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A Concise Guide to Japanese Laundry Products

Now all you have to figure out is which button to push on your washing machine.

By 3 min read

When I first arrived in Japan, I discovered that the shampoo in my luggage had exploded all over my clothes. This wouldn’t have been a huge problem except for that my luggage also contained some colorful wrapping paper. The colors bled all over my clothes.

In my first visit to a Japanese drug store, I was greeted by a long row of what appear to be laundry detergents, but the unfamiliar bottles and boxes could have been flour and fruit juice for all I knew.

Mistakenly using flour instead of laundry detergent probably won’t do too much damage. Using fabric softener instead of laundry detergent will probably just make your clothing ridiculously soft and scented. However, using bleach instead of laundry detergent may necessitate buying a whole new wardrobe. All of these scenarios can be avoided by equipping oneself with some vocabulary and becoming familiar with detergent brands.

Laundry Detergent

洗濯洗剤(せんたくせんざい) ー sentakusenzai (general word)

洗濯用合成洗剤(せんたくようごうせいせんざい) ー sentakuyou gouseisenzai (official word on bottles)

Popular brands: トッポ (Top), NANOX, ニュービーズ (New Beads), アタック (Attack), アリエール (Ariel), Arau, さらさ (Sarasa)

Laundry detergent is probably the most important ingredient for clean clothes. Unfortunately, laundry detergent bottles look distressingly similar to fabric softener bottles. Some bottles do have the words “laundry detergent” on them in English, but many do not.

To determine for sure if a bottle contains laundry detergent, take a look on the back. All detergent bottles have a small table on the back with information about the detergent. The first row in this table will be labeled 品名 (hinmei), which means “product name”. The official product name for laundry detergents will be 洗濯用合成洗剤.

laundry

You may also run across boxes of washing powder and laundry detergent gel packs in Japan, which will be labeled similarly.

If you want to make sure your detergent doesn’t have bleach, look for the words 漂白剤(ひょうはくざい)なし (“no bleach”), which will usually be displayed prominently on the front. Also, be aware that some detergents may contain fabric softener. These detergents will be labeled as 柔軟剤入(じゅうなんざいい)り (“including fabric softener”).

Fabric Softener

柔軟剤(じゅうなんざい) ー juunanzai (general word)

柔軟仕上(じゅうなんしあ)(ざい) ー juunan shiagezai (official word on bottles)

Popular brands: Downy, さらさ (Sarasa), レノア (Lenor), ファーファ (Fafa), ソフラン (Soflan), Mieux Luxgeous, Aroma Rich, ハミング (Humming)

Fabric softener bottles look very similar to laundry detergent bottles, but instead, their 品名 (“product name”) on the table on the back of the bottle will be 柔軟仕上げ剤. Also, fabric softeners tend to be extremely scented, which is reflected by the flowers, berries and other representations of scents on the bottle.

fabric-softner

The pictures on the bottle will give you an idea of the scent if it isn’t written in English. Look for bottles labeled 無香科(むこうか) (“No added fragrances”) if you prefer unscented.

Bleach

漂白剤(ひょうはくざい) ー hyouhakuzai (common word)

衣料用漂白剤(いりょうようひょうはくざい) ー iryouyou hyouhakuzai (official word on bottles)

Popular brands: ハイター (Haiter), ワイドハイター (Wide Haiter), マイブリーチ (My Bleach)

The clothing bleach is usually hanging out close to the laundry detergents and fabric softeners, so make sure you don’t grab a bottle of bleach instead. Typically, clothing bleach will be in a bottle in a much more subdued color and with less illustration than detergent or softener bottles. The official product name on the back of the bottle will be 衣料用漂白剤.

bleech

Happy laundering!

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  • Mee says:

    Hi does anybody hear knows the fragrance new beads gel? Please can you tell me more about it? You know before i use it?

  • Love2000AMGlam says:

    Usually the temperature of the hot water is not high enough to kill bacteria anyways.

  • abby7 says:

    how about a laundry detergent similar to ecover or seventh generation? are they available at all in japan? if so where? and at what price?

  • Vino says:

    Thanks for the repost, going to be doing our first load of laundry in Osaka today.

  • Vijayendran Sathyanarayanan says:

    I d like to know the brand names of whiteners in Japan…. My kids school uniform is getting worse day by day as it goes dull color… I heard that using whiteners we can make it white…. Any leads appreciated….

  • Rachael Sable says:

    Hmm..Nice information.Thanks for sharing.
    laundry exchange

  • maulinator says:

    One thing to keep in mind is that in Japan a lot of households tend not to use a dryer to dry their clothes. Therefore, you will find that when shopping for a clothes dryer they tend to be kinda expensive. The dual washer dryer machines also tend to be expensive and chew a lot of juice. As a consequence it is difficult to find things like Bounce in Japan. I usually have to go to Nat’l Az for that.

  • Meghan Barber says:

    Where can I get starch in Japan? My work shirts could be crisper.

    • Lynn says:

      According to the Japanese wikipedia, laundry starch may go under the name 選択糊 (pronounced “sentaku nori”). The brands listed are キーピング (Keeping), カンターチ (Kantachi), and カネヨノール (Kaneyonoru). If you copy and paste the Japanese names into Google image search, you’ll get a few pictures for an idea of what the bottles will look like. I hope this helps!

      • Kazume Nishidate says:

        just a note: ”sentaku nori” should be “洗濯糊” in Japanese.
        洗濯 (washing),選択 (selection)

    • maulinator says:

      I’ve seen spray can starch at dry cleaners for sale. don’t remember the prices.

    • Kim Lu says:

      Try search it in 100 Yen Shop.Or,in a big mall, try search the part where they sell electric iron,which sometime sold with set of spray.I will take the 100 yen shop as its cheaper.Its like that in Nagoya at least.

  • Sarah says:

    Thanks for this. These “little” things you don’t think of when preparing for the move – even deciphering the washing machine!

    • Lynn says:

      It really can be the “little” things that throw you off! Figuring out the washing machine is one of the many challenges of living in another country.

  • jxjan says:

    Awesome! Thank you so much for this!

  • Yelena B says:

    This is soooo helpful! I’m going to be using this post when I go shopping next week! 😀 The bleach looks ridiculously similar to the fabric softener if you are not careful… -_-

    • Lynn says:

      Good luck shopping 🙂 I had a lot of trouble figuring out cleaning products when I first moved here. The bleach does look dangerously similar to fabric softener…

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