Students report laundry machines broken: Associate dean of students offers solutions to keep machines running

Kathleen Moore / THE GATEPOST

By Donald Halsing

Editor-in-Chief

By Kathleen Moore

Associate Editor

According to students, there have been persistent problems with the laundry machines in residence halls this year.

They complained of leaky, foul-smelling washers that don’t drain, dryers that don’t fully dry clothes, and out-of-order card swipe machines. On top of that, students said many of the washers and dryers are out of order at the same time.

SGA Senator Mark Haskell discussed issues with the laundry machines during Open Forum Feb. 8.

In an interview, Haskell said there have been problems with the residence hall laundry machines during the three years he’s lived on campus. “It’s not just in Larned or Miles Bibb – it’s basically a campus-wide issue.”

Haskell said many washers “randomly shut down.” One time, he removed “a puddle of clothes” mid-cycle because the washer displayed a “out of H2O” message. 

He added the washers make his clothes “smell like death” and that three dryer sheets did nothing to remove the odor.

Haskell said he tried contacting Facilities to address issues with the washers, but they were unable to help him because the machines are maintained by a third-party contractor. He said the third party has never responded to his requests for maintenance.

Although he wishes he could do more to address the problem himself, Haskell said, “There’s not much to do until that third party responds at a faster pace.

“I hope it can be addressed,” he added. “If not now, then when?” 

Glenn Cochran, associate dean of students and student life, said CSC Service Works supplies and maintains all the washers and dryers at Massachusetts state universities. The company holds a system-wide contract through the Massachusetts State College Building Authority.

He said the laundry machines are replaced according to a life-cycle schedule. Although he couldn’t provide an exact figure, Cochran said the machines are probably replaced every eight to 10 years.

Cochran added preventative maintenance is performed when appropriate, including cleaning out the dryer vent ducts.

He said the commercial-grade high-efficiency machines are “incredibly durable.” 

When one of the dryers was being replaced, a representative opened the machine to show Cochran how little damage the machine suffered during its life cycle. Besides finding $18 in change and a few broken pen caps, Cochran said he was impressed that the machine kept working. 

He said the electronic components and airflow issues are the “biggest factors” where problems arise.

Senior Destiny O’Connell, a psychology major and SDA in Corinne Hall Towers, said residents complained to her about the lack of water in some of the washers. She added, “Someone actually did come up to me a few weeks ago complaining that the machine ate their money!” 

O’Connell said one of her classmates told her that only two washers and three dryers are working in West Hall.

Cochran said the biggest issues with laundry machines in recent months have been at West Hall. He said “repeated calls” were made about some of the washers in that building.

He said when students put homemade “out-of-order” signs on machines, it can create a false perception that they are still broken. 

“​​People sometimes are doing good deeds by putting the note on there when they call it in,” Cochran said. “It only works if the repair person pulls it off if they see it.”

Senior Eric Guccione, a business & IT major, said, “I feel as though every time I go to the laundry rooms, there will be multiple machines not working – mostly washers.” 

Senior Jillian Carbone, an elementary education major, said at least one washer always seems to be out of order in Miles Bibb Hall, which is one of the newer residence halls on campus.

Junior Brooke Fenton, a finance major, said it’s hard to find a working machine because so many are out of order, “especially when a lot of people are doing laundry” at the same time.

“A couple days ago, one of the washers was broken, so I had to pay to use a new one,” she said. “My Tide Pod didn’t dissolve.”

Fenton said broken machines have been fixed in the past. However, “I feel like a lot of them are still broken every time I do laundry.” 

Cochran said last semester, the CSC Service Works representative who works with FSU reported “more service issues and repairs than normal.” 

The representative attributed the higher number of problems to a dramatic increase in residence hall occupancy coming out of the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Cochran said multiple new classes of students who are less experienced with the equipment moved onto campus this year. 

Students said when washers do work, clothes often come out waterlogged. 

Fenton said she had to dry her clothes twice because they were still wet when she removed them from the washer. “Even after the second time, they were still damp.” 

Freshman Allan Montes, a health and wellness major, said he squeezed out water from his clothes into the trash because the washer had an “overload” of water. Montes said he dried his clothes “three to four times” to remove excess water.

He added the washers leak water from underneath when running. 

Senior Bhumi Patel, a food and nutrition major, said while she was washing her jeans, the machine’s screen said “Out of H2O.” The door was locked, so she couldn’t open it to take out her jeans.

“I was told to put in a maintenance request to get it sorted out and check on it in an hour,” she said. Patel didn’t submit a maintenance request because the machine unlocked after an hour.

“I ended up wasting money.” 

Patel said some of the laundry machines collect “leftover residue” from previous washes.

Cochran said students adding too much soap to the machines “gums up and messes up the sensors because they’re high-efficiency machines.” “Over soaping” causes the machines to shut down and prevents water from draining.

Students can avoid clogging the sensors by putting in less detergent than they would in their home washers, which might seem “counterintuitive” at first, he said.

Cochran said the foul odors students reported in the washers are caused primarily by two factors. One cause is students closing the doors immediately after taking their clothes out. 

“You’re trapping the moisture in there, it doesn’t dry, and it can create a smell,” he said. Cochran added the same problem occurs in his high-efficiency washer at home if he leaves the door closed.

Cochran advised students to leave the doors open for a while after they take out their washed clothes. “Letting some airflow go in makes a difference.”

The other factor leading to foul odors is students leaving their laundry in the washers for a long time after the cycle ends if they forget to move it to a dryer. “If you let them stay there overnight, you go the next day and it has that kind of musty moldy smell to them,” Cochran said.

He advised students to keep track of their laundry and move it out of a washer into a dryer as soon as the cycle ends.

Students also said the dryers do not dry their clothes effectively.

Patel said she has to run multiple cycles in the dryer to dry her clothes.

Freshman Jeff Occius, an undeclared major, said the dryers are “incapable of actually drying a certain amount of clothes.” 

Occius said one time, he ran the dryer for four cycles and his clothes still weren’t dry. He decided to wash his laundry at home over the weekend.

“Ever since that incident, I haven’t tried doing my laundry on campus again.”

Cochran said the dryer ducts in each building are all connected, so problems with one machine could potentially impact the efficiency of all dryers. 

He said tissues and other easily-shreddable materials left in clothing pockets can slip through lint traps and get caught in the ductwork.

Cochran suggested students check their clothing pockets for materials that might clog the ducts before washing and drying their laundry.

He also said different materials dry faster than others. 

Cochran advised students to “balance” their laundry by loading a few dense items – jeans, sweatpants, and sweatshirts – with less-dense clothes. He also said students should shake out their clothes when moving them to a dryer “instead of taking the clothes like a brick when they’re all wet and putting them in.”

Students said paying for their laundry is also an issue because card swipe machines are sometimes broken.

Freshman Jenna Butch, a fashion design major, said the laundry machines in Corinne Hall Towers only take quarters. “You can’t do card swipes, which has proven to be a little difficult.”

She said last weekend, she only had enough quarters to run one load in the washer and not enough money for a dryer. “Not many people carry change on them,” she added. “It’s kind of an interesting situation.”

Senior Carly Eiten, a fashion merchandising major, said the card swipe machine that processes Ram Cash in Miles Bibb Hall is not working.

“Yesterday, my friend and I washed our sheets together and we did not have quarters, so we had to ask people for spare quarters,” Eiten said. 

Cochran said he heard about this week’s issues with the Miles Bibb Hall card reader. He said FSU’s IT Department is responsible for fixing problems with the card readers.

He added all laundry rooms at FSU are equipped with card readers.

Cochran said if students notice recurring problems with individual machines, they should inform him, Stephanie Crane, associate director of residence life, or their area directors.

“We can then escalate it, ask more questions about it, and contact the building authorities if we need to as well,” he said. “We can request replacement of certain machines before their life cycle [ends] if we find [them] to be continually problematic.”

Cochran said area directors don’t use the same laundry machines as students, so the only way they will learn about recurring issues is hearing about them from RAs, Hall Council, and residents.

He said if students notice a concerning issue, they should inform CSC Service Works, “but also let us know.”

[Editor’s Note: Mark Haskell is a staff writer for The Gatepost.]