Anyone who has practiced Karate for an can tell you about how stiff their karate belts can be when they first receive them. If this sounds like something you’re experiencing for the first time, you’ll need to know how to soften yours so you don’t have to deal with a stiff belt for the next couple of weeks. Fortunately, softening a karate belt is quite easy.

If you’ve got a karate belt that could use a little softening, no problem. Below we will go over what causes a karate belt to stiffen, before jumping into a step-by-step guide for quickly softening your belt.

Of course, if you’d like to use another method to soften yours additional alternatives will be covered. So let’s get busy and see if we can get that belt ready for your next class!

What Causes a Karate Belt to Be So Stiff?

First, why do the belts come so stiff in the first place? Shouldn’t they come ready to wear?

To soften a stiff karate belt you simply need to stretch the fibers that make it up. This can be achieved through use over an extended period of time, or with a variety of techniques. In almost every technique, however, the belt will be twisted and/or wrapped up to stretch out the fibers a little bit.

Well, the reason karate belts are so stiff when you first receive them is that after their manufacturing process the fibers of the belt are temporarily shrunk. Over a period of use, they become stretched out again and far more comfortable to use.

Step by Step: How to Quickly Soften a Karate Belt

Your karate belt will naturally soften with use, over time. Still, if you don’t want to be practicing in a stiff belt for the weeks that process will take, you’ll need a method that works as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The following steps will guide you to soften your karate belt in one of the fastest and most convenient ways:

  • Find the right chair or comparable object: The easiest object you can use, that most people already have at home, is a solid chair with either an open frame or chair back with spaces on it. Essentially you want a chair with a back that you easily wrap your belt around.
  • Get into position: You want to have the chair facing you so you can place one foot on the seat and hold it down. At the same time, you should run the belt around a bar on the back of the chair and take one end for each hand.
  • “Sand” the chair with your belt: Pull on each end of the belt back and forth, almost as if you’re using it to sand the chair. Keep doing this until you’ve gone back and forth around fifteen times. When you’ve finished with one side, flip the belt over and repeat the process for the other side of the belt.
  • Fold the belt in half and repeat the previous steps: Once you’ve “sanded” with both sides of the belt, you can lift it from the chair for a moment, fold it in half, and then use the folded belt to sand the chair again. Like before you will want to flip the folded belt over and repeat the process on the other side after you’ve gone back and forth enough.
  • Twist the belt around the chair: Now you just need to unfold the belt, wrap it back around a bar on the chair and bring the ends together. With the belt folded together against the chair, you just need to twist it slowly starting from where the ends meet. Move down the belt, twisting so tight that the belt itself starts curling up.

Once you’ve thoroughly twisted the belt you should be able to take it off the chair and really notice the difference in its softness. If it still has a little bit of firmness to it, that’s okay. There is some firmness that just has to be worked out through use. If it still has a lot, try repeating the process.

Alternative Ways to Soften a Karate Belt

While the method outlined above is one of the easiest ways to soften a belt, it isn’t the only way. Below you will see three more methods you can use if you don’t have the right kind of chair or would rather try something else:

Softening a Karate Belt By Using the Rolling Method

Perhaps the most common way of softening a belt is to simply roll it, twist it and tie it into knots. In this case, it won’t require any extra gear or equipment to do, meaning,  you can start doing it right away. While this isn’t the most efficient way to soften your Karate belt it does work and it is one of the most convenient options.

Below are the detailed basic steps to the rolling method so you can begin softening your karate belt right away:

  • Roll it, unroll it and repeat: You want to start at one end of your belt, and roll it up slowly, trying to get it as tight as possible. This tightness is what is going to be stretching out the fibers. Once you’ve got it rolled up, you can hold it together for a moment, then slowly unroll it. Repeat this process a couple of times.
  • Fold the belt in half and twist it together: With one end in each hand, bring them together and fold the two halves together. Once you’ve done this, twist them, starting at where the ends meet. Once the whole belt is twisted, let it go. If you feel like it could use a little more, feel free to repeat the process a couple more times.
  • Crack the belt like a whip against a cushion: This step can be kind of fun. Find a cushion or a couch and just start cracking the belt the way you would with a whip. Doing this for just a minute or two will really loosen up the belt.

With this method, the steps are really interchangeable and you can leave at least one of them out and still have a good outcome. These are really just general ways of loosening a belt when you don’t have anything else to use as a tool.

Softening a Karate Belt In the Dryer

Some individuals have found success softening their belt by throwing it in the dryer for a few minutes, with a fabric softener.

It’s worth noting here that this method is not the most highly advised because depending on the material your belt is made from, it could cause some damage. So if you want to try this method because it is clearly the most convenient, just be advised that there is some small level of risk.

Softening a Karate Belt By Simply Using It

It’s important to note that there is a certain amount of stiffness that will only really be worked out after you’ve worn the belt for a while. So if you’ve tried one or more of the methods listed above and there’s still more stiffness than you’d like, just give it some time and you should break it in.

Can You Wash a Karate Belt?

Since we know the dryer is one avenue for softening your karate belt, the question arises, “can you wash a karate belt?” Will this cause the belt to stiffen? Become too loose? Or maybe give it any general type of damage?

It is best to avoid washing your karate belt in your washing machine. This is because the amount of water and its temperature in the washing machine is likely to cause your belt to shrink. It is possible, however, with the right settings, to minimize the chance of damage if you absolutely must clean your belt.

If you decided to run your karate belt through the wash on the wrong settings, it would actually almost make it feel tighter because of the shrinkage. There’s a chance it wouldn’t even fit at all anymore, and you’d be back at square one having to order another. So only try to wash it if it’s absolutely necessary.

How to Clean a Karate Belt in the Wash

So, let’s say something got spilled on your white belt and you’ve gotta risk it and clean your karate belt in the wash despite the potential damage. How exactly do you go about doing that?

The following tips will help ensure that you don’t cause your belt to shrink and become tighter if you have to wash it in your laundry machine:

  • Ensure you wash the belt by itself: If you do have to wash your belt, you really don’t want to do it with your whole regular load of laundry. Instead, you need to make sure you wash it by itself, to minimize the chances of damage.
  • Use warm water in a gentle cycle: Make sure you’re not using water that is too cool or too hot. The temperature of the water is one of the biggest factors that cause certain types of clothing to shrink.
  • Avoid harsh detergents: It’s best to use a mild detergent. Bleach or a harsher detergent may cause damage to the material your belt is made from.
  • Stretch out the belt and air dry it: Even with a gentle cycle and mild detergent, some shrinkage may occur. To avoid this, you should stretch out the belt and clamp it down between two objects–chairs would work fine–so that it can air dry. If the weather is nice where you live, drying it outside might speed the process up a little bit.

It can’t stress enough that this is only to be done when it is absolutely necessary. If the belt is just mildly dirty, there are plenty of alternative ways to get it clean that you could try instead. While some of them require a little more effort and take a little longer, they don’t come with nearly as much risk.

What Are Some Safe Ways to Clean a Karate Belt

So if you can’t just use your washing machine, how can you safely clean your karate belt?

Here are a few alternative ways you can clean your karate belt without the risk of shrinking it or making it stiffer:

  • Lint roller: If the only problem is some surface level dust and debris, a lint roller may be all that you need. Just roll it over each side a couple of times and see if the belt clears up.
  • Packaging tape: This works much like the lint roller, however, it may get some even deeper bits of dust and debris off your belt. Just spread some packaging tape over the surface of the belt. Gently press it down until it is stuck to the surface. Finally, you just need to tear it off. You may have to repeat a couple of times to get everything.
  • Tide to Go: This one is especially useful when you’re a white belt. If you spill something on your belt and you have a minor stain, rubbing it down with some Tide to Go may work like a charm.

Fortunately, karate belts don’t really need frequent cleaning as long as nothing out of the ordinary happens. When it does, the first line of defense should always be something simple like a lint roller or Tide to Go so you don’t risk further stiffening or shrinking your belt. Nine times out of ten, the simple solution will work wonders.

So Really, How Do You Soften a Stiff Karate Belt?

Softening a karate belt is a pretty straightforward and easy-to-do process. In fact, it can really be done in many different ways, as long as you’re stretching out the fibers of the belt without risking damage.

Whether you decide to use the roll-up method or simply stretch your belt with a chair, it should be ready to go in no time. The little bit of stiffness that is left over, will be worked out the more you practice your art.