Yoga is one of the most popular forms of fitness for a number of reasons. According to a study from 2016 around $16 billion is spent on yoga every year including in practice at studios and at home as well as in gear and accessories. A significant portion of that yearly amount is spent on buying yoga mats. Keeping your mat clean remains very important because while yoga is considered to promote your wellness and health your very own mat could be causing a range of illnesses from acne and toenail fungus to staph and more.
Why is it Important to Keep Your Yoga Mat Clean?
Most yoga practices result in some sweating, even if they are gentle, restorative practices. Every drop of sweat can carry bacteria, germs, and microbes which can be absorbed into the material of the yoga mat, especially when that material is porous. During the next practice, those same germs can be reintroduced causing infections and illnesses.
Many people are careful about wiping down a rented yoga mat when they go to a studio or a gym. They're afraid of other people's germs but are less vigilant about their own germs when using their private mats. Even if you're using your mat at your home, the germs are there. It is just as important to keep your mat clean even if you're the only one who ever touches it.
Not to mention the odor. If you’ve ever taken a deep breath during child's pose or chaturanga and smelled something funky you must know what we're talking about.
How Often Should You Clean Your Yoga Mat?
The answer to this question may depend on how often you practice yoga, the style of yoga and the meaning of the word "clean". A quick disinfecting spray with a commercial or do-it-yourself solution should be done after every practice.
You can also use specialized wipes to wipe down the mat. Try to avoid using regular baby wipes as this may result in compromising the stickiness of your mat, making it less grippy.
Regular use of sprays or wipes should eliminate most of the germs, but if your mat is soiled, smells or feels dirty, it is time for deeper cleaning. Deep cleaning is recommended every few weeks to once per month or more often if you are doing hot yoga, have been sick or are taking the mat to a studio frequently.
Ways to Clean Your Mat
There are several ways to clean your mat, and it varies according to the type of cleaning, from regular easy wipe down to deeper cleaning. Let’s review these methods and provide some guidelines for each of them.
Tips for General, Routine Maintenance
These few simple steps can ensure your yoga mat will better serve you in your practice.
- Make sure your hands and feet are clean before approaching the mat. We carry a lot of dirt without even being aware of it. Wash your hands and feet before practice or consider baby wipes if washing is not available.
- Wipe your mat down with a specialized yoga mat wipes for quick clean, after each practice. You can also use mat spray and wipe it off with a soft microfiber towel.
- If you tend to heavily sweat or attend hot yoga classes, consider using a yoga towel. They are designed to absorb sweat and enhance your grip and after use can be just thrown in the washing machine.
- Allow your mat to air dry whenever possible to prevent the warm, darkness that some bacteria thrive in.
Sprays vs. Wipes
For the average mat, regular maintenance sprays and wipes provide about the same level of cleaning so it comes down to personal preference. If there is a scent of wipes that you like that is not available in the sprays, use the wipes. Some people feel that you get a deeper sense of clean with the sprays and to them the wipes are just wiping the germs around the mat rather than getting rid of them.
A spray can be left to permeate the mat and the excess wiped away with a washable microfiber towel. A wipe can only be used one time and then it is thrown away. Regardless of which you choose the most important factor is consistent, regular use.
Sprays - Commercial Solutions
There’s a variety of pre-made sanitizing solutions used for cleaning yoga mats. Make sure that you are using a strong enough solution that most germs are being killed but not one that will destroy your mat in the process. Only use sprays that are labeled for mat use when buying commercial products.
Not all commercial sprays are created equal. Try to look for organic ingredients that are labeled as safe for yoga mats. Certain mats may have restrictions for the types of sprays that can be used on them so always know your mat and read any labeling that comes with it carefully for these warnings. Avoid any spray that uses alcohol which can dry the mat and make it brittle and prone to tearing.
Sprays - DIY
An easy and budget-friendly option is making your own spray. We’ve detailed below two popular, effective home-made solutions.
Before trying a diy yoga mat cleaner test it on a small spot and make sure that you're not using any ingredients that would be harmful to the material of your mat.
To get a naturally disinfecting solution try a mix of 50/50 water with white or apple cider vinegar. For ease of applying it is recommended you transfer the solution into a spray bottle. But if one is not available for you, don’t worry, it can also be applied using a terry cloth or a soft towel. Spray it on the mat or gently rub it on and after few short minutes wash it off with warm water.
Essentials Oils Solution
Another option is simply mixing water with essential oils. The ratio here is mostly water and just a few drops of essential oils. We combine two drops of antibacterial and antifungal tea tree essential oil with one drop of antibacterial lavender. If you prefer other essential oils over tea tree oil, you can try lemongrass, eucalyptus, or peppermint that are also antibacterial and antifungal. Just mix-and-match to find your favorite combination.
Never use bleach, peroxide or solvents in a yoga mat cleaner. It can both damage the mat and cause you to feel dizzy, sick or worse as during practice you may inhale residual amounts of these chemicals.
Deep Clean Your Yoga Mat
Even with consistent regular maintenance, you may eventually need to deep clean your yoga mat. When there's a visible accumulation of oils, soil, and mysterious stains or a smell that's affecting your practice, it's time to do a full, deep cleaning.
Soak in a Bathtub:
- Fill a bathtub with warm water, just enough so your mat can be covered. Add very little mild detergent to create a mix of soap and water. Possible available options are dish soap or hypoallergenic laundry detergent. Avoid using too much soap as it may compromise the mat stickiness.
- Place the mat in the bathtub. Make sure it’s covered with water and let it soak for a few minutes.
- Use a soft cloth to wipe each side and gently scrub any stains away. Take extra care not to damage the mat in the process.
- Drain the tub and rinse the mat thoroughly with warm water until they are clear. Make sure no soap residue is left on it. It’s crucial to rinse any soap properly. If some detergent is left, you might be slipping around during practice.
- Let is dry using one of the methods described below.
Use a Washing Machine
For some mats, deep cleaning can be as simple as placing them in the washing machine using a gentle detergent and a gentle wash cycle with no spin. Always make sure to follow the manufacturer instructions as there are mats that cannot be machine washed. Never add bleach and limit the use of chemical softeners, fragrance boosters and anything that could harm the mat and compromise your grip during practice. Once done let it dry, continue reading to learn how.
If your mat is overly large or isn't made of a material that will handle going in the washing machine safely, just use the first method and soak it in the bathtub with mild soap.
How to Dry Your Mat?
Once the mat is clean, there are few options you can follow to verify it dries thoroughly. Make sure not to roll it back up for storage until it’s completely dry.
To get most of the excess water out try placing your mat on top of a large, clean towel and rolling them together. You can also use two towels and place the mat between them like a sandwich. Once rolled start squeezing out the remaining moisture, even step on it lightly. To complete the drying process it's best to hang it and let it fully dry. Draping it over a clothes line, a shower curtain rod or even between two chairs is a good way to allow air to circulate.
You can choose just to hang it dry but when combined with the towel rolling the procedure is quite expedited. It is especially significant for yoga mats that are porous by nature and absorb a lot of moisture, such as rubber mats.
Laying the mat flat is another good option. Should you decide to lay it flat, be sure that you flip it over so that both sides get dry.
Sunbathing your mat might sound tempting, why not enjoy the odor killing and disinfecting power of the sun. Well, it might also be very harmful and result in damaging the mat, causing it to be less-grippy and decreasing its durability. It is especially true for biodegradable materials, so you better be cautious about that and always check the manufacturer instructions.
There's a common rule of thumb - NEVER put your mat in the dryer. This is true for most of the yoga mats. However, there are exceptions. With today's technology, you can find yoga mats, for example, thin travel mat that can be thrown in the dryer. Still, it is crucial to check with the manufacturer of your mat and in case of a doubt avoid it. Better safe than sorry.
Storing Your Yoga Mat
It’s worthwhile paying attention to the way you store your mat. Most of us will usually keep it rolled up after class and just put it aside until the next time we need it. This could potentially become a habitat for germs to thrive. Whether you spray/wipe it after class or not, it’s a good idea just to let it air dry for a while. Keep it fresh and keep the bad smells away by airing it in a shaded space. Once rolled back make sure to store it in a cool, dry place.
Cleaning Recommendations for Few Popular Brands
To make it more accessible for you, we’ve gathered recommendations for some popular brands in the market. Make sure to pay attention to the manufacturers' instructions.
How to Clean a Manduka Yoga Mat?
Manduka is an established brand with a variety of yoga mats made from various materials, from PVC to natural rubber. Their recommended cleaning method is by using their organic yoga mat cleaners. The Natural Rubber Mat Wash was designed for natural rubber yoga mats, such as their eKO yoga mats. The all-purpose Mat Wash cleaner can be used for the PRO Series and is also suitable for cleaning PER, TPE and PVC mats by other brands.
Vinegar based solutions can be used to clean the eKO mats. However, Manduka discourages using it for their PRO mats. Machine wash or soaking are not recommended in both cases. It emphasizes how important it is to follow specific manufacturer instruction especially when one brand offers such a variety of mats produced from different materials — no one-solution-fits-all in this case.
How to Clean a Jade Yoga Mat?
Jade yoga mats are manufactured from natural rubber using an open-cell construction. That makes them porous so they easily absorb moisture. The main benefit is the enhanced traction and grip but the the downside is the accumulated dirt and germs. It is important to clean them regularly and wipe them after each practice. Use designated mat cleaner or a home-made solution with vinegar or mild soap.
Deep clean it once in a while and make sure that once all soap is removed and you let it dry completely. Due to its absorbing nature the drying process may take longer. Avoid shortcuts as partially dried mat can potentially turn into a breeding ground for bacteria.
How to Clean a Lululemon Yoga Mat?
Lululemon recommend wiping down your mat right after practice with soap and warm water. Then hang it to dry. Their yoga mats are manufactured from rubber with a polyurethane coating and absorb moisture, so it is best to clean them right away and not let the sweat and dirt permeate. Maintaining this cleaning routine will significantly improve your mats’ chances of lasting longer in a good state.
Avoid using the washing machine to clean your Lululemon mat.
How to Clean a Gaiam Yoga Mat?
To clean your Gaiam yoga mat, you can use one of the methods described in this article. Whether it’s a simple wipe down using water and mild soap or vinegar based solution or essential oils spray, just make sure to hang dry it and let it ventilate once it is clean.
A dirty mat can not only affect your health but also impact the quality of your practice. Keeping your mat clean is just a few simple steps away. Following the guidelines for regular maintenance will allow you to enjoy your mat for an extended period and not worry about compromising its integrity. We wish you a fresh, clean and fulfilling practice.