Mr. Clean supports your cheap, green cleaning attempts. Image courtesy of Flickr user elycefeliz. Licensed under CC 2.0 BY-NC-ND.Dorm rooms and college apartments are not known for being the height of stylish (or well-maintained) living–add in less-than-fastidious college students, and you can pretty quickly get some depressing living arrangements. Not much can be done to fix beat-up facilities, but even the shabbiest freshmen dorms can be kept passably clean in ways that are cheap, eco-friendly, and non-toxic.

Supplies: Before you can clean anything, you’ll need to invest in some basic supplies: baking soda, vinegar, a sponge or washcloth, and possibly your choice of eco-friendly soap. Discounting the soap, this will cost you about $4–cheap enough for anyone to not have a rank dorm. If you have stains on your walls (it happens), spring for a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser–they’re a little pricier than the other suggestions, but they’re pretty much amazing.

Stuck-on Toothpaste in the Sink/Stained Countertops: It’s gross, but it happens to everyone (especially if multiple people in the room are using the same sink). If you’ve scrubbed with a washcloth and the stuff won’t come off, try sprinkling baking soda on the offending spots and using a damp washcloth or sponge to scrub at it. The abrasive qualities of the baking soda should help get the sink clean, and it won’t make your room smell of Fresh Mountain Meadow Rain the way that commercial cleaners will.

Room Odor: First, be hyper-vigilant about throwing any food waste away in a trash can outside of your room: rotting food will make your room smell disgusting very, very quickly. If the odor is coming from the carpet, sprinkle a half-cup to a cup of baking soda onto the carpet. Let it sit for a half-hour before vacuuming it up or sweeping it out (your residential life office probably has vacuums you can check out). For linoleum or wooden floors, mix up a solution of 1/4 cup vinegar and 5 cups of warm water and use it to mop the floors. If the odor still is hanging around, wash all of your linens and towels (and curtains if you have them) and add white vinegar to the machine at the beginning of the cycle. The vinegar smell will disappear and you’ll be left with softer, odor-free sheets and towels.

Clogged Sink: Especially in older dorms, sinks clog at the slightest provocation. If you have an electric kettle, boil water in it and pour it down the sink–with luck, the heat will help dissolve the clog. If that doesn’t work, you have two fun-with-science options: pouring hydrogen peroxide down the drain and hoping the bubbles help things along, or pouring baking soda down the drain and following it with vinegar to create your own mini sink-volcano. Either way, the clog should be dissolved due to bubbles. If none of these options work and you’re in school housing, go ahead and call building maintenance: cleaning out the catch in your sink may be easy, but if something goes wrong, the school will most likely charge you.

Glass and Mirror Cleaning: If you have a mirror above your sink, it will get spattered with toothpaste within a week. If you’re looking for a way to clean the mirror without leaving streaks, go hunt out some newspaper on campus and take it back to your room. You can either put plain water or a water-vinegar mix into a spray bottle and spray it onto the mirror (or just flick it onto the mirror with your hand). Use the newspaper to wipe the mirror down, and it will magically get most anything off without leaving a trace behind. Once you’re done, recycle the paper.

Wall Stains: Walls get stained–generally in ways that we don’t notice until we’re cleaning up for move-out. Whatever you do, don’t try re-painting with white-out or something similar: whoever looks over the dorm after you leave will hate you. If the paint is chipped or peeling, leave it alone. However, for scuffs and stains, there is hope in the form of the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. You can cut the generous pads into smaller ones for extended use, and with just a little water and a lot of elbow grease, the little foam pad will clean almost any scuff off of your wall while leaving the paint alone. Its cleaning power supposedly comes from the chemical makeup of the foam, but I prefer to take the product’s name at face value and call it what it is: magic.

[Cleaning tips and recipes courtesy of, DIY Life, and The Daily Green, and BUST magazine.]