Back-To-School Supplies: Six Essential Dorm Room Appliances


Make sure you’re prepared for dorm life with these six appliances that will work as hard as you do.

Living in a dorm or small apartment doesn’t offer much wiggle room. Cut back on duplicate electronics and appliances by adding these multi-function dorm room essentials to your back to school supplies shopping check list. From quickly cooking up ramen noodles to making sure you wake up in time for class, these appliances are made for multi-tasking.

The Hot List

Back to school supplies

1.  Smartphone alarm clock


This dock/alarm clock comes with a remote control, 3D sound and iPod playlist or radio alarm options.

For all of us who aren’t morning people, an effective alarm is vital. While the iHome iP9BR Clock Radio (93/100 based on 9 reviews) is pretty pricey at about $90, iHome has many affordable models that offer similar features.

“I needed something that would play music for me, wake me up, charge my ipod, and have a controller. It was all of the above. The display is great, it’s bright, and you can change how bright it is, which is always great.” —tylersgirl, Reviewer since 2008 

“I’m obsessed with the fact that my alarm clock now doubles as a dock for my ipod! I love all the options it gives you & the sound is fantastic. I had low expectations for the sound as it is an alarm clock after all, but it’s great! There are multiple alarms & alarm settings which is very convenient.” —ditdis, Reviewer since 2011

2. Steamer


The Sharper Image Portable Steamer costs approximately $30.

When you need to find a handful of quarters every time you want to use a dryer, a steamer is a great appliance to have on hand. The Sharper Image Portable Steamer (90/100 based on 6 reviews) is a lightweight, quick and easy to use dryer and iron alternative.

“The Sharper Image Wrinkle-Free Portable Steamer is very easy to use and it is extremely effective in quickly removing wrinkles from all types of fabrics, from silk to heavy denim. It took me a few minutes to master the technique of keeping the steamer upright to avoid water droplets dripping on the fabric.” —ktortman, Reviewer since 2007

“It is SO easy to use, I couldn’t believe it! It only takes a few minutes to heat up. After a few times, all of the wrinkles are magically gone. Just be sure not to put it too close to your clothes, or you’ll get water spots. I’d definitely recommend this handy little steamer. Everyone should get one!!” —ms1708, Reviewer since 2010

3. Water filter


For around $12, you can eliminate the cost of bottled water from your budget.

When it comes to water filtration, Brita filters take first place on Viewpoints. The Brita Water Filtration System Pitcher Slim Model (100/100 based on 8 reviews) brings the powerful filtering power of Brita products into a small, compact pitcher, perfect for smaller refrigerators.

“As a college student I can safely say that a Brita pitcher is an absolute must-have! Whether you live in a dorm or you’re off on your own in an apartment, you’ll always need clean, filtered water. This is a great and inexpensive investment. For people on a budget, you’d be amazed by how much you save by not buying bottled water.” —findyourhorizon, Reviewer since 2011

“These are great little pitchers! They are very affordable and they work great. The water filters very quickly and a whole jug makes about 6 glasses of water, so you easily have a days supply of fresh water in minutes. [It] is nice and compact, so it doesn’t take up much room in your fridge.” —TheMightyBahamut, Reviewer since 2010

4. Microwave oven

Panasonic 1250 Watt 2.2 Cubic Feet Inverter-Microwave-Oven-NN-H965WF- H965BF

This microwave was voted “Best for Countertops” and “Best Budget Buy” by Viewpoints reviewers.

While it’s one of the most expensive items on this back to school supplies dorm checklist, a microwave is also one that you’re guaranteed to use throughout your college years. The Panasonic 1250 Watt Inverter Microwave Oven (94/100 based on 28 reviews) costs approximately $140 and is one of the top-rated microwaves on Viewpoints.

“My cousin recommended it to me since I was a student… why a student?  Because we have no time to seriously cook and most of our food is defrosted! This microwave is crazy when it comes to defrosting! Peas, pizza, bread, frozen vegetables. It didn’t burn or overcook when I clicked on the defrost option.” —YunaIesca, Reviewer since 2009

“A great quality microwave at a great price from Panasonic. I bought it after much research and am quite happy with what I got. [It's] pretty big in size but still low enough to fit into places under cabinets. Works like a charm in my kitchen space.” —Appy, Reviewer since 2013

5. Handheld vacuum cleaner


Powerful enough for crumbs and dust bunnies, this handheld vacuum costs around $40.

In a small living space, having a small efficient vacuum is a must. The Eureka Easy Clean Hand Vac 71B (88/100 based on 45 reviews) is one of the most affordable top-rated vacuums on Viewpoints. 

“I am a student living in a small rented space so I dont need the full size upright, but I still like to keep my room tidy and clean due to my allerigies, and this hand held helps me do that easily. Not only is cleaning and vacuuming easy but storage of this hand held is easy as well because of its compact size!” —thewayworldturns, Reviewer since 2010

“I was very pleased with this vacuum. It is very powerful and solid, has a power driven brush roll and very long cord. It can be a little heavy, but only when doing vertical surfaces.” —kmpbacon, Reviewer since 2009

6. Electric kettle


For about $55, you can bypass dorm restrictions on coffee makers and hot plates with this quick and safe electric kettle.

From ramen noodles to hot tea, boiling water is a main ingredient in many college student snacks. Save time and go stove-less with an electric kettle like the KRUPS Cordless Electric Kettle (100/100 based on 6 reviews).

“After melting yet another teapot on my stove top I decided to get an electric kettle. This one has a real quality feel to it. It heats the water much faster than a stove top kettle and it’s insulated so the water will stay at temperature for a long time” —snliveo, Reviewer since 2011 

“I was on the lookout for a water kettle that could heat up water quickly. This one does the job just fine! It heats up water in an instant, and has an automatic shut off where once the water boils, the heating mechanism turns off on its own and therefore is really safe to use.” —est1980ate, Reviewer since 2010

Look for multi-tasking appliances

Quality and functionality are the most important factors when shopping for dorm life appliances. Keep in mind that spending a little extra is an investment and not a waste of money. A vacuum with attachments that can get under your bed or a microwave with a powerful “defrost” function can help you cut down on cleaning and cooking time.

Amber Rambharose is a writing intern at Viewpoints.She just graduated from Hollins University with a B.A. in English Literature and is continuing her studies this fall at the University of Cincinnati.

Amber Rambharose Amber Rambharose (50 Posts)

Amber Rambharose is a former writing intern at Viewpoints. She graduated from Hollins University with a B.A. in English Literature and is continuing her studies at the University of Cincinnati.

  • Xanthe Emerick

    1250 watt microwave in a dorm room? What school allows this? Most have a 700 watt maximum!

    • Amber Rambharose


      It depends on what school you or your child is attending. Some schools have a maximum as low as 700 or as high as 1500.