Washing and Caring for your BJJ GI

A women washing her bjj gi

What is the best way to clean your BJJ GI? In this guide we explain everything you need to know about washing and maintaining your bjj gi

You know how to armbar someone, but do you know how to take care of your gi?

Like other athletic gear and equipment, you want to maintain your bjj gi for years to come with proper care and maintenance. This is especially true since the kimono is essentially the most important article you will use when training Brazilian JiuJitsu. 

From washing to drying and getting rid of that nasty smell, we have compiled all you need to keep your gi in top shape for as long as possible. 

After-Class BJJ Gi Washing Procedures

Maintaining your gi begins as soon as you are done rolling. It’s critical that you wash your gi after your class as soon as possible. The longer bacteria, sweat, and blood stay on the fabric, the more they eat away at the material, thus reducing its longevity.

Of course, washing a stain as quickly it happens will help prevent it from becoming a permanent patch. Also, not cleaning your gi right away will cause it to stink and smell.

You should always wash your gi after every practice, even if you did “light” rolling or did not break a sweat. When you get home, you should take your gi (and belt) out of your bag and put it in the washer.

While washing your gi is not the first thing you naturally think of after coming home from class (flopping on the couch probably is), making a B-line to the washroom is well worth the effort.

Basic Tips/Rules on How to Wash your BJJ GI

A Smelly BJJ Gi stuffed in washer

1. Never use bleach. Bleach is a very strong chemical and nothing will destroy the integrity of your gi faster. Instead, find a compatible detergent or other chemicals. There are lots to choose from. We offer a few well known combinations in the following section.

2. Wash your gi by itself. Do not include it with your regular clothes, especially as the colors from other clothes can and do bleed.  Finding out that your white gi has now become pink is no fun (just ask Gene Labell about his pink gi).

Also, stuffing your washer with your gi and a bunch of other clothes can reduce the effectiveness of the wash cycle. For example, don’t throw in your bjj rash guard with your gi, because you will do damage to the rash guard. Because a gi is much heavier than your normal clothes, a packed load can make an annoying banging sound and sometimes even cause the washer to stop completely. 

3. Use cold water to wash your gi. Warm water will assist in shrinking, which is usually not desired. There are almost many benefits to washing in cold water. Cold water washes typically help preserve colors better, preserve the integrity of clothes, removes stains out better than hot water, and saves you some money by not having to use your precious hot water.

4. Wash Inside-out. Preserve the exterior of your gi by flipping it inside out in the wash. This will help protect patches and preserve colors. This is not so much an issue with white gis, but if you have a color gi or lots of patches, then you can reduce the wear by turning your gi inside out.  

How to Remove Blood from a BJJ Gi

Getting rid of blood from clothes is difficult, and BJJ Gis are no exception. The key is to use a cleaning solution that can break down the blood proteins. Keep these general tips in mind when trying to remove stains from a gi.

  1. Never use warm water on a bloodstain. This can bond the stain to the gi.
  2. Do not mix ammonia and bleach, ever.
  3. Use a test spot in a less visible area to make sure your solution won’t damage or stain your gi.
  4. Using a dryer will set the stain, so make sure you’ve done your best to get rid of the stain before you dry the gi.

For fresh blood stains, we recommend applying hydrogen peroxide. Here are the basic in the cleaning process:

  1. Gently apply 3% Hydrogen Peroxide on the stained area using an applicator (like a q-tip or rag, depending on the size of the stain. The stained area will likely fizz. Let it sit for at least a few minutes.
  2. Rinse the stain with cold water.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 if the stain remains stubborn.
  4. Optional: run a warm iron over the stained area.
  5. Laundry the gi as normal.

When a bloodstain is old and settled on a gi, we suggest using an ammonia water mixture. Here are the steps:

  1. Use equal parts water and ammonia into a bowl/container (you may want to use gloves)
  2. Dip an applicator, such as a cotton ball, into the mixture.
  3. Apply gently and rub the mixture into the stain.
  4. Let the ammonia sit for a couple of seconds and re-apply the stain as needed. You may need to use a new applicator with each application.
  5. Try scrubbing with a brush if the stain is persistent.
  6. Launder as normal.

There are, of course, many other methods to remove blood stains, such as vinegar and Wd-40.  Your mileage may vary. Remember, blood stains are unavoidable in BJJ long term. No one wants to roll around in a gi with blood on it, let alone the blood of your training partner. 

Best Detergent/Chemicals to use to Wash your BJJ Gi

Here is a list of ingredients you may wish to add to your laundry to help clean your gi and keep it smelling great. Ideally, using organic and/or non-bio detergent is ideal as it will reduce overall chemical exposure and damage. Mix and match until you find the right fit

Vinegar. Vinegar is the go-to all sorts of cleaning miracles. Add 1 cup to your regular wash. It is also a good way to get rid of smells caused by normal bacteria.

Active Wear Laundry Detergent.  This brand claims to remove detergent build-up, sweat, and bacteria.  Your mileage may vary.

Baking Soda/ Borax.  Pre-soak your gi using baking soda or borax (or both) in your wash. This also works for smells when vinegar does not appear to work.

Oxyclean:   Adding a ⅓ cup to your detergent mix works great.

How to Wash Dark Colored Gis

We should note that protecting colors in fabrics is not exactly a settled science and somewhat hokey.  However, there seems to be a consensus that adding vinegar to your wash help sets colors.   Remember, however, that nothing last forever. 

If you want to take extra precaution, we recommend using a detergent designed for dark colors, such as Woolite Extra Dark Care. You should take care to use vinegar and color detergent as soon as you purchase your dark colored gi. This way you will have the best chance of preserving the color from the outset. Most of your wash procedures can remain the same as with a white gi, however, you may want to avoid sun drying your colored gi as the sun fades color clothes.

How to Wash a Smelly BJJ Gi

A stinky bjj kimono is the worst. Here are a few products/methods you can use to remove the funk from your bjj gi.

Coffee: Coffee is a known deodorizer. Add a 1-2 cups of brewed, cold coffee to you wash. Wash as normal.

OdoBan. Use a 1/2 cup of OdoBan in bleach tray (if none, then add ½ cup mid cycle). Then Dry as normal.

Defense Super Shield Laundry Additive. Defense soaps makes a specifically designed deodorizer for gis. Add to your laundry as directed.

How to Dry a BJJ Gi

You have two options when it comes to drying your gi.

The preferred method is to hang dry your gi. Ideally, you should hang you gi outside in the sun, especially if it is white. This will allow for fast dry just as nature intended.

Of course, you can also hang dry the gi in your wash room. Placing the gi next to a fan or heat vent will speed up the drying process. The major advantage to air drying is that it prevents shrinkage. The major downside to air drying a gi is that it results in a very stiff gi that can feel like cardboard.

The second method to dry your gi is to use a dryer. Use a dryer to avoid the stiff gi problem. The risk with a dryer is that it may cause shrinkage and slowly destroy the gi, especially the collar.

If you are worried about shrinking your gi, you can try using the tumble dry with no heat along with a fabric softener. Or, alternatively, you can hang dry your gi, and once it dries, toss it in the dryer on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes to “soften” it up.

The infamous standing gi

How to Shrink a BJJ GI

There can be several reasons that you might want to shrink a gi.  Of course, you should always consult the sizing charts and reviews on your kimono to find out how the gi tends to shrink (or whether it is pre-shrunk). Always order your gi based on the brand’s sizing chart. Some gis are not pre-shrunk and require a little more time in the dryer to get the correct fit.

Here is how to shrink your gi (presumably a new one). 

  1. On your first wash, wash the gi in cold water and hang dry. This will help you determine if there was a natural shrinkage.
  2. If you need to continue shrinking then wash your gi in the washer using warm/hot water.
  3. Put the gi in the dryer using medium heat for roughly 5 minutes.
  4. Stop the dryer and try the gi on for fit. You can stop once the gi feels a tad bit larger than desired. At this point, let the gi air dry to allow it to continue its “natural” shrinkage. Continue onto step 5 if the gi remains too large.
  5. Put the Gi back in the dryer at 5-10 minute intervals on hot until you obtain the proper fit.

Remember that not all fabrics shrink the same and that it may take several cycles to get the correct shrink. Once you have determined the fit is correct, you should stop using the dryer to prevent further shrinkage. Hand dry or air dry your gi from this point on.

In an ideal world, there would be no gi shrinkage. However, another way to think about shrinkage is to just accept it. Some people buy gis knowing that they will always dry them. Cotton will eventually reach a terminal shrinking point. It will not continue to shrink forever.

While preserving the right size is a noble cause, a somewhat shrunk gi is not the end of the world. There are many grapplers in this world who are using very shrunken gis without issue.

Should you wash your BJJ Belt?

Short answer: YES! This is a controversial discussion in BJJ. Many people choose not to wash their belt out of ignorance, others believe that they are “washing away” the knowledge, but most probably do not want to have their strips come off.  However, given that bacteria spread quickly to just about everything and it thrives on materials like cotton, there really is no reason not to throw your belt in the laundry. 

We would love to know what tips or tricks that you have on cleaning and washing your BJJ gi. 

Let us know in the comments!

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