Cleaning Martial Arts Gear

How to Clean Martial Arts Sparring Gear

Imagine going back to martial arts or more specifically Taekwondo after a long break. You’re excited to put on your sparring equipment, only to stop in your tracks the moment you take a huge whiff of your gear.

The sparring gear stinks so bad, that the smell kind of hurts your nose worse than the kicks. Whether you’re playing Taekwondo or any other martial arts, you may have had this experience before, and it’s the result of improper hygiene. More specifically, failing to clean up your sparring equipment.

Maintaining clean sparring equipment is not that hard. Doing so ensures that you not only have a pleasant training session, unbothered by bad smells, you’ll also be safe from health problems related to unsanitary conditions.

Why Cleaning Martial Arts Sparring Gear is Important

Aside from being free of those nasty smells, making sure that your martial arts equipment is clean have health benefits as well. This is true for taekwondo, but also for other martial arts that use protective equipment, such as kendo, karate, and even boxing.

Equipment that isn’t cleaned properly runs the risk of growing mold and mildew. Mold in particular can be very dangerous if you end up inhaling the spores during practice.

Your sparring gear may also become a breeding ground for bacteria if you don’t clean up properly. This can lead to some very nasty smells, and sometimes, if left for too long, the smell can end up becoming permanent, even if you do start washing them properly after the fact.

Keeping your equipment clean through proper maintenance is also important if you want your stuff to last longer.

How to Keep Your Gear Clean

Cleaning your equipment is fairly straightforward. There’s a short term way to do it and a long term one. Short term cleaning is done immediately after training. Usually it involves minimal effort, requiring you to simply store or maintain your equipment properly.

Long term cleaning involves washing your equipment thoroughly in order to clean them on a much deeper level. This sort of cleaning can be done anywhere between once a week to once a month, depending on how often you practice.

Here are the specific ways you clean your different equipment:


In many martial arts, whether you’re practicing taekwondo or karate, you will be wearing a white uniform. In karate, it’s known as a gi, whilst in taekwondo, it’s called a dobok. In taekwondo, the reason why students wear a white uniform is to show how disciplined they are.

Because white fabric tends to get dirty easier, the thought goes that keeping it pristine and white when you start any practice session demonstrates how disciplined and dedicated you are to your practice. Maintaining a clean uniform also shows respect towards your instructors.

Your dobok needs to be clean and ironed whenever you enter the Dojang. As such, after every training session, it’s important that you get your uniform out of the bag and into the laundry. If you’ve recently done practice, then your dobok is likely to be drenched in sweat.

Keeping it too long inside your bag at this state is a bad idea. Moisture and darkness are a microbe’s best friend, and a wet dobok inside a dark bag is prime real estate for them. These microbes can lead to a nasty smell sticking to your uniform.

If you’re unable to put your dobok inside a washing machine as soon as you finish practice, and instead will need to keep it in a laundry bin, make sure that your dobok is dry first. You can do this by airing your dobok out, either by hanging it outside or by putting it in front of an electric fan.

Once your uniform is sufficiently dried, fold it up properly and put it into your laundry bin. Depending on the brand, you can safely put your dobok in a washing machine and dryer. Once done, make sure that you iron it thoroughly and hang it up or fold it before storing.

Martial Arts Sparring Gear

Tae Kwon Do Tournament Sparring

Like many full-contact martial arts, Taekwondo also makes use of protective gear. This includes headgear, chest protector, arm guards and shin guards. The procedure to keep these items clean are pretty much the same between each one.

Also, unlike the dobok, you wouldn’t need to put your protective gear into the washer and iron it every time you use it. You will need to store it properly between practices, however, not only to prevent any bad smells, but also to keep your gear in good condition.

Much like the dobok, moisture is your martial arts equipment’s worst enemy. If you’re already at the stage where you’re sparring during practice, then you should know that your protective gear ends up becoming as sweaty as your uniform.

Immediately after every sparring session and before you store your gear inside your bags, make sure to wipe off the sweat sticking to your protectors. You can use a dry towel, a paper towel, or even baby wipes for this. Make sure to be thorough.

Once you’re done practicing and are at home, take your protective gear out of your bag as soon as possible and air them out. Put them in front of a fan or if it’s windy outside and it’s not going to rain, you can dry them outside. Just make sure not to put them under direct sunlight or next to a heat source, as too much heat can damage your equipment.

Once a month, you should wash your protective equipment more thoroughly. You can do this by simply putting your protectors into a washing machine with some detergent. Your chest protector might be too big for this, so you will need to wash that one manually.

Do so by soaking your chest protector in cold water with detergent for at least a couple of hours. Then, lightly scrub the parts of the chest protector that are usually drenched in sweat. Make sure to only use a brush with soft bristles. Once done, rinse the gear properly and air dry. Remember not to put it under direct sunlight.

Martial Arts Mouth Guard

Even some of the best mouth guards out there, like the one above from Venum, (Amazon) is one of the biggest carriers of microbes out of all your martial arts gear but is also a piece of equipment that needs to be thoroughly cleaned.

You put it inside your mouth, after all. You might be surprised to know, however, that any bacteria that’s on your mouth guard is mostly from your hands, not your mouth.

That said, it’s important to limit touching your mouth guard with your hands during practice. If you do have to remove your mouth guard during practice, at least rinse it off with water before putting it back again.

After each practice session, make sure that you store your mouth guard separate from the rest of your gear. If it has its own container, use that. Never put it in your bag with your sweaty uniform or protectors.

If you don’t have a separate place in your bag for your mouth guard, then it’s best to simply keep it in your mouth until you get home. Once you are home, wash your mouth guard by brushing it with your toothbrush and some toothpaste. You can also wash it with regular soap and water or disinfect it with hydrogen peroxide. Never use rubbing alcohol.

Once done, make sure the mouth guard is dry before storing it. Store your mouth guard in its own case, and make sure it’s well-ventilated.