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July 19, 2012

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Unlicensed laundries pose consumer risks

SOME popular restaurants and budget hotel chains are using unlicensed laundry workshops to wash their linens and towels, putting customers' health at risk, an investigation has found.

Undercover reporters visiting laundry workshops at the city's outskirts found restaurant napkins, hotel bath towels and even hospital bedsheets were mixed together for washing.

The operator of one dirty, unauthorized workshop in Minhang District said it has well-known clients such as Motel 168 and Jade Garden, as well as some smaller hotels and seniors' homes. Some napkins and work uniforms at the workshop bore the logos of Motel 168 and Jade Garden, the Shanghai Youth Daily reported yesterday.

An operator of a laundry workshop identified as Chen Jiawen said he received an order offering 3.5 yuan (US 55 cents) for washing a set of linen from a big chain hotel. A set includes items routinely washed such as a quilt cover, bed sheet, pillowcase and towel.

Chen said he would lose money if everything were washed using accepted procedures and with normal laundry powder, which would cost 5 yuan for a set.

"If we skip some procedures and use caustic soda rather than laundry powder, we can earn some money for each set," he said, according to the report.

He turned down the business without bargaining, he said, since he knew there would be many other workshops more than happy to take the order since chain hotels place large orders. Chen said he didn't want to sacrifice his conscience.

Caustic soda is normally not used to wash linens that touch human body. Sleeping on sheets washed in it can lead to skin allergies such as erythema, a skin condition characterized by redness or rash, experts said.

Both Motel 168 and Jade Garden said subcontractors may be to blame for signing contracts with illegal workshops. The companies said it was hard to scrutinize every washing procedure since the only way to check was to look at companies' business licenses, the paper reported.

Pu Wei, an spokeswoman with Jade Garden, told Shanghai Daily the popular restaurant chain was investigating all of its laundry contracts and it was possible some items they no longer use are being reused by small restaurants, which sent them to unauthorized laundry workshops. "Jade Garden always checks laundry workshops it works with closely," she said.

Motel 168 said it may reply today.

It is not the first time that laundry shops were found to have problems.

Two high-end laundry shops in Beijing reportedly mistreated clothes and deceived customers, China Business Network found in February.


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