Rules for Uniform Care … and How to Break Them

When Ms. Jennifer suggested we do uniform care for our column this month, I told her I came up the ranks at a hard-core gym in Dallas where black belts left their uniforms in the dressing room for months at a time, until the underarms turned yellow and you could smell them from hallway. She said that wasn’t what she had in mind, that parents were fading our patches by using bleach which seems like the only way to get out stains.

So, I researched. What follows is a compilation of the advice I found, modified for reality. To me, it seemed that those who wrote those columns have never had to keep up with laundry, on top of whatever else needs done, of course.

  1. Wash the uniform after every class. If you’re a mom like I was, that ain’t gonna happen. I have found that washing them every couple of weeks, at worst monthly, works fine, especially with light weight uniforms. 
  2. Don’t stuff them in your bag / locker. Good advice both for wrinkles and smell. This one I follow religiously. If you MUST leave them in a bag/locker, FOLD the uniform neatly before you store it. Otherwise, you WILL end up having to wash them more often.
  3. Don’t use chlorine bleach. I have broken this rule more times than I can count. But color-safe bleach, like Clorox 2, has gotten better, so try that first. Next level are stain removers like Spray & Wash on stain areas. If that doesn’t work, it is time to bleach. The best bet to be sure the patches don’t fade is to remove them before you bleach and sew them back on after. I know, a lot of work, but you let the uniform get to the point where you had to bleach it. Pay the penalty. 
  4. Presoak for 20 minutes. Yeah, right, like that’s going to happen. Maybe presoak for hours because I forget, but never managed to do that one. Do any of you guys ever presoak? 
  5. Hang to dry. Nice ideal but hard to follow, especially if you’re in a hurry. For lighter weight and white uniforms, drying on low, even medium, works fine. (Black pants. Nope. I’ve ruined a couple pairs that way. Luckily, only instructors have that worry.) But I do advise trying to take the uniform out of the dryer right away so it won’t wrinkle. If you forget, as I often do, take a wet washcloth, throw it into the dryer with the uniform and run the dryer for about ten minutes. 

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