How to wash and shrink your BJJ gi (2020 Guide)
Properly washing your gi for jiu-jitsu is one of the most important skills you have to learn in BJJ, even though this process doesn’t take place on the mats. Having a gi that smells nice isn’t just important for avoiding being labeled as “the Stinky Gi Student” – it’s also crucial for keeping yourself and your teammates free from harmful bacteria that can linger on sweat-soaked fabric.
Your washing machine can serve another purpose for your gi as well, though. If your new gi is too big, there are also steps you can take to shrink it as you clean it. If you want to make sure you’re washing and shrinking your gi correctly – or if you want to avoid shrinking a gi that already fits you – take a look at our tips below:
How to Wash Your Gi
Turn your gi inside-out. If maintaining the color vibrancy on your gi and patches is important to you, flip your gi inside-out before washing and drying it. This helps reduce the color washout on blue, black, or other colored gis. Your gi will still get clean, and it’ll look newer for longer.
Wash your gi in cold water.
Your gi will still get clean in cool water, especially if you use detergent specifically designed for cold washes. The lower temperature will keep the gi from shrinking, allowing you to maintain your perfect size for years to come. Remember to use color-safe detergent if your gi is any color other than white!
Use laundry sterilizer.
Ringworm, staph, and all sorts of other health hazards can be spread through BJJ. With our sweat and the sweat of all our teammates being absorbed into our training gear, it’s important to make sure our gis are sterilized before we train with them again. You can find laundry sterilizer in the same place you find detergent and fabric softener at your local supermarket.
Hang your gi to dry it.
Putting your gi in a mechanical dryer will likely shrink it. If you like the way your gi fits already, hang it outside away from direct sunlight, as the sun can cause your gi to fade and even become more susceptible to damage. You can also hang your gi indoors, which is recommended for optimal drying conditions.
How to Shrink a Gi
If your Gi is way too big
The gi to shrinking gis is that more heat means more shrinkage. If you need to shrink your gi a lot, wash it in hot water and use a mechanical hot dryer to dry it. This should only be done if the gi is dramatically larger than you need it to be, or if you’ve already tried shrinking it using the methods below. Remember, shrinking a gi is like getting a haircut – it’s better to do it in smaller increments unless you’re very sure you want to take a lot off!
If your Gi is slightly too big
If you just need your gi to be a little bit smaller, let your washing machine do the work. Wash the gi in hot water, then let it air dry indoors as you normally would. Without the hot mechanical dryer, the gi will still shrink, but not as much.
If your Gi is just a little too big
If you’re this close to having your Gi be the perfect size for you, just wash it in warm water and then hang it to dry. The warm water will provide just the slightest amount of shrinkage, enabling you to get that perfect fit if your gi is just a tad too big.
Once your Gi has shrunk to your desired fit
Continuing to wash your gi in hot water or drying it in a hot mechanical dryer will cause more shrinkage. After you’ve achieved the fit you want, continue to wash it in cold water and let it air dry out of the sun.
Gi Washing F.A.Q.
“Should I wash my belt?”
Yes! The superstitious among us may swear that washing your belt also washes away your BJJ knowledge and skill, but all it really does it wash away all the bacteria that collects on your belt as you roll. It’s unsanitary to wear a belt that contains sweat, blood, dirt, and all the other gross things that can get picked up on the mats. Wash your belt with your gi and air-dry it for best results.
“How often should I wash my gi?”
After every class! Your gi is just like any other article of clothing, and just as you wouldn’t wear a sweaty rashguard or pair of spats again before washing them, your gi should be treated the same. The sooner you wash it after training, the better.
“What if my gi starts to smell bad?”
If you’ve been training long enough, you’ll soon become well acquainted with the stench of “gi funk.” Even if you wash it after every class and use the best-smelling detergent you can find, your gi may still carry unpleasant odors after absorbing them for so many classes. You can find deodorizing cleaners that can eliminate these smells, or you can try a DIY solution by mixing one-part vinegar with four-parts water and soaking the gi for about half an hour. This vinegar soaking method can also help lock in colors, so try this on your new blue or black gis before their first wash to help keep them vibrant.
“Do all gis shrink the same?”
Different gis have different weaves and are made from different materials, which can affect how they shrink. Don’t assume that your new gi will shrink the same as your old one, even if they’re made by the same manufacturer. Take your shrinkage slowly, or you may end up with a gi that’s way too small.
Your gi is an investment and should be treated as such. Ensuring that you properly (and regularly) wash it can make all the difference between having a gi that lasts one year and having a gi that lasts for many years, all while ensuring that it’s kept clean and safe for you and your training partners.
Your gi is going to need to be washed one day soon. The first time you do this will be significant in determining how you will care for it after this. You have to be careful how you wash your gi to avoid fading, damage or shrinking. However, if you find that yours fits a lot larger than you had hoped, by carefully shrinking it you can get a better fit. All the instructions have been noted above. Good luck, and if you wash your gi correctly from the start, it will last you a good, long time.
Do you have your own tips for washing, shrinking, and maintaining a gi? Take 2 seconds and share them in the comments below!
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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON January 6, 2018. Updated November 2020