Frustration is mounting among students living on-campus as laundry room troubles persist, with malfunctioning machines causing inconvenience and delays in their daily routines.
The residence hall laundry machines are operated through a contract with WASH Laundry, according to Dan Rohmiller, director of residential life: housing operations. As part of the contract, WASH Laundry owns and manages the laundry machines in the residence halls and is responsible for their maintenance and replacement.
WASH Laundry contract
In an email, Rohmiller said the University began a five-year contract with WASH Laundry in the summer of 2020. During the fall 2020 semester, laundry service was added to the room and board fee that students pay to live on-campus. Prior to the 2020-21 academic year, laundry machines were coin-operated or students could pay to do laundry with Domer Dollars.
If repairs to washing machines or dryers are required, residents can submit a work order through the online service system provided by WASH or on the WASH mobile app. After the work order is submitted, a service technician from WASH comes to campus to repair the unit.
Rohmiller said WASH provides technicians to support the washer and dryer units in the residence halls at Notre Dame.
“This past summer, WASH Laundry hired an additional technician for this general service area who is dedicated to the University of Notre Dame. This has increased the WASH Laundry response time to work orders,” he said. “Generally, their service technician responds to work orders submitted within one business day and, depending on the issue, resolves the issue the same day.”
Students express frustration
Despite the increased number of technicians supporting the laundry facilities at Notre Dame, students report that repairs can take weeks, or even an entire semester, to be completed.
Freshman Gabrielle Kile said Howard Hall has six washing machines, but two have been out-of-service since the fall semester. The students living in Howard have to share four machines, and it’s difficult to find a time when the machines are free, Kile said.
Many students feel the laundry system in the residence halls can’t support the number of students who share the facilities.
The process of doing laundry is “frustrating and time-consuming,” junior and Pasquerilla East resident Lauren White said.
“It’s time consuming having to wait for washers and dryers and then having to move people’s stuff,” she said. “The whole process of doing laundry can take up to two and half hours which I just don’t have.”
Katherine Cox, a freshman in Walsh Family Hall, agreed that the washing machines are always occupied. She explained that the best times to do laundry are obscure hours of the day when it isn’t as busy.
“You have to time it to where you get the specific time of day when they’re not as occupied, which is kind of hard,” she said.
Another problem students have encountered is that the spin-cycle stops working and the washer breaks down with clothes locked inside.
“I tried to wash my clothes and the washer had been fixed that morning, but it obviously wasn’t actually fixed because it locked my clothes and didn’t drain out any of the water,” Marissa Pagano, a freshman in Pasquerilla East Hall, said.
White said her clothes have also been soaked.
“I opened the washer and my clothes were just floating in water. They were sopping wet,” she said.
In addition to unavailable washing machines and wet clothes, some students have had laundry stolen from the laundry rooms. Students who don’t come down in time to take their clothes out of the washers and dryers are likely to find their clothes in a pile on the floor or missing entirely.
Tara Henry, a resident assistant in Pasquerilla East Hall, said hall staff has received complaints from students about clothes being taken from the laundry room. In the hall’s GroupMe chat, there are regularly messages of people moving other student’s laundry from washers to dryers and people pleading for their missing leggings to be returned to them, she said.
St. Michael's Laundry
Many students are most familiar with the laundry rooms in their respective residence halls, but campus’s largest laundry facility is St. Michael’s Laundry, which has been in operation since 1934 and is located on the north end of campus.
St. Michael’s Laundry is an industrial-sized laundry facility. Shannen McKaskle, director of laundry, said there are four 250-pound washing machines and eight smaller washers between 40 and 100 pounds. According to their website, the laundry staff washes between 30,000 and 40,000 pieces of clothing every week and the facility does more than two million pounds of laundry a year.
McKaskle said the facility provides services for 18 athletic teams, religious houses in the area, dining hall employees and three local hotels, including the Morris Inn. In addition to these services, St. Michael’s Laundry is open to the public.
St. Michael's Laundry used to offer a bundle service where they would pick up students’ laundry, wash, dry and fold it, and then return it to the residence halls.
“We used to do the bundle service, but then when the dorms went to the free laundry machines, we stopped that service as far as picking up and dropping off,” McKaskle said. “Now if students want to drop off a bundle — which is a laundry bag that will hold about 20 pounds of laundry — and drop it off for a wash, dry, fold and they’re picking it up and dropping it off, then we’re happy to provide that service.”
She said the wash, dry and fold service costs $25 and they currently only have about a dozen students that use the service.
“Not a lot [of people] do it because it’s hard to get here and pick it up and drop it off now," McKaskle said. “We knew it would decline when those free washers and dryers came into existence. And so that’s why we decided to provide it as an as-needed [service].”
Most students chose to do their own laundry in their residence hall, but this wasn’t always the case.
“When I started here in 2016, we had hundreds of students who used us for the bundle service. I want to say we were at about 800 [students] prior to discontinuing that service,” McKaskle said.
History of Laundry at Notre Dame
February 18, 1975 | Christine A. Herlihy | September 29, 1976 | Jack D. Silhavy | February 1, 1984 | Patricia Carroll | October 9, 1997 | Tim Logan | September 28, 2000 | Helena Payne
There have been a lot of changes to laundry over the years at Notre Dame. In Notre Dame’s first years as a co-ed institution, women’s residence halls were equipped with washing machines and they were expected to do their own laundry, while laundry from men’s residence halls was bundled and sent off to be washed and folded at St. Michael’s Laundry facility.
A proposal to put washers and dryers in men’s residence halls was first mentioned in The Observer on Feb. 18, 1975. In a survey, 58% of men said they would prefer to do their own laundry rather than sending it out to the laundry service. However, Br. Kieran Ryan, assistant vice-president of business affairs, shot down the proposal saying it would cause economic problems.
In 1976, female students living in the residence halls became frustrated as male students began using their washing machines. Three women’s dorms — Farley Hall, Lewis Hall and Breen-Phillips Hall — said they would impose a $5 fine on men found using the machines. Students said they hoped by keeping the men out, they would be more willing to fight to get machines in their own residence halls.
By 1984, a rotation schedule was set for men to do laundry in women’s residence halls on North Quad, and that same year a coin-operated laundromat was installed in the basement of LaFortune Student Center for all students to use. In 1985, the student senate again discussed providing laundry facilities in male residence halls.
In November 1989, St. Michael’s Laundry burned down, causing a laundry crisis on campus. There were too few coin-operated machines for students. Since male students could no longer send their laundry out to be done for them, everyone was vying for a machine in the LaFortune laundry room.
Saint Michael’s Laundry reopened in December 1991 and began offering services for both male and female students, in addition to the dry cleaning service, but students were still fighting to install laundry facilities in all of the male residence halls on campus.
It wasn’t until the late 1990s that male residence halls began to get their own laundry rooms. Knott Hall and St. Edwards Hall were the first to have washing machines installed, followed by Zahm Hall and the dorms on West and Mod Quads in 2000. At this same time, the University started an initiative with the installation of laundry machines that would accept Domer Dollars rather than being coin-operated.