How To Wash and Dry Your BJJ Gi | The Complete Guide

When I started to notice some accumulated funk on my jiu-jitsu gear, I realized I need to dive into how to properly care for it and get it all deodorized, since what I was doing clearly wasn’t working for me.

Washing your BJJ gi and other gear on a cold cycle and using tumble dry or air drying works for most people. Getting your gear completely dry after washing is the best way to prevent odors from setting. Removing odors can be done through vinegar or baking soda soaks prior to washing.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why bad odors accumulate in our gear and look at how we can prevent these issues in the future without compromising the fabric of our gis, rashguards, leggings, and other apparel.

What Causes the Bad Odors in BJJ Gi and Other BJJ Gear?

BJJ gis and gear get a bad odor from trapped body oils and sweat as well as bacterial accumulation on your gear. Getting your gear washed and fully dried as soon as possible after practice stops bacterial growth and will prevent these odors from setting.

Bacteria, viruses, and fungi that are ever-present on the mats get a chance to accumulate on your gear you end up with an increased risk of mat diseases like Staph and Ringworm.

So if for some reason you aren’t worried about the odors accumulating on your gear, you should at least be washing your gear properly in order to keep your health and the health of your teammates going strong.

Environmental factors and training frequency can also contribute to poor smelling Gis, leaving your gear feeling sticky and less comfortable.

Environment

When surrounded by humidity and heat, your gear will end up far damper due to sweating more. This is more of a factor in making it difficult to keep your gear somewhat dry. A moist environment leads to more odor-causing bacteria growing on your gear, so getting it washed and dried quickly matters a bit more.

I am of the opinion that every training session warrants a change of gi and washing of the gi that you just used. I treat all my no-gi gear the same way. Besides, your partners will appreciate you changing into dry apparel, gi or no-gi, and since it usually doesn’t add additional loads of laundry at the end of the day it’s just worth doing in my opinion.

When Should I Wash My Jiu-Jitsu Gi?

Plan to wash your Gi immediately after each training session to avoid microbial buildup. If you can’t wash your gi immediately, wash it by the end of the day and try to get your gi hanging or exposed to the sun to prevent too much buildup.

Health Problems

Failing to wash your BJJ gi regularly can result in a series of health problems that are both uncomfortable and dangerous. Since bacteria can easily be spread through an unclean gi, continually exposing yourself to it can lead to bacterial and fungal skin issues like ringworm and Staph, but also to more tame issues such as minor rashes and acne.

If you are having issues with acne since starting BJJ check out my post Can BJJ Cause Acne? | Resolving Acne From BJJ to understand how it happens and what you can do to reduce acne from BJJ training.

Having Multiple Gis

If you train more than once a day and can’t wash and dry your gi between sessions you can instead purchase extra gis and alternate them. This allows you to have a clean one ready to train in so you aren’t reusing old ones or wearing a clean one that hasn’t yet dried.

Can You Use a Dryer or Do You Need To Hang Dry Your BJJ Gear

I always use a dryer on low heat, this arguably reduces the life of your BJJ gi, but this is not really provable and it has been worth it for me. I have had 3 gis in rotation for 4 years doing this and I’ve only had to retire one of them. You don’t have to hang dry your gear.

Do not put your rashguards and other spandex-type gear in the dryer on high heat because it definitely damages these items.

Also, note that on higher temperature settings the dryer you can easily shrink your gi and change the fit. So if your gi already fits well, you need to be cautious about shrinkage.

Don’t get impatient drying your gi and use direct heat sources like a radiator or blow dryer. This is the same as drying it on high heat and can cause shrinkage or damage the gi overall. Definitely don’t do this with no-gi rashguards made out of lycra or spandex type materials as these are even more sensitive to damage than a gi.

What Laundry Settings Should I Use When Washing My BJJ Gi?

Wash your BJJ gi and other BJJ gear alone in the washing machine, opting for a cold wash for delicates and tumble dry low heat cycles in the dryer. This will extend the life of your gear and prevent other clothing from absorbing odors from your jiu-jitsu gear.

I have recently switched to using Tide Sport (available on Amazon.com) and feel like it has made a huge difference in keeping my gear smelling fresh, far beyond what I would have expected.

Immediately after your training session, either wash and dry your gear if you can or start by airing out your gear to remove excess moisture, which will help control odors, especially if they are left directly in the sun.

If I know my gear isn’t getting washed I sometimes use a diluted solution of white distilled vinegar to control bacteria and fungi on my gear until I can get all my gear washed.

If your gi is pre-shrunk and has a terrible smell, you can wash and dry it on hot settings. If your gear smells so bad that you don’t want to wear it, then the risk of shrinkage and minor damages is irrelevant.

Whenever washing your gi, it’s a good idea to turn it inside out to prevent color from fading while protecting your patches, etc. I actually make sure that whenever I take off my gi I leave it inside so I don’t forget to do this step when I get home and start my laundry.

It seems silly to have to mention this, but if you’re having odor control issues, give it a sniff before you pop it into the dryer. Wash it more than once if you need to. Make absolutely sure your gear is dry before you head off to bed. You can hang it after the dryer cycle in a room with a fan going overnight to be sure.

Should I Wash My BJJ Belt?

Over the years, the tradition of not washing the BJJ belt has become somewhat of superstitious lore that indicated the vigorous training and the sweat a student-in-training endured, which is how the “black belt” title came to be.

However, failure to wash your belt (of any color) is highly unsanitary and can result in mat diseases and infections, just like not washing any of your other gear. Regardless of what your training peers have told you, you should clean your BJJ belt alongside your gi.

How Do I Remove Odors From My Gi?

There are a few ways that you can go about removing odors from your gi these methods have proven effective in the past:

  • Sun-treat Your Gi
  • Use a Baking Soda Soak
  • Use a White Vinegar Soak
  • Use Borax

Sun-treat Your Gi

Turn your gi inside out and air it out directly in the sun. Getting UV exposure through sunlight eliminates many of the odor-causing bacteria and also serves as a great way to get your gi thoroughly dry, which is extremely important to control odors.

Use a Baking Soda Soak

Baking soda has a lot of deodorizing properties that can address unpleasant odors in your gi. I like to create a paste of the powder with water and scrub it into my gi and let it soak for a few hours before washing it in the washing machine like normal.

You don’t need to grind the paste in with force, we are looking to just get penetration into the fabric, not remove the fibers themselves. It’s also possible to just mix a cup of baking soda into a gallon of water and leave it to soak overnight.

Use a White Vinegar Soak

White vinegar is a popular choice for deodorizing clothing and thoroughly cleaning any gi. It’s a natural and cheap solution to remove stains and odors that happens to be non-toxic and gentle on clothes. The anti-fungal properties also do double duty in getting rid of ringworm and other fungi you might run into on the mats.

Every couple of weeks I make sure that I dump a cup of vinegar directly into my washing machine before washing as a maintenance measure to keep my gear fresh.

Use Borax

Borax can also effectively remove unwanted smells from the fibers of your gi. It also does anti-fungal double duty which is also a plus for any BJJ athlete. I just add a tablespoon of Borax per gallon and let it soak if I need to use borax.

I don’t personally need to use borax all that often, but if you have issues with your gear smelling like ammonia because you got dehydrated or are on a low carb diet and doing intense BJJ exercise I think it definitely has its place since it is a basic compound with a pH around 9. This can neutralize some of the odors caused by that extra acidity.

How Do I Get My Gi White Again?

To get your gi white again, try soaking your gi in white vinegar, baking soda, OxiClean, or Borax before washing can do the trick. If your gi is so dingy that you can’t imagine using it again, you can risk using bleach treatments on any discolored areas, just realize the gi fabric will weaken.

Avoid bleach unless your gi is stained beyond all hope. Every time you bleach your gi you take a lot of time out of the life of the gi since it greatly degrades the fabric. When I used bleach on one of my favorite white gis I ended up having a hole in it within a couple of months after being used for several years.

How Do You Soften a Gi?

Generally speaking, your gi will soften with use. If you want to get the stiff feeling gone a bit sooner I’d recommend keeping it simple and just soaking it in vinegar for a few hours and washing and drying it on cold.

I don’t recommend using store-bought softeners or using detergents with softeners, since these chemicals can sometimes compromise the material.

If you’ve allowed your gi to air dry it is going to feel stiff unless you do something about it. You can air fluff it in the dryer and get rid of that starchy feeling pretty easily though, so I often do this after I sun-treat my gis.

How Do You Wash and Dry Rash Guards and Spats?

Rash Guards and spats should be washed and dried on low heat. Ideally, you would hang dry your rash guards and spats since any drying seems to wear them out quickly, but the benefits of running them through the dryer on tumble dry low heat can sometimes outweigh the damage.

Just like your gi, rash guards and spats accumulate odors through body oils, bacteria, fungi, and other microbial sources. If you run into stubborn odors on rash guards and spats, the treatments are largely the same.

Rashguards tend to have anti-microbial properties since they are made of a blend of polyester fabrics. They also dry much more easily than a gi, which makes them generally a little susceptible to getting too funky smelling if you wash them after training.

Whenever I need to remove smells from rash guards and spats, I recommend simply soaking them in a vinegar mixture and washing them normally. The other methods of deodorizing a gi also largely apply to this gear, but I personally haven’t needed to go beyond a simple vinegar soak to get rid of unwanted odors, unless I forget to unpack my gym bag after a weekend tournament or something similar.

Conclusion

Taking care of your gear properly will give your gear a long useful and mostly neutral-smelling life. There are ways to treat your gi and other gear after odors have been set, but in my experience, it is best to just keep your gear from having odors set in the first place.

If you wash your gear as close to finishing training as possible and ensure that your gear gets fully dry after washing it you will avoid this issue almost entirely. I also like adding some white vinegar to the washing machine periodically as I feel like the effort to reward ratio in keeping my gear fresh is really good.

It really is pretty simple to care for your gear, so just do this basic maintenance and don’t the stinky person on the mats!

For more check out What Should I Wear for No-Gi BJJ Class?

Andre

Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I have always been fascinated with martial arts and train them as often as I can. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and train judo and wrestling as secondary martial arts. I help to coach a kid's grappling program that blends all three martial arts. I hope that you find the value that you are looking for in the articles on this website.

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