Several dorms experience difficulties with new laundry system

Dorm residents must pay for laundry through the Washlava mobile app

Starting this semester, new washers and dryers operated through the Washlava laundry platform are replacing old laundry machines in several undergraduate residence halls. The per-load cost of laundry has increased from $1.00 to $1.25, and dorm residents are now required to pay for laundry through the Washlava mobile app. 

Several dorms experienced difficulties integrating the new system, as washers and dryers were temporarily unavailable during the Washlava installation period over the last couple of weeks. According to an email from Director of House Operations Rich Hilton to residents of affected dorms Sept. 5, “shipping delays prevented the new laundry equipment from being installed, tested, and ready for use” by the beginning of the semester.

Housing and Residential Services (HRS) “continues to work with CSC Serviceworks and Washlava to make each house’s laundry system fully operational as soon as possible,” Hilton wrote in a statement to The Tech, noting that two dorms “experienced problems with Washlava dryer control boards.” 

TechCASH has been integrated with the Washlava app, and students without smartphones may borrow iTouch devices from the service desk of their residence hall. 

The rise in laundry prices will “help [HRS] maintain the system for the long-term,” Hilton wrote, noting that “neighboring universities charge $3 per washer/dryer cycle, and nearby coin-operated laundry facilities charge $6.25.”

Baker President Hannah Mahaffey ’21 wrote in an email to The Tech that despite the installation delay after students moved in, “laundry was free during that time, so it wasn’t an issue.” Mahaffey wrote that some residents found the Washlava app “annoying to use,” but no “formal complaints” were reported to Baker Exec.

MacGregor President Anthony Cheng ’20 said in a phone interview with The Tech that unclear communication between the dorms and the Division of Student Life has resulted in some confusion about the laundry system. Cheng said he was notified about the new system at a DormCon meeting in April and has since been in “semi-regular communication” with Hilton, but several other house governments were not notified until late summer.

Cheng said the price increase was “reasonable for the all-new machines,” given that laundry is still “cheaper than at other colleges.” Though some MacGregor residents were “very annoyed” with the “inconsistent service” of the new machines (including two broken washers and four new dryers that were not yet turned on), Cheng conceded that Washlava’s “intentions were in the right place.”

Next House President Jessica Tang ’20 wrote in an email to The Tech that non-functioning dryers and the “shaky support for MIT TechCASH” have resulted in “a very frustrating and poor experience for Nexties.” According to Tang, Next residents are concerned about Washlava’s “lack of support for cash/coin payment,” which poses a barrier for students without smartphones and prevents residents from doing laundry when there are network issues. Next Exec has contacted both Washlava and DSL about these issues but continues to be “very frustrated with the lack of clear communication,” Tang said.

Burton Conner Head of House Jarrod Hayes wrote in an email to The Tech that since the old BC laundry system was “quite dated and subject to regular machine failure,” the Washlava machines were “welcome.” Hayes wrote that the new system “is glitchy but has not produced systemic failures,” though BC residents have experienced “some problems with dryers offline.” 

In an email to The Tech, McCormick Head of House Flavia Cardarelli concurred with Hayes, affirming that McCormick residents “like the look and feel of having something new in the building.” Despite the initial system malfunction, Cardarelli wrote, “DSL has been proactive in anticipating our needs with regards to the laundry situation.”

Simmons Assistant Head of House Steven Hall wrote in an email to Simmons residents Sept. 9 that Washlava dryers in Simmons were being temporarily replaced by regular dryers. These will be operating for free until “all the technical issues are ironed out” and Washlava dryers are reinstalled. This followed a two-week lapse in dryer operations. According to Hall’s email, Simmons residents are being reimbursed by the dorm for drying racks purchased in that period.

Todd Belveal, founder and CEO of Washlava, wrote in an email to The Tech that Washlava technology “allows universities to provide students with an intuitive mobile experience” and “provides students the ability to reserve and pay for laundry service from their smartphones, meaning they can manage their time more efficiently during the busy semester.” 

According to Belveal, Washlava has previously been implemented on a campus-wide scale at Monmouth University, where only “typical calibration issues” appeared during installation. In preparation to implement the new laundry system in MIT residence halls, Washlava “replicated the MIT wireless network environment in the CSC ServiceWorks facility in nearby Woburn, MA,” testing the system at a smaller scale.

Besides the shipping delay and the “challenging” nature of installing the new laundry system with “student residents actively on campus,” Belveal wrote that “the main challenge we encountered with the MIT rollout was a flawed power supply in the electric dryers.” Washlava resolved this issue by using “an over-the-air patch to lower the power draw” and minimize the damage to the dryers.

Despite these difficulties, Belveal wrote that the continuing installation of new washers and dryers are part of a “straightforward IoT implementation” process: “1,800 students have used over 4,700 paid cycles using Washlava in less than a week. We’ve also seen users and cycles increase 20 percent in the last 24 hours, and that is about the onboarding pace we expect, with less than 50 support requests.”

Students can visit for issues with the Washlava app.

Editor’s note: Jessica Tang, Next House president, is an arts writer for The Tech.