The old legend has it that if you wash your belt, everything you have learnt will get washed away with it; and you will go right back to the beginning of your journey in BJJ. Or the other legend has it that, if you don’t wash your belt, all of the sweat, blood, tears, dirt and whatever else collected on your belt along the way will eventually turn it black – but obviously these are both not true.
Why would you wash your uniform but not your belt? Below are 5 reasons you should wash your BJJ belt, regardless of your rank.
1. You can always buy another one
It won’t shrink, and if it does you can buy another. Likewise, if the color fades or the belt begins to fray and isn’t looking as fresh as it used to due to being washed so much, just buy another one! However a great way to preserve any BJJ gear is to wash it on a low temperature and let it hang dry. It is a very minor inconvenience (washing your belt) to save yourself and others from potential bacterial and fungal infections on the mats.
2. Bacteria and fungi
Bjj is a very close contact sport, so the chances of harmful bacteria and fungi growing in the grooves of the belt is very highly likely; this is because we have our bodies sweating all over each other and our hands grabbing each other’s belts in every session – after a session the mats and our uniforms become a petri dish breeding ground. Would you want someone’s belt on your face in a north-south or high mount position if you knew they had never washed it? Probably not…
According to PNNL.gov, bacteria are among the fastest reproducing organisms in the world, doubling every 4 to 20 minutes. Bacteria is known for making you ill and passing on infections, but not only could you potentially give others infections, you could also give yourself an infection by not washing your own belt as you have collected so much bacteria and fungi from others.
3. Skin infections
Another popular occurrence that happens in our sport… skin infections. A way to prevent them? Wash yourself and wash your training gear. However, if your training partners aren’t being as responsible as you, you are still at risk for skin infections. Not all skin infections are primarily transferred from skin on skin, some can also be picked up from objects that have recently been in contact with an infected person.
Skin infections are unfortunately a common thing when you train BJJ due to the close-contact nature, and high-intensity of the sport which means we are often skin-on-skin and sweating all over our training partners.
Some skin infections can be passed on through unwashed clothes that have been in contact with an infected person such as scabies and stubborn fungal infections like ringworm. Therefore by not washing your belt you are essentially increasing your chance, and all of your training partners chances of getting a skin infection, so if you are reading this and you don’t wash your belt but you care about not giving yourself and your training partners a skin infection then maybe you should start washing it.
Also, a quick reminder that infections caught on the mat like the dreaded staph can be more than just annoying, they can be life threatening.
4. Respect: Would you want someone’s unwashed belt in your face?
Wearing a clean kit is a sign of respect to both yourself, your lineage, and everyone you train with. Being clean when going into a close contact situation in training is just basic respect.
Your Gi is clean, so why don’t you clean your belt? Your belt will probably have had just as much contact as the rest of your Gi when rolling around with training partners, and considering bacteria can multiply every 4 to 20 minutes, washing it off and not letting it thrive is seemingly the right thing to do.
Would you want someone’s months or even years worth of multiplying organisms thrusted upon your face when rolling? The answer is probably a solid “no”.
5. You will NOT lose your magic mat powers
Fear not, despite what the urban legends (and the purple belts at your gym) may be telling you, you will NOT lose any knowledge or skills from washing your belt. Obviously there is the tradition in preserving your belt to show respect to your lineage, however it really isn’t the end of the world if you have to buy a new belt because it is overly frayed from being washed. On the other hand, how many people do you know that have had to buy a new belt from over washing their current one? Not many. BJJ belts are sturdy things and can put up with being thrown in the washer after every session. Save you and your teammates the brutality of skin infections and unwanted bacteria/fungi and just wash your belt!