7 Must-Know Facts About Cleaning Your Yoga Mat
Even if you’re not regularly attending hot yoga classes, your yoga mat collects sweat, oil and dirt. Here’s how to clean your yoga mat.
Your yoga mat is the foundation for your practice, but it’s also a breeding ground for bacteria. A dirty mat has a buildup of sweat and moisture, an environment in which fungi and bacteria thrive. And that can lead to athlete’s foot, ringworm, and plantar warts.
Depending on what kind of yoga you practice, for example, if you regularly attend hot yoga classes, simply wiping down your mat after each session won’t fully clean your mat. Your mat may require a thorough disinfecting after each session as well as a weekly deep cleaning if you’re in class every day or an intense sweater.
On the flip side, a monthly deep cleaning might suffice if you only occasionally hit the mat. Keeping your mat clean helps extend its life, especially if it is grippy or sticky.
7 Steps to a Clean, Odor-Free Yoga Mat
1.Know the Difference Between Cleaning and DisinfectingWhile cleaning removes germs, disinfecting kills germs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cleaning may entail anything from wiping down the mat to throwing the entire mat into a soapy tub to soak.
Cleaning your mat involves wiping it down after each use. But disinfecting the mat is making sure you use the proper solution — such as water, white vinegar, and tea tree oil — to kill germs and bacteria. Doing both can help stop the spread of infection caused by bacteria that may be living on the surface of your yoga mat.
There are also different types of yoga mats — some are closed-cell mats that tend to be thinner and water resistant, which means liquid isn’t soaked in as quickly. These tend to be the smooth, sticky, non-slip mats that are ideal for hot yoga classes.
Cleaning a closed-cell mat doesn’t require putting it into a soapy tub. Instead, lay it on a flat surface and use warm water and a few drops of liquid dish soap on a fresh rag to clean the surface. Then wipe it down with a dry towel.
Other mats can soak up and retain liquid, which means bacteria can thrive. These are the mats that tend to have a bumpy texture on the surface, to allow your hands and feet to properly grip the mat.
For these mats, allowing them to soak in a tub for five minutes with a few drops of dish soap helps loosen up the bacteria. After soaking, scrub the surface with a gentle cloth and rinse. Allow it to fully air dry before you roll it up.
2.Wipe Your Mat Down After Each Yoga SessionTo maintain your mat’s cleanliness and keep the germs at bay, wipe it down with anti-bacterial wipes after each session. Look for wipes that kill 99.9 percent of germs on initial contact.
If you prefer natural ingredients, you can DIY an inexpensive yoga mat cleaner: Mix equal parts distilled water, white vinegar, and a few drops of tea tree oil, which is a known antimicrobial that helps destroy bacteria.
Before you make a solution, however, check your yoga mat’s cleaning instructions as some recommend avoiding vinegar-based sprays or essential oils. For rubber mats, skip products containing essential oils.
Consider bringing a travel-size spray bottle and extra hand towel to class and spray it down immediately afterward.
3.Occasionally Soak Your Mat in the TubIn addition to wiping it down after each session, give your mat a good soak in your bathtub either weekly or monthly, depending on how frequently you practice.
Fill your tub with warm water and add one tablespoon of dish washing liquid soap for every gallon of water. Once the water is bubbly, place your mat in the tub and let it soak for 10 minutes to loosen dirt and germs.
If your mat is especially dirty in certain places (like where you regularly place your hands and feet), spot clean those areas before or after you soak it in the tub. Similar to removing stains from clothing before washing, spot cleaning simply means spending more time wiping a specific area on the mat with soap and water.
After 10 minutes of soaking, take a soft washcloth or sponge and scrub the mat. Rinse off the soap until the water runs clear. Then dry it off with a clean towel and let it air dry.
4.Be Sure to Remove OdorsIf you notice your yoga mat has an unpleasant odor when you unroll it, it’s time to deodorize. There are easy ways to do this with products you likely have at home like baking soda. You could also go the store-bought route, but many commercial brands use bleach or alcohol, which may be too harsh if you have sensitive skin.
As an eco-friendly alternative, sprinkle some baking soda onto your mat and rub it in. Let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes, then brush it off or vacuum up the excess.
You can also create this homemade deodorizing spray:
- Add a few drops of essential oils such as tea tree oil in a spray bottle of clean water.
- Add in a teaspoon of baking soda and shake it up.
- Spray the solution over your mat and wipe it with a damp, hot towel.
Note: You can also use a watered-down witch hazel, which is an astringent and may be more gentle on your skin. Witch hazel also helps neutralize odors trapped in your mat.
When shopping for yoga mats, look for products made with anti-odor materials. The Nike Mastery yoga mat is made of natural rubber and synthetic materials that are 20% recycled. Its anti-odor construction means no smelly odors in class.
5.Check If the Mat is Washer Friendly
Check your yoga mat’s cleaning instructions before putting it into your washing machine.
Some yoga mats are perfectly fine being thrown into the washing machine on a gentle, cold cycle. Use a very small amount of gentle detergent and don’t wash with your clothing.
Don’t use the spin cycle, as it may ruin the shape and firmness of your mat. Also, avoid putting the mat in the dryer. Since bacteria thrive in dark, moist places, make sure to fully air dry your mat after each washing.
6.Add a Layer of Dryness With Yoga TowelsIf you sweat a lot or attend mostly hot yoga classes, consider using a yoga towel to keep the top of your mat dry. Yoga towels lie directly on top of your mat, allowing the absorption of most of the sweat and dirt rather than on the mat itself.
Plus, they’re made with quick-dry materials that help your feet and hands grip the mat so you avoid slipping during practice. They’re also long to fit the length and general shape of your yoga mat.
The other great thing about using a towel is that you can throw it in the washer and use it to keep your mat dry after class when you roll up your mat.
7.Store Your Yoga Mat ProperlyMake sure your mat is fully dry before you roll it up and store it. This is especially important if you live in a humid climate. Store it in a cool, dry place with good ventilation.
Pay attention to the grip and stickiness of the mat and whether it still retains its shape. If you notice your mat starts peeling, it’s time to purchase a new mat.
Additional Tips for Keeping Your Yoga Mat Clean
- After each yoga session, hang your mat and allow it to fully air dry rather than keeping it rolled up.
- To avoid a potential fungal or bacterial infection, don’t rent shared yoga mats from the studio or gym.
- Keep your mat out of direct sunlight, as it can cause fading and, depending on the material, can become brittle.
- If you don't feel comfortable mixing your own cleaning products, check online for a pre-made solution designed for yoga mats. You might be surprised at what you find.
- When your yoga mat stars showing significant wear and tear, don't bother with another washing. It's time to replace it. Even a great mat can only withstand so many deep cleans.