Friday, April 02, 2010

A plea for cleanliness.


At our school, whitebelts pick up trash and empty the trashcans at the dumpster. Bluebelts clean the mats, purplebelts each teach class once a month. The theory behind blues cleaning the mats is, they've been around long enough to know someone who had to pause training due to staph, ringworm, or some such creepycrawly, so they're motivated and invested in doing the job well.

I know this has been written about before, and I guess I'm just tossing out my version of the plea because I can. And because dangit, obviously not everyone knows. To wit:

** My instructor came down with a spot of staph because he's been generously helping out a new MMA school in a nearby town. They had inadequate cleaning procedures in place, and now he can't compete at the Pan Ams because he's been off the mats for two weeks.

** I rolled with a friend twice over the last two weeks and both times said something along the lines of "Time to bleach this gi, dude."

So... if you're new to BJJ, or new to reading blogs, or maybe you just have never heard this stuff before.. here's the deal.

You really HAVE TO shower-- before, for obvious reasons, and again after training, right away, as soon as you can. Use soap. Vigorously scrub all over, don't just wipe and rinse... try those loofah puffs or shower gloves or at least a washcloth.



You can use Hibiclens if you're paranoid. Read more about it here-- it's antibacterial, antieverything, and those effects last up to six hours on your skin after using it. Or you can just use soap. Some say antibacterial soaps worsen the problem by creating resistant strains of bacteria. Plain old soap does a good job because it's a surfactant, i.e. it lowers the surface tension of water, and because it's an emulsifier, i.e. it bonds with oily things as well as water-based things so they can be rinsed away. You can read more about how soap works here.


While you're drying off, give everything a look-over. Check out the backs of your legs, arms, and your back in the mirror. Any pink circles? Might be ringworm, do NOT TRAIN! More on this below. Any infected places? Might be staph, do NOT TRAIN! Again more on that below.

Wash your gi, rashie, shorts, everything... after every training session. I know-- some of you live in apartments and have to pay to do laundry; some of you only have one gi and don't have time to airdry it before the next class. Well. I'm here to tell you that despite your wishes and hopes, hanging your gi out on the patio overnight does NOT keep you from stinking.



What happens is, your sweat (on the inside) and all your training partners' sweat (on the outside) is marinating your gi and turning to ammonia because of bacteria. And it's not just liquid.. there's dead skin cells and hairs and (gasp) sometimes even mucus (aka boogers) or blood- maybe not enough to be visible as a spot but enough to feed some bacteria.



It's like a buffet for the bacteria that live on your skin (and your training partners') and in the world at large. Just because the liquid part of your sweat evaporates does NOT mean the food goes away or the bacteria give up. And when you put it back on in a day or two, and get warm, and you mount me, or get cross side, or hell, I've mounted you... the scent of those busy little bacteria and their lovely byproducts wafts around... and it's not pleasant.

If your stuff already has that scent, try soaking it in vinegar before washing it. I personally have good results with adding 1/2c of bleach to the wash maybe once a month. (It doesn't weaken the fibers noticeably and I've been doing it for a year and a half.) And there's a special detergent made to get that smell out of sports clothing, called Win. I haven't tried it, let me know if you have. Every once in a while you might consider tossing your mostly-dry stuff in the dryer on low or even fluff (the no-heat setting) with a dryer sheet or two.

While we're on the subject, suggest a new gi as the gift of choice for your birthday, anniversary, Christmas, Hanukah, etc. Or splurge and treat yourself. Two gis at least guarantee plenty of time to airdry fully between washings/uses. If the gi never gets fully dry, bacteria will continue to stink it up. Sheesh, there's lots of quality gis out there that don't break the bank. The cheapest-but-still-quality I've found are these two: Razorback Jiu Jitsu makes a gold weave for $65.

And-- Kodokan has Fuji gis for about the same price (page down a bit, the pearl weave at the top of the screen is $115 but the cheaper ones are lower.)

On a related note: please brush your teeth, and your tongue, on a regular basis. It would be nice if you did it before training, and mouthwash is never frowned upon. Don't be thinking that your training partners won't notice you smoke if you brush your teeth either. Smoking is just a nasty, stinky, filthy habit and it reeks from your sweat, your lungs, your pores. Ain't good for your cardio either, so please, quit. Deodorant, too, is essential. When training nogi, it would be nice if your shirt had sleeves so I don't get a faceful of sweaty, bedraggled, curly armpit hair.

OK-- now back to your skin itself. THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE and you should already know not to take what you read on the internet to be medical advice. It's no substitute for seeing the doc especially the first time you have something "funny." When in doubt, see a doctor. Don't ask your friends at the academy because I bet they're not doctors either. I read about some guy who heard you're supposed to bleach ringworm... so on top of his horrible ringworm, he had severe chemical burns. Nice. Yes, there are topical over-the-counter creams for ringworm, but really, make sure it's ringworm by seeing a doctor (like I said, at least the first time.) They can give you a prescription for oral meds that will make it go away faster, and sometimes they can tell you you'll be able to train in a certain number of days while on the medication, even if the ring is still there, because the oral medication renders it noncommunicable. Or so I hear. Again, I'm a lawyer, not a doctor.

Staph can be tricky... you'll ask yourself, is it a spider bite? ingrown hair? staph? (See a doctor to be sure!) I'm not saying anything else.

I will note that open wounds, cuts, matburn etc. can be really annoying even if they're not some kind of infectious disease process YET-- and bandaids don't stick. I think the best solution for scrapes, small cuts, matburn and gi rash is spray-on skin. 3M makes some good non-stinging spray and I have found it in most drugstores.

Go forth and spread the good word of cleanliness and non-stinkiness. Double points if you can actually smell GOOD while rolling, not because you laid on the cologne but because you smell of fresh laundry and soap.


8 comments:

HomeImprovementNinja said...

AMEN SISTER!!! I got a mat burn on my knee last year and it turned into a pretty bad staph infection (they had to cut my leg open to get it out) so keep spreading the word.

What really pisses me off about the whole thing is that although I am meticulous (have several gis so I always have a clean one, and shower after every class), the stinky guy never got anything. Yes, there is a stinky guy at every school, but this guy is so funky that his gi isn't even white anymore, it's dishwater grey. I refuse to roll with him. But even though he rolls while wearing a petri dish, he doesn't get staph. Who gets it? Me!!!

Dev said...

We should definitely do a separate post on cheap gis, but Padilla and Sons have theirs around $80 - http://www.matrat.us.

Also, check out Steve's old post on washing the gi:
http://www.stevebjj.com/2009/07/washing-the-bjj-gi/

Skinny D. said...

Glad you posted this. I wish a couple of guys at my academy would read it. It seems like no matter how much cleanliness is emphasized, there are some people who do not think it applies to them until they fall victim to it. At my academy, there are a few guys who seem to think gi washing is an unnecessary ceremony. Nasty.

Just to back up Dev, I have a Padilla lightweight and it cost me around $100 including shipping. Excellent gi - couldn't be happier with it. I gave away my old Gameness bacause it didn't fit me well and I hated the pants. I'm looking into another low-cost backup and I'd like to try a gi other than Padilla just for experience. I'll check out the brands you mentioned.

Stephanie said...

Nice post! =) I am always a fan of hygiene how tos.... I just wish I could make some people read them. lol

I wash my gi after every class, and I wish everyone else did the same. If not for hygiene (which is clearly the more important factor) for the general idea of not smelling like a sweaty corpse when you roll. I have tapped before due to smell alone. I wanted my face out of that stinky place with the quickness.

I'm going to check out that second skin. If I have scrapes or mat burn, I always put on band aids, and then tape them on.

Horror story time... I rolled with someone once, and mid grapple he goes "Oh, my bandaid came off." I'm thinking "ew, gross" but I said "You want a fresh one? I've got some in my bag." .."Na, I'll just stick this one back on." ... as he picks it up off the mat and sticks it back on. I choked back my vomit, I asked him what happened to his foot anyway... "oh, it's just ring worm."

Grapple Over.

The mats were sanitized, and we all got a nice lecture on when not to grapple.

Surprisingly, and thankfully that was the only time I've heard about someone having ringworm in class.

Meerkatsu said...

Ewwww armpit hair in the face!!!!

Right now, it's too cold in our academy to any significant amount of skin2skin contact to be made (we're all swathed in mutliple rash-T's-hoodies etc UNDER our gis plus socks and in some cases, gloves, yep gloves!

But come summer and this might be more of an issue. But to be fair, in previous years, I've rarely come across anyone who really had poor hygiene issues.

I have lots of gis so am never in a position where I have to re-use an unwashed gi. But my routine before each training session is: contact lenses in; deo sprayed, teeth brushed, mouthwash swigged, feet wet-wiped...and we're good to go.

A.D. McClish said...

Haha, Georgette, you're hilarious. I love this all around. Maybe I'll print off a few copies of it and conveniently drop them into the gym bags of certain people at my school.

I do have one laundry-related question. I have one of the Fenom gis and sometimes I want to dry it with a dryer sheet, but I don't want it to shrink. How long can I dry it just to get the benefits of the dryer sheet without running the risk of making it child-sized?

Georgette said...

@Allie: I think the gi-shrinkage in laundry thing is perennially problematic. If you want it to shrink, it won't; if you don't, it will. Perhaps sit on the dryer and wish for it to shrink?

But I jest.

Really, I think it's an issue of time + heat + agitation, with the top factor being heat. If you toss it in there on the lowest heat setting, when it's mostly dry already, it probably wouldn't have time to shrink much. I would try it that way, gradually increasing either the time or the amount of moisture left in the gi when you start, until you notice any shrinkage, and then back off. If you fold your gi when it's not being used, you can also put dryer sheets between layers to imbue the scent.

(It's what I did in my backpack while traveling in Central America. When you couldn't wash your clothing, you could at least smell as if you did.)

Georgette said...

@Seymour: Bwahahahaha... cold still... hahaha... we've already gone over 82F/28C degrees in the academy (though it's usually a little less than that, for another week or two...)

I will note that I rarely find my face in anyone's oxter, but from mount, I do use my head to bulldoze under peoples' arms as a pillow setup... and if I'm not wearing my headgear with the haircap thingie, I am definitely thinking "Ewwww, sweaty pithair on my headhair.."