Clean Up Your Room

A study on how often college students clean their rooms and what motivates cleanliness

Messy dorm room

Everyone has his or her limits, especially when it comes to bedroom cleanliness. What is acceptable for one person may be the stuff of funky, dirty nightmares for another.

College students often get a bad rap for their messy abodes, and although this isn’t true of every student, it’s not hard to picture a dorm room or apartment bedroom strewn with discarded clothes and empty soda cans, especially when it’s time for finals.

So we set out to discover how often college students clean their bedrooms. What defines “gross” for these students? What events motivate a quick cleanup, and how long does a typical cleaning session last? How long can they go without cleaning their rooms? And what messy habits often take place in bed?

We surveyed over 1,000 college students to get the dirt on their bedroom habits. Keep reading for the answers.

A Dirty Battle of the Sexes

First, we checked the maximum average days college students could go without cleaning their room before they considered it “gross.” According to our survey, men said it would take an average of 33 days to render their room disgusting, while women were less likely to go to that extreme – they said 27 days was their max.

Men said it would take an average of 33 days to render their room disgusting.

Cleaning habits by gender

Since there are many different surfaces in a bedroom (including the floor), there’s a higher chance that bacteria or unwanted pathogens make their way into your bedroom – particularly in places that are close to where you sleep.

Dust mites, for example, are microscopic roommates that can trigger allergic responses in certain people (and worse yet, they’re related to spiders). They adore carpet, so vacuuming will greatly reduce their numbers. Experts have declared that vacuuming weekly is far more beneficial to your health than when done on a monthly basis.

Grossest bedrooms quote callout

We further identified students who were – or weren’t – affiliated with Greek life. As it turns out, those who weren’t in a fraternity or sorority thought 32 days in between room cleanups was the maximum length of time before the area was considered “gross.” Those in a fraternity, however, averaged 25 days and sorority sisters averaged 18 days before they cleaned their room. This is likely due to house or campus rules and strict guidelines that mandate a clean chapter house, which, of course, includes bedrooms.

Those who weren’t in a fraternity or sorority thought 32 days in between room cleanups was the maximum length of time before the area was considered gross.

Bedroom Cleaning Habits

College students, on average, tidied up their rooms five times per month. However, there were distinct differences when it came to which parts of their room were cleaned.

Time spent cleaning the bedroom

A desk, for example, was the most frequently cleaned area of a student’s room. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as college students have to study and write papers, and it’s hard to do so on a cluttered, disorganized desk.

The bedroom floor and bathroom were the next most frequently cleaned areas at three times a month (remember, we already know weekly vacuuming is probably a good idea for those with carpets). The nightstand and bed sheets were less frequently cleaned at two times a month, and the mirror, closet, and windows were of the least concern to our respondents, as they only cleaned them once a month.

Bed sheets can be a drag to deal with, especially when you forget to put them back on until the very end of a long, tiring day. But taking care of your bedding cuts down on all sorts of gross stuff, including those nasty dust mites that can build up over time.

While some respondents said they clipped their nails over the toilet or bathroom sink, others did it on the floor or at their desk. Weirdly, nearly 21 percent of women and 13 percent of men clipped their nails in bed.

Nearly 21 percent of women and 13 percent of men clipped their nails in bed.

Where people clip their nails, by gender

This begs the question: Where do the clippings fall? Do they clip their nails and roll over and go to sleep (waiting until the next wash day), or do they carefully scoop them up and place them in the trash can? We might never know.

If Your Bed Could Talk

Next, we looked at bed hygiene. We found that making the bed every day was not a top priority for respondents, who averaged 3.2 days a week where their bed was made. This wasn’t too far off the average number of times they ate in bed as well (2.7). Maintaining a tidy bed can help get you into a motivated mindset before you go out for the day.

College students' cleaning habits

Of course, some habits can make your bed more grungy over the long haul. Eating in bed is an extremely common culprit, but a ton of us do it anyway – with more than 75 percent of college students admitting they snacked in bed. This can lead to spills, stains, and crumbs – all of which can make a bed unclean.

More than 75 percent of college students admitted they snacked in bed.

Having sex in bed can result in the obvious “unclean” sheets, but more than half of respondents said they didn’t always change their bedding after a one-night stand.

Stained bedsheets were another factor – nearly 29 percent noted they’d left a mark on their sheets, and as mentioned above, plenty of students clipped their nails in bed. Also, 11 percent wore shoes to bed, which can bring the outside and all its germs into your comfy cocoon.  

Clean Up Your Room!

It’s clear that cleaning a bedroom isn’t a top priority for some college students, but certain events will certainly prompt a young man or woman to straighten up his or her domicile.

Top motivators for cleaning your room

We found that students were inspired simply by seeing the room in disarray, but if they anticipated bringing a potential hookup back to their room, they were likely to clean it up as well (with men more likely to do so than women). Anticipating hanging out with friends also prompted decluttering, as well as anticipating a visit from mom and dad.

The motivator that cues the longest cleanup session? Knowing that parents are on their way. Our respondents reported that they spent around 35 minutes, on average, cleaning their room when they were expecting a parental visit.

Our respondents reported that they spent around 35 minutes, on average, cleaning their room when they were expecting a parental visit.

Hook up callout

However, if a student foresaw bringing someone back to his or her room for a potential hookup, they spent a good chunk of time making sure their place was in tip-top shape – or at least decent enough that their potential partner wasn’t completely grossed out by their slovenly ways. The average reported pre-hookup tidying session was 25 minutes long.

Home Sweet (Grungy) Home

Finally, we looked at dirty bedroom habits by gender. The most frequent habit was an unmade bed, cited by roughly 72 percent of men and 81 percent of women. It didn’t stop at the bed, though. Almost half of male respondents noted they left dirty laundry on the floor (60 percent of women admitted to this), and a little less than half of both men and women said they let their garbage can fill up to the point of overflowing.

Bedroom cleanliness by gender

Around 60 percent of women said they left hair in the shower drain, and nearly as many said they left hair on the bathroom floor. More men admitted to having a dirty toilet, but only slightly. Stained and sticky floors were also slightly more common in men’s rooms.

Welcome to My Crib

Here, we see a variety of photos of college students’ bedrooms. It’s a smorgasbord of rooms, really – you’ll see men’s rooms with clothes and other stuff on the floor, but also men who had immaculate setups. The same goes for women. One room shows a bed completely drowning in clothes, but another women’s room is neat and tidy.

Bedroom photo submissions

You Are Not Your Bedroom

Your bedroom doesn’t indicate the type of person you are, especially if you’re a super busy college student striving for excellent grades. When studying for finals, who has time to clean their room or make their bed?

There are differences between the genders, of course, and different events clearly prompt a quick room cleanup, but it’s not a huge shock that college students aren’t necessarily the tidiest people around. They often enjoy newfound freedoms, which means less parental nagging, and subsequently, their beds and bedroom hygiene may fall by the wayside.

Good bedroom hygiene doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good night’s sleep, but a quality bed can certainly help you see more zzz’s in your future. At Mattress Advisor, we adore helping customers find their perfect bed, tailored to their unique sleep needs.


Methodology

We collected responses from 1,007 college students through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Only current college students, both full time and part time, were qualified to take this survey. Fifty-four percent of participants identified as male and 46 percent as female.

To measure results, we asked students to provide the average monthly frequency of cleaning their entire room as well as specific areas, such as a desk or nightstand. The average time spent cleaning per session was calculated using answers from respondents who cleaned each area at least once a month. The living situation for people polled varied from on-campus dormitories to off-campus apartments, as well as those who resided at home with parents or relatives.

At the end of the initial survey, several respondents were asked to submit photos of their unadulterated bedrooms for a visual comparison of room hygiene by gender. Photos were uploaded via imgur.com and cannot be repurposed without permission. The claims mentioned in this study rely on self-reported data from current college students. No statistical testing has been performed on this research.

Sources

Fair Use Statement

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