Kanji Cheat Sheets

Kanji Cheat Sheet: Using Your Japanese Washing Machine

Is that detergent or fabric softener…? How do I use this freaking Japanse washing machine?

Moving to Japan is all fun and games until you realize you’re on your last pair of clean underwear and have no clue how to work your Japanese washing machine. That’s not to mention how to decipher which products are actually laundry detergent and which are mere fabric softeners.

Standing over your washing machine, trying to guess which button to press is enough to make you just throw the clothes out and buy new ones. Let us help you get rid of that nasty pile of laundry (for this week, at least).

Buying laundry detergent

Before you can even think about loading up the washing machine, you’ll need to stock up on some essential supplies.

First, look for the kanji that says laundry detergent せんたくせんざい (sentakusenzai). If you prefer to hand wash your clothes, you’ll need laundry soap せんたくようせっけん (sentakuyousekken). Don’t forget to add in some fabric softener じゅうなんざい (juunanzai) for easy ironing, or bleach ひょうはくざい (hyouhakuzai) to remove those pesky stains.

English Japanese Romaji
Laundry detergent 洗濯洗剤 sentakusenzai
Laundry soap 洗濯用石けん sentakuyousekken
Fabric softener 柔軟剤 juunanzai
Bleach 漂白剤 hyouhakuzai
Additive-free 無添加 mutenka
Fragrance-free 無香料 mukouryou
Deodorizer 消臭 shoushuu
Antibacterial 抗菌 koukin
Odor-resistant 防臭 boshuu

Buttons on a Japanese washing machine

How to read the buttons on your Japanese washing machine

Now that you’ve bought all the essentials, crack open that lid and shove your clothes in. There’ll be a small opening for you to place the detergent and softener. However, this varies per model. Shut the lid, press (iri) to turn the machine on, then スタート (start) and, for the most part, that’s all you really need to know.

If you want to check how far along your clothes are in the washing process, look for the small light next to the following functions like rinsing すすぎ (susugi) and draining だっすい (dassui).

Depending on your washing machine model, there might be special functions like using your bath water to wash your clothes とり (oyutori) or cleaning your clothes with the intent to dry them in your room (heyaboshi).

English Japanese Romaji
On iri
Start スタート suta-to
Pause 一時停止 ichijiteishi
Scheduled wash 予約 yoyaku
Washing machine course コース ko-su
Draining 脱水 dassui
Rinsing すすぎ susugi
Amount of water 水量 suiryou
Air jet エアジェット eajetto
The washing tub 洗濯槽 sentakusou
Slot for fabric softener 柔軟剤の自動投入口 juunanzai no jidoutounyuuguchi
Reuse bath water

for washing machine

お湯取 oyutori
Intensive washing

of white or soiled clothing

つけおき tsukeoki
Washing setting for

drying clothes in your room

部屋干し heyaboshi

In the end, as complicated and daunting as your washing machine may look, it’s not all that difficult. We hope that by using this guide, you’ll be able to overcome those scary-looking buttons and empty your laundry basket.

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