How to Keep Your Dorm Bathroom from Becoming a Biohazard

The Quest for Something Clean(er)

If you're looking to motivate without being hated, the trick is to be friendly about it. Post a flyer on your dorm message board asking your floor mates to meet for a talk about the bathroom. If you can add "Free Pizza!" somewhere in there, you'll likely get more attendees, so see if your RA can hook up some pizza delivery.

Take the lead by doing some cleaning yourself before the meeting (otherwise you're giving orders, not really asking for help), and put some pre-meeting thought into making the job as small as possible. If you mention the word "grout" you might trigger a walkout.

Identify the essentials and the easiest solutions for keeping the bathroom clean. The biggest hazards are:

  • Sinks support germs, and they're where dirty hands go to get clean. They should be disinfected regularly, especially the water knobs, which everybody touches. A quick wipe-down with a disinfecting cloth is fine. To simplify and remind, leave dispensers of wipes right next to the sinks.
  • Toilets: The CDC estimates a toilet bowl is covered by 3.2 million feces-dwelling microbes per square inch [source: Shaw]. They can form a film in just a few hours, which makes them harder to wash away. To simplify and remind: Leave a toilet-bowl cleaner and a brush next to each toilet. (To help prevent: Drop a cleaning tablet in each tank.)
  • Showers: Hair in the drain is gross, but you can address that by covering your hand with paper towel and transferring it to the trash can. Moisture is the bigger problem. Mold can be a serious health hazard in people with allergies or asthma, and even those without health conditions can experience respiratory symptoms like wheezing or coughing [source: CDC]. Applying a mold-preventing shower spray after each shower can help out between bleach or baking-soda scrub. To simplify and remind: Leave a bottle of the spray in every shower. (To help prevent, keep windows open or fans running whenever possible.)

Some supplementary ways to encourage cleaning include leaving informative notes around the bathroom – for instance, a Post-It by the toilet saying, "3.2 million microbes per square inch!" – and providing multiple options to achieve a cleaner space.

And failing all of that, know you tried, and suck it up. It's part of the college experience.

Author's Note: How to Keep Your Dorm Bathroom from Becoming a Biohazard

Much of the dorm-specific information I came across was anecdotal – students explaining their own bathroom situations, what they've seen, why it bothers them. It's worth noting that some students do not find their dorm bathrooms to be disgusting. It surely varies by group makeup. If you're reading this in an attempt to be proactive, great – but wait until you see what your dorm bathroom is like before calling it a crisis. Apparently, some of them are pretty darned clean, considering.

Related Articles


  • Campus Explorer. "Dorm Life 101." (May 26, 2013)
  • CDC. "Mold: Basic Facts." (May 31, 2013)
  • Dellutri, Laura. Speed "Cleaning 101." iVillage. March 21, 2007. (May 26, 2013)
  • Dorm Co. "Community Shower." (May 26, 2013)
  • EnviroClean. "Frequently Asked Questions." (May 30, 2013)
  • Gerber, Liz. "The Truth About Dorm Bathrooms." Welcome to College, Freshmen. June 7, 2012. (May 26, 2013)
  • Hyde, Sandy. "Top Ten Dorm Bathroom Etiquette Tips." Etiquette School of Ohio. June 1, 2009. (May 26, 2013)
  • Mahmoud, Jasmine. "Cleaning Up Dorm Crew." The Harvard Crimson. Dec. 3, 2002. (May 31, 2013)
  • Scholarship Zone. "How to adjust to (and get through) sharing dorm bathrooms." June 1, 2012. (May 26, 2013)
  • Shaw, Gina. "Bathroom Germs You Can Really Catch." Web MD. Nov. 16, 2011. (May 31, 2013)
  • Szewcow, Gabriela. "Easy Ways to Keep Your Dorm Room Clean: Top 10 ways to make sure your room isn't a hot mess throughout the year." Her Campus. Sept. 9, 2012. (May 26, 2013)
  • Wojciechowska, Iza. "Maid service in dorms? It's expected at some colleges." Inside HigherEd (via USA Today). July 2, 2010. (May 26, 2013)