I was never told to put my kote in the laundry. But, I did.

Geoff Salmon explains that kendo bogu is and has been seen as something that smells bad in nature.

Kendo Kote in an Electric Washing Machine

A quick ‘how to’…

In my dojo, cleaning your own equipment is a common courtesy to others.  Washing equipment when necessary and airing it out after training is seen as a skill and an important part of reiho.

I admire informational blog posts like Hiro Imafuji’s, but there is little info anywhere online about specifically using an electric washing machine on a set of kote.

It works well with practice dogi and everyday clothes. Maybe, your kote can be laundry too.

Why wash your kote in a washing machine?

So, I’ve washed every set of kote I’ve owned so far.

Aaron’s list of his washing machine(d) kote:

  • A 20(?) year old set of hand stitched deerskin (and deer hair batting) kobushi and tenouchi kote.
  • The cheapest set of ‘clarino’ synthetic kobushi and tenouchi kote I could find in Ureshino, Saga, Japan.
  • A 5mm futon eBogu entry level set of kote.  (Clarino leather, of course.)
  • My current All Japan Budogu basic 5mm clarino kote.
  • 5~ sets of kote I’ve repaired/replaced the palm of for various people at my dojo.

Disclaimer:

It’s probably not worth it to use a washing machine on your kote if you don’t have 2+ sets of kote.

Andy Fisher mentioned that the indigo dye from the kote can stain the interior of the washing machine.  An additional wash to clean the inside of the washing machine could keep the dye from dying the clothes of whoever uses the machine next.  Andy has a great deal of expertise in the bogu industry, and he recommends washing kote in a washing net or an old pillow case.  This can protect the kote, and possibly the walls of the washing machine.  He also mentioned that you can wash tare this way.  Andy Fisher is currently in charge of www.kendostar.com, a quality bogu supplier that I’m planning to buy my next set of bogu from.

www.kendostar.com

I think the results are simply better than other methods I’ve tried.  Immediately after they’ve dried, they literally smell like clean laundry.  It’s some kind of miracle.

I currently use a specific set of steps to washing kote that are explained in a section further below.

This kote-wash was done in a typical home washing machine.  I’m fairly certain that the kote were unharmed.  They lost a bit of color.  But, the tradeoff of light colored kote is well worth the benefit to me.  On the topic of light colored bogu and dogi, here is a link to a Kenshi 24/7 article on that distressed kendo budogu look:  

George McCall’s Post

They’re used as ‘practice’ kote, afterall.  The kote shrink somewhat. But they naturally stretch out after a single training, for me.   

Other than ritually fan-drying kote over night after every training, there is noting I’ve tried that brings forth better results.

Other methods to cleaning that I tried, and didn’t like.

Sprays and Solutions.

⚗  🚿

There are many antimicrobial sprays and other things that some people choose to apply to bogu for cleaning purposes.  Typically, a deodorizing agent is sprayed on the kote, and wiped with a rag.  These liquid solution residues obviously end up staying in the bogu.  It just made my bogu smell more complicated and complex, in my opinion.  Even the ‘natural’ solutions that had ‘no scent’ made the kote have a noticeable residue. These residues are in close contact with your skin every training, by the way.  It also takes some time to spray and rub that stuff into kote.  The cost was not worth the unnoticeable benefit to me.

Cleanly Evaporating Solvents.

💧  ☁️

Isopropyl alchohol doesn’t leave a residue in theory.  But, I saw no noticeable benefit in using it to vigorously wipe down my kote with a rag after training.  This is, compared to rinsing the kote with water after training and drying on top of a box fan immediately after overnight.  The alchohol may kill microbes in the kote.  But, I think these microbes either grow back or have already left a significant amount of foul smelling substance. Also, what’s a more nutrient rich environment for another generation of microbes to thrive in than a moist poly/cotton fabric with layers of dead microbes?

Steam.

💦  💨

Steam cleaning took a lot of time for me.  It didn’t remove what smelled bad, and arguably made by bogu smell somewhat worse.  During and immediately after the steaming, the bogu smelled terribly dank.  This is probably due to the heat/water/vaporizing of things that smell horrible.

Cologne.

🙅

Worst mistake of my early life.

Not on the list.

To be honest, I haven’t used an ozone machine or hydrogen peroxide (H202).  Maybe these are miracle cures.  I kind of doubt it, though.

You’re inside your kote.

👃

Its gruesome, but your body is literally rubbing off into your kote.  If you train regularly with a pair of kote for a year, there will be some kind of layer of skin/sweat and etc. rubbed off into your kote fabric.  Why add more ‘things’ into your kote, when you can just wash it all out?

Aaron’s Routine

Here’s a routine I’ve tested and changed over a few years.

I think its best for washing a dedicated ‘practice set’ of kote.

(1) Machine wash.

A less regular washing

For me, it’s done 4 times a year.

(1) Read

(2) Quick rinse with cold water.

For me, it’s done when there are noticeable salt stains on bogu from sweat.

(2) Also Read

A box fan setup btw.

When should I wash with a washing machine?

📅

A ‘keiko with Sensei rule of thumb’.

I wash my kote when I think it smells bad.  This is, so bad that I wouldn’t want to do a regular keiko with my Sensei wearing that particular pair of kote.  I think it’s almost rude to wear rank bogu that smells comparatively worse than the dojo norm.  For my current training schedule, that looks like 4 washing machine washes a year to keep it baseline fresh.

I think there are three lesser principles to keeping practice bogu fresh.

🂣𝟯

  1. Remove the stuff that smells bad.
  2. Keep it as dry as the ambient room humidity.
    1. (Keeping bogu dry for as long as possible keeps things from growing/reacting in the bogu.)
  3. If the cleaning method has no noticeable and positive effect, maybe it’s a waste of time?

I’ve learned that more people do the machine wash than I originally expected.

David Pan machine washed 5 sets of kote one day. 

He’s also tried this on kote of various materials and manufacturers.  I asked him about the topic.  Of course, he immediately responds with detailed information.  And also, he sent me photos of a spectrum of kote types ready at his disposal.  So, that was like 75% of my research in 2 mins thanks to Pan Sensei.

I’m having trouble finding any evidence or reasoning not to machine wash these things.