Aug 16. 2020Topics

Caring For Your Clothes! An Explanation About What Those Pictures Mean When Washing Your Clothes


Before you do your laundry...

For foreigners visiting Tokyo from abroad or working in Tokyo, have you ever had questions about how to do your laundry?

Foreigners often have trouble doing laundry, not only because of limited space, but also issues such as not knowing which detergent to choose, shrinking of important clothes, or having color transfer when washing.

The first, most important point to consider in avoiding these kinds of problems is to first check the basic washing instructions on the label and follow the instructions properly.

In this article, we will go into detail about understanding the washing label and the precautions you should take before doing your laundry. Laundry is universal, and something everyone does, but before doing laundry in Tokyo, make sure you have proper knowledge of the basics.

What to prepare when you want to wash your clothes

Foreigners are often confused about laundry when they start living alone in Tokyo or use Japanese products for the first time.

If you wash your clothes in the wrong way, you can damage them to the point of irreparability.

・ The first thing to check is the "washing instruction label"

Even with more advanced appliances and washing machines with cutting-edge technology on the market, if you just throw everything in your washing machine at the same time without checking the label with the washing instructions, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

First, check "washing instruction label" to check if it is an item that can be washed at home. Items that cannot be washed at home should always be taken to a professional cleaning company.

Items with a "wash by hand" indication are items made using delicate materials, so you need to wash by hand and avoid using washing machine. If your washing machine has a hand wash setting, that is the mode you want to use.

Also, if the label suggests using a wash net, you should place your clothes in a net before washing.

Some clothes are made with materials that are a pain to take care of at home. When possible, choose clothing that is easy to care for when shopping and avoid buying items only based on design. Check the washing label first to find items that have few limitations with regards to washing.

・ Beware of colored patterns

Not only do you need to check the washing label, but you also need to check if there are any "colors that fade" with dark or patterned items.

Dark colored laundry can fade and stain other clothing, depending on the detergent and washing method used. It is important to note that once a color has been transferred, it will be very difficult to restore it.

If you want to see if the color fades, apply a little detergent an area that cannot be seen easily to test. Apply a small amount of detergent, leave it for a few minutes, and dab it with a white cloth to check if the color bleeds. If the color transfers to the cloth, it is likely that the color will bleed to other items when washing.

・ Pre-wash for severe stains

If your clothes are extremely soiled, use a liquid detergent to pretreat them before putting them in the washing machine. By pretreating, you will be able to achieve better results after washing on a regular cycle.


Japanese washing label changed for the first time in 50 years

Clothing uses a variety of different fibers for each item. Therefore, if you do not follow the proper instructions for care, you may see shrinking or discoloration and ruin your clothes. The washing label on your clothes has symbols so that anyone can easily understand not only how to wash, but also how to dry, iron, and clean.

As mentioned earlier, you should check the washing label first before you do laundry. In recent years though, the washing label has changed for clothes manufactured in Japan after 2016. Therefore, special attention should be paid to clothing sold at used clothing stores in Tokyo because items that have different symbols will no doubt be mixed in with the newer items.

Japan's washing label symbols were changed for the first time in 50 years to make them universal. In previous years, care instructions were written in Japanese, but the new washing labels are only symbols, making them easier to understand for people of any country.

The Washing Label

・Washing Label Basics

The new washing label on clothing sold in Tokyo show the following basic symbols.

①. Wash Instructions

②. Bleach Instructions

③. Dry Instructions

④. Iron Instructions

⑤. Dry Cleaning Instructions

In addition to these five symbols, additional symbols and numbers indicating "strength", "temperature", and items X'd out meaning "do not", etc. are displayed. By reading the washing label with combined basic symbols and numbers, you can determine the appropriate method of washing your clothes, making it easy to understand for foreigners.


When washing, it is important to follow the washing instructions, but there are some things to be careful of before that, like taking a close look at the difference between old washing labels and the new washing labels.

The old labels used to indicate how to wash, but the new washing labels display the "upper limit" so that clothes are not adversely affected. This means that you should not wash or dry using settings outside of what is recommended. Always wash as indicated by the symbol or at a setting that is below the recommended instruction.

In Conclusion

In this article, we have given you explanation of the washing labeling for doing laundry that we think foreigners will be happy to know.

It is important to note that the washing labels were changed several years ago in Japan. Laundry is something people all over the world do, but there are different methods depending on the country or region. By the way, in Japan, the most popular method of drying clothes is to hang them outside, using the sun as a method to dry clothes.

We hope that the contents introduced above will help you to understand the finer details about doing laundry. Be sure to check if your clothes have the new washing label or the old one, and hopefully this will help in caring for your clothes correctly.