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2018 Guide: How to Wash and Shrink Your BJJ Gi 101

2016 Guide: How to wash and shrink your BJJ gi 101

When people complete gi reviews, you always have to wonder if they’ve washed the gi first or if it is fresh from the retailer.

In the following paragraphs, we’ll be covering a few different things people need to be aware of.

  1. How you can secure color on a brand-new non-white gi
  2. How you can shrink your gi
  3. How to wash your gi without shrinking it
  4. How you can ensure it lasts as long as possible
  5. How to get the funk and stink out of your gi

How to wash and shrink your BJJ gi (2018 Guide)

Before you start anything, make sure that you consult the washing guide on the manufacturer’s website.  Lately, gi companies like DOM and X-Guard have included washing guides with their gis.

First Washing

Read more: Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ) Gi Buying Guide

The first time that you wash a gi is the most important. It can really be a make or break time because it really sets the standard for how you’ll treat your gi in the future. If you take care of it from the start (by following this guide), then you can be sure that it will last you a long time.

  1. Turn your gi inside out (this will keep your patches, stitching and color secure).  Don’t believe me? Look at an old black or blue gi and see which side is more faded.  I’m willing to be it’s the outside.  That isn’t just from rolling.  It’s from washing as well, so if you turn your gi inside out, it will help the exterior of the gi last longer.
  2. Wash in cool water. Never use warm water (unless you want you gi to shrink, if so, see below).  If you’re super freaked out by germs, warm and/or hot water is fine, just be aware that your gi may bleed or shrink as a result.
  3. Hang or even line dry. It’s incredibly important to note here that hanging out gi outside can do serious damage to the integrity of the fabric.  Sun and UV damage will drastically reduce the durability of your gi if you hang it outside in direct sunlight after every wash or after every training.  We recommend hanging your gi indoors or outdoors, but out of direct sunlight.
  4. Never ever use chlorine bleach. Chlorine bleach will ruin the materials of the gi.

The Great Belt Debate

As my martial arts experience is rooted in traditional martial arts (shotokan karate), I had never washed my belt before I trained BJJ.

Many people still argue that you shouldn’t, or don’t have to, wash your belt.

I take a firm stance that these people are wrong.  And gross.  The belt is cloth that holds bacteria and other nastiness just like your gi.

Thus, it should be washed in a similar manner.

If you would like your gi to shrink

Disclaimer: Consistently washing and drying your gi on hot may weaken the material and/or cause the color to fade prematurely.

It is always advised that you order your gi based on each brands’ own sizing chart. If the uniform fits a tad too big out of the bag, a clothing dryer -properly used- may be used make the gi, “shrink to fit“.

  1. We advise primary washing the gi in cool water and seeing how it fits. If it’s still large, continue with the next steps.
  2. First, step your washing machine to warm/hot water.
  3. Once your gi is finished, place it in the dryer at a reduced setting.
  4. Take your gi out and try it on.  If the gi is “slightly” larger than you would like it, allow it to air dry the rest of the way and it will continue to shrink a bit until it dries completely. This will leave you with a near-perfect fit.
  5. If your gi is still too large, place it back in the dryer for another 5-10 minutes on hot until it fits.

Note: Different weaves and fabrics will shrink at a different rate. So what worked for one gi may be too much/too little for another.

A few readers have even speculated that if you wet down a certain part of your gi, it will shrink more rapidly than the rest of the gi.

So, if you only want to shorten the sleeves of your gi, experiment with wetting down only the sleeves before your dry it on hot for 5-10 minute intervals.

Subsequent Washing

The directions from here will continue as if your gi fits your body exactly as you want it to.

  1. Wash in cold water.
  2. Never utilize Chlorine bleach.
  3. Hang or line dry.

Optional Recommendations for Blue/Black/Colored Gis

Also read: 5 Pieces of BJJ Gear That You Can’t Live Without

Prior to the 1st wash, saturate the gi inside the a sink or tub with 2-3 glasses of of white vinegar as well as mineral water. Let it soak for 20-30 minutes, and then wash. This will help set the color in your gi and minimize its fading.

On future washes, use only a color safe detergent.There is a lot of debate about using vinegar to lock in the color because many people argue that they lock in the follow well enough when it’s still at the factory. I can only attest to my personal experience, but I have always used vinegar to lock in the follow and I have never had any color come off my gi and my gis remain vibrantly colored even after years of training in them.

Getting the funk and stink out of your gi

A. Uncle Skippy’s Sure-Fire Method

  1. Get a gallon of OdoBan at Home Depot for $10.
  2. Throw gi in wash and put 1/2 cup of OdoBan in bleach tray. If no bleach tray, fill tub and then add mid-cycle.
  3. Dry as you would normally.

Getting the nice citrus scented version will make your training partners happy when they take a deep breath. As they take in the moment, let out a “ahhhhhh” and look skyward from the pleasant smell, it is precisely at THAT moment that you choke them.

Stop living with bad gi odor and use this Odoban Odor Eliminator from Amazon — NOW!

B. Gunslinger’s Use of Force Policy

  1. Oxyclean in every wash (this I do always), hang dry on a hanger in front of a box fan.
  2. Mild funk detected: Soak in pure white vinegar for a few hours (use a 5 gallon bucket, put the gi in and pour in white vinegar until the entire gi is submerged) then wash as normal.
  3. If #2 fails: Pine sol. Add 1 cup of original pine sol (yes the stuff for floors) to your wash and wash as normal. This works VERY VERY well and does not stain your gi or damage the fabric (test it on a bath towel first if you are concerned).
Head over to Amazon and give Pinesol a try!

Reader Suggestions:

  1. Pinesol has always worked for me. The catch is that you don’t get pine smelling detergent, but make sure it has pine oil in it. Pine oil kills bacteria. The goal is to kill the stuff that makes things smell, not just mask the smell. I will try Odoban just for a different smell option.
  2. This is more of a gunk than funk tip. There is a cleaner called Awesome (yes you read that right). It is super cheap and can be used for cleaning almost anywhere, and out of desperation I put some in the wash with my white gi one time and it knocked the grim off of it.
  3. And to add to the conversation – I don’t practice BJJ, but I would also recommend using a baking soda based deodorant to fight off your pit sweat getting your gi all nasty. You can also try using actual baking soda in your pits. Hmm… maybe I’m onto something here … a Baking Soda in Your Pits While Wearing a Gi micro-micro-niche.
  4. I have been using this stuff (Kenshield Athletic Laundry Sanitizer) for a few years now. It does an amazing job. It seems expensive but you don’t have to use much or that often. I only use once a month or so it last a long time. I just let it soak over night in the wash.
  5. I use white distilled vinegar in my bleach tray. BOOM.
  6. If B-3 fails, its time to walk away… seriously.
Nothing works like baking soda + vinegar. Get your cleaning supplies at Amazon

Do you have your own tips for washing, shrinking and maintaining a gi?  Take two seconds and share them in the comments below!

About the Author Brendan

Brendan is the Founder of Gireviews.net. By day he is a elementary school teacher, by night, a jedi gi reviewer!

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Leave a Comment:

37 comments
Ivan says September 20, 2012

Any tips on How to wash the gi to make it look whiter?

Reply
    Brendan says September 21, 2012

    Thanks for the question, Ivan!

    Here’s a few options that other people have suggested to me in the past:
    1. Add oxiclean to your wash
    2. Use Tide with “Active Lift”
    3. Also, try soaking in white vinegar with a bit of baking soda

    Just don’t bleach it. Ever. Let me know if any of the above work out for you!

    Reply
      Ivan says September 21, 2012

      Thanks, I’ll let u know

      Reply
    Ayanthi says February 20, 2013

    OxyClean definitely works for me.

    Reply
Nicole says September 20, 2012

Nice work! Can’t wait for the section on eliminating gi funk. I’m going to share it with my entire team…some of the dudes are stinky Petes.

I also agree with your stance on the belt washing debate. I know of people who will freeze it, but I’m not usually off the mat long enough to make that course of action viable…just seems like way too much work for a silly principle. Just wash the darn thing. While your stripes may fall off, your knowledge will not.

Reply
    Brendan says September 21, 2012

    Thanks for the comment, Nicole!

    I’ve never heard of freezing it. That really works?

    And, I like that my stripes come off. I’m the world’s worst purple belt so it keeps me farther from promotion! haha

    Reply
      Nicole says September 21, 2012

      I don’t know if it works by itself or not. I did try soaking a rashguard in hot water and lemon juice then freezing it, then washing/thawing it to get rid of some resiliant funk, and that seems to have worked. But, again, that involves washing.
      I know a few people who swear by the freezing your belt thing, but I just say wash the darn thing.

      Reply
      Nicole says September 21, 2012

      Also, I’m already pretty far from a promotion as it is, so I just put mine back on when I remember. I’ve also known of folks who stitch them on.

      Reply
        Brendan says September 24, 2012

        really? I’ve never thought of that!

        Reply
Ryan says May 7, 2014

A capful of pine-sol in the wash will eliminate the funk from even the oldest gi. Pine-sol contains antibacterial properties. If you don’t mind smelling a little like a freshly waxed floor.

Reply
    Brendan says June 23, 2014

    Sounds legit to me!

    Reply
Melissa says January 14, 2015

Have you heard of Rockin’ Green Soap? They have a laundry detergent called Sport Rock that was formulated with gis in mind! The owners are big into BJJ and wanted a way to wash their gis to get all the funk out without having to worry about damaging the fabric at all. They did it! Sport Rock works with just a small amount of soap and everything smells clean and fresh when you’re done. You should check it out!

Reply
    Steve says June 5, 2015

    Works great on cloth diapers too!

    Reply
Jonathan says January 5, 2016

I’ve heard from a few sources that microwaving your belt for 30sec to a minute helps kill bacteria. I haven’t done the research to see if it’s true, though.

Reply
Aaron says June 26, 2016

Be aware of placing your Gi in a hot dryer for long periods. I was trying to shrink a gi and the temperature was too hot for the rubber inside the lapel. The rubber deteriorated and shrivelled up more than the gi itself

Reply
    Brendan says July 12, 2016

    Ew! What gi was that?

    Reply
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