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 on tubes are called “eye marks” and used in the manufacturing process. Let’s first take a closer look at the claim.

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

This is completely false.

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

Eye Marks

In reality, squares found printed on tubes are merely marks used in the manufacturing process. They are referred to as “eye marks” and 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 hoax graphic 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.

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 eyemark is typically chosen from the available colors used in the artwork on the tube.

Updated December 17, 2014
First published March 2013

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53 Comments on Hoax: Meaning of Squares on Tubes

  1. 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.

  2. Packaging Equipment Engineer // January 21, 2015 at 11:36 am // Reply

    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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. Mr. Waffles, you are a very patient individual.

  6. If so why don’t we find this “eye mark” in all kind of tubes ?????????? why only in toothpaste ??????????? !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 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.

  7. i have an old tube of so called “natural toothpaste” named “claybright natural toothpaste” that is green blue and red in color packaging with a black stripe on the back. there is no black on the packaging and the ingredients are: Sorbitol, Glycerin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Calcium Montmorillanite Clay, Hydrated Sillica, Kaolin, Carboxymethyl Cellulose, Sodium Cocoly Glutamate, Sodium Lauryl Sarcosinate, Stevia Extract, Purified Water, Grapefruit seed extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Methenol, Spearmint oil, Sodium Ascorbate, Boron Citrate, and Zinc Citrate. Unfortunately I did not read the ingredients until I got home & this article seem to be very fake to me. wtf is all this sh-t???? I cant pronounce most of it and Im supposed to believe that the black stripe only relates to the color packaging? NOT!!!! there is nothing else black on the tube but the stripe. This so called natural toothpaste is really all chemical based. you have not debunked anything!!! those stripes on the back mean montsanto is involved and you are trying to lie to the public!!!

    • 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 // May 30, 2014 at 11:16 am // Reply

        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.

  8. Ive been raised in printing press environments too & its easier & cheaper to use black ink for markers no matter what color the packaging…bread twisties come in diff colors has meaning, the olympic rings’ colors all have meaning, every flag ever made holds meaning in their colors….whether or not its a hoax or valid, we should ALL KEEP PERSISTENTLY questioning those who claim they possess authority & who mass produce items we blindly consume as well as those who attempt to dissuade our skepticism….also the fact that fb “suggested” link to this forum directly behind a person’s post making the content code claim makes me think you’re in some way promoted to repeat the same random printing facts n u prolly werk for monsanto

  9. 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.

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

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

  12. it must be related because I use crest 3D which I am assuming contains lots of chemicals to assist with the whitening of teeth and guess what color the tube has…right BLACK…theres got to be some truth to the claim

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

  14. Kenny Kenny // August 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm // Reply

    Mr. Waffles, First-hand experience….so you can only speak to the printing process and not to the actual make up of the content in these tubes, as you have not tested any of the various product to determine their chemical or natural contents?

    • 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.

  15. How can we be sure your info is not a hoax too?! Where is your source of info?

  16. 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

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

  17. 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.

  18. Is there anybody to give us a refrence link??!! a formal refrence link, not a personal website?

  19. 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.

  20. Jerry Lonsdale // July 23, 2013 at 3:31 pm // Reply

    the indicator marks are also found on many different products, even newspapers use a block of them, its simple identifying marks, Toothpaste Tubes would be produced by one manufacturer but the toothpaste owners may get their tubes filled in the same filling factory as other brands, photo sensors on the machines in the filling plants would need to know that whats on the tube goes in the tube hence the need for indicators.

    The indicators also show the machine that the tube is the right way up when being filled its too costly not to have indicators, many folks would do well to read up on manufacturing process’s and watch the odd “How its Made” on Discovery, you will be surprised how most of our daily products and items are made, I do know there are scrupulous manufacturers out there who make dodgy products, those products end up in the 99p and 99c stores, discounted food stores selling food items with reputable companies names on the boxes are ones to avoid, the reputable companies sell off the products that do not meet their quality control thats what you should be weary of, boy what a rant, sorry

  21. debra korb // July 22, 2013 at 3:57 am // Reply

    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!

  22. 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.

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

  24. 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?

    • 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.

  25. 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?

    • 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.

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

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

      • 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.. :)

    • Green and black are not Primaries colors. :)

  27. So why would they then waste ink to mark the tube? That makes no sense 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.

  28. 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.

  29. Jill Maurice // May 28, 2013 at 11:52 am // Reply

    If they mean nothing why are they different colors?

  30. Kai Ling Chang // May 1, 2013 at 1:54 pm // Reply

    Thankyou for your information

  31. Thanks for the debunk!

  32. Biswanath Palai // April 6, 2013 at 10:57 pm // Reply

    what about ramdev baba’s patanjali Saundarya face wash??? Is it chemical or natural…?

    • 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.

    • Ashvin Patel // August 6, 2013 at 3:09 am // Reply

      Its pure natural, and nothing mean by the color mark on the crimp.
      Its hoax only.
      Plz check with internet.

  33. Timothy Campbell // March 4, 2013 at 11:01 am // Reply

    OMG! I’m made of chemicals!!!

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