How to Wash a Karate Uniform or Martial Arts Gi

Karate uniform shirt and belt handing on wooden shelf

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 20 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 10 - 12 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0

Students of karate, tae kwon do, and other disciplines wear a gi or a special uniform as a symbol of their martial art. It is not too difficult to keep it clean and stain-free if you pre-treat stains immediately and wash them after each use with a heavy-duty detergent using warm water in a normal wash cycle. Do not machine dry; only use oxygen bleach if you need to brighten the whites. Here are detailed instructions for how to wash and care for martial arts uniforms of all kinds.


Do not use chlorine bleach. Many uniforms are made of polyester or cotton-polyester blend fabrics that can get damaged by chlorine bleach. White polyester fibers have a yellow inner core. Chlorine bleach reacts with the fiber and strips away the outer layer, permanently yellowing and dulling the material. Even if the fabric is 100% cotton, bleach also weakens those fibers, causing excess wear. Also, chlorine bleach removes the color from uniform patches. To brighten whites, use an oxygen-based bleach.

How to Wash Karate Uniform or Martial Arts Gi
Detergent Heavy-duty
Water Temperature Warm
Cycle Type Normal
Drying Cycle Air-dry only
Special Treatments Wash alone, whiten with oxygen bleach, do not use chlorine bleach
Iron Settings 400 degrees Fahrenheit for cotton
How Often to Wash After each use

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washing machine or large sink
  • Clothesline or drying rack
  • Iron
  • Ironing board


  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • Oxygen-based bleach
  • Water conditioner (optional)


Materials and tools to clean a karate uniform on a white surface

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

How to Wash a Karate Uniform or Martial Arts Gi

  1. Presoak Uniforms

    Presoaking is essential for getting your uniform clean and keeping it white. After each wearing, fill a large sink or bucket with warm, not hot, water. Add two tablespoons of heavy-duty laundry detergent (Tide and Persil are considered heavy-duty, with enough enzymes to break apart stain and odor molecules) and 1 cup of baking soda to neutralize odor. Then soak the uniform for at least one hour or, even better, overnight.

    Karate uniforms soaked in large white bowl with heavy-duty laundry detergent and baking soda

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  2. Select the Washer Temperature and Detergent

    After the uniform has been presoaked, fill the washer with warm water and detergent, and launder as usual. Hot water may cause excessive shrinking. Do not add fabric softener, as this may reduce the uniform's ability to absorb sweat.

    Washer set to warm setting

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  3. Wash the Uniform Alone

    Do not wash the uniform with other items besides additional karate uniforms; this prevents dye transfer and wear and tear from buttons, zippers, or other embellishments.


    Never wash a colored belt with your white uniform. Belts should be hand-washed using a gentle detergent and allowed to air-dry.

    Karate uniform hanging off edge of open washing machine

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  4. Whiten Dingy Uniforms

    To whiten yellowed or dingy uniforms, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (such as OxiClean, Clorox 2, and Country Save Bleach) and cool water, following the package directions. Completely submerge the uniform, and allow it to soak for at least eight hours.

    Check for any stains. Wash as usual if the stains are gone and the material looks whiter and brighter. If the problem remains, mix a new solution, and repeat the process. Be patient: It may take several soakings to remove the stains and restore whiteness, but it should work.

    Karate belt soaking in small white bowl with oxygen-based bleach for whitening

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  5. Air-Dry

    Never put a martial arts uniform in the dryer. Hang the uniform to air-dry. High heat causes shrinking and sets in stains. Sunlight can help keep cotton uniforms white due to the bleaching effect of ultraviolet rays.

    If you must use the uniform immediately, tumble dry on low heat with a couple of white terry cloth towels to absorb moisture more quickly.

    Karate pants and belt hanging on white wired rack for air drying

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

What Is Karate Uniform or Martial Arts Gi Material?

Most martial arts uniforms are made from 100 percent cotton or a cotton-polyester blend. They typically come in three weights: lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight. Lightweight uniforms are often called "student weight." Lightweight is usually appropriate for a child as they move through classes and outgrow uniforms. The uniforms are made of a thin layer of fabric doubled over and reinforced at the seams. They are also likely to be made of polyester or a cotton-polyester blend to cut costs. Middleweight uniforms are just a bit thicker, more like a heavy T-shirt, but are not durable for a serious or advanced student.

A heavyweight uniform, called "instructor weight," is usually made of 100% cotton. It often feels like canvas or denim before a few washes soften the fabric. The fabric is doubled over and reinforced like lightweight uniforms. Some uniforms include fabric pads in high-use areas like the knees and elbows. Heavyweight uniforms are durable, often lasting up to 10 years of active use if laundered properly.

Treating Stains on a Karate Uniform or Martial Arts Gi

Most martial arts are practiced indoors, so excessive soil is unusual. In case of a blood stain, use cold water. Hot water only sets blood stains and makes them nearly impossible to remove. If the above presoaking techniques don't take care of the stains, inspect the uniform before you put it into the wash, and treat any remaining stains with pretreatment or by rubbing in a bit of extra detergent.

Care and Repair

If your uniform rips, it can be challenging to repair, depending on the size and location of the tear. For a small hole, it can often be hand-stitched along the edges from the inside of the garment. If the rip is large and in more than one direction, you probably need a tailor to repair it, or it's time to replace the item.


If your uniform is 100 percent cotton, it will be heavily wrinkled after air-drying. Select the proper temperature on your iron (cotton setting), and use an ironing board to get the best results. Begin with the pants, and iron the legs flat, so the creases are at the side of the leg, not the front. Iron the top or jacket like a T-shirt, with the creases running down the outside of the sleeves.

Storing a Karate Uniform or Martial Arts Gi

Never store a dirty or damp uniform. Stains will set, and mildew can form, ruining the uniform. Martial arts uniforms can be hung or folded for storage.

How Often to Wash a Karate Uniform or Martial Arts Gi

You should wash a gi after every use. You can prolong the time between washes if you wear a T-shirt and bike pants underneath the gi, washing the underthings after every use. If you sweat through your underclothes and get sweat on your gi, wash it. If you train several times a week, you might want to purchase two or more uniforms and rotate through them, so one is always clean and available for your use.

Tips for Washing a Karate Uniform or Martial Arts Gi

  • Since martial arts uniforms are so heavy, they may need to be washed several times before wearing so they don't feel stiff.
  • It is important to know if the water in your area is hard or soft. Hard water contains an excess of minerals, making detergents much less effective in removing soil. If you have hard water, your uniform will be harder to clean, and you will need to add some water conditioner to your presoak bucket. A water conditioner is not a fabric softener but an additive that helps your detergent work better.
  • Martial arts shoes, or "kung fu shoes," are often worn during outdoor practices and events. They have cotton uppers and rubber soles and can be washed like any canvas athletic shoe.
  • How do you whiten a gi or martial arts uniform?

    If your whites have gotten dingy or yellowed, brighten your uniform whites in warm water and oxygen-based bleach. Soak it for eight hours.

  • Do you wash your martial arts belt?

    If you train regularly, wash your belt on occasion. Soak and hand wash it in room temperature or cold water using the same detergent you wash your gi. Air-dry it.

  • How often should you wash your gi?

    Ideally, wash your gi after every use. If it gets sweaty, it can get smelly. You can prolong the time between washes if you wear a T-shirt underneath your gi, but if any sweat transfers to the gi, it can start harboring bacteria and odor.