Wash Your Martial Arts Uniform Like A Pro So It Doesn’t Shrink Or Fade


I remember that day when my newly bought dazzling white Hapkido uniform turned gray…

No, I didn’t wash it together with my black underwear, I just didn’t think well enough before turning on the washing machine!

Custom Katana


At first glance, it seems like nothing can come in between you and your uniform.

Don’t be so sure!

Any Korean martial arts uniform is made of cotton fabric. You must always remember that when washing a hapkido uniform or a taekwondo dobok.

Your uniform is made of 100% cotton of different thicknesses and, unlike the synthetic fabrics, can shrink or change its color if washed wrong.

Cotton is prone to machine washing and drying. But due to different decorations on it (patches, colorful collars, screen printing, etc) you must wash all your martial arts uniforms carefully so it doesn’t shrink or bleed.

In my case, the black dye leached out of the collar fibers of my jacket which resulted in color transfer between items in the load.

How to wash a taekwondo dobok (uniform) or a Hapkido uniform so it doesn’t shrink or bleed?

It is simply impossible to leave any taekwondo class with a dry uniform on.

Yes, it will dry up quickly because it is pure cotton, but it might get stains of sweat or, if your deodorant is not good enough, – unpleasant odor.

Taekwondo Vs. Hapkido

Taekwondo uniform is made of light-weight cotton which makes it easy to take care of.

Hapkido uniform, on the contrary, is usually made of thicker cotton.

As a rule, Hapkido jacket is much heavier than a common taekwondo shirt.

Experienced Hapkido practitioners wear a simple cotton shirt underneath the jacket. The shirt absorbs most of the sweat leaving the jacket dry.

In this case, the Hapkido jacket can be washed once a week depending on its overall condition.

Get yourself two pairs of pants, so you can change them if needed until your major laundry day when you can wash your jacket and pants together.

To look and smell good at your class, follow these simple rules when washing your martial arts uniform:

Attention! Do not wash your belt together with a martial arts uniform!

  1. Pre-treat. Place your uniform into the bowl of cold water, add a bit of laundry soap and let it soak there for 30 mins.
  2. Spot check. Take a good look at your soaked uniform for any visible marks or stains.

If there are any, lightly scrub the area with soapy water or small amount of a stain-removing detergent (be sure to test on a piece of fabric that’s less visible first to make sure that it doesn’t alter the color of your dobok), or rub the fabric gently against itself.

  1. Upload your well-soaked uniform into a washing machine.
  2. Do not use fabric softener or bleach!
  3. Temperature. The ideal water temperature that will not make your uniform shrink or bleed is COLD. Even 40 degrees can play a bad trick on your dobok.

Set the temperature up to 30 degrees or Cold regime if your washing machine supports this feature.

  1. Lowest Spin cycle. Put the lowest number of Spins. This way your uniform will be spinning gently which will make a positive impact on the fabrics and make your dobok last longer.
  2. Hang to dry. Do not use the dryer. It will most likely leave wrinkles on your uniform, or even worse – shrink it drastically. For the best result hang it up to dry.

A word of caution:

Unfortunately, most of us wash the uniforms with laundry detergents that are laden with synthetic chemicals, unless you use natural products which don’t contain harmful ingredients.

Cheap laundry soap is often linked to health problems, such as hormone disruption, domestic allergies, irritated skin, and even cancer. The increased use of mass-market soap thus said to be adversely harmful to your health.

Musulmag experts who have been practicing Korean martial arts for 30-40 years advice to switch from mass-market toxic laundry detergents to natural products in order to avoid chemicals.

In my defence, and all of you whos uniformed changed its colour after washing,

Don’t blame yourself, dear!

There are a number of reasons for the dye to bleed or fade:

  • Poor quality dye
  • Incorrect dying technique
  • The incorrect dye used for the type of fabric (not all dyes work on all kinds of fabrics)
  • An excess of dye left in the product because the item was not properly rinsed out during the dying process
  • The manufacturer has not used fixer or ‘mordant’ to bind the dye to the fabric
  • The mordant has washed out of the fabric due to prolonged hot washing and so is no longer holding the dye to the fibers
  • Wear and tear: friction between fabrics that can cause micro-breakages in the fibers and lead to the release of dye
  • Bleaching, which can be caused by the fabric’s exposure to bleaching products, heat, and/or sun.

If you followed all the rules and took out an unknown uniform from the washing machine, most likely you need to try a different brand of martial arts uniforms.


Attribution:House photo created by jcomp,

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Written by Natasha Tu

In Memory Of Grandmaster Pan, Sim Woon 1950-2020