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.
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 Ninja Nutri Ninja Pro, $90, was a good, not great, performer in our smoothie test and aced our purée test. 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 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 Calphalon Stainless Steel HE200ST, $60, our top two-slice toaster. It makes 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 and a CR Best Buy.
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.
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.
Your student may not think she needs an iron but there's always dinner with the Dean or an 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.
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 refrigerator. 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. Some schools only allow rentals.
Full refrigerator Ratings and recommendations
A microwave oven is a must for students living off-campus and will guarantee that your student gets a good meal now and then. Our top mid-sized countertop microwave is the Avanti MO1250TW, $130. It earned very good scores across our tests, heats evenly and bring water to a boil at a good clip.
Tip: Keep in mind that the claimed capacity may be larger than the actual usable capacity, which we measure in our tests. Take a dinner plate when you shop to make sure it fits.
Full microwave oven Ratings and recommendations
Dorm rooms can be very hot and dry. A tabletop humidifier can make a room more comfortable during the heating season. The small Safety 1st Ultrasonic 360, $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.
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.
From backpacks to cars and for grade school to grad school, our back-to-school guide has you covered.