If you’ve lived in Japan for any amount of time, you know that doing laundry in Japan can be a more time-consuming process than when living in other countries. This is due to multiple factors: it is uncommon for people to own dryers, probably due to high electricity costs and the custom of hanging clothing to dry. But also, you may notice that many things are smaller in Japan, including washing machines. The size of one load will be smaller, so depending on the size of your household, you may be doing laundry every day or every other day.

Did you know that most apartment buildings and houses are built with balconies facing the south, so that you can hang your laundry to dry with the most possible sunlight during the day? The sun’s ultraviolet rays also help to bleach and disinfect laundry. A win-win!

And since doing laundry will become a significant part of your life, Japan has specific products to help with your laundering needs.

Have you ever wandered into the store and wondered, which laundry products should I buy? What are all the uses of these different products?

Don’t be overwhelmed! This article is your concise guide to various laundry products in Japan and their uses.

Laundry Product Brands

To begin, here is a list of the most common brands you’ll probably see in the laundry aisle of the grocery store or drugstore:

    • アタック Attack
    • アリエール Ariel
    • ボールド Bold
    • NANOX

There are multiple varieties such as various fragrances and stronger detergents such as アタックZero or スーパーNanox.
Also take note of the detergents specifically designed for drum-style washing machines ドラム式洗濯機(しきせんたくき)

Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergent (洗剤) comes in powder or liquid form, and nowadays it is possible to find detergent pods (known as ジェルボール gel balls) as well. There are various views on this, but it seems that powder detergent may be stronger in eliminating stains and smells on clothing because of the high alkaline content when it reacts with the water.

If you have sensitive skin, look for a detergent with these words: 無添加むてんか (additive free).

Fabric softener

Want your clothes or towels feeling extra soft? Grab some fabric softener, known as 柔軟剤じゅうなんざい or 柔軟仕上げ剤じゅうなんしあげざい. Some common brands include FLAIR, ハミング , レノアor ソフラン Aroma Rich.


The word for bleach is 漂白剤ひょうはくざい . Sometimes it is referred to as 衣類用漂白剤いるいようひょうはくざい (bleach for clothing). One common brand is ハイター or ワイドハイター. You may find a wide variety of choices for bleach, some even with extra floral scent. Most washing machines will have a pull-out drawer for pouring bleach in.

Stain remover products

The word for stain is シミ(しみ)and for dirt is 汚れ. Look for these words when purchasing stain removing sprays or gels. Some of the common brands have their own stain removers, such as the アタックspray or エリ (collar)・そで (sleeve) cleaner from NANOX.

Laundry net bags

For washing your delicates and underwear items or blouses, laundry net bags can be purchased at the 100 yen store, drugstore or ホームセンター local “home center”/hardware store. In our current COVID mask-wearing world, you can also purchase a small bag for washing cloth masks as well.

Laundry pole and laundry hangers

Since you’ll be drying clothes outside or in your shower room, it is essential to get your hands on a laundry pole and hangers. Most ホームセンター will sell various designs, with hangers for multiple shirts, umbrella-style hangers for towels, and smaller hangers for underwear items.

Other key words to know:

部屋干へやほよう (Indoor drying laundry detergent)

Want to dry your clothing inside or in the shower room? Look for this phrase on laundry detergent to help keep mold away.

消臭剤しょうにおいざい (Deodorizer)

Want to make sure your clothes are extra fresh and clean? Look for these kanji.

抗菌こうきん (Anti-bacterial)

If you see this word, this detergent or fabric softener will help with keeping bacteria away.

And don’t forget to find your neighborhood laundromat “Coin Laundry” コインランドリー if you want to take advantage of a dryer. When you need to wash and dry large items such as blankets and comforters, the 大型コインランドリー will be a lifesaver.