How to treat a new hakama

Got a brand new hakama? Better treat it first or you might end up with a faded hakama, stains all over your house, and smurfy blue skin. Follow these important steps to preserve your hakama (and your dignity).

If you have an indigo hakama (navy blue)…

Indigo is a highly alkaline vat dye.1 Originally extracted from plants, nowadays almost all indigo is manufactured synthetically.2

Because indigo is not set with a mordant3 but rather through a natural fermentation process, it is not possible to “fix” indigo dye to fabric after the dying process.4 However, the pH of the indigo can and should be neutralized by soaking the hakama in a vinegar solution (or a solution of another mild acid).5 Soak the hakama (folded) overnight in a small plastic tub in a solution of two tablespoons salt and two tablespoons distilled white vinegar per gallon of cold soft water.6 7

Following this procedure, lay the hakama flat in a large plastic tub. Fill the tub with cool water. Add a cleanser free of whiteners and brighteners. Woolite works well. Step on the hakama to allow the cleanser to penetrate the fabric. Let the hakama soak for a couple hours.

Next, rinse the hakama thoroughly in cold water. Empty the large plastic tub and place a drying rack in it (or over it). Hang the hakama on the drying rack to dry. Any excess indigo will fall into the plastic tub as it drips from the hakama.

For all other hakama colors…

Hakama made with natural fibers such as cotton will probably have been dyed with a fiber reactive dye or possibly an acid dye. With cotton in particular it’s almost guaranteed that a fiber reactive dye was used.8 If the fiber reactive dye was applied properly, there should be no need to “set” the dye.9 Simply wash your hakama and you’re good to go. However, if you prefer to be safe rather than sorry, you can set the dye using a cationic fixative such as Retayne. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use. Then wash the hakama and you’re all “set”. (Sorry about the pun). 😉

Hakama made from polyester will have been dyed with a disperse dye. These dyes are fused with the polyester at extremely high temperatures and are not likely to bleed much. 10 Nevertheless, you’ll want to wash the hakama before you wear it for the first time.

  2. – Indigo in the Early Modern World

I started practicing Aikido in 2000. It instantly became one of my main interests. And the rest is history.

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One comment on “How to treat a new hakama
  1. József Barna says:


    My name is József Barna.I have been practising Katori Shinto Ryu and Aikido.In this August I took the black belt exam of Katori and now I’m standing face to face a problem.Buying hakama!!I don’t like tetron and mixed hakamas.I like 100% cotton hakama.My choice would be an indigo dyied blue cotton hakama.Now I have many questions: I know that it bleeds but does it stop anytime later or everytime(washing,training) will do it?Does it exist fixed dyied blue cotton hakama?I don’t want to stain my trainer partners or tatami if I will accomplish the black belt exam in aikido.I have read almost everything about the Indigo dyied cotton hakama.Are there similar problems with cotton black hakama?I am mainly interested in colour problems,I have read everything about how to maintain and care the hakama.
    Thanking you in anticipation

    József Barna

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