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13 Ways to Hang Things in Dorms: Even On Painted Cinder Blocks!

Are you looking for ways to hang things in dorms without damaging the walls? We’ve consulted with experts and have 13 ideas to try and many even work on painted cinder blocks!

It was August of 2021.

I had moved my son into college three times, and I felt pretty confident when it was time to move my daughters into their dorms.

Cocky even.

After all, my blog partner and I wrote one of the most popular articles on Pinterest with tips for college move-in day!

Everything was going smoothly at my first daughter’s move-in (I have twin daughters and they chose different colleges).

In fact, we had everything unloaded and she was mostly unpacked and settled in in just three hours!

While I was doing some cleaning in the bathroom, my girls were busy hanging her photo display and neon sign.

Girl adding pictures to a photo display frame over her bed in a college dorm.

They were using 3M command strips and command hooks to hang them, and of course, we remembered to use alcohol to clean the painted cinder block wall first.

Remember: this wasn’t our first rodeo!

We decided to take a break and get some lunch, then stop at the local Walmart for some paper products and snacks to stock her room.

When we got back to her room about two hours later, everything they’d hung on the wall had fallen down.


Girl holding photo frame piece on wall to set a Command strip.

They tried again, this time not putting any photos up to give the new Command strips some time to cure.

My daughter hung everything back up the next day, and the same thing happened.

The Command hooks and strips just wouldn’t stick on her walls.

What’s a mom to do?

I turned to the people who regularly hang things on painted cinder blocks: my teacher friends!

And boy did they come through with all kinds of tips, tricks, and suggestions for how to safely hang things on dorm room walls.

You’re not going to believe the number one thing they recommended!

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Don’t Buy Anything Before Checking Your College’s Policies First!

Girl sitting on bed in dorm room with a photo display on the wall behind the bed.

Before I share the tips I’ve learned, I want to caution you.

Don’t buy anything to hang on the wall until you’ve checked the guidelines at the college or university where you or your student is going.

Every school has its own policies.

While some don’t mind if you hang tapestries on the walls, others consider them fire hazards.

Some schools prefer you to use thumbtacks, pushpins, or small nails to hang things. Others strictly forbid anything that makes a hole in the walls.

LED light strips are prohibited at some schools.

So before you spend any money on things to decorate the walls, be sure you know what’s allowed and what isn’t.

And also check to see what the school’s policy is for actually hanging things.

Choose Lightweight Decorations to Hang on Your Dorm Walls

Girls sitting on a bed in a dorm room choosing collage art to hang on the wall.

We’ve found that it’s always best to stick with lightweight decorations. After all, it’s much easier to hang something that doesn’t weigh a lot!

There are so many options that give you the ability to decorate your space.

Posters, flags, and banners are always popular in college dorm rooms and we’ll be sharing some of our favorite ways to hang them.

College flag hanging on the wall in a boy's dorm room.

But one of our decorating favorites that work well on almost every kind of wall are vinyl decals and peel-and-stick wallpaper.

Our girls have all wanted to hang photo displays in their rooms which is another great way to personalize their dorm.

Small floating shelves, wreaths, and grid wall displays are other great options in a dorm room.

For students who like to write things down, whiteboards and wall calendars are other things you might want to hang.

Small bulletin board hanging on the wall above a desk in a college dorm room.

What Do You Use to Hang Things on the Walls in College?

We both relied heavily on using 3M Command strips and 3M Command hooks in our sons’ rooms.

There are a variety of options that work for different purposes.

The Command strips are great for posters, whiteboards, pictures, and lightweight signs.

Command hooks and Command strips with a bottle of rubbing alcohol and cotton rounds.

We used small Command hooks to hang string lights, wreaths, grid walls, flags, and tapestries.

Always be sure to wipe the surfaces with alcohol and let them dry before attaching the strips.

If you have trouble with the Command hooks or strips sticking, one option is to first try using some fine grit sandpaper on the wall (800 grit), then wipe the spot off, use a tack cloth to remove any remaining dust, then use alcohol, and then attach the Command strip.

If that fails, be sure to check out the teacher tip below!

Girls' dorm room decorated with a gallery wall and removeable wallpaper.

Some other options to consider are:

  • Masking tape or painter’s tape
  • Transparent packing tape
  • Mavalus tape
  • Removable double-sided tape
  • Sticky tack putty
  • Stikki Clips
  • Museum wax

The one thing that every teacher I spoke to said to avoid is the double-sided foam tape. Apparently, it’s awful to remove!

How To Protect The Things That You Hang

If you’re hanging something that’s made from paper like a poster, unframed photos, or photo collage cards, you might want to protect them before you attach them to the wall.

The easiest way to protect these things is to put a piece of masking tape, painter’s tape, or packing tape on the back in the spots where you’ll be using the adhesive.

This allows you to take them down without the adhesive causing them to tear, and then you can use them again the next year.

For photos, you may want to use acid-free tape to prevent the photos from getting discolored.

The Number One Way Teachers Recommend to Hang Things

Girl hanging a tapestry in her dorm at college.

So, going back to the dilemma I encountered in my daughter’s dorm room when the Command strips just wouldn’t work.

Each teacher I talked to offered a variety of different suggestions (sticky tack, putty, museum wax, Mavalus tape, and Gorilla double-sided tape), but the one thing every teacher suggested?

Hot glue.

Yup. You read that right! The number one way they suggested hanging things on slippery painted cinder blocks is with a hot glue gun.

Not only does it hold like a champ but it also is super easy to remove at the end of the year.

They recommend using hot glue sticks; the low temp varieties are actually harder to remove.

Metal grids hanging on Command hooks over a desk in a dorm room.

Some suggested putting a piece of painter’s tape on the wall first and also on the back of what you’re hanging, then putting the hot glue on the painter’s tape.

Apparently, painter’s tape sticks well on the walls if it’s not being used to actually hold something up.

You can even use hot glue to attach the Command hooks instead of the adhesive strips!

Family in a boy's dorm room decorated with a college flag hanging on the wall with small hooks.

What Are The Best Non-Adhesive Options to Hang Things in Dorms and Apartments?

We’ve talked about all sorts of great adhesives to hang decorations in a dorm or an apartment, but what if the college or apartment complex doesn’t allow those options?

In fact, many places that have drywall walls prefer that you use push pins or small nails to hang things.

We’ve found a few great options that work great on drywall with a minimum of damage, and a few can even hold things that weigh over 100 pounds!

I used 3M CLAW hangers to hang my gallery wall in my bedroom and really like them a lot. There are three different sizes to choose from and one claims to hold up to 65 pounds.

Another option is gorilla hooks that make a small hole in the drywall and have a size that can hold up to 100 pounds (physics is pretty cool).

There are also small plastic hooks that you hammer into a wall that leave four tiny pinholes.

Do you have any other solutions for hanging things in a dorm? I’d love to hear about them!

Shopping Resources and Links

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Collage of products used to hang things in a dorm or an apartment.

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment.

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