Infections can knock you out of training and put a huge dent in your progress, super fast.
Think about it. BJJ is all about a bunch of sweaty people rolling around on the ground with each other, with sweat, blood, and god knows what else, all over the place.
If anywhere would be considered a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungus, it’d probably be a BJJ mat.
Even if you’re super careful about your hygiene, when you roll and who you roll with, if you train for a while you’re going to come face to face with some nasty infections before long. That’s why it’s really important to be prepared, and take steps to stop dangerous fungus and bacteria from growing, leading to dangerous (and potentially life-threatening) infections.
This article will share the best antifungal soaps and bodywashes for you to pick to stay, clean, healthy and on the mats.
Infections… what’s the worst that can happen?
You’re a combat sports athlete. A fighter. You’re tough as nails. You don’t care about something minor like a little infection… right?
Wrong. Skin infections can (and have) put some of the toughest fighters down. It doesn’t matter if you’re a day one white belt or if your last name is Gracie, you’re not immune.
Due to the conditions of BJJ gyms, it’s extremely common to see bacterial and fungal infections spread, such as:
- MRSA or Staph
- Herpes simplex
All of these conditions are nasty, uncomfortable, and not something you want to pick up, if you can help it.
Infections like ringworm, herpes and impetigo will usually result in some time (up to a few weeks) off the mats while you recover. Cases will often spread through a gym as well, infecting multiple members of the gym.
On the more serious end of the scale, MRSA and staph can be life-threatening if not treated in time. These two conditions are both caused by Staphylococcus bacteria, which is incredibly strong and can be resistant to antibiotic treatment.
It’s vital to recognize staph infections as soon as possible, so you can treat it before it becomes anything too serious. This type of infection is usually characterized by painful pus-filled lumps, which look a little like whitehead pimples.
If caught in time, you can usually treat staph infections with either oral or topical antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. However, infections left untreated will spread very fast, leading to infections of the joints, bones, organs and more. The end result can be as serious as limb amputation or death in some cases.
Basic Steps to Avoiding Infections in BJJ
There’s good news, folks!
You can avoid disgusting infections like those above by being smart about your personal hygiene. Infections usually crop up when you, or someone in your gym, gets lax about these kind of things.
It might not keep you 100% safe, but these basic hygiene tips will drastically reduce the chance of catching anything.
Wash your uniform (and yourself!!!)
Step one is washing your gi, rashguard, shorts, and indeed yourself.
If you’ve been training for a while, you’re familiar with those training sessions that end up with a sopping wet uniform, as well as sweat (and god knows what else) all over the mats.
If you don’t wash your gi after training, you’re inviting bacteria and fungus to cultivate themselves. That’s why it’s a must that you wash your uniform after every training.
You don’t want to be the “smelly gi guy” in your gym (every gym has one).
It’s also essential to shower as soon after training as possible. The longer you go before washing up, the more time you give bacteria to develop and purchase real estate on your body. If your gym has shower facilities, make use of these. Otherwise, try to get home and wash up ASAP after training.
Cover up open wounds/cuts
Most of these infections come about from dirty stuff getting into open wounds like cuts, scratches and mat burns.
It’s not always possible to avoid cuts and scratches – we are fighting, after all. But take basic steps to cover up any broken skin. Tape over open wounds, and use rashguards to both cover abrasions and avoid things like matburn. Also cut your nails, to avoid cuts and scratches.
Wear your shoes off the mat (and not on the mat)
Feet and footwear are one of the easiest ways to spread dirty, fungus and bacteria.
Most of us walk a lot. Imagine what you can be stepping in when you’re out and about. Now, if you wear the same shoes and then step on the mats, you’re spreading whatever you picked up, on the mats you’re about to be rolling on.
Most gyms have a strict “no shoes on the mat / shoes/slippers off the mat” policy, for this very reason.
Bring a towel
You can expect to sweat, so it’s best to have a towel on hand to reduce how far your sweat and bacteria travels.
Infections come from bacteria that’s left to cultivate on your body or uniform for a long time. Thus, you can combat this by frequently wiping yourself down throughout your training session.
Just make sure to wash your towel after each session, or else the towel itself is going to end up a breeding ground for bacteria.
Use antibacterial or antifungal soap
Even washing up straight after training isn’t always enough. Some of the bacteria you find is pretty resilient.
Instead of a simple dove, you should invest in a stronger soap for washing up, specially designed for fighting strong bacteria and fungus.
There are a bunch of really good options out there, many of which are specially designed for BJJ and combat sports athletes. We’ll go over the best of the best in the next section.
Stay off the mats if you have an infection
The final point should be obvious, but it bears mentioning.
If you have something like staph or ringworm, take a break from training. Not only are you going to end up spreading the infection around your gym, you also make it harder for your body to fight it and recover. You might even attract new infections through the broken skin.
You can afford to take a week or two off. Don’t risk it.
Best Antibacterial and Antifungal Soap for Ringworm, Staph and Other Infections
Antifungal soap is a great way to protect yourself against infections and stay on the mat. But you have to be confident the soap you choose does what it says it does.
To save you a lot of trial and error, here are the best options out there.
Defense Soap is the gold standard for martial artists who want to stay clean and healthy.
Defense has a range of products, but this one – their original bar soap – is still the standout. The clinically proven mix of essential oils (including tea tree and eucalyptus oil) kick out bacteria, fungi and odors. And being an all natural product, it’s fine for use on sensitive skin and won’t have any unwanted side-effects.
Using this soap after every training ensures yourself the best chance at staying clear of nastiness like ringworm and staph.
Remedy Soap is a body wash made to protect athletes against bacteria and fungus infections, as well as daily hygiene-related issues like bad body odor and rashes.
As it comes in a liquid body wash, it’s ideal for all-over protection – not only the areas at risk for BJJ athletes, it’s also great at getting in around the feet and toes, providing protection against Athlete’s Foot and similar infections. They also have bar soap options if that’s your preference.
This entry is formulated with a powerful mix of natural ingredients, which makes it ideal for fighting against the nasty stuff you’ll pick up on the mats.
As with many of the antibacterial soaps we’re discussing here, Purely Northwest is made with tea tree oil. This is an essential oil native to the Queensland and New South Wales states in Australia. It has a wide range of health benefits, from keeping insects away to treating dandruff. But the biggest area it comes into play is on the skin, working as a natural antiseptic, helping wounds heal while staying clean.
If you’re serious about training and want to stay clean and healthy, look into anything with tea tree oil, like Purely Northwest body wash.
Power Clean Soap is a product made specifically for athletes, so you know it has the power you need as a BJJ athlete. These bars are made with a base mix of oils such as sunflower, coconut, and safflower, which serve to rejuvenate the body and fight stink. No more being the “smelly guy” at your gym.
Power Clean bars come in three varieties: the #1 option is peppermint, made with peppermint essential oil, which feels and smells great. You also have the choice of active charcoal or coffee flavors, which can have a more powerful effect on tired skin post-training.
With a name like Submission Soap, you can guess who this product is designed for. Some of the nastiness you’re trying to fight off is exclusive to grapplers, so you want a soap designed specifically to fight these infections.
Submission Soap is made by grapplers, who know what’s needed to keep wrestlers and BJJ athletes healthy and feeling good.
All-natural ingredients include peppermint, tea tree, coconut, cajeput, and organic sunflower oils. The three varieties offered are Classic Tea Tree, Peppermint Tea Tree, and a powerful Activated Charcoal.
Best Antibacterial & Antifungal Soaps – In Summary
Gis and rashguards are pretty, but a great antifungal and antibacterial soap may be the best investment you could make in your martial arts training.
These soaps shouldn’t be expected to treat skin infections (make sure you see your doctor if one crops up), but everyday use can ensure you never reach that point.