The American Cleaning Institute (ACI)

Class of Clean: The College Student's Guide to Cleaning

Student moving into dorm room

Don't be the messy roommate! Along with moving into a dorm room comes the need to keep it clean. Learn the basics, from a step-by-step guide on laundry to cleaning for infection prevention to stay healthy this school year.

Move In Checklist

After you've unloaded your boxes, give your new space a clean start.

Room Features

Door Handles:  ☐ Clean   ☐ Disinfect

Light Switches:  ☐ Clean   ☐ Disinfect

Floors:  ☐ Vacuum or sweep, starting from the farthest corner and working toward the exit



Bed Mattress:  ☐ Vacuum and clean, consider disinfecting to get rid of dust mites, then top with a mattress cover and sheets

Bed Frame:  ☐ Clean   ☐ Disinfect

Desks and Chairs:  ☐ Clean   ☐ Disinfect

Drawers and Shelves:  ☐ Clean   ☐ Disinfect

Couch/Seating:  ☐ Vacuum cushions and under cushions to remove dust and debris. If you have a hand-held garment steamer, use it to kill dust mites and remove stains. Alternatively, you can gently steam with an iron's steam function.


In the Bathroom

☐ Disinfect sink areas, toilet bowls, tubs, and showers to kill germs, mold, and mildew.


In the Kitchen/Kitchenette

☐ Clean and disinfect countertops, cabinets, sinks, backsplashes, and surfaces.

☐ Clean oven with an oven cleaner.

☐ Wipe down refrigerator walls and shelves using a nonabrasive, all-purpose cleaner.

☐ Run an empty cleaning cycle in dishwasher.


Did You Know

While it may seem obvious, there are big differences between cleaning and disinfecting.

Cleaning involves removing dirt from the surface using an all-purpose cleaner or soap and water.
Disinfecting kills germs.

NOTE: When using a disinfectant, read the label prior to using and pay attention to how long it needs to remain on the surface to ensure effectiveness. Learn more about proper disinfecting techniques.


Moving Out

Don't overlook these important steps when moving out of your housing. If renting, you want to get that security deposit back!

✓ Take out all trash.

✓ Remove nails from the walls and patch up any holes with putty. Repaint if needed.

✓ Ensure you haven't left any personal furniture or items behind. Remember to clear out the refrigerator and all cabinets and closets!


Download the Checklist

Foundations in Cleaning

Everyone likes to come home to a clean space. Here's how to easily conquer cleaning chores with your roommate.

dorm room

Living Space


☐ Clean & consider disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces.

☐ Clean visible messes.

☐ Pick up personal items.



☐ Vacuum and/or sweep.

☐ Dust.




☐ Put away clothes and dirty clothes in hamper.

☐ Organize personal items.

☐ Wipe down nightstand and dressers.



☐ Wash sheets/bedding.

☐ Vacuum/sweep floors (ex. under bed, behind desk and dressers).

☐ Empty trash.

☐ Wipe down mirrors.




☐ Clean & consider disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces (countertops, refrigerator door, etc.).

☐ Clean visible messes and crumbs.

☐ Wash dishes and/or load dishwasher.

☐ Put away food.



☐ Clean out refrigerator and toss any expired or old food.

☐ Clean inside and outside of microwave.

☐ Vacuum, sweep and/or mop.




☐ Clean & consider disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces.

☐ Clean visible messes.

☐ Pick up and organize personal items.



☐ Clean toilet.

☐ Clean sink and countertop.

☐ Clean shower/bath.

☐ Vacuum, sweep, and/or mop.

☐ Wash towels and bathmats.



Keep clutter to a minimum and take advantage of storage where you can, like using under the bed storage. Having lots of stuff around makes cleaning harder and gives dust room to collect. Since dust triggers asthma and allergies, wipe down surfaces like light fixtures, blinds, window frames and baseboards, using a clean cloth and some dusting product.



Download the Checklist

Cleaning Kit Checklist

Dorm/Common Spaces

⚬ Disinfecting spray or wipes
⚬ Hand Sanitizer
⚬ All-Purpose Cleaner
⚬ Glass and Window Cleaner
⚬ Small Vacuum
⚬ Paper Towels or Microfiber Cloth


⚬ Dish Soap
⚬ Sponge
⚬ Dishwasher Detergent


⚬ Hand Soap
⚬ Toilet Bowl Cleaner
⚬ Shower Cleaner


⚬ Laundry Detergent
⚬ Fabric Softener or Dryer Sheets
⚬ Stain Remover
⚬ Bleach

* Remember, use all products as directed on the label.

Cleaning with a Sick Roommate

When you live in close quarters, germs can spread quickly. If you or your roommate feel ill, follow the steps below to keep germs from spreading.

Cleaning for Illness Prevention

☐ Disinfect daily, especially items the sick person has touched.

☐ Once your roommate feels better, wash or disinfect all the devices and surfaces touched while sick.

☐ Make sure you and anyone sick washes their hands more frequently, following proper handwashing practices.

☐ Have hand sanitizer readily available for when washing with soap and water isn’t convenient or practical (e.g., carry it with you as you move about campus and use it before eating).

☐ Avoid sharing laptops, phones, pens/pencils, drinks, etc.


Know the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting, as well as proper disinfecting techniques.


Remember To:


Disinfect Surfaces Often

Especially frequently-touched surfaces like:

☐ Doorknobs

☐ Light switches

☐ Faucets


☐ Keyboards

☐ Desks


Clean Hands Frequently

Especially at key infection risk moments (e.g., before eating, after bathroom use, after contacting surfaces frequently touched by others).

  • Use soap and water
  • Scrub front and back of hands and between fingers
  • Wash hands for 20 seconds
  • Thoroughly dry hands with paper towel or a clean cloth towel

Use Hand Sanitizer

  • Apply hand sanitizer to the palm of one hand
  • Apply enough hand sanitizer to cover hands completely and keep hands wet for a minimum of 15-20 seconds (wet time on hands is the primary determinant of total germ reduction)
  • Rub hands together, covering all hand surfaces (pay special attention to cover thumbs and fingertips)
  • Continue rubbing until hands are dry

Sanitize Your Laundry


Low Level: When everyone in your space is healthy
Perform your normal routine using your normal detergent and temperatures.



Medium Level: When someone is sick with illnesses like a cold or flu.
Take extra steps! Follow CDC guidance, and do laundry with a deeper cleaning detergent, and wash & dry clothes on warm with other items. Optionally, you can add an EPA registered laundry sanitizer or bleach. Remember to wash hands and disinfect surfaces afterwards



High Level: When someone has an infection that’s causing vomiting or diarrhea or has a weakened immune system.
Level up and take enhanced precautions! Do your laundry with a deeper cleaning detergent and use an EPA registered laundry sanitizer or bleach. Wash & dry on hot. Remember to wash items from ill persons separately from any other items. Wear gloves and don’t shake clothes. Don’t forget to wash hands and disinfect surfaces afterwards.


Download the Guide

Laundry 101

Dirty laundry holds onto more than just body odor and food stains! It also carries germs that can cause illnesses. Get into a regular routine to stay healthy throughout the school year!

dorm room


Sort By Color

To keep light colored clothes from picking up dark dyes, wash whites separately; pastels and medium colors together; bright and darks by themselves. 

Sort By Soil

Sort those really dirty items away from the slightly dirty ones, since slightly dirty items can pick up the extra soil from the wash water.

*Remember to empty clothes pockets. Turn clothes right-side out, close zippers and check labels for any special instructions to avoid shrinking or ruining clothing. Refer to the stain guide to pre-treat any stains.



  1. Select your load size. The perfect load size will be around a medium load that leaves a few inches at the top of the washer.
  2. Follow instructions on washer or on the product label when adding detergent.
  3. Choose water temperature. Most can be washed in cold (which is also eco-friendly) but you may need warmer water to remove some stains (check the stain guide below).
  4. If your washer has a soil level setting, think about how dirty your clothes are. Put dirtier items like sports uniforms and workout gear on a higher soil level than your everyday clothing.
  5. Add your liquid detergent either into the drum of the machine, or into the detergent tray. If using fabric softener, add it to the softener tray. If using liquid laundry packets, add the packet to the drum of your washing machine before adding your clothes.



Read labels for clothing that should be hung or laid dry. To hand dry, put your clothes on a hanger or drying rack. To flat dry, lay clothes on a clean, flat surface.

To avoid shrinking, dry most clothes on lower heat settings. Add a dryer sheet to avoid static cling.



Learn how to read fabric care symbols! Your clothes’ fabric care labels have the best advice for washing and drying, plus information on ironing and bleaching. Here’s how to decipher the symbols.



Not sure when to wash what? Follow the wash schedule below to keep your clothes fresh and clean.

Wash After Every Use

  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • T-shirts, tank top & camis
  • Leggings & tights
  • Swimsuits
  • Whites and silks
  • Clothes with stains

Wash After 2-3 Wears

  • Jeans
  • Bras

Wash After 3-5 Wears

  • Bath towels
  • Pajamas

What About the Sheets?

Wash bed sheets every two weeks. You don’t want to share your bed with dust mites – and their carcasses and fecal matter.


Download the Guide

Stain Guide

Dealing with a stubborn stain? Use this guide to help you get the tough ones out.


  1. Sponge or soak stain in cool water for about 30 minutes.
  2. Pretreat with stain remover.
  3. Wash with laundry detergent. If safe for the fabric, add chlorine bleach.


  1. Sponge or soak stain in cool water.
  2. Pretreat with stain remover.
  3. Wash with laundry detergent and either oxygen bleach (a bleach that doesn’t contain chlorine), or if safe for the fabric, chlorine bleach.


  1. Pretreat with stain remover or rub with bar soap.
  2. Wash with laundry detergent.


  1. Pretreat with stain remover or liquid laundry detergent.
  2. Wash with laundry detergent, using the hottest water that’s safe for the fabric.
  1. Place stain face down on clean paper towels. Apply stain remover or liquid laundry detergent to back of stain.
  2. Replace paper towels under stain frequently.
  3. Let dry and rinse, then wash with laundry detergent, using the hottest water that’s safe for the fabric.


  1. Pretreat with stain remover or liquid laundry detergent.
  2. Wash with laundry detergent.
  1. Pretreat with stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Wash with laundry detergent and either oxygen bleach (a bleach that doesn’t contain chlorine), or if safe for the fabric, chlorine bleach.


  1. Sponge the area around the stain with rubbing alcohol, stain remover or liquid laundry detergent before applying it directly on the stain.
  2. Place stain face down on clean paper towels. Apply more rubbing alcohol, stain remover or liquid laundry detergent to the back of the stain. Replace paper towels frequently.
  3. Rinse thoroughly, then wash with laundry detergent.

    TIP! Some pen inks may be impossible to remove, including ballpoint, felt tip and liquid.


  1. Use a stain remover or rub with bar soap.
  2. Wash with laundry detergent.

    TIP! If perspiration has changed the color of the fabric, apply ammonia to fresh stains or white vinegar to old stains, then rinse.

    TIP! Stubborn stains may respond to washing in a product containing enzymes or oxygen bleach in the hottest water that’s safe for the fabric.


  1. Pretreat or soak in a product containing enzymes.
  2. Wash with laundry detergent and oxygen bleach (a bleach that doesn’t contain chlorine).



Make sure the stain is gone before you put your clothes in the dryer! The heat from the dryer can make the stain set in.

Download the Guide

Extra Credit: Wash in Cold

Rinse and spin or permanent press? Fabric softener or sanitizer? There are a lot of decisions when doing laundry but water temperature no longer needs to be one of them. Be at the head of your class by washing in cold.

polar bear doing laundry


Fast fashion is out. Keep your favorite outfits looking better so you can wear them longer. Wash them in cold water to help slow color fading, reduce shrinking and protect delicate fabrics. With today’s technology and detergents, cold is the best temperature to get most stains out, too.



This is a small habit change with a big impact. Doing laundry in cold water for one year could conserve enough energy to drive a car up to 421 miles. Reduce the environmental impact of your clothes by reducing the carbon footprint of laundry day.



If you're living off campus, odds are you have a washing machine and pay for your own utilities. That's even more reason to turn down the temp. Nearly 90% of the energy a washing machines uses goes toward heating the water. Washing in cold water can save as much as $200 a year!

Learn more at


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Safety Prerequisites


🛇 Don’t mix cleaning products.

Keep cleaning products in their original containers with labels intact.

Read and follow label directions when cleaning and disinfecting.