How I Managed to Exorcise The Stink From My Favorite BJJ Gi

Man alive, I was just at a fantastic seminar taught by Jon Ouano when that all too familiar, pernicious stink rose up from my favorite gi like some unkempt specter. Most of us are aware of some iteration of this particular funk: For me it’s usually some cross between Jon Jone’s urine sample and decades-old cream cheese. Anyway, it was damn embarrassing. I mean the mats were chock full of folks from all over Los Angeles. I couldn’t wait to return home to either punish my gi in some rapturous bonfire fit for a heathen or donate it to the Ed and Lorraine Warren foundation to reside among other cursed objects.

Let me begin by stating that I’m quite vain, particularly when it comes to odor. My gal knows this. So do my friends. Alongside deodorant and mouthwash, I often spritz a spray or two of Aventus before showing up to train (or, perhaps, some Bleu de Chanel if I’m feeling less regal. Creed is damn expensive after all and there are only so many organs one can harvest). My point is I’m quite self-conscious about my own body odor and take judicious steps to avoid smelling like hot garbage mid-roll. I also try to set an example to newbs (and even a few higher belts) who often make the poor assumption that bad hygiene increases one’s grit and toughness.

Stinky gis, however, are often hard to remedy once the mold or bacteria settles in. And if you’re trying to save your gis by just deodorizing them with heavily scented detergents or Civil Rights era amounts of Febreze, you’re going about it all wrong. The culprit is some kind of mold and/or dormant bacteria that resurrect like You-Know-Who when in contact with sweat or any kind of moisture (including tears of defeat :-/) no matter how many times you wash your gi.

In a recent interview with Esquire, Jolie Kerr, an apparent expert on cleanliness and OCD (depending on whom you ask), offered some best practices* for cleaning gym clothes that are more than applicable to gis:

  • If you can’t wash your gi immediately after training at least let it air dry. Don’t let it fester in some sweaty ball inside your hamper. Otherwise you’re going to end up being a certified funk roll master and not the good kind.
  • Here’s a real kicker: Don’t use too much detergent! Bacteria feed off soapy residue left on clothes. Less is more when it comes to laundry detergent and texting someone you just met. I don’t care how well that first date went.
  • Wash your gis inside out.
  • Definitely add a cup or more of white vinegar to your wash. I often add a lot more and let my gis soak for an hour or two.
  • Don’t use fabric softener. It creates a barrier that disallows detergent from penetrating the fabric. Fabric softener is not, however, a suitable prophylactic.
  • If possible, dry your gis in direct sunlight. UV rays can help kill stinky bacteria though it’s not the panacea that many think it is as Dr. Philip Tierno, an NYU professor of microbiology, explains here.

All that said, what worked best for me was letting my rancid gi soak in a half full bathtub with more than half a gallon of vinegar for almost an entire day. It turns out vinegar is like holy water to stinky gis. I then washed it in the machine and let it air dry in the sun. Perhaps it was overkill, but the stank demon was banished…for now.

I hope that helps some. If you have any more tips feel free to chime in.

* Side Note: I hate the term best practices. It reminds me of a former editor who would constantly prattle on about best practices between tirades and hot flashes. Meanwhile, she kept asking me out and wouldn’t take no for answer. Worse, her breath smelled like stale Persian food and Hot Cheetos. Not fun. Unless that’s your fetish in which case I can try to play matchmaker. Godspeed, my friend.

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