Dormitory Cleaning Best Practices

Though 2021’s summer carries on through a hot August, college students are already moving into their dorms for the fall semester. After a year of mixed remote and in-person learning across secondary schools and university campuses alike, many students and parents are excited and eager to start the semester with a clean and hygienic dorm room experience. To keep students and families comfortable and safe, custodial staff and contracted cleaning companies are working hard to ensure every dorm room and shared living area is free from dirt, bacteria, and viruses.

The impression your facility leaves is critical to ensuring students and families have a positive first impression about living on campus and are excited to be in their new room and community. Families of prospective students typically put a lot of thought into deciding on the best path for higher education, and if their student moves into a dirty dorm, it may even encourage them, or even other students, to transfer schools.

Cleaning staff will need to prepare for the incoming student body with the best cleaning supplies and procedures that keep dormitories looking great while providing a hygienic and safe environment for the comfort of students and visiting family. In this post, we’ll go over the most efficient dorm-cleaning procedures and tools that appropriate staff should utilize in preparation for students’ expected move-in day.

Cleaning Dorms By Surface

Before applying any cleaning chemical or disinfectant, first consider the type of surface and how frequently people make contact with it. Normally, if a given surface makes more contact with people throughout the day, it has a higher risk for soil, germs, and even viruses like COVID-19.

Cleaning staff should prioritize cleaning high-touch surfaces a minimum of once daily. If the space is part of a high-traffic area, you may want to clean more often or also disinfect the surface(s) too. The cleaning team should begin by removing all the furniture from the dorm room before performing floor care procedures. Most residence halls have a mix of hard and carpeted floors. Both hard and carpeted floors should be vacuumed before performing any further cleaning procedure.


In dorms especially, the molding around the floor, door, and windows will likely build up over time quickly from frequent use. For cleaning and disinfecting baseboards and molding near doors and the floor, most cleaners would benefit from using a traditional scrub brush and baseboard cleaner to remove the buildup.

For more delicate molding and soil removal around windows, custodial team members would be smart to use disposable wipes or an all-purpose cleaner. If using an all-purpose cleaner, it is recommended to use the eight-fold method (along with a color-coded system) to get eight clean squares of microfiber cloth to prevent cross-contamination between surfaces.


Dorm room windows are frequently caked with bacteria, dust, and fingerprints. Your cleaning team should almost always use a glass and window cleaner to remove soil and germs. They would also benefit from spraying the glass cleaner onto the cloth itself instead of directly on the window. Such practice helps prevent overusing cleaning products (and also reduces the risk of the custodian breathing in the aerosolized chemical), which can cause more streaking across the pane and visible streak marks on the glass.

Carpeted Floors

To thoroughly clean and restore the fresh look of carpeted floors, cleaning teams usually have a carpet extractor to remove deeply embedded soil. Many extractors remove the intensive manual labor from the cleaning process by applying water and cleaning chemicals to the carpet. Then custodial crews scrub out and remove the dirty cleaning chemicals from the carpet. A hot water extractor is typically the preferred method for deep cleaning carpets.


Walls are a common area in dorms that don’t get the cleaning attention they need. When considering a room for the first time, students and parents prefer to see walls that have a fresh, recently-cleaned look. They need to be deeply cleaned to reduce and remove dust, dirt, human oils from the skin, and even fingerprints. Walls cleaning is usually best with an all-purpose cleaner and microfiber cloths. This should be a regular part of your school’s dormitory cleaning process for ensuring the safety and positive impression of the students living on campus.

Hard Floors

Unless you notice that the dorm floor has significant signs of wear or shows a discolored finish, the floor should likely be cleaned with an autoscrubber.  For hard floors, autoscrubbers often win out over the traditional mop and bucket, substantially reducing labor while giving better results.  Autoscrubbers will usually have three systems to work with: solution dispensing, scrubbing, and the vacuum system, which all work together to simultaneously clean, scrub, and dry floors in one process.

Cleaning Dorm Bathrooms

While many college students living on campus are mature roommates with dependable cleaning schedules, others are not, and this is often made apparent after evaluating their bathroom’s cleaning needs. In terms of specific cleaning supplies, most teams benefit from using disinfectant, cleaning gloves, a scrub brush, mops, bleach, and cleaning wipes.

Take care of the shower and sink areas before anything else. If a college shower hasn’t been cleaned (or cleaned well), it could unintentionally be a hotspot for spreading preventable fungus or viruses, like athletes’ foot, warts, or a staph infection. Be sure to clean, disinfect, and polish the whole shower and bathroom sink heads as well to give them that clean-feeling shine. From there, you can transition to the other surfaces and appliances like the toilet and inner toilet bowl.

Some experts suggest finishing the bathroom floors last so you don’t track in dirt and debris after cleaning. In general, follow a similar routine for your other common area floors for thorough results (as in, sweep, then vacuum and mop).

Dorm Furniture

All the furniture provided by the college or university that stays in the dorm between student residents should be cleaned and disinfected. This would include each table, chair, desk, wardrobe, and other furniture that stays with the dorm once students move.  If a dorm’s furniture is made of different materials, such as wood or plastic, they may benefit from applying different cleaning agents to the different materials to help them last.

For example, wood cleaner is likely the best way to get a wooden chair clean before disinfecting. If your furniture is a little older and made of metal, then traditional, more robust initial cleaners should work well too. In general, prioritize using a multipurpose cleaner for almost all surfaces, minus wooden ones.


Ensuring that your college or university’s residential areas are as clean and hygienic as possible is fundamental to helping students and their families feel comfortable with where their student is going to study and live. Guaranteeing student safety and comfort with effective cleaning practices helps them focus on what’s most important during their time in higher education and goes a long way to building trust with their environment and rapport with cleaning staff.

Although almost all university cleaning staff will have limited timeframes to complete rigorous cleaning efforts, it’s one of the most important ways to keep students committed to their institutions of choice and their own successes as community members striving to make the best out of higher education.