Martial arts like Taekwondo, Karate, Aikido, Jiu-Jutsu and Judo use a uniform that is known as a Gi, which consists of a jacket, pants and a belt. Since there are different coloured belts, a Gi is usually sold with only the jacket and the pants, while the belt has to be purchased separately.
Training in martial arts is rigorous and thus, the Gi gets soiled with dirt, dust, odour, and sweat. Therefore, the Gi must be washed and following washing instructions enables the Gi to last a long time. Washing usually consists of three phases, which are pre-washing, washing and post-washing.
Pre-Washing the Gi
If there are any stains that are visible, then they should be removed prior to washing. Stains are of many types; however, generally the stains found on a Gi are dirt stains while practicing indoors, or grass and mud stains while practicing outdoors, or very rarely even blood stains. To remove such stains, an appropriate stain remover, or a laundry detergent may be used. Follow the instructions given on the stain remover or the laundry detergent, for how long to keep it on the stain. If the stain is stubborn, then try to brush with a little bit of more quantity of the stain remover or the laundry detergent on both sides of the fabric.
Turning the Gi inside out
Turn the Gi, so that the inside layer comes outside, and the outside layer comes inside. The benefit of turning the Gi inside out is that the stitching or any patches that are sewn on are protected, and it also helps in retention of the colour, so fading of the Gi is prevented.
To remove the stains completely, the Gi has to be soaked in water. All stains can be removed in cold water, depending upon the duration of soaking; nonetheless, dirt/ mud/ grass stains are quickly removed in warm water, and blood stains are quickly removed in cold water. As a rule of thumb, always use cold water as far as possible. Warm or hot water may shrink the Gi. Some Gi may have a rubber lining in the collar of the jacket to make it stiff, and warm water may cause the rubber to lose its stiffness, which in turn may disfigure the collar. Refer to the product label on the Gi, which should provide instructions regarding usage of cold or warm water.
Soaking may be done in a plastic bucket or sometimes even in a bathtub. Else, if the washing machine has a soak cycle, then it can be soaked in it also. Some washers may not have a soak cycle, and in these cases, the washer can be allowed to fill up with water and then it may be temporarily paused for some minutes, to allow soaking. Thereafter, the washer can be resumed to allow the normal wash cycle.
Washing the Gi
The Gi also contains sweat, which can give a bad odour. Generally, during the soaking process, the odour is removed. However, if the odour is strong, then an odour neutralizer like distilled white vinegar, or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), or a non-chlorine peroxide-based bleach may be added to the washing machine’s bleach dispenser. Note that a chlorine bleach should never be used. A chlorine bleach may fade the colour in a coloured Gi. If the Gi is white, then a chlorine bleach may cause yellowing in a cotton/polyester blend Gi, or it may remove the colour of any embroidered patch on the Gi.
Using cold water
Adjust the washing machine to wash the Gi on a handwash or a delicate wash cycle, using only cold water.
Using very little detergent
All detergent has to be rinsed out completely. If more detergent is used, then some detergent may not rinse out completely and if it sticks to the fabric of the Gi, then it may cause the growth of mold, which might cause skin problems.
Avoiding fabric softener
Generally, after the rinse cycle, a fabric softener is added, which may soften the fabric, but a residue may remain stuck on the fabric of the Gi. Due to the residue, the drying time of the Gi may be increased. Additionally, the residue may reduce the absorbency of the fabric, which may lead to moisture being trapped, and one may feel hot and sweaty while wearing the Gi.
Post-Washing the Gi
To avoid any wrinkles, the fabric of the Gi can be stretched and hung on a clothesline. Try to dry it in the early morning mild sunlight with the Gi hung inside out. The Gi should be checked at regular intervals, to ensure that it is not kept in the sun more than it is required, as excessive heat from the sun rays may fade the colour.
The Gi can also be air-dried indoors on a drying rack, or a drying cabinet, or an airing cupboard, or a mechanical dryer. In case of a mechanical dryer, try not to tumble dry the Gi, as the fabric will wear out quickly and tear easily, due to the tumbling action of the dryer. Air-drying is preferable rather than tumble-drying. The area where the Gi is dried should not be damp. Dampness may promote the growth of mildew on the Gi, which might lead to skin problems. To speed up the indoor drying process, a dehumidifier or an electric fan may be used. In case of a drying cabinet, the heat setting should be as low as possible. Periodically check the Gi, to ensure that all parts are being dried. If any part takes longer to dry then that part may be rotated towards the fan so that it dries faster.
Washing the belt
- It is interesting to note that traditionally belts were never washed. A beginner was given a white belt and over time, as progress was made, the white belt slowly turned to black due to the accumulation of dirt and sweat. When the belt turned to black, then the martial artist became a black belt. However, nowadays, there are many coloured belts to signify the progress made by a martial artist.
- Another reason for not washing belts is that some belts are not suitable for washing machines, as the edges may get frayed.
- Some belts have stripes to show the rank attained by the martial artist, and these stripes may be taped on the belt using sports tape. Hence, if the belt is washed, then the tapes have to be removed, and this generally prevents one from washing the belt. Nonetheless, the tapes can be removed and re-taped after washing. Better quality belts usually have stripes that are woven or embroidered, so washing is very easy.
- Usually, all belts can be hand washed.
- Remove stains by lightly scrubbing the area with water and a very mild detergent.
- Soak the Gi inside out, in cold water mixed with a very small quantity of mild detergent.
- Handwash the Gi on both sides, so no dirt, dust, or stains remain.
- Rinse the Gi thoroughly, so no detergent remains.
- Wring the Gi completely, so that it dries faster.
- Hold the collar of the jacket, or the waistline of the pants, and shake them vigorously. This will straighten the fabric to some extent, and also remove any residual water molecules.
- In the early morning sun, hang the Gi inside out, on a clothesline. When the Gi is placed on the clothesline, stretch the fabric so that it becomes more straight. If required, with the hand, smack and smoothen the fabric, so that it becomes free of wrinkles.
- After sometime, check the Gi and if required readjust the Gi on the clothesline, so that all areas become dry.
- By the time the sun becomes hot, the Gi should have already dried. If not, then do not let the Gi dry in the hot sun. Take the Gi indoors and air-dry it by placing it under an electric fan.
- When the Gi is dry, it should have no wrinkles. Try to avoid ironing the Gi daily, since over time, ironing usually damages the yarn of the fabric. For grading or competitions, the Gi should be ironed.
- Along with the Gi, the belt should also be hand washed, as an unwashed belt may promote the growth of bacteria and germs. Washing the belt should follow the same procedure as washing the Gi.
- After every training session, shorts, rashguards, spats, Gi, belt, or any other clothing that is worn during the session should be washed.
- Sincere martial artists usually keep two sets of every clothing, so that while one set is washed, the other set is ready for the training session.
- “Laundry Basics”. webpage. American Cleaning Institute. Available at: https://www.cleaninginstitute.org/cleaning-tips/clothes/laundry-basics [Accessed on 16 July 2022]
- “Stain Removal 101: Soaking a Stained Item”. webpage. Mama’s Laundry Talk. Available at: https://www.mamaslaundrytalk.com/stain-removal-101-soaking-a-stained-item/ [Accessed on 16 July 2022]
- “Understanding Water Temperature”. webpage. The Laundress. Available at: https://www.thelaundress.com/blogs/clean-talk-blog/understanding-water-temperature [Accessed on 16 July 2022]
- “How to remove mildew smell from laundry”. webpage. Tidy Mom. Available at: https://tidymom.net/remove-mildew-smell/ [Accessed on 16 July 2022]