Hoaxes & Rumors

Hoax: Meaning of Squares on Tubes

This is completely false.
Hoax: Meaning of Squares on Tubes

A graphic which has circulated online for years attempts to explain the colored squares which appear on tubes of various products. It is claimed that different colored squares on tube packaging indicates the chemical content of the product. Today we’ll take a look at this claim.

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It’s not true.

Squares printed on tubes are called “eye marks” and used in the manufacturing process. Let’s first take a closer look one version of the claim which has circulated for several years.

Did you know squares on tubes mean something?
Green: All natural
Red: Some natural, but most chemicals
Black: Only chemicals are used.

Another variation claims:

Black/Blue line: 100% chemical
Red Line: 50% chemical, 50% natural
Green Line: 100% natural

Eye Marks

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In reality, squares found printed on tubes are merely marks used in the manufacturing process. They are referred to as “eye marks” and are read by a sensor in order to detect and align squeeze tubes.

Typically the color of the square is also a color of something else being printed on that side of the tube. Tubes of Crest toothpaste, for example, often have blue writing and matching blue eye marks on the back of the product.

Chemical vs Natural

The simplistic – and completely incorrect – explanation in the false assertion about does not explain the difference between “chemical” versus “natural.” The world around us is full of chemicals which occur naturally. Or, to quote the definition of “chemical” on about.com: Everything is chemical.


The trends chart below shows search interest in “squares on tubes” which surged in early 2013 and waned after that. We experienced small surges in interest in late 2014, and again in mid-2015.

Bottom Line

Squares printed on tubes have absolutely nothing to do with the chemical makeup of the product inside. It is merely an eye mark used by sensors in the manufacturing process. The color of the eye mark is typically chosen from the available colors used in the artwork on the tube.

Those consumers who wish to follow the “logic” of the graphic above will find a cabinet full of green tubes, all of which will contain chemicals.

Updated July 7, 2015
First published March 2013

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  • cindy

    Maybe the people in the inking factory are brain washed too. That’s what they are telling them. I’m believing some truth with colors because the government is sneaky and all these multimillion companies are all in with the Illuminati.

  • Packaging Equipment Engineer

    Working in the packaging industry, I can say the color of the eye mark does NOT have any relevance as to what chemicals are in the package. The color will be based on what colors are available in the printing process, likely a 4-color process. Ideally, all products produced on an automatic tube filling machine would use the same color eye marks to reduce any potential sensor setup. Any product sold in a squeeze tube in large volumes is likely produced on an automatic tube filler. The tubes come to the machine in random orientation. The machine orients the tube based on the eye mark before crimping/sealing it and punching a delta hole if required. This is required so all of the printing on the tubes face the same direction. Can you imagine how ridiculous product would look on the shelf if it was random? Depending on how full the tube is filled, the eye mark may get trimmed completely off.

  • Tammy

    Here is one easy way to find out. Google eye mark and there are videos showing you how they use the eye marks in the packaging plants to measure the length of the tube or package.

  • http://wafflesatnoon.com Waffles At Noon

    Thanks for the comment. Let us know what happens after you contact them. And if they are still in denial, have them ask a print shop!

  • drab

    Mr. Waffles, you are a very patient individual.

    • waffles

      Thank you! It is said to be a virtue, and sometimes these comments prove why this is so.

  • waffles

    By all means don’t take our word for it. Ask anyone who has ever worked in a print shop about “eye marks” and you’ll get the same answer.

    And everything on the planet can be called “chemical.”

    • John Baker

      It’s true that the “eye marks” are markers used in the manufacturing process, but not for printing. Toothpaste tubes come off the press connected. The eye marks are alignment marks for the automated machines that cut the tubes apart.

  • navdeep gupta

    i want to know that patanjali’s toothpaste of ramdev baba, herbodent tooth paste of dr jaikaran from jaikaran herbals and vicco tooth paste from vicco’s laboratories are showing black colour on there crimp are natural or totally chemical based.pls reply me soon.

  • Carlosvaz

    Imagine the disastrous results of all those chemicals and aromatics degluted daily by toothpaste users.

  • luis

    Oral-B toothpaste color packaging is blue and the square is red. Any thoughts?

    • waffles

      It only takes a small amount of red in the design to make it available for eye marks.

  • waffles

    Or black could be one of the inks used in the design of the tube, thus more convenient as eye marks..

  • Nayan Patel

    Agreed with you waffles..I was curious to know the reality of this color mark which you cleared nicely. Thanks

  • waffles

    The color of the ink is chosen based on existing inks being used on the packaging. So, for example, if a tube has blue, green, and brown inks, then one of those would be chosen for the eye marks. This color is completely unrelated to the contents and is determined on the print end of the process.

  • waffles

    First-hand experience with a family-owned print business.

  • ruch

    I do get what you are saying completely. Just so that I could explain it to someone who’s convinced by the haux why does the same company use diff color ink on two of their products? eg. two diff colgate products have two diff colors

    • waffles

      The colors of the packaging is simply a matter of design. Obviously they want various products to have their own look and identity.

  • Narsingh

    It’s true that there is no business about colour strip on toothpaste. Some people just read the only few lines of the article and pasted on social media. So we’ld be careful in future or refrain from this posts.

  • Ravi

    Especially in India this rumor is very strong & the people encash on the rumor. Mr.Waffles clarifications is correct but is there any one from the Manufacturing industry post a second opinion. This would be helpful to a great extent to educate the people from the rumor.

  • debra korb

    Mr. Waffles is correct. In printing all colors are made from 4 colors and yes you need an eye Mark to male sure everything lines up. Most think this is an industry without skill when in reality it is a skilled job! The Mark is for the printing process and not for anything else! Glad to see that Mr. Waffles took the time and made the effort to debunk this silly rumor! I would be more concerned about the country the tooth paste is actually made in and make a purchase decision based on that rather than a color coding rumor!

  • waffles

    Actually my parents owned a large print shop, for which I worked in their pre-press department as a teenager. We used eye marks on all of our color print jobs. It’s a standard procedure in the printing industry.

  • waffles

    The color of ink used on packaging doesn’t indicate anything about the contents.

  • DanPL

    I mean does anyone do chemical content analyses to correlate the color squares or to tell us that the green square has more hard “chemical” that the black-squared tube as the myth says otherwise?

    • waffles

      The printing process is unrelated to the production of the contents of the tubes. Printers use eye marks for alignment in color printing. You may sometimes see eye marks on newspapers or in magazines, and these also have nothing to do with what is written on the page.

  • DanPL

    Thanks Waffles. But why only four colors are used in the whole toothpaste industry? Coincidence or a secret? Any scientific proof from the “chemical content” camp, or disproof from the tube-end eye-mark camp?

    • Charlie

      Hi DanPl… I just want to set the record here. I work as a graphic designer in the printing industry and I can verify this fact that the code is the ink being used. Generally there are different processes of print be it one color or 4 color. 4 color uses the CMYK spectrum which is cyan magenta yellow and black, 1 or 2 color printing just uses pantone ink which is used from a color swatch. If you notice on the box of cereal you have you might see these four colors somewhere on the inside flap. In many processes the use of a specific pantone color is more expensive to print then say a generic blue from the printing press. Pantone colors need to be mixed which make them more expensive. If you notice the color of the text is always the same as the color bar. So please don’t believe everything you read.

  • DanPL

    If these colors are just printing codes, why only four colors? (primary colors)?

    • waffles

      It can be any color. They typically use a color of ink being printed elsewhere on the tube.

      • Eric

        Usually those colors are the dominant or “corporate” colors , Like on Crest you will find the color of the square to be Red , because the crest logo is Red like that middle tube on the picture above, also on that picture you will see that the 2 tubes on the right are bearing green color square , well because the color used in the printing, well , is green.. :)

  • waffles

    It’s used for the printing process. This is a common procedure. In most cases, these “eye marks” are printed in an area that is trimmed off later. In the case of tubes, due to the shape of the product, they don’t necessarily have an area that will be trimmed later.

  • Ain

    Thanks for setting this straight. It’s quite annoying to see people spreading hoaxes like this. Anyways, may I suggest you create links to share your entries in multiple apps / social media like Facebook (where most hoaxes are spread nowadays), stumbleupon or pinterest? It would be most helpful.

  • Jill Maurice

    If they mean nothing why are they different colors?

    • waffles

      They simply use an ink color being used on the packaging.

  • Nick Oba

    Thanks for the debunk!

  • waffles

    It depends on what your definition of “natural” and “chemical” are. It appears that the ingredients are: Citrus reticulate, Azadirachta Indica, Ocimum sanctum, Aloe vera, Gel base, Glycerin, Vitamin E, Diazolidinyl Urea and IPBC, color and perfume.

  • Timothy Campbell

    OMG! I’m made of chemicals!!!

  • waffles

    You do find it on all kinds of tubes – anything manufactured using the same process as toothpaste tubes. Google “printing eye marks” – it’s a very common technique.

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