As any experienced practitioner could tell you, buying a gi is an investment into the martial art of jiu jitsu. It’s a uniform, a tradition, a protective layer, a tool to submit and defend against your opponents, and often a sizeable purchase. But whether you spent $40 or $400 on a gi, you’ll always want it to last for as long as possible.
Of course – like nearly any other piece of clothing – a gi will only last you so long before it begins to fray and tear beyond repair, but there’s no reason that a solid kimono can’t last for at least a few years of regular usage before it gets put out to pasture. For that matter, a strong gi can even last for close to a decade if treated correctly (along with a little training knowledge and a bit of luck). Regardless of how much you spent or how long you’ve been training, our gi care guide will help you get the most out of your purchase.
One of the best ways to ensure your gi lasts for a long time is just to buy a high-quality heavier gi. The basic principle of life that lighter and thinner fabric is more likely to tear than its thicker counterparts applies to gis as well, and although a heavy gi may be hotter and tougher for some to train and compete in, it’ll almost definitely last longer than a lighter one of equal quality. It’s also worth remembering that most kimonos are heavier and more durable than the pants that come with them, so you may be looking at purchasing another set of pants long before your heaviest kimonos begin to tear.
Although price isn’t necessarily an indication of the gi’s durability and construction, going with an established brand is almost always a safer investment than getting a cheaper knockoff. Check out our Gi Buyers Guide for more information on gi brands and choosing the right weight gi for your needs.
Although using a laundry machine may be pretty straightforward for most of your wardrobe, there are a few things to keep in mind when washing a Brazilian jiu jitsu gi. The first important note actually occurs before you even load the washer, as you always want to allow your gi time to hang dry after training. Washing your gi while it’s still drenched in sweat is a good way to give it a permanently funky smell (more on that later), but allowing it to dry for several hours or overnight can largely help prevent that.
It’s also best to wash your gi in cold water to avoid shrinkage (also discussed later), and many people find that adding a splash of white vinegar to each load will help in numerous ways with cleaning both your gi and the rest of your workout clothes. In addition, you certainly don’t need to buy specific detergent for a gi, but using something with powerful stain and smell removers is always a good move.
Unless you’re (very carefully) trying to shrink your gi, it’s best to avoid using a dryer on them. Although your gi may say it’s “pre-shrunk,” you may find that throwing it in the dryer still has a tendency to shrink and/or warp your brand new gi. Simply hang dry your gi, and you should find that it’s ready to wear again in about 20-30 hours depending on the climate you live in and where you’re hanging it. If you’re very concerned about shrinkage, it’s also worth keeping your wet gi away from radiators, heaters, and any other artificial heat source. To check if a gi is dry, simply feel or squeeze the collar (or another extra thick part) for any dampness.
It’s generally not recommended to attempt to shrink a gi down to your size, but sometimes it must be done. If that’s the case, begin by washing your gi in warm (or hot, if you need a lot of shrinkage) water and throwing it in the dryer on the lowest possible setting. Once it’s done with the lightest dryer cycle, try it on. If it’s still a little too big, go ahead and let it finish hang drying since it’ll shrink a little more from that anyway.
In the event that your gi is still way too large after washing it on warm or hot (perhaps because you ordered the wrong size), put it in the dryer on a medium or high setting for about 5 minutes at a time until it’s only a little too big and then hang dry it. You may want to begin this last process at only 3 or 4 minutes in the dryer, as it’s better to play it safe and have your gi a little too big than leave it in too long and not be able to fit in it.
If you’re not careful, your gi can fall victim to the painful death of perma-stink long before it will ever get worn out, but – assuming you’ve followed this guide up to this point – you’re probably safe from that unfortunate fate. The biggest defender against having a permanently smelly gi is giving it time to dry fully both before and after washing or training in it. Don’t wash a gi before the sweat and other fluids acquired during training are completely dry, and don’t train in a gi until it’s had plenty of time to hang dry after being washed.
In the event that fresh air drying isn’t enough to prevent your gi from getting funky (or if you just want to keep it extra fresh), adding a splash of white vinegar to your laundry can add an extra level of scent protection. If you accidentally left a gi in your gym bag or something equally stench-inducing, soaking a gi in a mixture of water and white vinegar overnight can often help to freshen up even the smelliest gi. Allowing a gi to dry in direct sunlight is also said to help battle against smelliness, but it can also cause discoloration on a darker color gi and possibly weaken the fabric a bit. Powerful smell-removing detergents and sprays can obviously help as well.
After enough time on the mats, you’ll notice that your white gi may start to turn gray or pick up bits of other color. The easiest way to prevent this is simply by wearing a black or blue gi, but there are ways to keep a gi whiter for those who prefer wearing them. Once again, adding a little white vinegar to your laundry can be an extremely useful and easy way of keeping your gi true to its color, as is color-guarding or stain-removing detergent.
For a slightly more drastic approach, adding some hydrogen peroxide to a load of laundry can make a white gi sparkle like it’s brand new, and applying it directly to a gi can get rid of blood spots and many other harsh stains. Although controversial due to the wear and tear they can put on the materials of a gi, using a little bit of bleach when washing and/or allowing a gi to dry in direct sunlight can both be effective ways of keeping a white gi looking cleaner.
Like just about anything else, the ultimate cause of gi aging and deterioration is repeated use. If you’re training every day, you’ll probably want at least a few gis to make sure that you’re not putting too much strain on your first one (and the washing machine). Purchasing two cheap gis is often a better investment than a single expensive one to begin your jiu jitsu journey because it means you’ll be able to rotate them and care for them by doing things like allowing each to properly dry before and after each washing or training session.
Eventually, every gi will reach a point where it’s no longer wearable, but being smart with how you care for them and use them will keep every gi in your closet around for a lot longer. With a good rotation and maintenance plan outside of the academy, you won’t have to worry about your gi when you’re on the mat.
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