A common problem in the Jiu-Jitsu community is gi shrinkage. When your brand new BJJ gi arrives, and it fits perfectly, you might think you have found the perfect gi until you notice that it has shrunk drastically after your first wash.
Most BJJ gis will shrink as much as 1-2 inches (4-5cm) within the first six months of buying it. Shrinkage is inevitable and completely normal, yet you can help keep it to a minimum by washing your gi separately in cold water and hanging it to air dry.
This article will discuss ways to prevent gi shrinkage and how to shrink your gi should the need arise. That way, your favorite uniform will always be ready for competition or everyday training.
How To Avoid Shrinking a BJJ Gi
Most people believe that putting a gi in the dryer will prevent shrinking, but this actually can make it worse. Here are a few simple tips to avoid shrinking a BJJ gi:
Wash Your Gi in Cold Water Only
The material used for most BJJ gis is usually 100% cotton. This means that when heated in a washing machine, it’ll shrink. Thus, the best way to wash a cotton gi is with cold water.
Washing in cold water not only helps to keep your gi fresh, white, and clean, but it also prevents the material from fading and, more importantly, shrinking. Or, at the very least, this will minimize any shrinkage. It also helps protect the elastic waistband of your gi pants from getting stretched out of shape.
Conversely, washing your BJJ gi in hot or even warm water can cause it to shrink and fade.
Hang Dry Your Gi To Prevent Shrinkage
If you have a large balcony, backyard, or patio, you can hang dry your gi. Air drying your BJJ gi will help to minimize fiber damage and keep it at its original size. Make sure you’re not putting it in direct sunlight, as this will cause it to shrink.
In addition, use a heavy-duty hanger so the added weight from the water doesn’t damage the material. Ironing your gi can also help keep its shape, just be sure to place something in between for protection so you don’t iron the gi directly.
In times of urgency when you must dry your gi in a dryer, use the lowest setting possible.
Wash Your Gi With Dissolvable Laundry Detergent
Washing your gi with regular, dissolvable laundry detergent is the best way to preserve the size of your gi’s. It’s also ideal to use small quantities to ensure it fully dissolves and doesn’t leave residue on the gi, as the residues are what can cause shrinkage during the drying process.
Furthermore, it’s best to avoid washing your gi with plastic laundry pods since these require hotter temperatures to dissolve. If you do opt for laundry pods, be sure to use dissolvable laundry pods, only.
Wash Your Gi Separately
When you wash mixed loads of laundry, you run the risk of having your BJJ gi shrink more than it already has. Washing a load of laundry with towels or flannels can also cause your BJJ gi to shrink. This is especially true if you use hot water and dry on high heat.
When you over-stuff a washing machine, the clothes in the middle won’t get washed properly. Basically, the water can’t get through the other garments, and the detergent (which is heavier than water) won’t be able to either.
To prevent this, you need space in the washer for friction to get between the clothes and the detergent. If your gi is already skinny, this might not happen. A shrunken gi will be more rigid, which means less friction between it and other garments during a wash cycle.
For more on this check out my complete guide on how to wash a BJJ gi here!
How Much Do Preshrunk Gis Shrink?
A preshrunk Gi does continue to shrink more, even after it’s been washed at the factory with a chemical process to fix it in place. However, a preshrunk gi should shrink only about 1-5% from washing, on average, and most people don’t notice the shrinking in a preshrunk gi from wash to wash.
Generally speaking, preshrunk gis will shrink much less than gis that isn’t preshrunk.
How To Purposefully Shrink a Gi
Shrinking a Gi is a reasonably straightforward process. However, there are some essential things to keep in mind when shrinking a gi.
- Material: Determine what type of material the gi is made of. If the gi is made of cotton, it will shrink more than a cotton/polyester mix. Cotton shrinks no matter what you do.
- Size and weight: The amount of shrinkage depends on the size and weight of the gi before the manufacturer shrinks it and how far you want to go with the shrinking process once you begin. If the gi was already very small and compact before the shrinking process started, there might be limitations on how much more you can shrink it down.
Once you’ve considered these things, here’s how to purposefully shrink your gi:
- Wash your new BJJ GI in warm or hot water with regular detergent. Don’t use bleach, as this can cause damage to the fabric.
- Shrink the jacket first. If you want the jacket and pants to shrink in sync, start with the jacket. Wash and dry both pieces together, but always wash and dry the jacket first since it’ll shrink more than the pants.
- Tumble dry on a medium heat setting for about 15 minutes. Check it every 5 minutes after that until you reach your desired size and stiffness.
Gis will shrink differently based on the manufacturer and even the particular weave of the fabric. There’s no way to know for sure how your gi will shrink, so it’s best to be prepared for some degree of shrinkage.
You should avoid the biggest gi-shrinking offenders: hot water, dryers, and bleaches. These will destroy your favorite gi, so don’t be afraid to wash your gi by hand if you have to. If you’re concerned about drastically shrinking your gi, consider buying a preshrunk gi so you don’t wind up with a highly skinny gi.