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Best small appliances for college students

Top-rated coffeemakers, blenders, and other dorm room gear

Published: July 2014

If you are among the parents packing college students off to school for the first time, you may be tempted to equip their dorm rooms with all the creature comforts of home, including small appliances to satisfy their needs. But before you do, check the university’s website for what to bring and what not to. Typically, small appliances with exposed coils, such as toasters, are prohibited. For example, the University of Indiana at Bloomington says not to bring toaster ovens but allows irons, while New York University permits the use of  blenders, hand vacuums, and humidifiers, but not hot plates. Of course, students living off-campus can bring whatever they need. Here are some affordable, top-rated small appliances from Consumer Reports tests.

Blenders

Students with early classes may not have time to eat breakfast in the dining hall. But with a personal blender, they can whip up a smoothie and drink it on-the-go. The Hamilton Beach Single Serve Blender 51101, $20, was a good, not great, performer in our smoothie test. But it comes with a travel lid, which makes it easy to carry to class without spilling your drink.
Tip:
Blend two cups of any kind of frozen fruit with a cup of skim milk, one banana, and two spoons of peanut butter for a quick and healthy breakfast.
Full blender Ratings and recommendations.

Toasters

Toasters are typically forbidden in dorm rooms but allowed in common cooking areas and campus apartments with fully equipped kitchens. That and a box of Pop-Tarts and you’re good to go. Or choose some whole-grain toast with jelly. Our experts named the Hamilton Beach Digital 22502, $35, a CR Best Buy. It made evenly browned toast batch after batch. If you plan to cook frozen pizza or reheat leftovers, you'll want a good toaster oven like the Oster TSSTTVMNDG, $80, which was very good at baking and broiling.
Tip: Clean the crumb tray a few times a week to lessen the chance of the crumbs starting to smoke or smolder. Remember, the smoke alarms installed in student housing are very sensitive.
Full toaster Ratings and recommendations.

Coffeemakers

While they cost more than drip coffeemakers, pod coffeemakers allow you to brew coffee directly into your travel mug without the need to measure coffee or clean filters and the carafe. The DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio EDG455T is our top-rated model and had excellent brewing speed on the first and subsequent cups. It costs $130 and takes up less space than most pod coffeemakers.
Tip: To get the most coffee flavor from a pod machine, adjust it for the strongest cup and choose a smaller serving size. Do the opposite if you like a weaker brew.
Full coffeemaker Ratings and recommendations.

Steam irons

Your student may not think she needs an iron but there’s always that dinner with the Dean or that interview for an internship. Any student would appreciate an iron like the T-Fal FV4495 Ultraglide, $45, which heats up quickly, has an excellent steaming rate and was an excellent performer overall. It also has auto-shutoff, an important safety feature. And at that price we named it a CR Best Buy.
Tip: Iron your silk garments first, followed by cotton and linen, because it’s easy to get your iron hotter, but it may take an hour for the iron to cool down. High temperatures can damage delicate fabrics.
Full steam iron Ratings and recommendations.

Frigidaire FFPH44M4L[M]

Compact refrigerators

Many colleges let you bring or rent a compact refrigerator and they’re handy to have to keep cold milk for your cereal. None of the iconic cube models in our tests made our list of top compact refrigerator picks. The best of the lot was the Danby DCR059BLE, $100, which got excellent marks for keeping food cold and very good freezer performance. But it uses almost as much energy as a full-size model. If you have a little more space and twice as much money, consider the tall compact Frigidaire FFPH44M4L[M], $220, which we recommend. You can buy similar Frigidaire models for a bit less at Lowe’s and Best Buy.
Tip: Before buying a refrigerator check with your roommates to make sure they aren’t shopping for one as well. If so, you can split the cost.
Full refrigerator Ratings and recommendations

Hand vacuums

The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser 33A1, $35, is the least-expensive hand vacuum cleaner we’ve tested and was excellent at cleaning bare floors and edges. And good enough at carpet to make it a recommended model. While the name suggests it’s good for pet hair, it got our lowest score on that test. But pets aren’t allowed in dorms anyway.
Tip:
Never try to vacuum up water or liquids with a vacuum cleaner. It can damage the motor and pose the risk of electrocution. Clean the debris cup after every use to prevent odor buildup and loss of suction.
Full vacuum Ratings and recommendations.

Humidifiers

Dorm rooms can be very hot and dry. A tabletop humidifier can make a room more comfortable during the heating season. The Safety 1st 49292, $30, a CR Best Buy, scored excellent in overall performance and was quiet, a plus when sharing a room. The humidifier also shuts off automatically when empty.
Tip: Clean the humidifier after each use to prevent the build up of bacteria.
Full humidifier Ratings and recommendations.

And don't forget. Although Consumer Reports does not test fans, every college student should have one. Dorms in older buildings typically are not air conditioned and in the winter, some rooms get overly hot. Tower fans are great space-savers and can be found at a good price at many big box and department stores.

—Izabela Rutkowski

Back-to-school shopping guide

From backpacks to cars and for grade school to grad school, our guide has you covered.


   

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