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.