The 10 Best Underrated Dorm Room Essentials

by Helen Wilbers

Updated September 1, 2022 • 5 min read

From earplugs to power strips, there are plenty of unexpected items you won't want to forget when first moving into a dorm.

Dorm sizes vary, but rarely exceed a couple hundred square feet — space you may have to share with roommates. That means packing wisely is important.

You're probably already familiar with the true dorm room essentials, like sheets, towels, and toiletries. And you probably know better than to bring your entire high school trophy collection.

But don't err too far on the side of minimalism. A few creature comforts from this list can enhance your first-year student experience.

Below, we gathered the top 10 underrated college dorm essentials you'll want to pack.

Top 10 Underrated College Dorm Essentials

1. Earplugs

Even if you ignore the rest of this list, you should remember to bring earplugs to college. High-quality sleep is essential to learning, but between late-night parties and music-fueled cram sessions, dorms are disruptive places to snooze. Good earplugs can help block the din.

If standard foam earplugs are uncomfortable to wear overnight, try moldable wax earplugs or a pair designed for sleeping. For extra-sensitive sleepers, earplugs pair well with a sleep mask or noise-canceling headphones.

2. Electric Kettle

Even if you're not a tea drinker, there are plenty of reasons to keep an electric tea kettle in your room. For example, these versatile appliances can boil water for instant noodles or soups. Paired with a pour-over coffee maker or a French press, they can replace a percolator.

In a pinch, the kettle's steam can also temporarily boost your room's humidity — helpful for a stuffy nose — or straighten wrinkled clothing.

3. Laundry Bags

Sure, you could pile your dirty clothes in the corner, but how will you haul the heap to the laundry room? Make your life easier and your room tidier with a laundry bag.

Laundry bags fold up when not in use – an advantage over plastic laundry baskets. Some bags even have separate compartments for white, dark, and colorful laundry. However, plastic baskets come in handy during move-in and move-out, so go with whichever you prefer.

4. Power Strips

It's an all-too-common scene: You and your roommates all need to plug in your computers and cell phones at once, and there are only two outlets. Make sure no one's laptop dies mid-essay with power strips.

A power strip with a built-in surge protector can help protect your gear from damage in case of a power surge. Add a couple of extension cords to ensure electricity is always in easy reach. Just make sure not to overload an outlet by plugging in too many appliances at once.

5. Cleaning Basics

Dorm living is good practice for adulthood, and adulthood involves lots of cleaning. Set yourself up for success by gathering these dorm room essentials:

  • Cleaners: Multi-surface cleaning spray, dish soap, and carpet stain remover
  • Equipment: A handheld vacuum, paper towels, a broom and dustpan, a scrubby brush, and a washable dusting cloth

If your dorm has an en-suite bathroom, grab bleach toilet bowl cleaner, a toilet scrubber, and spray-on shower cleaner, too. Since you and your roomies only need one cleaning kit, consider splitting the cost.

Pro-tip: Read labels and don't mix cleaning chemicals.

6. First-Aid Kit

Paper cuts and headaches are an inevitable part of college life. Treat them quickly and get back to work or play with the help of a first-aid kit. Build your own with the help of an online checklist or purchase a ready-stocked one from any pharmacy.

Essentials can include:

  • Bandages of various sizes
  • Butterfly closures
  • Antibacterial gel
  • A digital thermometer
  • Tweezers
  • Hot and cold packs
  • Cough drops
  • Over-the-counter pain meds
  • Over-the-counter antihistamines

Check for and replace expired medications each semester.

7. Bed Risers

Don't let the space under your bed become a dust bunny farm — that's valuable real estate in a small dorm room. Instead, maximize it by propping your bed's legs on risers. These sturdy plastic stilts are designed to raise beds by several inches without compromising their stability.

Under-bed storage bins and bags keep the extra space organized. It's the perfect place to stash out-of-season clothing, bulky sports equipment, and whatever else you bought from this list.

8. Food Containers

You don't want your shared minifridge to overflow with styrofoam containers and pizza boxes. Instead, invest in a set of reusable plastic or glass food containers. They're typically stackable, which will maximize the leftovers you can cram into your tiny fridge.

Transparent containers make it easy to identify what's inside. To minimize moldy mysteries, use packing tape and a marker to label containers with the date, their owner, and their contents. Now your roommates can't plead ignorance when they swipe your lunch.

9. Shower Shoes

Shared showers are a petri dish for foot fungus and soap slicks. Even with regular cleaning by custodial staff, grossness accumulates fast.

Protect your bare feet with purpose-made shower sandals (which drain water and dry fast) or a cheap, easily replaced pair of foam flip-flops. Stash them in your shower caddy (another dorm must-have) when not in use.

10. Mini Fan

Every dorm should have a small box or oscillating fan. They do it all: Bring in fresh air, blow out stale air, and make white noise to cover your neighbors' snores.

Fans are especially vital in older dorms with less-than-adequate air conditioning — or, worse, no air conditioning at all. Choose a model with a base narrow enough to perch on your window sill. A USB-powered desk fan is nice for keeping your study sessions breezy.

Portrait of Helen Wilbers

Helen Wilbers

Helen Wilbers is an editor on TheBestSchools, dividing her time between copy editing, writing and developing useful new content for prospective students. She arrived at the site after spending several years as a journalist and newspaper editor in small-town Missouri. When not obsessively hunting down grammatical errors, Helen enjoys foraging for mushrooms, reading, and dabbling in amateur entomology.

Header Image Credit: Terry Vine | Getty Images

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