle, or the dust surrounding your calculus textbook you haven’t touched since August. Therefore, cleaning your desk is pretty straightforward. To start, you need some paper towels and disinfectant cleaner. 

However, despite the temptation to just wipe down the surface of your desk, you can’t forget about the items and decorations sitting on top of your desk as well, like that calculus textbook or the old self-care products your mom made you bring but that you never actually ended up using and now just sit in a clump at the corner of your desk. These things all accrue dust over time as well, but we rarely stop to think about wiping down our pencil holders or cleaning each individual decoration taking up space on the surface of our desk. And who can blame us? Cleaning is tiresome, and by the time you’re done wiping down all the corners of your desk, you’re ready to be done, lay on your bed, and scroll through social media. However, it’s important to not give in to the temptation of halfhearted cleaning. Don’t take shortcuts, and clean everything on your desk. 

The Bed (Sheets)

I hope this isn’t a news flash for anyone, but you need to wash your sheets. How often, you may ask? Washing them every other week is a good place to start, but if possible, it would be better to wash them every week. I know this is a lot to ask of college students, and washing your sheets every week may not be possible with scheduling restrictions and ongoing house laundry battles, but doing them every other week is a must. Think of all the dead skin, oils, and sweat that your sheets have been subjected to just over the last week. It is also important to note that while sheets in women’s dorm rooms usually don’t have as much bacteria on them, men’s sheets do. Further, another benefit of washing your sheets is possibly reducing the severity of your allergies. All in all, please just wash your sheets. 

The Fridge

This is your sign to throw out that orange in your fridge that you’ve been harboring for 3 weeks and have still not eaten. Your fridge is nasty. So is your freezer. If you have a freezer section in your fridge, it sometimes has a water trap, a plastic piece that slides underneath it that you can pull out in order to clean or dump when the water trap is full. Freezer water traps work to capture melted ice whenever your freezer thaws, or your fridge warms a bit. If you don’t have a freezer trap, then this water is just falling to the rest of your fridge and soaking into your leftovers from Roma or Satay. 

When leaving for spring break, you’re required to unplug your fridge. This results in your freezer thawing, and water accumulating in the water trap. If possible, unplug your fridge the night before you intend to leave, then dump the melted ice/water and clean your entire fridge with disinfectant. If you see any mold, clean vigorously. Mold always grows, so make sure to get rid of it sooner rather than later. Always clean your fridge an additional time after returning from break before putting any food in there. Also, never leave food open in your fridge or everything will smell awful (including your food). Invest in some reusable Tupperware and never leave leftovers in your fridge for more than a week. 

The Doorknob/Lightswitch

Your doorknob holds just as much (if not more) bacteria as your dresser surface and sheets, according to this study. It seems like such an obvious area for high traffic since everyone has to touch that handle at some point to enter or leave their room. Yet, can you remember the last time you properly cleaned or sanitized your door knob/handle? Do it now while you’re thinking about it. And while you’re at it, make a sticky note and stick it on your door to remind yourself of the nastiness waiting for you on your door handle so you can get in the habit of cleaning it more often. 

The Bathroom

Most students on campus don’t have their own, personal bathroom. However, your public restrooms aren’t free of nasty bacteria, so you should still be mindful of what’s lurking on the bathroom sink or the doorknob. Both shared dorm restrooms and those in suites/apartments are cleaned by Vanderbilt custodial staff weekly. The staff uses chemical cleaners designed to rid surfaces and floors of bacteria and disease-causing pathogens. However, you should still be mindful of what surfaces may not be getting cleaned as deeply, such as doorknobs or stall locks. 

As college students who have gone through a viral pandemic, I understand that most of us are overly conscious of things like health and sanitation. We need to continue to keep these in mind, and not slack off just because we are away from home and no one is going to reprimand us for not washing our hands or sanitizing after touching a popular surface. To refresh yourself on when and how to wash your hands, click this link. 


All in all, dorm rooms are more disgusting than most of us realize. While we clean our visible surfaces, we usually forget about little things like door knobs and lightswitches that can easily spread germs. Furthermore, while we love to decorate our rooms, it’s important that our decorations (including lamps, photo frames, and those old self-care products gathering dust) are also getting wiped down when cleaning. It’s better to over-clean than under-clean. Further, while out in public, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to be over cautious about other areas where you might be acquiring germs: always wash your hands after using public restrooms, sanitize after using gas station nozzles, and regularly sanitize throughout the day as doorknobs, chairs, and desks in classrooms likely also contain germs. Even as the pandemic becomes less serious, we have to look out for ourselves and keep germs and disease-causing pathogens as far away as possible, lest they make us sick and interfere with our everyday life and our ability to do well in our academics.

Works Cited

​​Bacteria on Campus. College Stats. [accessed 2023 Apr 17].

Noyed D. How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets? Sleep Foundation. 2020 Oct 15 [accessed 2023 Apr 17].

When and How to Wash Your Hands | Handwashing | CDC. [accessed 2023 Apr 17].

Wilde W. BSC Culinary Resource | BSC Culinary | San Francisco, CA. BSC Culinary Resource. 2019 Aug 16 [accessed 2023 Apr 17].

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