How do you keep your gi looking and smelling as good as new?
From its crisp, clean appearance to that satisfying “snap,” there’s something special about a brand new uniform – or one that still seems brand new. Not only does a well-maintained karate gi demonstrate your respect for the martial art, it can also make you look and feel like you’re at the top of your game in training and at tournaments. All of that practice and competition can be tough on a uniform, though. Regular use can leave them sweat-soaked, rumpled, and sometimes even stained as a result of your hard work.
So how do we keep our karate uniforms looking (and smelling) as good as they make us feel? It’s a little like keeping ourselves in shape on the mats: it just takes diligence and a regular routine. Here are some tips for keeping your gi as fresh and clean as possible for as long as possible.
1. Don’t leave it in your gear bag.
There’s probably nothing more that you want to do than refuel and rest after you’ve come home from an intense training session, but that little bit of extra energy and time that it takes to pull your gi out of your bag and air it out can significantly increase the life of your karate uniform – not to mention the bag you’re storing it in. Odor can build up quickly when sweaty gear is left in a sealed environment for too long!
2. Check for any stains or tears.
To keep your karate uniform in perfect shape, it’s useful to give it a quick go-over before you move on to the next step. If you see any spots that might stain, lightly scrub the area with small amount of a stain-removing detergent can (be sure to test on a piece of fabric that’s less visible first to make sure that it doesn’t alter the color of your gi). Take note of any rips that might require mending later and address them as needed.
3. Wash after each use.
Once it’s out of the bag, get that gi into the wash ASAP! Bacteria builds up in the fabric of your karate uniform while you’re sweating during training, and the sooner you can wash it away, the better chance you’ll have of keeping your gi smelling nice for you – and for your training partners.
4. Do not bleach your karate uniform!
It might seem like a good way to keep a white gi as bright as possible, but bleaching can wash out the color of any patches that might be on it, and can even do more harm than good to white fabric. If your gi is a cotton and polyester blend, it could end up looking more yellow than white. If you have a 100% cotton uniform, bleaching will break down the fabric much faster than regular wear and tear would.
5. Use a cold water wash.
Skipping the hot water will prevent your karate uniform from shrinking and fading. As an added bonus, using the cold water cycle on a washing machine is also better for the environment.
6. Hang to dry.
It might be the most convenient option, but putting your karate uniform in the dryer will cause more problems than it solves. The heat from the dryer can cause shrinkage in your gi – and it can set any stains that you might have missed during the spot check. So take your top and pants out of the washing machine as soon as possible (this will help prevent wrinkling), give everything a quick tug to snap them into shape, and hang them up. Drying your uniform outside also comes with the added benefit of keeping your whites white, thanks to the sun’s ultra-violet rays.
7. The finishing touches.
Fast removal from the dryer and some shaping before hanging should be enough to take care of any wrinkles in your karate uniform. But if it’s not looking as crisp as you’d like, you can also iron your gi for maximum results. Make sure it’s on the right setting (most irons should have a specific one for cotton), place your pants flat on an ironing board so that the crease will appear on the seams and not up the middle, and go. Then set up your top the way you’d iron a shirt – you want the creases on the side of the sleeves – and repeat.
Once you’re entirely wrinkle-free, carefully fold your karate gi so that it’s ready to go for your next session – looking and smelling just as good as the day you got it!