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When families with college-age kids are checking off their “dorm essentials” lists and packing up the car for that iconic family event, we know it’s almost College Move-In Day. Here are some tips to reduce your college student’s exposure to toxic chemicals in their new digs and make a healthy college dorm room for them.

1. Bedding: Make it organic cotton and hold the PFAS

Avoid sheets, mattress pads, and other products  that are labeled “stain resistant,” as these likely contain PFAS. Look for GOTS-certified organic cotton products, a third-party standard which does not allow PFAS.

2. Personal care products: clean beauty is in!

Follow our tips for finding safer personal care products for tweens and teens and pack plenty so they are on hand when school gets busy. Then buy extras during visits, and send some along in care packages.

3. Laundry: Lighten the chemical load

Make sure they are stocked up with plenty of safer laundry detergent. Look for products with the Safer Choice label, an EPA certification that gives consumers an assurance that a product avoids many known hazardous chemicals and has been vetted by the government. Get wool laundry balls to avoid chemical-laden laundry sheets. 

4. Coffee maker: Caffeine without unnecessary plastic pollution

If your college student is insisting on a K-cup coffee maker for that early morning cuppa Joe, opt for one that has a filter insert that they can put ground coffee in instead of using plastic K-cups. To stop the protestations, make sure your student knows this option will save them lots of money! An even healthier option, and almost as convenient, is a single serving ceramic coffee cone and unbleached paper filters.

5. Hot water kettle: Skip the plastic

If your student prefers tea to coffee, get them a stainless steel electric kettle instead of a cheaper plastic one. In this case, the healthier alternative may be more expensive in the short-term, but they are also more durable in the long-term.

6. Cleaning supplies: There are lots of safer options 

Think about springing for a stash of healthy cleaning supplies for your student and their roommates (though there’s no guarantee this cleaning will actually happen!). Again, look for the Safer Choice label on products you buy. Budget-conscious college students may also like learning about how homemade healthy cleaning alternatives are easy on a college student’s budget when keeping a safer college dorm room.

7. Healthy eating: Prepare food safely

If you opt to send cookware with your student, avoid non-stick cookware and look for safer alternatives such as cast iron or stainless steel.  They should avoid using and heating plastic—especially in the dorm microwave. While microwave popcorn is popular, the packaging can contain PFAS, so send a bag of kernels and brown lunch paper bags—here is a recipe! Be sure to also equip them with stainless steel straws, so that your student can avoid wasteful plastic straws.

8. Water and air filters: The basics 

There are a lot of options for water filters. Look for one with a glass pitcher instead of plastic and ones that can remove metals and chemicals. This Life Straw claims to even remove PFAS.

Your student may have allergies that can be helped by air purifiers. Air purifiers can also help with smoke from fires and filter out toxic chemicals in dust from mattresses and electronics. Look for stack models with a HEPA filter that has a small footprint as a space saver when keeping a healthy college dorm room.

9. Lounging around: Choose healthier furniture

Read the label on the underside of any new upholstered furniture—choose furniture labeled “CONTAINS NO ADDED FLAME RETARDANTS.” Also be sure to avoid furniture covered with vinyl/PVC. Healthier options are available.

10. Make sure those gadgets are safer

Laptops, cellphones, tablets, and other gadgets are often filled with toxic flame retardants, phthalates, and other nasty chemicals. Shop for products that are TCO certified.

Great job getting your student geared up for college! And don’t worry, your student will be back for summer before you know it.