New to BJJ? How to care for your Gi.
As part of our "New to BJJ?" series. I'm writing out the things that I wish I had learned by first day. It shouldn't be, but this subject may be controversial. If you google, "How to wash by Gi" or ask it in a forum on Facebook, you will get varying opinions. And.. that makes sense. Like any laundry issues, there different fabrics, fits, machines, and detergents to consider. So, I'll start with the things that you should not do and then I'll provide recommendations from personal experience.
Don't use bleach. While bleach sounds like a good idea to keep your white gi (and belt) gleaming white, it's terrible for the fabric. In Jiu-Jitsu, our Gi's are constantly being grabbed, gripped and pulled. While bleach will help get rid of the funk in a soiled Gi, it will also weaken the fibers. I once used bleach on an old gi of mine and it tore the next time I used it. Coincidence? Perhaps.. but don't use bleach.
Don't tumble dry. Now, I want to be clear about something. I personally tumble dry my Gi's. Since my Gi's are a combination of cotton and polyester, they shrink very little. In fact, I find that A2s come a little big on me so I actually want them to shrink a little. Also, I'm impatient and have only 2 Gi's that I use as my "daily drivers" so like to cycle them quickly and don't want to wait for them to air dry. So, unless you also fall into those criteria, I'd recommend air drying your Gi's to last longer for you. The dryer will shrink your Gi.
Use liquid fabric softener. It always bothered me that my gi's were getting stiff so I tried using liquid fabric softener. While my Gi's did come out softer and smelled clean, after a few uses and washings, I realized they developed a funk. I'm not a scientist but I think the softener was building up in the clothe and preventing the detergents from removing all the organic matter (eww) in the clothe which quickly built a bacteria (and who knows what else) that cause the bad smell. As soon as I stopped using the liquid fabric softeners and started using the dryer sheets, the smell improved and has not come back.
Wash right away. You just finished training and you have warm thick pieces of clothing full of moisture and organic material (eww again). Your Gi is a petri dish for bacteria and mold. If you don't wash it right away, it will begin to stink quickly. Not only will the funk be harder to get out, the Gi's fabric will break down faster.
Wash your Gi every time you train. This should be self explanatory but I'm talking to the stinky Gi guy that, for some reason, thinks he can train one more time in that rancid piece of cloth. To make matters worse, now my Gi smells like your stinky ass. Don't be that guy and don't make me a stinky Gi guy after rolling with you.
Us Borax and Vinegar. If your laundry detergent isn't quit cutting it and you are still getting a smell or some discoloration, try using these laundry additives. Adding vinegar to the load will help kill any bacteria that is causing a funk. Adding Borax will help remove any mineral deposits or organic matter that is hanging on to the material. Neither of these additives should damage your Gi but check labels and instructions.
Last but certainly not least!
Wash your belt too! I don't know where this rumor started but some people think that if they wash their belt, they will lose their magical BJJ powers. Magical BJJ powers are not kill but staph and ringworm. Don't get or spread MRSA because you believe in BJJ fairy dust. Take care of your training partners.