So it’s the summertime and one of the most exciting things about it is getting to go out and buy things for your soon-to-be awesome college dorm room! But more important than the fuzzy purple rug you’re going to have on the floor, or the TV and and gaming system you need to bring is the list of items you can’t have in the room. Paying attention to prohibited items can really save you money when dorm shopping, and it can save you from getting written up during room checks!
Of course, while most colleges have some standard prohibited items that they can agree on, there are still some items that may be permissible at one college that aren’t at another, so definitely please keep your specific college in mind. In any case, here’s a list of items that aren’t allowed in dorm rooms and what you can bring instead!
I know you want to add a little ambiance to the bland room, but it is entirely possible to get caught up in your daily life and forget to put out the candle. Unattended burning candles can start big dorm fires, which is why these are prohibited items.
Instead, bring string lights. String lights are an easy way to spice up your corner without going overboard. They’re really cute and can make the room look and feel just as cozy as it would with a candle. Keep in mind that some (but not all) universities also prohibit string lights — check with your RA or housing office to find out if the rules also ban string lights. If you can’t have string lights, you can hang paper lanterns (without bulbs in them). They won’t emit any light (so it’s dorm-friendly) and they’ll still make the room feel warm and friendly.
2. A space heater
I’ve had the experiences of dealing with very cold dorm rooms *shudder* during the winter. Unfortunately, if the rooms don’t come equipped with their own thermostats, there’s nothing you can do about the lack of heat other than file a report with an RHD or maintenance. Never bring a space heater if your college prohibits it because it can be knocked over and start a fire.
Instead, bring a thermal blanket. Thermals are relatively inexpensive and are great alternatives for keeping warm. It’s not a space heater but at least it’s also not a big, puffy winter jacket that you have to wear indoors.
3. An iron
Irons are super useful for straightening out the wrinkles in the button down you need to wear for an interview in the morning, but most colleges don’t allow irons in the dorm rooms because of the possibility that a user might forget to to shut it off and pretty much accidentally burn down the room. To combat this, some colleges actually allow irons that have an automatic shut off feature.
Instead, bring a mini steamer. Irons are clunky anyway. Mini steamers are really easy to use (I used one during my freshman year). All you have to do is fill it up with water, plug it in and wait for it to heat up, and run the steamer up and down the garment to get the wrinkles out. Yes, steam can burn you if you aren’t careful, but at least it won’t set your room on fire! *thumbs up*
4. Dumbbells & weights
In college, it can sometimes be difficult to find time to hit the gym for a workout, and having some equipment on hand so that you can squeeze in a workout while you binge-watch Supernatural in the comfort of your room is a great idea. Unfortunately, dumbbells and weights and some other strength training equipment aren’t allowed in most dorm rooms.
Instead, bring a yoga mat. You can still work toward some of your fitness goals without weights. You can use your yoga mat to get in your daily round of push-ups, sit-ups, leg lifts, and other exercises.
5. An air conditioner
The only way you can really have an A.C. in your dorm room is if your room comes with one already installed. Believe me, I know how wonderful air conditioning can be in a hot, stuffy dorm room in August. The good news is that even without air conditioning, you don’t have to put up with the heat until winter!
Instead, bring a fan. Even a small desk fan is really helpful! In fact, it’s easier to make space in an already crowded room for a small fan than a big one. Plus, the majority of the semester is during months where air conditioning isn’t really needed — August, parts of September, and, if you’re lucky, right before the semester ends in May are the only times when it’s a bit uncomfortable in a hot room.
6. Live plants or flowers
It may be your dream to decorate your future apartment with flowers, plants, and small, live trees, but this isn’t your apartment. Plants can be nice for therapeutic purposes, and for adding some aesthetic to a room (I’m actually considering getting little succulents for my dorm room next year!) I’m not completely sure why live plants wouldn’t be allowed (mess from the dirt? desire to keep nature outdoors? if they catch on fire they’ll burn like there’s no tomorrow?) but you probably shouldn’t have them no matter how home-y it’d make your space feel.
Instead, bring fake plants. They may not seem as therapeutic as the real ones, but if you’re just looking to make your room more attractive then you can easily do that using fake foliage. If you need live plants for therapeutic purposes, however, you can notify the housing office on campus so that you can be allowed to have live plants.
Hoverboards have been banned in places beyond the college campus — restaurants, city streets, etc. They seemed like a cool, new way to get around, but they’re also really dangerous because of the fire hazard they pose. You’ve probably heard horror stories about Hoverboard chargers exploding or the product catching on fire; it’s a no wonder why they’ve been banned in some dorms.
Instead, bring a regular skateboard, or even a bicycle. Hoverboards are really just another way to easily get from point A to point B without walking, and you can do that with a regular skateboard (that doesn’t need to be re-charged!) or a bicycle (which will actually give you some exercise!) Some residence halls don’t allow you to store your bike inside your room, but you can lock usually lock them up in racks outside the building.
8. Nails/screws for the wall
Nails are super helpful for hanging pretty picture frames and other things. As much as you might try to think of your room as your second home, that excuse won’t fly with an RHD. You aren’t allowed to damage the walls in any way because other students will live in that room after you. It might be nice if dorm rooms came with pre-installed hooks or nails so that students and parents don’t feel inclined to take a hammer to it to hang a mirror or something, but until that happens you’ll need to put the hammer and nails away.
Instead, bring Command Hooks. They’re like temporary hooks on the wall for holding up important things — bathrobes, bath towels, jackets, scarves — without leaving holes in any walls. The one caveat I’d give when dealing with these hooks is to be very careful when removing them. There’s a little tab at the bottom for you to pull the adhesive out and remove the hook cleanly, but if you pull too hard and rip the adhesive, the hook will actually get stuck on the wall!
9. Wallpaper & decals
These are affordable ways to make your space cuter, but wallpaper isn’t allowed in many dorm rooms because they tend to peel off the paint from the walls. The university will bill you for damaging the room, and that’ the last thing you’d want to have to deal with!
Instead, bring personal photos and posters to decorate the walls with. You can easily put these up with painter’s tape (which won’t damage walls) and it’ll come off easily. Another fun way to dress up the walls of your dorm is to print out fun or inspirational quotes and tape those to the walls. You can use decorative tape to create pretty borders around them too!
10. Toasters, electric frying pans, microwaves
Toast in the morning sounds great, especially when you really want to do your best to have a filling breakfast before you start your day. Toasters and the like aren’t allowed because, like most of the stuff on this list, they can start a fire if they are left plugged in, turned on, and forgotten. I know people try to bring their own microwaves and toasters because they don’t want to go downstairs to use the communal kitchen, and I’ve seen people try to get away with some other prohibited items on this list, but this is a rule you DEFINITELY DON’T want to mess with.
Instead, bring a regular frying pan. You can go down to the kitchen and fry anything that needs to be fried or toasted, and you don’t even have to worry about getting caught for having something you’re not supposed to have. Just make sure you always turn off the stove before leaving the kitchen. As for the microwave, just use the one in the communal kitchen. It honestly isn’t that much work to walk downstairs or use an elevator.
BTW…I’ve also got some pretty awesome tips for cooking in college that will definitely save you so much time and grief!
Alcohol is prohibited if you’re under the age of 21. Some colleges even have designated residence halls that are substance free (I’ve lived in a substance free dorm for the past two years). These rules are so strict that they don’t even allow alcohol paraphernalia as decoration in the rooms.
Instead, bring soda, juice, sparkling water, or other non-alcoholic beverages. Just stock your mini fridge some of your favorite everyday beverages. I promise, you won’t get written up for having soda in your room!
12. Plug-in air fresheners
A nice-smelling room is great to walk into, but little plug-in air fresheners can actually cause big fires, and that’s not great to walk into. Hence, the reason why they aren’t allowed in dorm rooms.
Instead, bring a regular can of air freshener, or even one of those solid air fresheners. I’ve used a solid air freshener in my dorm room before and it kept the room smelling fresh until all the solid was melted. You don’t even need to remember to spray anything because it does all the work for you! Just throw it out when it’s all melted.
13. Water bed
I mean, the only reason you might want a waterbed is if you plan on having guests over in your room during the semester, but even so, waterbeds are difficult to maintain and can pop or leak in the room, which leaves a huge cleanup duty for the cleaning staff in the building.
Instead, bring a sleeping bag. This might not be the same as sleeping in a bed, but at least you don’t have to worry about your sleeping bag springing a leak. They’re really easy to store and carry — you can even take it with you if you plan on sleeping over at a friend’s dorm for the night. Plus, you’ll definitely be able to allow your guests to use it, and you don’t have to worry about it taking up any space in the dorm.
From one college goer to another, navigating dorm room policies can be a bit sticky, so I really hope you found this list of alternatives helpful.
What other dorm room alternatives do you have?