How to Deal With Roommates Who Won't Clean

Positive communication with messy roommates may help the situation.
... James Woodson/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Whether you are in a dorm room or an apartment, learning to coexist peacefully with roommates isn't always easy. If you have particularly messy roommates that like leaving dishes in the sink and laundry piled up in the middle of the living area, you might be at your wit's end. You have a right not to live in a pig sty and you shouldn't have to do all the cleaning, either. While confronting your roommates can be intimidating, you need to deal with this situation head on so that you can be comfortable in your living situation.

1 Address Cleanlines Issues Early

Before, if possible, or soon after you move in with your roommates, sit down to address issues right away. Let everyone have a chance to bring up any important rules or things they want to put out there, like rules about food in the refrigerator or sharing clothes. When it is your turn, let them know as politely as possible that what is most important to you is to keep the common areas clean. Be specific so that your roommates can't say they didn't know what you meant. For example, tell them that that you would appreciate dishes not left in the sink for more than a day and to check the shower drain for stray hair when they get out of the shower.

2 Try Compromise Solutions

Try to talk to your roommates about some type of chore or cleanup system. If it seems like you are always the only one cleaning, remind them about the agreements you made to try to keep the house clean and see if they are willing to compromise. For example, you might agree to do all the dishes, regardless of who put them in the sink, if one of your roommates takes the trash out in all the rooms every day and the other is willing to sweep the floors and keep the living area tidy. You could also agree upon a weekly clean-up time, such as Saturday morning, to do an in-depth cleaning of the kitchen, bathroom and living room.

3 Get a Little Creative

Sometimes, you've got to try out a few different strategies to motivate your roommates to clean. One idea is to leave cleaning supplies out in obvious places with a note on how to use them. You could leave a shower cleaning spray by the shower with a note that says, "Please spray on walls and tub after shower. Thanks!" If your roommate leaves dirty clothes strewn about, give her a laundry bag, saying you had an extra one. It's a little passive-aggressive, but it gets the point across. Another strategy, if your roommates are used to you doing everything to keep the dorm or apartment clean, is to simply stop. This only works if you can stand to live in mess for a few days until your roommates start taking notice and make efforts to help clean. Creative strategies don't always work, especially with stubborn roommates, but it's worth a shot.

4 Take Drastic Measures

If nothing has worked and you are at your wit's end, you have some serious decisions to make. If you are in a dorm, talk to your resident adviser. Depending on your school, your RA may have some power to get your roommates to straighten up, claiming health hazards or something similar. Keep in mind, however, that your roommates will likely have resentment toward you for getting the RA involved. Another option is to ask for an emergency room change -- a rare occurrence, but it does happen if it is deemed necessary. If you live in an apartment, tell your roommates that you've had it and plan to move out, even if you have to pay extra money to break the lease. Chances are, your roommates are not going to want to deal with the messiness of a broken lease and finding a new roommate, so they may be willing to meet you halfway. If not, do what you've got to do and move out.

Based in Los Angeles, Zora Hughes has been writing travel, parenting, cooking and relationship articles since 2010. Her work includes writing city profiles for Groupon. She also writes screenplays and won the S. Randolph Playwriting Award in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in television writing/producing and a Master of Arts Management in entertainment media management, both from Columbia College.