So, you bought a gi. You think you can just wear, use, wash, repeat like it’s a t-shirt? Oh no my friend, a gi is an investment, and I’m about to lay down everything I know about protecting that investment. There are a few assumptions here. First, every manufacturer is different. Some pre-wash the gi better than others. Some have explicit care instructions because they have a patterned silk lining because you need to look like a complete
fucking asshat gangster when you roll.
- Step 1 is always to talk to the manufacturer to get the information about the care of the gi because of the variations in treatment, dye, and material. I don’t care where you bought it, get your info from the source.
- When I first got a gi I was told that traditionally you should let it soak in rain water for two full days before you wash it. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but I will say that based on my personal experimentation and experience letting any gi soak in cold water for a day or so is a great step when you first get it. I’ve had gi’s where some dye (or other chemicals?) comes out this way. I use a bathtub. It’s not pure rainwater, but the tap water where I’m from is super clean. As the story goes, skipping this step means the fabric will soak up all of the oil and gunk on your skin which isn’t good for the material or the dye.
- Color lock it. The next step after letting it soak is going to be to wash it, but we’re also going to add some vinegar to the mix. You don’t need a lot. I used a half-cup to wash two new gi’s the last time I did it. Again, Fushida said it wasn’t necessary, but the difference has been inarguable. If the gi is just white (no dye, patches, etc.) you can skip this, but almost no BJJ gi meets those qualifications. You can also skip it if you’re trying to get the color to fade faster, but then why did you buy a colored gi?
- Try it on, then wash it again. This time you’re going to be playing with the temperature and potentially the dryer to shrink the gi to your frame. How much a gi will shrink varies wildly by manufacturer from like 3 inches on each sleeve (I’m looking at you HSU…) to virtually none (Killer Bee). Since you already have this information from the manufacturer follow their instructions so you don’t end up with a gi that’s too small. Just remember, too big can be fixed later, too small is permanent.
- Roll. You now have a gi that fits, won’t fade (as fast), and is clean. Go train some, you’ve earned it.
- Wash your gi. You know that guy who washes his gi once a week and smells like crotch all the time? Don’t be that guy – hang your gi out between practice and washing it to get some of that stank out, and then wash it inside out when you get the chance. If at all possible, turn it inside out and give it a rinse right after class then toss it in the washer right away. Washing it inside out helps prevent the really bad yellow stains you’ll get on a white gi from being a sweaty guy. To prevent shriking (since you already did that), you can keep washing the gi on cold and air drying it.
So, short synopsis – soak, color-lock, shrink, wear, wash, wear, wash, wear, wash… Just don’t be that guy who doesn’t wash between wears.