6 Simple Ways To Deal With A Disgusting Roommate Once And For All

So, your roommate is gross. Unhygienic. Filthy.

A glob of mobile flesh surrounded by a thin (or thick) layer of dirt. It’s horrifying, slightly nauseating, and the main reason you don’t let friends, family, or potential dates visit your room. It’s even messing with your mind.

But what can you do? Your thoughtful, well-meaning suggestions that they “tidy up a bit” are waved off by a Cheeto-covered hand, or shrugged off by shoulders encased in a shirt that hasn’t seen the light of detergent since his/her mom last washed it. In September.

Time to take action.

Option 1: The Mom Approach

Dexter's Mom

Also called the Germaphobe, this approach is simple. You clean their mess up. Repeatedly.

The Mom Approach is good for those zen, suffering-is-the-only-road-to-salvation types out there. It assumes that your concern for a clean environment is more important than sticking by the principle of the offending party should clean up their own mess. Clean is good. Clean is absolutely necessary.

But the Mom Approach puts you in a perpetual position of weakness. You’re taking care of them. You’re cleaning up after them, and thereby enabling them to stay true to their habits of filth and personal negligence. It’s horrifying, and frankly, not recommended if you value your dignity – but a germaphobe’s gotta do what a germaphobe’s gotta do.

A modified version of the Mom Approach is the Mom Doesn’t Live Here Anymore Approach: keep your room not just clean, but pristine for a week. I’m talking hospital-pristine here. National park pristine. Autoclave-pristine.

Keep that up for a week or two, and then stop cold-turkey. Let everything get rapidly messy.

Your roommate, used to the high standards of cleanliness, will be caught off guard and will (hopefully) start making some kind of effort to regain the previously enjoyed levels of clean. You may not hit the Yosemite clean benchmark, but at least there won’t be dirty underwear everywhere.

Option 2: The Bombing of Dresden Approach

Take the offensive.

Pile all of their dirt and their crap onto a place where they can’t help but be hampered by it. Stuff all their dirty gym socks under their pillow. Throw everything they leave on the floor up on their bed.

They’ll come home, note the lack of dirty gym socks and grin broadly (like a toad or Madame Umbridge in the 5th Harry Potter book/movie), smug in knowing that their filth has finally broken your spirit to the point where you have caved and taken the Mom Approach after weeks of keeping a stiff upper lip.

They drop their bag on the ground, crushing your shoes/homework/copy of John Green’s new book that you paid extra to be signed and shipped as fast as humanly possible, and then they get into bed…only to be naplamed by the smell of a dozen pairs of sweat-and-dirt covered socks. Attack, success.

Enraged, your roommate sits up and begins a Counter-Strike full of expletives and aggressive hand gestures. Stay calm. Do not make excessive, if any, hand gestures. Simply and tranquilly explain that you are sick of living in your roommate’s personal landfill, and a pillow-full of dirty, fetid socks is how you feel about your room everyday.

The Dresden Approach is risky. Depending on how tenacious, or simply scheming and malicious, your roommate is, using the Dresden approach can either lead to your roommate ultimately learning their lesson and shaping up a bit (grumbling optional) or the start of World War III. Wear a helmet.

Option 3: The Blaming Buddha Approach

Buddha (image courtesy of Flickr user alicepopkorn)

It’s fairly straightforward. You become the Buddha. You stop caring.

You are at peace with the dirt, the slight odour, the flies surrounding the garbage can. You are one with the universe and nothing matters – not your upcoming exam, not the six ignored phone calls from your mom, and especially not a little dirt.

You must be okay with some dirt in your life. You must not be a germaphobe. If you pick the Blaming Buddha Approach, you are playing the long game and you better be okay with that.

But there is a key component to the BBA: the dirt is not your fault. If someone asks why your room is so dirty, you immediately point the finger at your roommate. It’s not you. Even if you make a tiny bit of mess, the whole room and its deterioration is the problem of your roommate.

While it’s not very nice to play the blame-game, the rising peer pressure will ultimately crack them like a chocolate Easter egg (how good are chocolate Easter Eggs? Why can’t they sell them all year round?).

Option 4: The Snitch (no, not the Harry Potter kind)

If you’re living with a really dirty roommate, chances are you’re in a dorm. And you roomed blind because you should know whether or not your friend from high school is a dirty slob before you agree to live with them. But go back to the part about living in a dorm: if you’re in a dorm, you have an RA or an RA equivalent. And the RA has power.

Editor’s note: The RA’s power is limited.

So when shit hits the fan (hopefully not literally) and you just can’t handle it, call the RA.

Yes, it means you’re a snitch, but it can be an effective problem solving technique. Handling roommate disputes is part of your RA’s job. Don’t worry about the label ‘snitch’: the soul-healing power of cleanliness will make you forget all about it.

Option 5: The Rafiki Approach


Watch The Lion King. Now watch it again.

Rafiki was the best character in the whole movie and he knew his stuff. He would run around singing nonsense and laughing because an ant climbed a blade of grass, and then somehow he’s taught you a valuable life lesson without you even realizing it.

The Rafiki cannot be taught, only known. You must teach your roommate that the mess is unacceptable and they must take part in cleaning with you. The Rafiki ends with a Hans Zimmer-scored musical scene of you two cleaning together, side by side, despite the fact that you’re a lion and he/she’s a warthog.

Side note: as much as possible, avoid walloping your roommate on the head with a wooden staff.

Option 6: The Clorox/Sign Approach (largely for ladies)

You share a room/bathroom with someone who sheds like a dog. A large, furry dog. There is hair everywhere. It’s alarming. You could knit a hair-sweater out of all the hair left in the sink/shower/counters.

For unruly hair, there’s only one thing to do.

Arm yourself with Clorox wipes. Arm yourself to the hilt and go to town on that bathroom. Leave boxes of the wipes strategically placed around the bathroom so that no one has an excuse for not cleaning up their hair.

If that doesn’t work, make strategically placed, passive-aggressive signs in a false cheery voices with too many exclamation points helpfully reminding the offender that this is a communal space and could they please, please not get toothpaste all over the mirror? That would be sooooo nice. Thanks!!!

What strategies do you use to cope with a messy roommate?

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45 Comments on "6 Simple Ways To Deal With A Disgusting Roommate Once And For All"

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Hey! I have a roommate story! Really just trying to rant at the moment. I’m currently in the hall of my dorm, which has become a daily ritual while having to live with my roommate. At first it wasn’t bad. I tried to be friends but she brushed me off, which is fine. I even took her to get her first piercing but she decided I wasn’t her type of friend or something, I don’t know. Anyway, I came into this situation as the messiest person to ever exist, seriously. Until I had to share a room with someone. Around mid-terms, I noticed a fishy, sour smell every time I entered our room. I still have no idea what it is and I have tried absolutely everything to mask it/get rid of it; NOTHING works. She constantly lays in bed, with the lights off, facetiming her friends that are still in highschool (so I can’t even tell you how much drama has been going on with Coach Howard, because it’s A LOT.) Oh yeah, and did I mention, she’s ALWAYS eating? For the past month I’ve noticed her eating roughly 5 bags of chips a night. Usually she begins this… Read more »
I have tried several approaches. Honestly my roommates, who are engaged, believe that leaving plates of food on the couch and letting the dishes pile high for weeks is being clean. When they do clean, they only do the dishes and pick stuff up. they never clean the counters. They never vacuum. The only time they actually sweep and have the table cleaned off is when they have company over, so I’ll walk in and I’ll see that stuff is clean and I automatically know that either someone is coming over or there is going to be an inspection… These dirty messy disgusting people decided that since they are so lazy and never clean that it would be great to have a dog. They just got a puppy, and typically when they do clean it stays clean for a couple days to maybe a week or so… Sooo, the place is still clean but we’ll see what day it starts going to shit. Not to mention, since they never like to clean, I’m just kind of waiting and dreading when the apartment will start to smell like piss because let’s face it, if they don’t clean what makes them believe… Read more »
Stinky home :(
My roommate has two bunnies, which I was excited about at first. I’d always wanted a rabbit. Little did I know what her particular ownership of these poor rabbits involves. I’m pretty sure since she moved in (in July), she has maybe cleaned the cage about twice. total. It’s putrid smelling throughout the house, coming from the direction of her bedroom where she has them. We also started having a serious infestation of flies about two months ago, which I’m pretty sure came about because these rabbits are sitting in their own filth on a regular basis. I’ve mentioned this a couple times. She hasn’t rectified the problem. She also has a pug who turned a year old a few months back. He barks every time I get up to use the bathroom, even if I creep through the hallway like a ninja. He barks every time my boyfriend comes over. He barks every time I get home from work. Last night he had a barking fit because I snapped a photo of my sleeping cat with my bedroom door completely closed and I guess my phone made the photo snap noise. He also barks for no reason sometimes and… Read more »
Realization Sucks

You have to leave, plain and simple. I tried everything. Being Mom doesn’t work. I tried and felt like a maid, one that wasn’t even noticed. I Dresden’d, not even a reaction. The compiled mess just stayed that way. Not caring only makes it worse over time and the landfill grows. I had no one to snitch to. This person was beyond a Rafiki. They were too old and completely not self-conscious, they blamed me for taking them in as a roommate and yelled at me when I asked them to clean up just a little. I tried the Clorox wipe thing, going through a package once ever few weeks, yes this roommate was female, I tried to keep the shared bathroom clear of hair and wipes aren’t enough, you have to get those drain cleaners too. Expense and effort. There is nothing that works with some people. If you live with a human landfill, then you live in a landfill plain and simple and if you don’t want to live in a landfill the only thing you can do is leave.

John Blame

I tried Dresden one and my roommate didn’t care!


I have tried literally all of these. None of them worked, in fact, I got chewed out for the passive aggressive notes more than the Dresden bomb….


My gf and i have to stay with this fat slob. Hair everywhere in the bathroom…especially next to her assorted vagisil collection… Dishes piled high on her side of the sink. Laughs like a special-ed kid during an adam sandler movie and brings random people into the house. She reminds me of bubble bass from spongebob! Ha! Still no pickles..she ate them all


Are you sure this isn’t MY roommate?


This is my favorite comment. My bf and I’s roommates are being evicted in a couple days and it’s the same shit – except there’s 2 of them lmao.. I clean up after them whenever I’m here but I bitch while I do it – I also am out of the house most of the time.

Special ED Advocate

Here we go again with the “Special ED” putdowns by such an ignorant generalizing idiot. Not every Special ED person has an annoying laugh. My sister doesn’t. Her friends don’t even have it. Maybe 1 of her classmates did, but whatever. So what?! Yea, they’re were in Special Ed. Fran Drescher has it & she wasn’t in special ED. My roommate now has it & he wasn’t in Special ED.. I’m assuming your roommate was not in Special ED, too. Next time THINK before your put down people with special needs. Be considerate & cram it with the generalizing crud. Anyway, goodbye to your nonsense. Adios.

Will Lowley

my roomate n her two kids are slobs they don’t clean just dirty. mom don’t care about me cleaning up after a wreck I can’t stand. don’t tell her kids about cleaning up after themselves. I’m trying this got a white dry erase board n imma hang it where they can see when they walk out the door. so everyone can see n do there part atleast to clean up behind themselves it’s just respect n common sense.

Will Lowley

I did make the kitchen really dirty tho just to see what happens n how long it will be till every one chips in

This looks like a great place to vent, but nothing will get accomplished. I live with my two adult brothers. One of my brothers just WILL NOT do his own dishes. He’ll cook up a big meal and then leave them set. We have a housekeeper come in once every two weeks to clean the place up. But the very next day this lazy ass brother will start filling the sink again, along with other things he won’t take care of but that’s for a different conversation. If my clean brother and I talk to him about it he throws a big fit like a baby and the problem gets worse and worse along with animosity and snide and snotty comments for at least a month. We have given up. I think we’re going to all have to go our separate ways, which is a bummer. I love my brothers, but one of them is just being a selfish prick and I don’t see any way to get him to do his God damned dishes. My clean brother suggested we throw all the dishes away, but I can’t afford or want to eat out all the time. I like to… Read more »
Will Lowley

put all there mess on there bed n show them that’s where things go till you are ready to clean up the mess u created


I have a sister who is exactly the same. It’s hard, because you love them and parting ways is not easy, especially if it means leaving them to take on life by themselves when they’re not very capable as it is.

Something I’m going to try with her is everytime she leaves dirty dishes out I will clean the dishes, and then lock them away in a box in my room. Each of these dishes will be locked away for a week from the day I find it not cleaned, which means if she leaves the pot and pan uncleaned then she has nothing to cook with for a week, which means no nice cooked food for a week, she’ll be forced to eat out (which she won’t want because it’s not something she can afford). If I want to cook myself food, I can use the pot and pan even if it’s locked away.

More mess means less dishes to use, and less dishes to use means less mess. So if punishes her for not cleaning whilst reducing the amount of mess.


Way to go David. Never let your kids or any other “undesirable” chase you out. Help them choke on their own filth and inabilities.


What you describe sounds like personality disordered behaviour. They do it for 1) control, 2) attention, 3) to cause conflict, 4) a chance to play victim. It’s deliberate and that’s why it’s never going to end. Study up on Cluster B.


Sounds like you need a dishwasher – freestanding, or built in, with a heavy duty cycle.

This has solved a thousand problems for me in the long run.

Show your favorite Neanderthal how to rinse a plate and drop it on the rack. He probably won’t do the former, (hence the heavy duty function) and he won’t unload it either, but at least the ants, flies and maggots will stop feasting.

This is a 46 year old man. He don’t clean anything. He don’t clean up after himself or his animals, he sleep with his dogs and cats, their is fur everywhere. His room reeks with urine and smells awful. He don’t care, if I say anything he lets it get worse. Or his famous words, I promise I will get on my day off. Three days off, and all he does is sleep. Or he pretends he is sick, or he hurts. I feel as he don’t care how I feel. I came into his home. And expects me to clean up, but he does not try to keep anything clean. I can clean, next day it looks like I didn’t do anything. I cry myself to sleep thinking, how can a man be so dirty and not care. On how hard I worked all day in cleaning his home, an all he says is, I’m sorry and goes to his room and goes to sleep. Not a care in the world on, my feelings, he can sleep with no quilt. Omg! Maybe I don’t belong here. I gave him two years, and I’m tired. All I get is It… Read more »

Sounds like he may have depression. Very difficult to live with (in case you haven’t noticed)

Give him a first warning in writing along with a deadline. Agree to meet after 2 weeks and inspect his room. Then meet monthly,

You can pretty well bet on a final warning AND an eviction. He will drag this out indefinitely because nobody will put up with this, so be sure that you have set firm dates.

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