[EXPLAINED] How To Wash Your Jiu-Jitsu Gi Without Shrinking It

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Don’t be the person that nobody wants to train with because you smell a little funky.

General mat etiquette requires you to smell neutral at the very least, with a clean gi so that we aren’t torturing each other with bad body odor and adding to the already unhygienic nature of the sport.

ALSO READ: Ultimate Jiu-Jitsu Gi Buyers Guide

How Do You Wash And Care For A Gi?

BJJ - The Gentle Art x
BJJ - The Gentle Art
How To Properly Wash Your BJJ Gi

Time needed: 45 Minutes

10 Rules For Washing Your Gi The Right Way:

  1. Never leave your gi in your bag
    If you’re not able to wash your gi immediately after training, be sure to air it out by hanging it up. If you leave your gi in your gym bag, you’ll trap in the smelly moisture which makes it even more difficult to wash out.
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  2. Separate your gi from your other laundry
    The hard fabric of your gi can damage softer items, and you would typically wash your gi at a cooler temperature than you would regular clothing to avoid shrinking.
  3. Pretreat any stains as soon as possible
    Before washing your gi, find any stains you want to remove and apply a gentle stain remover to them. You can also presoak your gi before washing to loosen stubborn stains.
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  4. Avoid using bleach on your gi
    Never use bleach on your gi. It damages the fabric and reduces its lifespan significantly, especially if you do it each time you wash your gi. It can also cause your white gis to turn yellow.
  5. Turn your gi inside out
    To prevent your decals, patches, and colors from fading too quickly, you can turn your gi inside out before washing to avoid any damage from friction.
  6. Avoid using plastic laundry pods
    Plastic laundry pods need a higher temperature wash to dissolve the pod. The low temperature used to wash a gi often won’t be able to dissolve the pod completely, leaving you with a sticky mess after a wash.
  7. Use regular laundry powder or liquid to wash your gi
    Regular laundry powder or liquid is fine for washing your gi. You can either place it into the detergent holder as you normally would or place it directly into the drum with your gi.
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  8. Remove the smelly odor
    You can remove bad odors from your gi by using a fragranced laundry detergent, occasionally washing at a warmer temperature (never above 86°F), or by adding baking soda to your bleach dispenser.
  9. Wash on the coldest setting
    If your washing machine has a cold temperature option, use that. Otherwise, use the lowest possible temperature setting to avoid shrinking your gi or damaging the hard collar on your gi jacket.
  10. Air-dry your gi to protect it for longer
    Avoid using a tumble-dryer, which can damage your gi’s fabric. Rather air-dry your gi in a dry area (never in a damp area as this would prevent your gi from drying, leaving it with an unpleasant, musty smell).

BJJ isn’t what you would consider particularly hygienic.

Dealing with a smelly training partner is a very unpleasant experience.

There’s a saying, “if you can smell yourself a little, others can smell you a lot”.

You should always wash your gi directly after a training session, preferably before your sweat has a chance to dry.

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Can You Machine Wash A Gi?

You can wash your gi in a washing machine, as long as you use the lowest temperature available and never exceed 86°F. High temperatures can shrink your gi and damage your collar. Separate your gi from regular laundry in the washing machine to avoid damaging other clothing with the rough fabric of your gi.

Another great way to protect your gi in the washing machine is to use Tatami’s specially formulated laundry powder, which will help to prolong the life of your gi.

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Using a washing machine is the quickest way to wash your gi, removing stains and unwanted smells relatively easily as long as you follow the instructions listed above.

Normally, the quick 15-30 min. wash is good enough to properly clean your gi. You shouldn’t need to run a full-length cycle for your gi.

If you’re washing your gi alone, it’s a particularly great way to save water.

How Do I Clean My Gi For The First Time?

New gis can sometimes have decals and patches that might leak color in the first wash, potentially damaging other clothing in the washing machine. It’s recommended to wash your gi by itself for the first few times until you’re confident that the extra color has completely washed out.

I currently own 3 gis and I’ve never experienced any color leakage.

It’s certainly not going to happen with a quality gi brand like Tatami or Shoyoroll.

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Having said that, this might not be the same experience for you.

So I always recommend washing your new gi alone for the first time to be safe.

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Should I Wash My Gi Belt?

The answer to this question is surprisingly not as obvious as you might think.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to washing a gi belt:

  1. Traditionalists believe a belt should never be washed, and that it should always contain the sweat and blood of every opponent you’ve faced.
  2. Those concerned with hygiene argue that belts should be washed as often as your gi to avoid unwanted infections.

If you do decide to wash your belt, remember that your stripes will most probably wash off and you’ll have to replace these quite often.

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Some people actually like the faded look that washing your belt creates, it makes the belt look aged and well-used.

There are no absolute rules or guidelines on washing a gi belt, so the choice is yours.

How Do I Get The Smell Out Of My Gi?

The BJJ community have a special term for this – it’s called ‘Gi Funk’.

Here are 6 things you can do to get the stinky smell out of your gi:

  1. Try using a washing powder specifically formulated for washing gis and getting those stubborn stains and smells out.
  2. Soak in water with a cup of white vinegar for 1-2 hours before putting it in the wash, or add the vinegar to your wash (this has mixed results).
  3. Put your gi in the freezer overnight to kill the bacteria that causes the bad smell.
  4. Hang drying your gi in the sun will kill the smelly bacteria with natural UV rays.
  5. Ensure that your gi has a lot of airflow around it while drying to avoid your gi smelling damp.
  6. Wash your gi with OxiClean.
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It’s no secret that a sweaty gi is a smelly gi, especially if you don’t wash your gi directly after training.

If you allow your sweaty gi to dry, it’s going to be even harder to get the stinky smell out of it.

How Do I Make My Gi Softer?

A freshly washed gi that’s been air-dried can be pretty hard on your skin.

Some people prefer their gi to be a bit softer when they put it on before training, which is absolutely fine.

There are two main ways to soften your gi without damaging it:

  1. Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to your wash. Either add this directly into your washing machine or in the fabric softener holder. Never use dark vinegar, as this would stain and damage your gi.
  2. Place your gi in the dryer on the cool setting once it’s properly air-dried to avoid shrinking. Running this cycle for 15 minutes should soften your gi considerably.

Personally, I like the rough feel of my gi.

Can You Use Fabric Softener On A Gi?

Using fabric softener to soften your gi is not recommended. The ingredients used in fabric softeners break down the fibers of your gi over time, significantly shortening its lifespan and increasing the likelihood of your gi being torn while training.

In fact, softening your gi by any method has the potential of shortening its lifespan.

I would highly recommend avoiding softening your gi if you’re looking to use your gi for a long time.

Simply using a good laundry powder to wash your gi and ensuring that it’s thoroughly rinsed before drying should help to keep your gi sufficiently soft.

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How Do I Keep My BJJ Gi White?

Here’s the truth – keeping your gi as white as the day you bought it is going to be near impossible

Here are a few things you can do to keep your gi white for as long as possible:

  1. A large contributor to discoloration is sweat, so wash your gi before it has a chance to dry to get rid of the sweat before it sticks.
  2. Wash your gi with 1/2 cup of lemon juice or OxiClean every second or third wash to help maintain its color.
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  3. Presoak your gi in water with 1 cup of white vinegar for 2 – 3 hours before your regular wash. This also works well for removing bad smells.
  4. Avoid using chlorine-based bleach as this will severely damage your gi’s fibers, and can in some cases cause the yellowing of your white gi.

By washing your gi directly after training and following the basic rules, you’ll be able to keep your white gi looking fresher for longer.

How Do I Whiten My Gi?

It might be a little late, and your gi is already on the off-side of white.

Not to fear, there are a few things you can do to bring your tired gi back to life:

  1. Pre-soak your gi in white vinegar, laundry powder, and/or OxiClean overnight before washing it.
  2. Add a few spoons of baking soda to your washing cycle with your pre-soaked gi.
  3. Leave your gi in the sun to dry. The sun is great at removing the color from the fabric.

Note: Don’t leave your colored gis in the sun, as this would fade their color.

Colored gis should be dried inside, preferably out of direct sunlight.

If your gi still isn’t back to its former glory, my suggestion is to embrace the character of a non-white gi.

I love my off-white gis because they feel like they’ve been thoroughly used like the tools that they are.

How Long Does It Take For A Gi To Air-dry?

The time it takes for your gi to air-dry will depend on the humidity, air circulation and the environmental temperature.

In highly humid areas with low temperatures and very little air circulation, your gi can take up to 48 hours or more to dry properly if at all. Slow drying your gi will often result in your gi smelling damp. If your gi is hung outside in the sun on a warm day with a breeze, it should dry within 30 – 60 min.

If you make sure that your gi is properly drained before hanging it up to air-dry, it will significantly shorten drying time.

Air-drying your gi is the best method for drying your gi after washing it.

There is no risk of shrinking, you can combat bad smells and it’s generally the least harmful on your gi.

How Do You Dry A Gi Fast?

The fastest way to dry your gi will be using a tumble dryer. If you’re not concerned about your gi shrinking, you can dry your gi within 1.5 hours on the warm setting. Keep in mind, repeatedly drying your gi in the tumble dryer does damage the fabric, which may shorten its lifespan.

Below is a table rating the various methods of drying your gi along with their effectiveness:

Drying MethodTime (Est.)Rating
Tumble dryer (warm)1 – 1.5 hours5/5
Hanging dryer1.5 – 2 hours4/5
Fan / Box fan4 – 6 hours3/5
Air-dry (warm)12 – 18 hours2/5
Air-dry (cold)48+ hours1/5

Again, tumble drying your gi is the quickest way to dry your gi but it’s not recommended.

Using a tumble dryer has the added risk of shrinking your gi, which essentially makes your gi unusable.

How Do I Stop My Gi From Shrinking?

You can stop your gi from shrinking by ensuring that you always wash it in cold water and allow it to air-dry by hanging it up. Avoid washing in hot water or using a tumble dryer on the warm or hot setting, as this will significantly increase the amount of shrinking that your gi will do.

Most gis are made of cotton. When cotton gets wet, the weaves tighten up, which causes the shrinking of your gi.

Cotton shrinks more in warm water than it does in cold water, and shrinks the most in hot water.

Unfortunately, gis will always shrink to some extent, even if you wash and dry your gi correctly.

How Much Can A Gi Shrink?

How much your gi shrinks depends on the weave used, how it was treated by the manufacturer, and how well you take care of it. A new generation pearl weave gi that’s been preshrunk will barely shrink even in a warm wash, but a non-preshrunk gi can shrink by as much as 1 – 1.5 sizes in a hot wash.

Buying a high-quality gi that’s been sanforized or preshrunk will reduce your risk of shrinking it to a point where it’s unusable.

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Also, as I mentioned before, always wash your gi in a cold wash and leave to air-dry in a well ventilated area.

How To Deal With Gi Shrinkage

Apart from washing your gi in cold water, there are a few other ways to deal with gi shrinkage:

Before your gi shrinks:

  1. If you’re concerned about your gi shrinking, buy one with longer sleeves and shrink it down yourself to an appropriate length. Once it’s been shrunk, any further shrinking should be minimal as long as you wash and dry your gi in cool to medium temperature water and air-dry it as you normally would.
  2. Look for preshrunk or tightly woven gis that are heavy, as this would also limit the shrinking somewhat.

After your gi shrinks:

  1. If your gi has shrunk a little, you can try stretching it during the drying process. While your gi is still wet, pull on the sleeves and keep them tight while it dries. Try hanging it by its sleeves on the line to dry – this normally helps with minor shrinkage.
  2. If your gi has shrunk a lot, you might have to place more tension on the sleeves as it dries. Do this by drying your gi face down on a table, with something weighing down each sleeve while it dries.

Unfortunately, you won’t always be able to recover a shrunken gi.

That’s why it’s always important to invest in a good quality gi.

They last longer and end up saving you money in the long run.

Can I Iron My Gi?

It’s normally not recommended or even necessary to iron a gi. However, should you still want to iron your gi, it’s usually best to turn it inside out first. This is to avoid damaging your patches, which can melt or stick to your iron. A safer option would be to use a steam iron, which is a lot gentler on your gi.

Here’s a good steam iron I found over on Amazon that works pretty well.

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Usually removing your gi from the wash and hanging it up to dry will straighten it out quite nicely

Ironing your gi may also shorten its lifespan by damaging the fibres.

So unless it’s absolutely necessary, I wouldn’t recommend ironing your gi at all.

READ MORE: Ultimate Jiu-Jitsu Gi Buyers Guide