Common Packaging Symbols You Need To Know

Posted April 10, 2024 Common Packaging Symbols

Are you looking to learn about packaging and work as a business, vendor, or consumer? Your knowledge about packaging symbols can help you learn about the ones that matter to you. These symbols can help you do your job easily in this field by helping you understand what your production unit images mean.

Also, you can find out what it means by an indicator on your boxes and packages. All top packaging signs are explained in this blog with appropriate visual descriptions. Also, you can find some universal packaging signs that matter to you and your consumers in different product types.

Importance of These Indicators

Now, symbols are very important due to their many roles. So, if your package carries an indicator, it can help with multiple things. For instance, you can use them to inform consumers about the safety measures a product needs.

You can also convey that you can recycle the product. Moreover, you can tell them to show that they meet specific standards. Knowing and using these can save time and communicate the real message. This way, you make certain claims that improve customers’ responses to your product packaging. So, we will discuss some of these indicators you need to know about to perfect your packing response.

Warning Symbols

We know warnings can be intimidating, but using the right ones can help save a life and a product. So, here are some indicators that can help improve with the proper communication:

  • You can add an indicator to indicate that you should not open it with a knife warning. It can help save products from damage when unpacking. You can see this as a box with a cross symbol with a cutter.
  • Also, you can see a handle-with-care indicator that looks like a hand covering a box from the side.
  • At the same time, you can tell about a flammable product. Use this one to help customers avoid fire accidents. It would carry a box with a flame, denoting its flammability.
  • You can also find a symbol for keeping your product package dry. This one carries an umbrella to denote what it means.
  • Stacking things up one over another can be a problem for your products. So, using an indicator with two boxes stacked with a cross on them can denote this.
  • Another sign that indicates a product can easily break can also be handy. This one contains glass with cracks in it.
  • Using a do not lift symbol can help reduce the chances of your consumers having a backache. You can add a person’s image with lines around their back to show this information.
  • A similar one to Do Not Lift is the one that tells about using a trolly. You can use it by adding a trolley to your box with 2 boxes on top.
  • Another warning is to use the “keep-this-side-up” symbol that tells which side of a package will be kept upwards. This one would have two arrows pointing upside down with a line under them.

Handling Symbols You Should Know About

Using handling symbols can also improve your packaging experience as a consumer. Here are some signs you should know about:

  • If a package can carry a certain number of boxes and is stackable, you can see this on it. The main indication is the total number of boxes you can stack over one. In this one, you have two boxes stacked on each other with a number.
  • Then, we have a symbol that shows that the product should be protected from the sun. It would show the sun shining in diagonal lines with the sun shining on them.
  • You can also find fragile liquid signs where you find a combination of fragile symbol with wavy horizontal line.
  • There is also a glassware sign where you have multiple glasses or a wine glass, which shows glassware in the package.

Some More Handling Symbols

The list of handling symbols is quite big, and here are some more of these you need to know:

  • Pressure Sensitive: This symbol shows that you should not put and pressure on your package. At the same time, you should avoid putting a heavy product on them. You can find it in a depiction with a hand pressing on a box.
  • Corrosion Warning: In this symbol, you find a shield with a droplet inside, while it shows a material packed with a danger of corrosion.

Food Packaging Symbols

Food items use a lot of signs that tell consumers what to care about them. So, ensuring you convey the right information about food can help consumers trying to learn about items. Here are some food packaging signs you need to have:

  • You can inform customers that the product is edible by adding a glass and a fork to your packaging as an indication.
  • Showing your food as vegetarian-suitable can help improve sales. For example, an image of two leaves inside a circle with “suitable for vegetarians” in the circle will show that it is suitable for such consumers.
  • Also, you can show a green indicator with three arrows in triangle form.
  • Indicating a package suitable for a microwave can also be helpful. For example, this one would carry a container with multiple heat waves on top.
  • Using a keep clean one can help your audience save the surroundings from waste. You can show a person with a bucket in front of him and paper falling inside it.
  • Another similar one carries three arrows in triangle form with PET under it and “1” written inside it.
  • A downward triangle with an exclamation sign in the middle shows that the food item contains common allergens.
  • Showing a gluten-free product comes with the text “Gluten Free” with “F”, which looks like a tree branch is also used. This sign tells your product contains no substances that can harm them.
  • An ice symbol image inside a square box can show that the product will stay appropriate when frozen.

Cosmetic Packaging Symbols Meaning

Women love cosmetics, which means keeping them safe and pretty is crucial. Here are some:

  • The period after opening is one of the images you can use to show how long the product will be useable.
  • The hourglass sign shows best before a certain date after manufacturing. Therefore, it would also carry a date that states BBE.
  • A green dot with a crescent-like arrow inside shows the producer’s dedication to better recycling. It means they pay a company to take care of their product’s recycling.
  • Avoiding fire accidents with a flammable image is widely used in cosmetics. Many such products can carry flammable contents, which is why it is important.
  • Audiences seeking animal testing-free products and companies can rely on the leaping bunny image. This one shows there is no animal testing from the manufacturers.
  • USDA Organic is another seal that describes the product, saying 95 percent of the product’s ingredients are organic.

These cosmetic packaging icons are essential for consumers looking for solutions.

Medical Packaging Symbols?

Now, medicine is a part of our lives that needs to be super safe and offer the benefits we need. Some common ones covered earlier also apply, like keeping it dry, and the best before-date ones do apply here. While some new ones can be crucial in keeping people healthy and safe, like:

  • You can show an image of a white factory on your medicine packages, which shows the date it was produced.
  • The black factory signs detail product producers and their addresses.
  • A sign of 2 crosses inside a circle is used for disposable medical equipment. So, any product box carrying this symbol is useable only once.
  • A similar image with Sterilize under it shows you should medically clean it before the second use.
  • A triangle with the text “Non-Sterile” indicates that it has not undergone this procedure before.
  • An image showing the product’s tamperproof uses a box with one side broken and a cross inside a circle. This indicator shows you should not use the product if it is open.

Medical signs indicate and impart a feeling of particular communication and trust for your customers. Therefore, the better you communicate these specifications, the more reliable your products will be for them. These medical packaging symbols allow consumers to understand what the packages tell them about products.

Environmental Packaging Symbols

Everyone is talking about environmental safety and why it matters. People are more into ensuring the planet does not get any more hits from humans, so any environmental signs about the product are a major concern people care about.

Here are some of them you should know as a business owner and a consumer:

  • The corrugated box recycles the image with 4 folding panels inside an arrow in an incomplete circle form showing their features.
  • Then, they’re the ones that have a code inside a recycling triangle. They show the types of plastic resins used for production.
  • Also, you can find the one that shows the product is compostable. This one would carry a ring-formed plant emerging like a sprout from the middle of this ring.
  • Two arrows invertedly pointing towards each other inside a green basket show compostability for the product within the home environment.
  • The producers contribute to the organization if a product carries the panda image that WWF uses.

Above all, the packaging symbols explained will help improve your customers’ and audience’s information. Adding such info can improve how good sales you get.

International Packaging Symbols

Now, one thing is for sure: international standards for any job are different, and the same goes for symbols. You can use these symbols to make your packaging look great. Here are some top symbols you need to know about.

For Safety And Warnings

Safety and warnings are two of the most commonly emphasized symbol types you can find in your international packaging, such as:

  1. Fragile: You can find a symbol of a glass-like element with a crack inside it. This means you should handle the product carefully to avoid breaking it.
  2. Temperature: When you have this symbol on your packaging, it tells you the ideal temperature you should have for the package.
  3. Fragile Airborne Precautions: In this symbol, you have a fragile glass symbol alongside an airplane silhouette. This means that you should handle it with care during air travel.
  4. Do Not Stack: This one has multiple boxes with a cross, showing that stacking the products can damage others.
  5. Products Sensitive To Magnetic Field: If you have this symbol on your boxes, keep it away from magnetic fields. There is no international agreed-upon symbol for this one.

More Symbols For Safety And Warnings

Here are some more safety and warning symbols that you can use to meet your international standards.

  • Electrostatic Sensitive Devices: In this symbol, you have a grounded circuit board that indicates that it appears with electrostatic discharge. When you see this symbol, it means you should carry them by avoiding any exposure to electrostatic discharge.
  • Biohazard: If you find this one in a box, it means the product contains any biological materials that can be hazardous. It should have an orange and black diagonal stripe and a biohazard trefoil in the middle by international standards.
  • Radioactive Material: This one carries a trefoil symbol alongside three blades.
  • Crossed Out Symbol: In this one, the packaging party shows that the product is not for consumption. The symbol would look like a cross on an image.

Health Safety Symbols

There is a long list of packaging symbols that apply to the health of your customers. Here is a list of them:

  • An exclamation mark is a general symbol that shows the presence of potential hazards.
  • Also, you can find dangerous goods symbols with specific procedures for handling.
  • If there is a flammable solid product in the package, it carries a symbol of red and white stripes with fire on it.
  • You can find an oxidizing material symbol that shows a circle lit up with fire in a tallow color. What do oxidizing materials do to accelerate a product’s burning?
  • If there is a cylindrical symbol that carries a long handle, it shows that there is a compressed gas in it with pressure.
  • Then, there is a symbol of a liquid being poured from a test tube on a hand. In the same symbol, you see liquid pouring on a solid, causing corrosion.

Some More Health Symbols

There are other ones in this category you should know about, like:

  • You can find a symbol in a red rectangle with an exclamation sign. It also states, “harmful if swallowed.”
  • Also, there is a symbol with an exclamation mark on a black color with a red rectangle.
  • A sharp object symbol shows a sharp object cutting a hand. It also states that you should use gloves when handling this package.
  • For general health safety, some packages carry an adult carrying a box with a kid trying to reach out to it. This symbol would be presented inside a circle. It shows that the package contains something that should be kept out of kids’ reach.
  • A symbol with a red cross stamp is on a can, a cigarette, and a bread-like object. It shows that you can not eat the product packed inside.

Chemical And Electric Warnings

Now, these types of symbols hold their special place, and you need to know them as a packaging company or provider. Here are some of them:

  • A light symbol within a triangle has a yellow color on the inside.
  • Also, we have a tower symbol emitting waves inside a yellow triangle. This one shows that they have non-ionizing radiations, such as ultraviolet rays.
  • You can find a line with three waves upwards if you want to warn about a hot surface. This shows that the surface is hot, and you should avoid touching it without protection.
  • When you want to symbolize something harmful to the environment, you can add a symbol of a dead fish and a tree with bare branches.

Recycling Packaging Symbols

There is a long list of signs you can find regarding packaging in recycling. You need to know them so that you can be sure that you impart the best information to your customers and clients.

Mobius Loop: If the packaging can be recycled, manufacturers can add a green triangle loop symbol.
Mobius Loop With Percentage: The same sign with a percentage on it shows the exact percentage of packaging material you can recycle from the product.

Material Specific Recycling

There are several material-specific recycling material signs you need to know. For instance:

  • PET: PET is a type of plastic material that we indicate with three arrows pointing towards each other in a triangle. This triangle carries a number “1” inside to depict this material type.
  • PVC has a sign of three arrows pointing towards each other in the form of a triangle with “3” written inside.
  • Then, you have LDPE plastic, which would carry a sign with the same sign but with “4” in the triangle.
  • For Polystyrene, the number “6” is found in the same triangle.
  • If you have less common plastic types in your packaging, you can have the same sign with “7” in the middle.
  • A similar sign in blue color would depict a general symbol for paper being recyclable.

Some More Recycling Signs

  • A check sign that looks like a tree is for showing the FSC symbol, which shows the sustainability of packaging paper.
  • Also, you can have a man in the middle of a triangle putting trash into a dustbin.
  • The aluminum packaging is recyclable if you see a triangle with “41” in the middle.
  • When you add a small growing plant on a semicircle, it shows the compostability of a product.
  • You can find a green dot sign inside a circle with an inverted green arrow pointing to the right. This sign tells about the packaging company and shows that it has contributed to packaging recycling.
  • A semicircle with the head of an arrow and the text “Widely recycled” indicates that the packaging is accepted in most recycling programs.


What is UN packaging symbol?

The UN packaging symbol shows that the packaging has been tested according to the international standards of the United Nations. Following that, you must keep some standards in mind, such as ensuring the transport is safe for dangerous goods. You also have other standards.

Why are there so many different packaging symbols?

The benefit of packaging symbols is that they allow you to communicate things about your products. Their use allows you to share your products globally with your customers and clients.

Who regulates packaging symbols?

No single body regulates them, but some international standards are still followed. At the same time, some countries have set signs that they follow for this purpose.

What is the V symbol on food packaging?

This v sign shows that the product is vegan, and a vegan person can eat it without guilt. If it is green in color, it means that the product is vegetarian. On the other hand, we have a green and black “V” that shows the European Vegetarians Union supports the product.

What is the ‘e’ symbol on packaging?

This e symbol shows that the product complies with European regulations. Also, weight is not guaranteed in such packaging, while you find it on packaged items with nominal quantities. This shows that the product was packed without the buyer’s presence.

We Care About Product Experience

The Packaging Hub is a player in keeping your customers and consumers safe and informed. We take care of all of these signs to ensure we make your customers’ experience unique with these indicators. These food, cosmetics, and recycling packaging symbols can change how they respond to your products.

So, we ensure they get the best experience for your customers.

Author Image
Steve Harsh
Steve Harsh, a packaging and printing expert who has been working in the field for over a decade. It has been my privilege to write on this topic, which I have been doing for years to help people learn about this essential field that helps millions achieve their business goals.

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