Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

My Karategi Stinks. And So Do My Football Gloves.

Illustration for article titled My Karategi Stinks. And So Do My Football Gloves.

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every other week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

My boyfriend and I have gis for karate that are made of a thick black canvas fabric. What are my best methods for laundering these when:

1. They smell to high heaven after an intense workout;

2. They are so thick and scratchy (the tops can stand on their own!) I'd like to soften them a bit;

3. I want to prevent fading of the black when I have to wash them pretty frequently.


Alright look, I'm an olden lady who saw Karate Kid in the theater at a rather tender age and so I'm going to request that you bear with me as I meander down this lane of memories: I spent the past weekend doing the final review of my book manuscript and was astonished at how many Karate Kid references my editor let me get away with. (Shameless plug!) So what I'm trying to say here is that the Karate Kid is just important to me, and I would like you to go out and paint the fence in my honor.

Okay, actually mostly I'm just going to ask you to chant, "YES. SENSEI!" at me at the end of every instruction in this answer. Just… humor me, okay? I help you with your skidmarks and I don't even make you feel bad about them, I think that this is so very little to ask of you!

Regular laundering of your karategi, which you should absolutely do, will take care of the stiffness problem. But because it's made of heavy cotton, you shouldn't ever use hot water to wash it. It will shrink right up and be entirely unwearable. Wait. I know how you all are, so I'm going to yell this at you so you'll listen: DO NOT EVER USE HOT WATER ON YOUR GI. Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I'm still convinced you weren't listening so I'll probably yell at you a few more times.

The very first thing I want you to do when you acquire a new karategi is to check the care tag. If it exists— and it might not, who am I to presume?—follow the instructions provided. [YES. SENSEI!]


If you're concerned about a colored karategi fading, you can set the dye in by soaking the garment in 1-2 cups white vinegar to a gallon or so (or, like, a sinkful? Sure.) of cold water. [YES. SENSEI!]

When you have a soiled karategi on your hands you'll want to follow these very precise steps. [YES. SENSEI!]


Step 1: Pre-soak the gi in warm (NOT HOT OH MY GOD DO NOT EVER USE HOT WATER ON YOUR GI)(I did warn you) water with baking soda and a tablespoon of laundry detergent. The combination of the baking soda and the detergent is going to take the stank out of your gi, and also serve to soften the fabric up. This pre-soak can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours, depending on your mood, the cycle of the tides, your social life, the whims of your pets, whatever. What I'm trying to say here is that if you have not a ton of time, 30 minutes is enough, but if you want to let things languish while you watch a Sons of Anarchy marathon you should feel free to do so. [YES. SENSEI!]

Step 2: Launder the thing in a machine with your regular detergent. Just be sure to use either a cold or warm water wash, never hot (NOT HOT OH MY GOD DO NOT EVER USE HOT WATER ON YOUR GI). [YES. SENSEI!]


Step 3: Dry it with the air. That means: you are to hang your wet karategi on a hanger and allow it to dry, hanging there, like a corpse. Or: you are to put your karategi into a NO HEAT DRYER. Not low heat. NO HEAT. Do not apply heat to the drying process of your gi. [YES. SENSEI!]

Step 4: If your gi is wrinkled after it has dried in the air rather than in the dryer with heat, you can iron it. Turn it inside out before you do so, but then go ahead and use the 'cotton/linen' setting on the iron. [YES. SENSEI!]


A Final Note: Regardless of the color of your karategi, never use bleach on it. Bleach reacts negatively with sweat, causing the stains to appear more yellow. DO NOT DO IT. [YES. SENSEI!]

In closing, you're the best … around.

HELP. Football season has just started here in my rather non-US country, and I've pulled my lineman and receiver gloves out (I play both ways DE/TE).

They stink. I do not understand. After last season I turned them inside out, doused them liberally with talcum powder, and even hung them to dry for a couple of weeks. After that I re-talcumed them and put them into my gear bag (yes, dark but not damp).

What did I do wrong? Should I have changed the talcum powder like a dressing every couple of weeks?

I have heard different things about whether I can wash them or not; some recommend washing without detergent, some don't. The receiver gloves need to stay "tacky" but the lineman gloves don't.


Aha! You did one very small and correctable thing wrong: you went with talcum, instead of baking soda, as your deodorizer.

Talcum does serve as a deodorizer… just not a particularly powerful one. So if powders are your jam, go ahead and mix some baking soda in with your talcum. (Two parts baking soda to one part talcum? Eh, that sounds about right.) If the gloves are pliable enough to turn inside out, all the better.


There are some other options, though! Let's leave machine washing off the table for the time being, though, yes, you can absolutely wash the lineman gloves with no problem, and probably the receiver gloves too. Actually, let's put machine washing back up on the table, this'll be quick: put the gloves in a mesh laundry bag to help protect them and keep the velcro from getting into too much contact with other items. Speaking of the velcro! Fasten the velcro at the wrist tightly and be sure it's fully lined up—this will help to keep lint away and prevent fraying. Use a delicate or gentle wash setting and hot water, and in addition to your usual detergent add in a deodorizing laundry booster like Borax, baking soda, white vinegar, etc.


If you're not entirely sold on washing the gloves, there's one more route you can go in terms of killing the stink on the gloves: grab a spray bottle, like something along these lines, and fill it with either 1) cheap vodka or 2) white vinegar. Spritz the interior and exterior of the gloves well, stopping short of utterly soaking them, and then lay them out to air dry—both liquids are odor neutralizers, and the smell of both will dissipate as the gloves dry.


Okay, now here's where I turn it over to you to ask for your input, especially on those receiver gloves and the whole tacky conundrum. Do you play football? Are you an equipment manager? Do you work for a football glove manufacturer? TELL ME YOUR SECRETS.

I will thank you by chanting, "YES. SENSEI!" in reply.

Jolie Kerr is the author of the upcoming book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume, February 25, 2014); more cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr.


Squalor appears on Jezebel and Deadspin on alternating weeks.

Image by Jim Cooke