Ken Stier

If seeing a cockroach in her laundry room was not enough to make her hesitant about spending more time than necessary there, Judy Nguyen ’26 had one scurry up her leg when she was picking up her clothes one night.

Nguyen is not alone — the News spoke to five other students who described mold and pests overtaking campus laundry rooms, as well as overall worsening conditions. Get More Information here on how to deal with those mold and pests.

These complaints and concerns are driving conversations surrounding public health, hygiene and accessibility in University facilities. Throughout October and November, posters were put up by the Yale College Council in laundry rooms that reflected student frustration, with some reading “Can you believe that we’re paying for mold?” Amid a recent push for free laundry, the YCC has argued that the administrative requirement for students to pay for unfavorable conditions is unreasonable.

There was definitely mold in some of the Farnam laundry machines when I was using them my first year,” Joanna Ruiz ’25 said. “A lot of the washing machines didn’t work, and some of the dryers would take two cycles to actually dry your clothes, even on the highest heat setting.”

Like Ruiz, Nguyen described laundry rooms as “quite the infestation.” She said that the problem should have never gotten to the point where students have to worry about cockroaches laying eggs near their clothes. The contamination has greater potential for spread when one considers that people often remove and leave others’ laundry piles out in the open if they are late to pick them up. 

Nguyen, who stayed on campus this summer as part of the First-Year Scholars Program, added that the hot weather made the mustiness and already poor ventilation in the laundry rooms worse. 

These breeding grounds for mold and pests present added challenges during the fall and winter, when students report a higher number of flu and “Yague” outbreaks, according to Ruiz. For her, poor laundry services are not a matter to be dismissed, swept under a rug or laughed at — students’ health are being put on the line, she said. 

First-generation, low-income students who cannot afford washing their sheets regularly risk encountering infection, “acne outbreaks … and dust buildup,” Ruiz said. She added that physically ill students who use laundry services are exposed to additional pathogens, lint and dust that delay recovery. 

These concerns are not new. 

Viktor Kagan ’24, an advocate for free laundry who currently serves as the Pierson College Senator for the YCC, brought up the mold infestation to former Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun last year and once more to Dean Pericles Lewis this year. 

Though Kagan mentioned that “Chun was not receptive to any change” and said that despite both deans feeling “disgusted,” he found Lewis “to be more interested in addressing the issue.” He looks forward to seeing Lewis take action on this issue, as well as a more specific timeline as to how the problems will be addressed, as “students, residents of the colleges and facilities staff are observing the same issues over and over.” 

Lewis met with the team that oversees laundry service on Monday to try to address the questions that have been raised by the YCC and student body. He told the News that he received a thorough report from the YCC about laundry and that he will have more information this coming week about next steps — as well as about the staffing situation currently in place to clean student laundry rooms. 

Students are speaking out about more than unhygienic conditions, however. Two Branford college students, Thalsa-Thiziri Mekaouche ’25 and Sophie Bhurtel ’25, have found the machines difficult to use on various ends, from payment to the physical washing itself. 

“[I] didn’t realize the dryer machine was broken, so I paid three times and it still hadn’t dried at all — keep in mind, three hours and almost five dollars just gone,” Bhurtel wrote to the News. “When I dried clothes in another one, my best bra had a melted hook and somehow was burnt[.]”

Mekaouche emphasized that the machines do not always inform students that they are broken until after the payment is made, and by then, “it’s too late.” 

Like Bhurtel and Mekaouche, Jason Jiang ’25 is all too familiar with accidentally paying multiple times for a single wash or dry.

“The connection between the mobile app and the machines is terrible, so sometimes it will charge you and then not start the machine,” Jiang told the News. Additionally, he wrote that the dryers sometimes wouldn’t “fully heat up, so you literally end up with wet laundry.” 

“Considering [many Ivy League schools] and top 25 schools don’t charge for laundry, it’s ridiculous that Yale still does,” Ruiz said. “Students shouldn’t be responsible for coming up with a solution for something as serious as a mold problem.”

Neither Chun nor Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd responded to requests for comment. 

As of now, four out of the eight Ivy League colleges — Yale, Harvard University, Cornell University and Dartmouth College — do not offer universally free laundry for students.

Brian Zhang is Arts editor of the Yale Daily News and the third-year class president at Yale. Previously, he covered student life for the University desk. His writing can also be found in Insider Magazine, The Sacramento Bee, BrainPOP, New York Family and uInterview. Follow @briansnotebook on Instagram for more!