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.
When your gi is completely dry, fold it neatly instead of ironing it.
From the Blog of Jesse Enkamp