I’ve heard a lot of discussions regarding “How and how often should I wash my gi?”. Personally, I’ve never looked at it any differently than any other clothing I would wear during exercise. If it gets sweaty or dirty…wash it! If I wear a gi for any type of training or coaching, it goes into the laundry immediately.
The thing is, a gi can be expensive. I’ve obtained about 10 of them over the years so rotating them and always having a clean gi to take to training isn’t an issue for me. However, when you start training and you’re still figuring out if you even like BJJ in the first place, going out and spending $ on additional gis can be hard to justify. Also, they are pretty substantive articles of clothing, so washing/drying them isn’t what I would call easy. This makes it easier to understand how some may think “I can probably get away w/ washing my gi after every other time I train” or similar.
In my academy, the expectation is that you should wash your gi after every training session. An unwashed gi can create not only issues of general unpleasantness like odor, but there are actually serious issues that can occur like skin infections such as staph and ringworm. Bacteria and fungus can still reside and grow in your used training gear so washing them as expeditiously as possible is the habit you want to develop right away.
The “how” of washing your gi tends to vary a bit more so I will share what works for me:
1. Tie the drawstring in the pants together as if you were wearing them. This prevents it from getting wrapped around other clothing and more importantly keeps the drawstring from coming out of the pants. Putting them back in is not a good use of your time 🙂
2. I use the hottest water setting available. This can certainly impact the material in terms of shrinking and life expectancy, but I’ve never had any odor issues and I also consider it to be the responsible thing to do for my training partners. Lower water temps are probably OK in combination with an antibacterial soap but HOT water works for me.
3. Hang dry. Many of the people I train with put their gis in the dryer. I’m tall and have had too many gis shrink in the arm/pant length that was caused from the dryer. Again, having more than a handful of gis makes it easier to hang them up and forget about them for a few days. With 1 gi and only a day or two between training sessions that might be more difficult to do so try to plan accordingly I suppose.
4. I only use regular HE detergent and avoid fabric softeners, bleach etc. More chemicals tend to break down the material and cause them to fail (rip or tear) more quickly than they may otherwise.
Searching around online for discussions on this issue will probably provide you with lots of different opinions about washing/drying your gi, but now you have mine!
The other areas I’ll discuss here revolve around general personal hygiene and things you can do to minimize risk of injury or infection for yourself and your training partners.
Jewelry – Take it off. Rings, earrings, necklaces, watches, nose rings…whatever. If it’s not part of you, take it off and leave it at home or in your gym bag. I used to wear my wedding ring when I trained but after jamming my finger and having it swell up a little bit, that was the last time I did that. BJJ is a close contact sport and there is frequently a lot of pressure and friction that occur when we train. Jewelry will only cause problems.
Finger and toenails– I’ve never really experienced an issue with this but it still warrants mentioning. Keep your finger and toenails neatly trimmed. Aside from the risk of cutting or scratching yourself or your training partners, you also risk getting them caught on the mat or inside part of the gi. Just try to be aware of your nails before you train and it won’t ever be an issue.
Breath– Ok so nobody ever died from someone else’s bad breath. It’s also not something I’ve ever really had an issue with but there HAVE been a few isolated incidents. As I mentioned, BJJ is a close contact, combat sport. You’re also going to be breathing heavily when you train. So do a quick breath test before you roll and if you feel like you need to, grab some gum or a mint before you start rolling 😉
As you train more you will find that you’ll simply develop new habits in regards to this topic. I honestly don’t think about them anymore other than to quickly ensure that I’m “Mat ready” before I train.