How To Wash Your Karate Gi

Your Karate gi is like a car.

It requires appropriate care to function properly.

Neglect it for too long and it deteriorates beyond recognition!

To help your gi maintain maximum quality and longevity, follow these 6 points:

1. Wash After Each Use

If you train like you’re supposed to (= producing tons of sweat), you should ideally wash your gi after every class.

This gets bacteria out of the cotton, preventing your gi from smelling and rotting.

This is actually not just for personal hygiene reasons, or for the benefit of your co-trainers, but for making your gi last longer!

A Karate gi should ideally never be worn two sessions in a row without having been washed – unless you haven’t been sweating.

If that’s not a possibility, try to keep two or more gi to switch between sessions.

In fact, it is not unusual for advanced Karate-ka to have several gi: one for sparring, one for regular training, one for kata tournaments and one gi for grappling or bunkai.

Or just get The Seishin Gi, which handles all those scenarios brilliantly.

2. Wash Pronto

Never allow your Karate gi to stand before being washed.

As soon as you return home from practice, the gi must go straight into the washing machine, or else it will soon smell in a way that few detergents can remedy.

Allowing sweat and dirt to dry on the cloth overnight more or less guarantees that your gi will not come perfectly clean when you finally wash it – and you don’t want that. Therefore, make sure you wash your uniform as soon as possible after class.

On that note, cold water is preferred.

But if cold water is not possible, use the lowest temperature setting.

Not only does this minimize shrinkage but it also minimizes damage to the material.

3. Don’t Frickin’ Bleach

Using chlorine bleach on your uniform will get it clean and white.

But bleach is a strong base – which means it will damage the material in the long run, eventually causing the stitching to come apart.

However, occasionally your Karate gi will need some bleach, perhaps after an outdoor summer camp. In that case, simply put some bleach into the wash with it, a long as you know it shouldn’t be done every day.

While we’re on the subject, fabric conditioner (fabric softener) should also be avoided.

Not only does a softener block the pores of the cotton material, thereby locking in dirt and sweat, but it also contributes to damaging the sensitive fibers of your gi.

In other words, try to avoid using softener and/or bleach altogether.

Natural is best.

4. Avoid Mechanical Dryers

For maximum last, your Karate uniform should dry on the line instead of in a mechanical dryer.

A mechanical dryer shrinks the gi and also damages it, making it gradually become stiffer, tighter and more likely to rip.

However, if you really must use a dryer, make sure you use a big commercial dryer (not a home washer/dryer combination) and set it to the most delicate setting.

Personally, I use a drying cabinet.

5. Hang Dry ASAP

When the wash cycle is completed, promptly remove your gi from the machine and hang it to dry it as soon as possible.

Every minute your gi spends in the washing machine is another minute for it to get wrinkly.

Make sure you also stretch the gi, and then slap it around like a crazy monkey.

I haven’t ironed my Seishin gi in 3 years for this reason. No need!

6. Fold When Dry

When your gi has finished drying, it’s usually still a little wrinkly.

It is indeed possible to iron your Karate gi, but it’s definitely not necessary for regular use.

(Like I said, I NEVER iron my gi. And it always looks sharp!)

Considering how your uniform will look after 15 minutes of serious training anyway, unless you are about to wear it to a competition or grading, there is no need to iron your gi daily.

In my experience, most wrinkles will disappear by themselves as soon as you start training, due to body heat.

Lastly…

When your gi is completely dry, fold it neatly instead of ironing it.

Good luck!

PS. Enter this free giveaway to win a new Seishin gi!

25 Comments

  • Madhurjya Burhagohain
    AGAIN A GOOD ONE !!!!!
  • Matt Kulma
    What do you do to get sweat stains out of the arm pits of your uniform?
    • Jeff Gibson
      I have yet to find anything that works. That's why I wear black uniforms.
      • Bruno
        Are you the bad guy in karate kid? lol
    • Wash regularly and avoid deodorant with fat in it.
    • Joseph Plane
      If you sweat a lot like me no amount of washing on a cool setting (30-40 deg C) will get rid of the unsightly yellow sweat stains that accumulate over time (eg under the arms & back of gi). The best tip I had from my sensei was to wash the gi on the hottest cotton wash (60-90 degC) and to add some "Vanish Gold – for whiter whites & stain removal – follow the instructions" + add a little bleach to the wash. You should only do this with old gi that have already pre-shrunk after many washes (so say after a year or so of washing) – once the gi have already shrunk they shouldn’t shrink further. You could do this extreme wash occasionally ie every few months or when the gi gets yellow again, but not as a regular wash as the bleach will damage the gi over time as Jesse says. The first time you wash your yellow old gi you will notice a dramatic change back to something white & much less gross to be seen in! Personally I always iron my gi, it looks better and feels good, although it is a pain, especially ironing the heavyweight kata gi! Note: this applies to cotton gi only (not polyester etc.) and to gi that have already been washed for some time i.e. a year or so to avoid shrinkage.
  • Hi I'm gojyu ryu black belt student from India I'like ur articles recently yesterday I;found ur site ur the best... I'hav the question today while doing khake uke...or any othrt techniques My senpai and sensei tells me ur actions are rigid u put so much strength on techniques ...actions should be in flow ,My question is How I'search for ur articles but not found r u have any articles regarding that how techniques should have flow ; or different in flow and rigid I;m not bodybilder but slim therefore I'think rigidd is important ..,and ur awesome ! and ur post!
    • Arjun Shetty
      Jesse has posted a article on 3 important point on KIME, i think it should answer your question.
  • talprofs
    @Jesse-san A very helpful article on hhow towash and care for a karate dogi. I particularly like your 'crazy monkey' method for removing creases and stretching the dogi back into shape. I hardly ever iron my dogi (unless I am either taking an exam or attending a course), and once I have warmed-up, my dogi is just as 'pressed' as that of a class-mate who religiously irons their dogi before every class!
    • Great! You're doing it just like me buddy! :-)
  • Charles James
    On the dryer, use a mechanical dryer is my recommendation BUT (don't you just like those but's) run it for just five minutes. Give minutes helps remove wrinkles and then hanging it out in fresh air to hand dry really makes the difference. Nice article.
  • Charles James
    Ok, Give was meant to be Five; an fresh air to hand should have been "Hang dry," geez these keyboards are really tricky.
    • Gotcha! Thanks for chiming in Charles-san! :-)
  • Very valuable post you have in here. I didn’t know softener and bleach is that bad for your gi.
    • Thanks! :-) It's never too late to learn something new!
      • Yes ....jesse sensei can u tell me and write some onow to do actions like Flow of water My sensei tells I;m doing rigid actions ...although i;m normal 18 year medium sized guy black belt Goju ryu India ! thanks!
  • John Richfort
    Good one Jesse San. But do you think washing your obi is also necessary?? It too is a part of your uniform!
  • Angelo
    Having multiple gis is definitely the way to go for me (I have 4 of them) since I can't always put them in the machine right away.
  • LuisAngel
    Good info on GI caring, also wanted to say for those yellowed arm pit gi, just put some resolve spray detergent and soak the gi in water overnight then wash as usual. It works wonders!!!!
  • Justin Seriña
    Jesse-san, how about if I wan't my gi to shrink? I recently got a gi from a friend, but it's a tad big. The pants are perfectly fine and the sleeves reach my wrists perfectly, but the jacket doesn't quite wrap around my body that well. It fits well and at the same time it doesn't because of that, if that even makes sense.A friend suggested that I put the jacket in the dryer for quite some time to allow it to shrink. Any suggestions?and as always, thank you for your very helpful articles!
  • Jody
    Once a year we do class on the beach, will the combination of sand and water mess up my white gi?
  • Joe the Penguin
    Quite a while ago, I put my purple belt in the wash with my gi. My gi ended up turning purple. Is it just the type of belt I had or was it the wash?
    • Jeff Gibson
      Not supposed to wash your belt. Ever
  • Lucinda
    Another great article! I love all your posts, they are very valuable lessons. Thanks for writing an article on this, I used to not wash mine enough, but now I know how to properly care for my gi.

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