Things You Shouldn’t Bring to Your Dorm Room (And What To Bring Instead!)

By Lexie Brada

Look, we’ve all been there; you pack a literal U-Haul and arrive at your dorm bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It’s possibly one of the last times you’re ecstatic to move furniture, before you realize that moving really sucks (and you’ll probably do it every single year until you graduate). As you’re moving everything but the kitchen sink into your dorm, you come to the conclusion…you brought things you shouldn’t have brought, and now awkwardly have to ask your parents to ferry it home for you.

It might be that you brought two times the clothes that will fit in your closet, it might be big easy freshman mistakes like trying to bring cooking utensils, or it might be that you and your roommate didn’t talk to each other and have double everything.

However, it might be that you brought something commonly prohibited in a dorm, and unfortunately didn’t realize until an RA walked by and pointed it out. Hopefully they mention it before your parents kiss you goodbye, otherwise you may be coughing up a chunk of change in the post office to send some of this back.

So, here are some commonly banned items from dorms, from what you may be most surprised to find out, to things we really hope was obvious is a ‘no-no’, but we’ll list anyway. As a disclaimer, you should always read your own dorm policies and not go by the word of an internet stranger (who did do a lot of research, but I digress) because no two dorms have the same rules. But they sure have a lot of overlap.

You Can’t Bring: Halogen Lights (ie; Lava Lamps)

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Why:

Fire hazard.

You Should Bring Instead:

If you are looking for something cool and unique, try a galaxy globe or a sunset projector!

You Can’t Bring: Grills

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Grills (this includes mini grills, panini makers, quesadilla makers, or anything else that heats up and cooks food) / Hot Plates / Most electronic cooking appliances

Why:

Once again, fire hazard.

This is one that for sure you should check your own guidelines about. Most colleges ban grills and hot plates, but the jury is out for other electronic cooking appliances. For example, I was not allowed to have an Instant Pot or a Rice Cooker but amycooksfood on Tiktok has gotten popular by showing easy meals you can make in a rice cooker, so clearly she was allowed to have it!

When in doubt, read your own dorm policies!

You Should Bring Instead:

This is something that you’ll have to comb through your own dorm policies, but what you should maybe bring is the knowledge of all the things you can actually still make with just a microwave! It doesn’t have to just be popcorn day and night. Don’t believe me? Here’s 30 meals to make in your dorm room microwave!

You Can’t Bring: Extension Cords

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Why:

Fire Hazard

You Should Bring Instead:

Outlet strip! These are often allowed because they DO have surge protectors, meaning if a spark goes up, it’s unlikely you’ll burn down the entire dorm on accident

You Can’t Bring: Plug in air fresheners

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Why:

Because they don’t want you to smell good.

I kid. Take a wild guess…if you guessed ‘fire hazard’, you’d be right.

Even though GLADE claims that these are safe, dorms have obviously read the multiple stories of these things catching fire while unattended, and figured it's better safe than sorry.

You Should Bring Instead:

An air freshener spray! I know it’s a lot of work to have to walk all the way across the room and manually squeeze the sprayer when things start to smell funky in there, but we don’t want your roommates burnt to a crisp, right?

You Can’t Bring: String Lights


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String Lights (Like Christmas Lights). Sorry Will Buyers, guess you’re staying in the Upside Down.

Why:

Fire Hazard.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, about 160 fires are caused by Christmas lights every year.

It doesn't seem like that big of a statistic, but that would suck to wake up to flame balls instead of aesthetic twinkling lights.

You Should Bring Instead:

If you want a cool light source, there are plenty of fun lamps to adorn your room, so check the first entry of this list.

If you were trying to be a Stranger Things Fan, here’s an awesome poster or a throw-blanket to bring with you instead.

You Can’t Bring: AC/Heat Sources

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Air Conditioners or Heat Sources (Like Space Heaters or Heating Blankets)  

Why:

At last! Our first non ‘fire hazard’ answer! At least for AC units anyway. Your dorm will likely give you one. Bringing your own is a huge drain on the electricity and you could end up paying a hefty fine for trying to smuggle one in.

As for the heat sources…yep. Fire hazards.

You Should Bring Instead:

If you’re a person that runs really hot, fans are allowed, and there are some mighty powerful ones out there like THIS one!

If your issue is you are perpetually cold, you can bring as many throw blankets as your heart desires, by my go-to is a Snuggie. Here’s a page that sells college themed snuggies.

You Can’t Bring: Candles, Incense, Sage Sticks, Wax Melts


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Why:

Let’s just logic this one out, hmm?

Does an open flame in a tiny dorm room with a lot of people squished together seem logical to you?

Naw, didn’t think so.

Another win for ‘Fire Hazard’.

You Should Bring Instead:

Scent beads or oil diffusers

You Can’t Bring: Wall DIYS

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Most decorating items (sorry, aesthetic girls and boys).

This includes: Nails, Screws, Command Hooks, Wallpaper, Sticky Decals, and Paint

Why:

Well, for some of these, it just causes damage that no one really wants to clean up at the end of the year. This would be the category of nails, screws, or paint. The fines for screwing something into a wall is far greater than how cool that huge TV may be. You’re also only going to be here a year. Though you should make yourself feel at home, remember it is temporary.

As for command hooks, wallpaper, and sticky decals…even the ones that claim they leave no residue/don’t tear off existing paint…well, companies lie. And once again, no one wants to come around and patch three hundred little holes where you put up two hundred pictures with a super-sticky backing.

You Should Bring Instead:

A lot of dorms accept thumb-tacks! You can also use a putty to hang posters, like I did! I got a huge tapestry in lieu of wallpaper or decals and it made a pretty yucky concrete block wall look pretty awesome when I was done.

You Can’t Bring: Hoverboards

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Why:

Safety issue. As cool as they are, there’s a lot of damage it can do too.

At some schools, it’s classified as a vehicle, so if you were to collide with someone on the sidewalk with it, you could be liable. I don’t know how fast you’d have to be putting on a hoverboard to cause bodily harm, but let’s not test the theory anyway.

There’s also the risk of lithium batteries exploding randomly, which is why you can’t bring hoverboards on airplanes either.

You Should Bring Instead:

A scooter! Or a bike! Or just…walk? Like your mother would say, the exercise will probably do you good.

You Can’t Bring:Christmas Trees (Live Ones)

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Why:

Colleges are Grinches and Scrooges.

Well, maybe. But the real reason is that it’s a safety hazard. We already know that Christmas lights are a no-go, but did you know that your Christmas tree can also catch fire sometimes? What’s worse than a lot of little fires from bulbs? One big six foot fire. Yikes!

You Should Bring Instead:

I’m going to guess you don’t have THAT much space in your dorm for a big fake one anyway (and you’ll probably be gone most of December at home), but if you absolutely feel the need for Christmas Cheer, try a small one. Or, go the safe route and hang stockings or cut out snowflakes.

You Can’t Bring: Mercury Thermometers


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Why:

I know, you’re a luddite and you just want to check the weather. Maybe it’s time to start…just using your phone. The reason should be fairly obvious, as mercury is incredibly dangerous.

You Should Bring Instead:

Non-mercury thermometers are a-okay!

You Can’t Bring: Animals

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Why:

The fact you can’t bring a pet shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. If they do allow pets, some colleges let you have fish-tanks up to a certain galleon amount. However, as hard as it is to part from your furry friend, you’ll have to leave them at home.

If you’re a special case and need an animal for service needs, that’s something you should absolutely make sure is talked about before you arrive to a dorm that does not allow dogs under any circumstances. Often there are dorms specifically made to accommodate working pets.

You Should Bring Instead:

If you can bring live plants! Unless you’re a green thumb, stick to hard to kill plants, like cactus. We have a blog HERE that lists the best plants for dorms.

If you honestly don’t know how you’re going to live without your best four-legged friend, consider getting them printed into a pillow, like THIS site here!

You Can’t Bring: Your Own Furniture


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Why:

I know. Dorm furniture sort of sucks. The chairs are plastic, the beds aren’t soft, and you probably have a way cuter or far more organized dresser at home. But if you brought this stuff, where would your current furniture go? Most times this is a rule because the dorms don’t have room for your dorm furniture rejects and it’s far easier to make sure everyone starts and ends the year with the standard amount of items.

You Should Bring Instead:

Type of furniture you can bring might include a futon bed, soft comfortable circular chairs, a mini bookshelf, or a cool storage cube!

You Can’t Bring: Large Stereo Speakers

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Why:

You’re essentially going to be living right on top of hundreds of students. As awesome as your subwoofers are, I don’t think your fellow roommates will appreciate hearing them bumping at three A.M. Dorms usually have ‘quiet hours’ past 10 or 11pm, and this will break those rules. Plus, even during the day, it’s just a bit excessive.

You Should Bring Instead:

Most portable speakers have fairly good range and sound quality! So, not only do you not have to lug really heavy speakers into your room, but you’ll make do for any party needs with a speaker like this.

You Can’t Bring: Waterbeds

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Why:

No judgment dude, but who’s owned a waterbed since the 70s? If you are a retro-type that’s fallen in love with this unusual method of bedding, sorry, but you’ll have to just leave it at home. Waterbeds can have catastrophic failures and that much water pouring out will no doubt cause damage to your dorm, and possibly others underneath or around yours.

You Should Bring Instead:

A mattress topper!

You Can’t Bring: Gasoline, Fireworks, Weapons, Drugs, or Alcohol

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Why:

We hope by this one it’s fairly obvious why, but you never know who needs to be told explicitly that any of these things should stay at home.

You Should Bring Instead:

Nothing? There’s no substitute for these items. Just don’t bring them!

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