10 Habits That Prevent Pests in Your Dorm Room

Residence hall room
Your residence hall is your home. You don't want to share it with bugs and other pests. Want to learn more? Check out these college pictures!
James Woodson/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Hate to say it, but it's not uncommon at all to have bugs and other pests in your dorm room. From flies and ladybugs to the more ominous cockroaches and mice, anything's possible when you've got a lot of kids crammed together who are living on their own for the first time and probably not being as clean as they should be. In addition, a lot of students unwittingly bring bugs and rodents onto campus with them. You know that used couch you bought at the thrift store? It was filled with bed bugs, which you carried right into your dorm room. And that old chair your roommate brought from home? It was bug-free when he stuck it into his family's storage shed in spring, as he started collecting his college gear, but mice and spiders got into it, and he brought those into your room, too [source: Zudonyi].

A bit creeped out? The good news is that it's a lot easier to prevent unwanted pests from setting up house with you in the first place than to kick them out once they've moved in. Here's what you need to do.


10: Put Away and Seal Food

Many different types of pests are drawn to food -- cockroaches, ants and mice, to name a few. Don't tempt them by leaving out last night's leftovers because you're too tired to clean up. Put away all food as soon as you're finished chowing down, making sure everything is well-sealed. Lightly covering a dish with plastic wrap won't do it. Remember, too, that we're not talking just about cooked food. Mice, for one, will eat foods like cereal, ramen noodles and pretzels. (And enjoy them.) Store those items in containers with tight-fitting lids, and keep them on high shelves -- not on the floor, on the counter or in corners [source: PR Newsire].


9: Pick Up Clutter

Young woman in messy dorm room
Keeping a messy room will encourage unwanted guests to linger.
James Woodson/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

One of the great things about being in college is that you no longer have to answer to mom or dad. Like to toss your clothes in a pile on the floor? No big deal -- no one's going to nag you to pick them up. Ditto with those sliding stacks of papers accumulating on your desk, or that growing pile of miscellaneous junk you've been throwing into the corner. There's just one little problem. Bugs and critters love clutter. Rodents, for example, like to nest in piles of clothes or papers [source: PR Newswire]. And spiders will quickly spin little webs in piles of papers or even a single item tossed into a corner [source: No Pests].

One of the easiest ways to keep pests at bay is simply to keep your room tidy [source: Mayer]. And with that in mind, you can now be grateful for having a tiny, cramped dorm room, as it's a snap to keep such a compact space neat and clean.


8: Wash and Dry Dirty Dishes

Dishes are an interesting thing. Even people who are typically on the neat side often think nothing of leaving dirty dishes in the sink. But even if you've rinsed your dishes off and plan to wash them first thing the next morning, it's not a smart thing to do. Dirty dishes have food stuck to them -- everything from large chunks to small particles to residue you don't see -- and guess who finds your leftovers, no matter how miniscule? Ants, mice and a gazillion other icky creepy crawlers, that's who. Plus, insects like cockroaches are attracted to moisture as well as food, so a dirty, wet pot sitting in the sink is like hitting the jackpot [source: Pest Exterminate Now].


7: Get Rid of Any Standing Water or Moisture

Leaky faucet
Tighten those leaky faucets to discourage bugs and rodents from drinking.
Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock

Lots of bugs and rodents like water. Cockroaches seek out standing water, along with warmth, darkness and spoiling food [source: Benda]. Silverfish, which look like hairy centipedes, are especially attracted to moisture in rooms that are 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1 to 26.7 degrees Celsius). Generally nocturnal, these bugs sometimes come out in the daytime. Flies and gnats are also moisture-seekers, and tend to hover around pipes with condensation -- like those in a dorm sink or toilet [source: No Pests]. And mice and rats are always seeking food, water and shelter. Rodents are especially likely to try and find a way into your dorm when Mother Nature gets feisty and starts dishing up natural disasters like droughts, fires or floods. You really don't want mice in your room; a single pair can create more than 15,000 descendants in just 12 months So mop up any spilled water, take care of leaky faucets, insulate pipes that accumulate condensation and empty any pet water dishes every night [source: PR Newswire].


6: Vacuum and Dust Regularly

If you vacuum often and dust regularly, you'll cut down on the possibility of hosting unwanted guests in your dorm room. Vacuuming will get rid of crumbs and other tasty morsels that may lure in undesirable company, plus may eliminate insect eggs, webs and other accoutrements necessary to their survival and propagation. While dusting may seem to have no connection with keeping out bugs, it definitely helps. Dusting gets rid of dirt and dust, and certain insects, like the hearty cockroach, actually eat both! If you maintain a neat and clean dorm room, it's also much easier to spot pests -- and quickly eliminate them -- if they do manage to get inside [source: Orkin].


5: Empty the Garbage

Full trash can
Don't forget to empty the trash. You'll regret it if you don't.

Your mom always told you to take out the trash, and for good reason. A loaded garbage can is not only unsightly and possibly smelly, but it's yet another attraction for insects and unwanted critters. They're attracted to your refuse for many reasons. Perhaps there's tasty, rotting food inside. Maybe there's moisture or liquids. Or your garbage might just make a snuggly place to hang out for a while [source: Food-Safety-And-You].

Ideally, you'll have a garbage can with a tight-fitting lid that's always secured properly. Then, you'll empty it regularly, especially if there's anything smelly inside. And don't forget to regularly clean it, too. Garbage cans or bins often have all sorts of sticky or sweet residue on them from drips and spills as you're tossing stuff inside. [source: Pest Exterminate Now].


4: Keep Suitcases and Backpacks Off Your Bed

In case you haven't heard, there's a wee bit of a bed bug problem all around the world these days. In a 2011 Bugs Without Borders survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), 99 percent of U.S. pest management professionals said they'd encountered bed bug infestations in the past year -- compared with just 11 percent a decade ago. And 35 percent said they've found them in college dormitories. In fact, the NPMA considers bed bugs a pandemic [source: Pest World].

The best way to guard against unleashing them in your dorm room is to keep all suitcases and backpacks off your bed. Bed bugs like to crawl into tight cracks and crevices, and often hitch rides on these items. You're safer if you've brought your suitcase from home, but if you're returning from a trip, be extra careful. First, place your suitcase on a linoleum floor to check for the bugs; you can spot them more easily there than on carpet. If things look clear, remove all of your packed clothes and immediately wash them, whether you've worn them or not. Vacuum out your suitcase, then put it away [source: Pascarella].


3: Seal Any Holes in Screens

Hole in window screen
If you have holes in your window screens, it's a good idea to patch them up to keep pests out.

Do your window screens have a few little tears or holes in them? Don't think it's no big deal, and too minor of a thing to bother contacting your R.A. or dorm maintenance crew. Leaving just one small hole in your screen is like flinging your door open to the entire insect world, as they can easily crawl inside. Still not concerned by the thought of some spiders, ladybugs or flies sharing your space? That's not your only potential problem. Did you realize mice can squeeze through a hole as small as a dime, while heftier rats only need a space as wide as a quarter [source: PR Newswire]? Now the idea of contacting your R.A. might not seem so silly.


2: Hang Up Wet Towels and Clothes

Many pests love water and moisture, plus piles of clothes or papers, which they can use as a nice, snug nest. They've hit the jackpot if you're the kind of person who tosses wet towels and duds on the floor, on the counter or even over a chair, as they can create a nice, moist home in all of these situations. So hang up your towel immediately after showering, along with any hand towels or washcloths you used. Same thing goes for dish towels and dish rags. Remember, too, that sweaty duds from your workout at the gym count as wet clothes. And even though you should generally put all of your dirty clothes in the hamper, don't do that with wet or damp items, as they can start to grow mold. Either wash and dry them immediately, or hang them up to air dry [sources: No Pests, MomLogic].


1: Be Quiet and Study

Young women hard at work studying
Keeping your nose in the books will help keep some of the human pests out of your room -- and you might get better grades, too.

Pests come in many shapes and sizes. We've mentioned many in the preceding pages, such as cockroaches, flies, spiders, mice and rats. But there are also those annoying biped pests, your fellow students. You know, the guy who always pops in uninvited and proceeds to eat all of your food, and the girl with that high-pitched, annoying laugh. And what about that kid who's always whining to you about her love life? Keep your room nice and quiet, and your nose buried in your books. Maybe have some classical music softly playing in the background. That should drive them away every time.

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Author's Note: 10 Habits That Prevent Pests in Your Dorm Room

I hate bugs. I've gotten pretty good at preventing them from entering my house, but now that I've got two kids in college, I have to make sure they keep them out of their dorm rooms -- not only for their own comfort, but so they don't carry them back here! Luckily, the answer is simple: Clean. Unfortunately, that's not something that comes naturally to most students.

Related Articles

  • Amber's Organizing. "College Dorm Organizing." (June 20, 2012) http://www.ambersorganizing.com/college-dorm-organizing.htm
  • Benda, Darren. "Students report issue to FIXit; problem continues." March 7, 2010. (June 20, 2012) http://www.rhl.org/blog/blog/dorm/cockroaches-and-mice-and-ants-oh-my/2243/
  • Covering College Life. "Cockroaches and Ants and Mice! Oh My!" April 5, 2012. (June 20, 2012) http://www.rhl.org/blog/blog/dorm/cockroaches-and-mice-and-ants-oh-my/2243/
  • Food-Safety-And-You. "Pest Alert: Fly away, Flies." (June 24, 2012) http://www.food-safety-and-you.com/flies.html
  • Mayer, Heather. "9 Health Hazards Hidden in College Dorms." MSN Health. (June 20, 2012) http://health.msn.com/health-topics/9-health-hazards-hidden-in-college-dorms?imageindex=1
  • MomLogic. "Your Home's 10 Germ Hideouts." Feb. 4, 2010. (June 24, 2012) http://www.momlogic.com/2010/02/your_homes_10_germ_hideouts_1.php#9
  • No Pests. "Top 5 Pests to Expect in a College Dorm." Aug. 11, 2010. (June 20, 2012) http://nopests.com/blog/tag/ladybugs
  • Orkin. "Does Spring Cleaning Help Get Rid of Bugs?" April 5, 2010. (June 24, 2012) http://www.orkin.com/ask-the-orkin-man/spring-cleaning/
  • Pascarella, Sarah. "What you should know about bedbugs when you travel." USA Today. April 29, 2010. (June 22, 2012) http://www.usatoday.com/travel/deals/inside/2010-04-29-bed-bug-tips_N.htm
  • Pest Exterminate Now. "Cockroach Habits." (June 20, 2012) http://www.pestexterminatenow.com/Pest-Control-Cockroaches.html
  • Pest World. "2011 Bugs Without Borders Survey: New Date Shows Bed Bug Pandemic Is Growing." Aug. 17, 2011. (June 22, 2012) http://www.pestworld.org/news-and-views/press-releases/press-releases/2011-bugs-without-borders-survey-new-data-shows-bed-bug-pandemic-is-growing/
  • Pest World. "Tips for College Students." (June 22, 2012) http://www.pestworld.org/all-things-bed-bugs/bed-bug-prevention/tips-for-college-students/
  • PR Newswire. "Is There A Mouse In My ... Dorm Room? D-Con(R) Offers Tips for a Mouse-Free Semester." (June 20, 2012) http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/is-there-a-mouse-in-my--dorm-room-d-conr-offers-tips-for-a-mouse-free-semester-76721862.html
  • Zudonyi, Corinne. "Custodial Department Guards Against Pests." Clean Link. Aug. 29, 2011. (June 24, 2012) http://www.cleanlink.com/hs/article/Custodial-Department-Guards-Against-Pests--13421