Washing & Drying Gis: Jiu Jitsu Clothing Care
Your jiu jitsu gi, sometimes called a kimono, is an essential piece of gear that has been used in jiu jitsu practice for over 100 years and is a symbol of the commitment and discipline to the sport. Keeping your gi clean and in good condition is not only good hygiene, but shows respect to your trainers and the traditions of the practice.
How To Wash a Gi
Keeping a gi clean helps prevent bacteria from gathering on the skin during combat. Your gi can prevent skin irritation and abrasions, and proper maintenance helps maintain the integrity of your seams and avoid tears.
How often should I wash my gi?
Wash your BJJ gi after every use. The accumulation of bacteria can break down the material and washing it right after training is your best defense against any buildup.
A solid pre-wash routine helps extend your gi's life and avoids unnecessary shrinkage – a key component of retaining the garment’s comfort. Here are a few helpful pre-wash steps:
- Check the label for instructions. Most gis are made of cotton, but some use hemp or other blends that might change your washing processes.
- Check for stains. Soak your gi in cold water with white vinegar to help loosen debris, then hand scrub any stains.
- Turn your gi inside out. Turning your gi inside out before you soak and wash helps preserve the color and protect the seams, patches and detailing.
- Secure the pants string. Tie the string of your gi’s pants to prevent losing them in the waistband.
- Wash before you apply patches. Some shrinkage is common the first time you wash your gi, and adding patches after the first wash helps avoid any unevenness or bunching of your patches later on.
While washing your gi by hand is preferred, if you need to machine wash, follow these steps:
- Following your pre-soak and stain checks, keep your gi inside out. This helps protect its colors and seams.
- Never use hot water. Hot water can shrink your gi and alter its fit. If the gi is used for competition, shrinkage might even cause your uniform to be out of compliance with competition rules. Hot water can also cause stains to set into your fabric.
- Use your washer’s most gentle setting. Because you’ll wash the gi after every use, washing on a gentle spin cycle can avoid unnecessary wear to the garment.
- Don’t use bleach or fabric softeners. These chemicals can break down your gi and make the fabric susceptible to tears or holes at the seams.
- Use a quality mild detergent that is powerful enough to work on stains but gentle enough to not compromise the fabric.
- Avoid washing your gi with other clothes. If a mixed load is unavoidable, only wash your gi with like colors to prevent bleeding or staining.
Washing your jiu jitsu kimono by hand is ideal as it lets you focus on stains and is more gentle on fabric. Follow these tips for washing by hand:
- Keep your gi inside out to protect your garment's colors, patches, and seams.
- Use cold water to keep stains loose and to maintain the shape of your gi.
- Let your gi soak for at least 5 minutes, longer if you need to break up any dirt or stains.
- Using your hands and fingers, work the fabric against itself to address tough spots. Swirl your gi in the water to continue loosening sweat, dirt, and residue.
- Rinse the gi well to ensure that there’s no more detergent.
- Gently squeeze out all the excess water – avoid ringing or twisting, as this might stretch or damage your gear.
Do you wash your jiu jitsu belt?
Your jiu jitsu belt is exposed to the same bacteria as your gi. To keep your jiu jitsu belt in good condition, wash it every time you wash your gis.
How To Dry a Gi
The best way to dry a BJJ gi is by hanging it. Follow these steps:
- Hang your gi to dry as quickly as possible. Letting it sit in a washer or rolled up in your sink could create mildew.
- Avoid air drying in the sun. Just like the dryer, hot temps from the sun can cause shrinkage or damage your gear. The sun can also cause fading that ages your gi.
- Hang the gis in an area without moisture to avoid any lingering smells. A fan or room with airflow can help speed up the drying process.
- Don’t iron your gi. Like dryers and the sun, irons can cause shrinkage and unnecessary damage.
Gi Special Care
Aside from proper washing and drying, there are a few additional tips to keeping your gi in good shape.
Your gi will inevitably get stained throughout training, but bleaching or using harsh chemicals to remove stains only shortens the life of your gi. Here are three steps to address stains without ruining your gi:
- Soaking your gi in cold water overnight is great for preventing stains from setting, but more importantly, put it to soak right after training to start the process sooner.
- Add a small amount of white vinegar to your soaking water to help loosen stains. Vinegar’s antibacterial properties also help fight odors.
- Avoid using brushes to address stains. Instead, rub the fabric against itself.
It’s best to hand wash and air dry your gi to maintain its shape. Use cold water while washing it to avoid compromising the fabric and reshape the garment with your hands when hanging it to dry to ensure it doesn’t dry folded or twisted. Use a wide hanger to maintain the shoulder shape.
Store your kimono on a wide-shoulder hanger in a well-ventilated space free from moisture to prevent bacteria or mildew from forming on the fabric.
If you travel to train or compete, carefully fold your gi in your suitcase. Alternatively, you can use a garment bag to protect the gi while in transit.
How To Fold a Gi:
- Lay the gi across a flat surface and use your hand to brush out any wrinkles or lumps.
- Fold your pants in half and place them inside the top of your gi, centered to where your chest would normally be. Close the lapels over it.
- Next, fold the sleeves across the shirt horizontally.
- Then, fold the outer edges towards the center so that they are overlapping.
- Now fold the gi in half vertically. You may need to use your body weight to compress it due to the thickness.
- Fold your belt in half, and then half again, and place it on your gi.
Try to minimize the time your gi is spent folded, as hanging is the ideal storage method.
Special Care for Colored Gis
The color of your BJJ gi is essential to looking sharp and disciplined. To maintain the color of your gi:
- Always wash the gi inside-out and in cold water.
- Avoid machine drying, but also avoid sunlight when air-drying. Both methods emit heat that can lead to fading.
- Avoid using cheap or harsh detergents which drain the fabric of color.
- Never use bleach, no matter how stubborn a stain might be.
- Wash your gi separately from other garments whenever possible – but if you must wash with other fabrics, only wash with like colors.
Proper care for your jiu jitsu gis reflects the care you show yourself, your trainers, and the others you’re learning with. A proper wash routine will help keep your gi in good condition for years to come.