Skip to Content

Women’s Dorm Room Essentials | What She Really Needs

A couple years ago, before my oldest went to college I polled all the young adults amongst our family and friends to find out what they really used in school. Now my son Peter is going into his junior year and my daughter Hannah is heading into sophomore year of college, and by now we’ve put together a pretty lean and mean dorm room list of true ESSENTIALS!

Three major edits to these lists after my kids have been living away at school  

• ONE • A fan is a must, no matter the climate or time or year! 

• TWO • A hand-held garment steamer is preferable to the iron + tabletop ironing board, and for the guys, Downy Wrinkle Releaser is a must!

• THREE • Detergent pods were highly disliked amongst all the college kids I talked to – sometimes they wouldn’t dissolve in the wash OR get stuck inside a piece of clothing and actually stain it. A small bottle of liquid detergent is much preferred!


Read on for our updated-for-2019 woman’s guide of dorm room essentials…..

many of the same items as the guy’s dorm room essentials guide  but with a lot more cute options!!

Women's dorm room essentials and where to find them.

Affiliate links are included in this post for your convenience. Read more about affiliate links here.



Two bed pillows make a dorm bed a bit more comfy, and opt for a big square Euro style pillow in lieu of smaller throw pillows for when your bed doubles as a couch.

Vinyl Mattress Encasement
I see some sites claim that this isn’t essential, but for less than $20 for an item you’ll be able to use and wash year after year all through college, this is a no-brainer to me!

Memory Foam Topper
This will help substantially to make the standard issue mattress more comfortable.

Mattress Pad
An 18″ mattress pad will keep the memory foam from sliding and makes it cooler to sleep on too.

Twin XL Sheet Sets
We love these sheets that have a pocket on the side because most dorm rooms are too small for a bedside table for your cell phone – also known as your alarm clock, TV, radio and morning newspaper!

100% cotton sheets are cool and breathable. Microfiber sheets are another good option for college because they don’t get pilly, hold up well and are really affordable. FYI some people find this material hot to sleep on.

Twin Quilt
The quilt and comforter are definitely places where you can forego the Twin XL size for just the regular Twin, which gives you so many more options!

Twin Lightweight Down Comforter or Down-Alternative Comforter with  Duvet Cover
The basic comforter + duvet combo is GREAT if you don’t love sleeping with a top sheet on your bed (or kick it off every single night like a certain girl I know and love). You can throw the duvet in the wash with your sheets and putting a duvet back on a twin sized comforter is not hard at all.

The other option is to just go straight to a twin comforter without a duvet.
Keep in mind a lightweight comforter is best for layering – dorm rooms are usually on the warm side!
I am a huge fan of white bedding at home, but for a dorm room that is also a hang out space consider a pattern or color that won’t show stains from tea, Ramen noodles, etc. because chances are this piece of your bedding won’t get washed frequently (or at all!) during the school year!

Here are a few options and sources for pretty comforters and duvets (click on the picture to follow the link).


I strongly recommend you wait until you move into the dorm to figure out what size storage containers will fit in your space. Many dorm room beds can be raised up to give you storage underneath – a lot of students use this space for their fridge, storage drawers or bins.

3-Drawer Cart
So functional for the storage of snacks, water bottle and mug, extra toiletries, etc.

Hanging Closet Storage
This is great for not only shoes but also rolled up towels and other storage.


Tabletop Fan
Peter’s #1 recommendation!! A small fan is great for the desk – even in the winter it circulates the dry air. You may consider a window fan too for the warmer months.

Copper and white desktop fan, compact enough for a dorm room.

Pop Up Hamper With Handles 

Shower Caddy



Removable Hooks For Towels
This one is strong enough for a wet towel but doesn’t mark the walls.

Removable Picture Hanging Strips
Most colleges prohibit nails or anything that will damage the walls.

Hand-Held Clothes Steamer*
We bought this for Hannah this year because it’s compact and convenient. The same one is on Amazon if  you have a Prime membership and love to use it for anything and everything like I do. I also have the Target Red card that gives you 5% off all purchases and free shipping, and price shop between the two frequently. 

A hand held clothes steamer is more compact than an iron and ironing board and perfect for dorm life.

Instead of the steamer you could opt for the traditional…..

Iron & Tabletop (or more likely, floor!) Ironing Board*
Peter actually did use his iron this year for special events and formals. When your clean clothes sit in the laundry basket until you wear them, yup, sometimes things get a little wrinkly!


Downy Wrinkle Releaser – Peter’s favorite – it makes clothes smell a little fresher too!

Liquid Laundry Detergent
My kids and their friends and cousins strongly disliked detergent pods!

Dryer Sheets


Power Strip With USB Ports

Clip Lamp

Desk Lamp

Keurig* & K Cups
Convenient for having in the room for early morning or late night studying.

Microwave-Safe Mug 
One mug that is big enough for soup or cereal as well as tea or cocoa is ideal. I got this one for Hannah and all her besties, as they are all going to school out of state (and the town of their high school is on the mug 🙂 ). A reader suggested a plate, fork and knife too – just one of each will do for the dorm room.

Add an oversized coffee mug from your home state to your women's dorm room essentials list!

Glass water bottle
Many colleges are going green and don’t even sell beverages in plastic bottles. A reusable glass bottle with a silicone protective sleeve is great for bringing to class, filling up at the cafeteria to bring back to the dorm room, and taking to the gym.

Clorox Wipes

Most dorms have cleaning supplies such as a vacuum, mop, etc. for students to use, but a dustbuster is great for small clean ups.


Dorm Fridge* 


* These are all things you can coordinate with your roommate. A lot of colleges have mini refrigerators and microwaves (and combo fridge/microwaves) for rent for the school year. Before you purchase, inquire with your school since these items are a pain to move in and out and store over the summer.



Bed, Bath & Beyond – College Savings Pass:  20% off your entire order online and in-store, plus free shipping, with your .edu email address from your college

Target – extra 5% off + free shipping with Red card

The Amazon Prime Student deal – it’s free for 6 months and then 50% off Prime membership, which can be cancelled at anytime

TJMaxx – Free shipping over $89



  • Shop around. I did a ton of price comparison before shopping and writing this post. Most of these items are the actual things we bought for Hannah’s dorm room. 
  • Layers are great for a dorm room where you can’t really control the temperature.
  • Dorm room beds are usually TWIN XL – verify this with your school before purchasing. The XL size only matters with the sheets, vinyl encasement and mattress pad – other bedding can be regular Twin size, of which there are many more choices.
  • Chat with your roommate before buying things that you could share like the fridge, microwave, rug, etc.



I mentioned that Peter used every single thing we bought from the guy’s essentials list. You know what he didn’t use much of??  SCHOOL SUPPLIES!

Peter brought home 90% of the notebooks, pens, index cards, and other supplies at the end of his freshman year….and the same supplies came home again sophomore year!

My recommendation about everything beyond your basic toiletries – buy what you need when you need it.  Peter’s school is Inthemiddleofnowhere, Vermont, and he was still able to get Amazon and Target orders within 2-3 days. The college bookstore or a local convenience store will likely have Tylenol if you run out, and you can get band-aids at the health center on campus. Don’t feel like you have to buy EVERYTHING just in case. You will end up spending a ton of money on things you don’t even need.


I hope you enjoyed our list of our tried and true recommendations for college dorm room essentials!
Pin this post to save it, happy shopping and have a wonderful day lovelies!


Check out essentials for a guy’s dorm room here!Dorm essentials for guys.

DIY Mercury Glass Tutorial
← Previous
My Five Favorite Ways To Mix Old And New
Next →


Sunday 29th of July 2018

Great list! I would amend some of your list based on our experience with my rising college sophomore :

1. Skip the twin sized comforter/quilt and go for the full or queen. Most students time in the dorms is brief, and they move on to off-campus apartments where most will opt for a full or queen sized bed. Plus, a twin comforter isn't a great fit for my 6'3" son in terms of body coverage! We went for the larger comforter and skipped any sort of bed skirt as the comforter will hang lower (plus he's a guy who doesn't care about bed skirts). 2. Pods were horrible for my son's laundry facilities. No matter what he tried (putting them in the bottom before loading the clothes, making sure not to over fill the tub, etc.), at least one load per week would have an undissolved pod that required rewashing. We switched to the Method pump detergent which is super concentrated so light to carry and store. 3. Shout color catchers - my son did one white and one not-white load every week and put the color catcher in the not-white load with great success :) 4. Invest in some long cords for electronics - long ethernet cord, long surge protector and long phone charging cord. The outlets in dorms tend to be inconveniently placed. 5. My son asked for a drying rack for year two. Dryers tend to run very hot, and he likes his tees not shrunk.


Monday 30th of July 2018

I'll have to look for the Shout color catchers, thanks for the recommendation Susan! My son will be a sophomore as well this year!


Saturday 28th of July 2018

Great list Lisa! We wrapped up Kayla's Dorm shopping last week and the only thing she passed on was the iron/ironing board... She'll learn, lol! I like the steamer idea. We also picked up the Massachusetts mug.... We picked up a Britta 10 cup Stream Pitcher with additional filters. The narrow designs fits in her rented fridge. I can't believe my girl is off to College! Good luck to Hannah!


Monday 30th of July 2018

Oh I like the Britta idea, thank you Stacy! Best wishes to Kayla! The summer is going way to fast for us mommas!