Over the years I’ve used and abused all sorts of martial arts training gear. I’ve wondered why the velcro on my hand wraps or fight shorts won’t stick anymore. Or how my rash guard started unravelling. I’ve also accidentally dyed a gi pink before. I’ve done a lot of dumb things when it comes to maintaining my stuff, but with age usually comes experience and wisdom. Also, there is obviously a hygienic aspect to gear maintenance; you don’t want your stuff to stank, and you don’t want to run the risk of gross skin infections like ringworm. No one wants to roll with a gross smelling bacteria infested partner (unless you roll at a gross gym where everyone is a Garbage Pail Kid or a hippy or something). So without further ado, I will now share with you the benefit of my experience so that you can get the most out of your martial arts gear.
All About Gis
The gi is the traditional garment for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Karate and many other martial arts. Since gripping opponents by the gi is an integral part of grappling arts like BJJ and Judo, you will find the gis for these disciplines are built to be thicker and sturdier than gis built or Karate or other striking styles. Generally speaking, they are made of cotton or sometimes a cotton blend, so they will shrink if you wash them in hot water or machine dry them on high heat. The best way to wash a gi is to machine wash it in cold water and hang it to dry.
The exception to this is when you get a brand new gi, you may need to shrink it to fit you better. Most of my gis required a few hot washes and high heat dryings before fitting nicely. On this note, if you are buying a gi and one size is a little too big and the next size down is a little too small, the common wisdom here is to opt for a size that’s a little bit too big instead of a little too small. You can always shrink something that’s a little too big, but you can’t really do much if it’s too small. When shrinking your gi, don’t over do it. Once it fits just right, establish the habit of only washing it in cold water and hang drying it.
Since your gi will be soaked in not just your sweat, but also the sweat of your gym mates, you will want to be sure to wash it right away, instead of letting it sit for several days. I would also recommend obtaining a separate laundry hamper just for your gym clothes. Since I go to the gym just about every day of the week, and do both gi and no gi Jiu Jitsu, my gym-specific hamper fills up fast. I am doing gym-related laundry every two days, because a) your gross, sweaty gym clothes shouldn’t sit for longer than that and b) I put in enough hours that I kinda have to. I include my post-workout clothes in that hamper as well.
One other pitfall I’ve come across while washing gis, is the drawstring will often get caught in the washer spindle, and it’s generally a pain in the ass to untangle. The drawstring can also get pulled out altogether, and it’s tedious to thread it back in through the waist band, but being that most gis have really long drawstrings, the second scenario is less likely. But to avoid either from happening, I usually tie up the drawstring and double or triple knot it to control its length and keep it from getting unraveled in the washer. I also do this with other clothing items that have drawstrings, such as fight shorts, board shorts, joggers or hoodies, since the drawstrings can easily get pulled out during the wash, and I don’t care for the long process of threading it back in.
Bonus tip: if you have a white gi, and you’re worried about colors bleeding onto it if you wash it with other gym gear, I’ve found that most OxiClean products are helpful in this area, such as this one or that one.
No Gi Gear
Compression shirts and pants, respectively referred to as rash guards and spats, are generally made of spandex/polyester blends. They are designed to be moisture wicking and unlike your gi, will not shrink. You can dry them in the dryer, however, it is recommended to do so on low heat, since high heat can cause your polyester-based compression gear to permanently wrinkle. Easy thing here is if you’re like me, and do both gi and no gi styles, go ahead and wash your gi and no gi gear together in cold water, but obviously dry them separately.
One thing to be aware of is that velcro can damage your compression gear. Fight shorts and Boxing hand wraps typically have velcro on them, so be careful when you put these items in the hamper or in the wash with your rash guards and spats. You can purchase small and medium size mesh laundry bags that you can put your velcroed items in. This way you can wash your shorts and hand wraps with your compression gear without ruining anything. In regards to your fight shorts and handwraps, anything that has velcro should be hang-dried, just like the gis. Heat from the dryer will melt the small fibers of the velcro and render it useless over time.
There are some companies that make velcro-less fight shorts, which can generally be dried on low heat with your compression gear. But the majority of fight shorts should be separated into mesh bags for laundry time. This makes separating it out of the wash for hang drying easier. Also, if you use Boxing hand wraps, those have a tendency to get knotted up around the washer spindle or entangled in other laundry. So washing hand wraps in mesh laundry bags prevents them from getting tangled up in other laundry, in addition to keeping that velcro isolated from your rash guards and spats.
As I mentioned in the previous section about gis, your fight shorts most likely have drawstrings, so tie up and double knot the drawstrings before washing. This will prevent them coming out during the wash, and save you from the tedious process of having to rethread your drawstrings into your waistband. Again, I do this with any clothing item that has a drawstring; hoodies, joggers, shorts, etc.
Striking & MMA Gear
When it comes to shin pads and gloves, it’s pretty easy. There’s no special laundry rules because you shouldn’t put that shit in the laundry anyway. Duh. This stuff is usually made of leather or imitation leather. I generally spray my gloves and shin pads with either a disinfectant spray such as Lysol, or I use a spray bottle filled with a mix of isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and filtered water. If your striking gear is actual leather, then maybe skip the isopropyl alcohol, as it can dry out your leather. But if it’s fake leather, it doesn’t matter as much. You can also use a leather moisturizer after spraying your leather gear down with isopropyl, although this wreaks of extra effort. Easier to just use Lysol or hydrogen peroxide. After spraying it with disinfectant and wiping it down, set your gear in a spot where it can air out.
The insides of the gloves will be the hardest part to clean. I usually just set my spray bottle to a narrower spray, stick the nozzle all up in there the same way a dog likes to stick its snout in someone’s butthole, and spray. I try to leave the gloves as open as I can so they can air out. A better way though, is you can buy boxing glove deodorizers like this one here or this one. If for some reason you don’t like deodorizers or spraying and airing out the interior of your gloves, you can always use baking soda. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer, just put it in there when the glove is dry so it doesn’t cake up in there and get crusty.
We addressed handwraps in the previous section about no gi gear, due to my cautionary advice about the interaction of velcro and polyester/spandex based clothing. So you already know that I recommend getting the laundry mesh bags to wash your hand wraps to avoid it getting tangled in the laundry, and hang drying them so as to preserve the integrity of your velcro. However, once they are done drying, you will want to roll them up and store them. I recommend getting a hand wrap roller like this one here or maybe even this one. They come mounted and not-mounted. I prefer the free-handed not-at-all-mounted option so I can wind all my hand wraps on the couch while I watch videos about martial arts or cats acting like assholes.
Bonus; Mouth Guard: Easily your most disgusting piece of gear. Pretty simple though. You can clean your mouth guard and your mouth guard case/carrier with hydrogen peroxide, or with unscented antibacterial hand soap and water. Not really a whole lot of big brain trickery needed here to make it work.
Other Bonus; Gym Bag: Spray out your fucking gym bag. A disinfectant spray such as Lysol or the isopropyl/hydrogen peroxide blend mentioned earlier will suffice. But yeah, spray the interior of the bag and air it out and your stuff will be less gross.
As usual, I hope you found this article to be informative or at least mildly entertaining. Train well my friends, and remember to breathe.