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Your Yoga Mat Is Disgusting (Here’s How to Clean It)

Woman doing upward facing dog on blue yoga mat
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Do you find yourself rolling up your yoga mat the minute the class is over, not even stopping to think about wiping it down? Here’s why you might rethink that.

Most of us are guilty of not cleaning our mats on the regular, especially if we haven’t taken a hot yoga class or didn’t use a rental. By bringing your own mat to the studio, you might be thinking: I’m the only person using it, and I’ll be rolling it out tomorrow again, so what’s the harm? See, with regular use, your yoga mat gets covered in dirt, oils, and sweat, even if you’re not dripping all over the place. Just think about your hands and feet being everywhere on your mat during only one class when before it, they were touching other objects, surfaces, and people. Now think about doing that again, and again, and again, every time you start your practice.

All sorts of germs, bacteria, viruses, fungus, and yeast can live on your mat and pose a threat to your immune system, even if it doesn’t look dirty or smell funky. The only way to avoid that is by taking good care of your mat and implementing good cleaning habits, so here’s how to do it once and for all.

How Often Should You Clean It?

Like with everything else, the more often you use it, the more frequent you should clean it, but most yoga experts agree on cleaning it at least once a week. If you tend to sweat a lot, or mostly go to hot yoga classes, think about wiping it down after your practice, in addition to one more thorough cleaning that week. Most bacteria, viruses, fungus, and other undesirable creatures thrive in damp and humid environments, so that’s why sweat seems to be their perfect climate.

If you often practice outdoors, having two mats is desireable, so you don’t bring anything from the outside into a closed-up yoga room. As for wiping it down, spend as much time on the “wrong side” of the mat as you do on the “right,” as you want to make sure you’re not spreading it all around once you roll it up.

How To Clean It?

There are many different ways to clean your mat. These methods depend on the type of mat you have (thickness, material, size), space of your apartment or house, and of course, the products you use to clean it with (spray, special wipes with already absorbed detergent, natural or specific cleansers).

If you have a backyard or live close to a beach or open space, hosing it down with water and a mild soap makes it easy and convenient, as it doesn’t require a lot of effort. Letting it air-dry would be best, so make sure to hang it over a railing, fence, or similar structure, but be prepared to wait for 12-24 hours, depending on the thickness of your mat and outside temperature. Avoid leaving it in the sun, as it can be too harsh on your mat’s surface, and over time, it may cause it to wear out quicker than it usually would.

If you don’t have access to an outdoor space, putting it in the bathtub and hosing it down there or even soaking it (if it’s pretty gross or used on a dirty surface) will do the trick. Just make sure to, once again, hang it over a railing or towel rack to airdry. Keep the doors of your bathroom opened, so you avoid it from staying damp.

Some of the yoga mats are even machine washable, so make sure to check the manufacturer’s website before you try to figure out how to wash it in your small bathroom. Although stating you shouldn’t tumble dry, it goes without saying, probably it’s good to mention it anyway: don’t do it, even if you have a travel mat and you think how “nothing will happen if you do it just this one time.” Your mat will be ruined for good, not to mention it could destroy your dryer as well, as it can be too harsh and rigid for it.

For something you can do more often and doesn’t require as much drying time, use a spray or special yoga mat wipes and scrub your mat after your class. It only takes a second, and it makes all the difference.

Woman standing on yoga mat
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

What Type Of Cleaner Is Best?

The most basic way to clean your yoga mat is with soap and water, but be careful not to use too much soap as it can leave a slippery residue and make your future practice dangerous. A lot of manufacturers expressly forbid using soap for that exact reason, especially if they promote their “grippy” texture created to avoid slipping all over the place once you’ve begun to sweat. Make sure always to check their official website and instructions.

There are also a ton of specialty cleansers on the market depending on what type of material your mat is made of, which contain ingredients that will sanitize your mat without ruining the delicate fibers or losing its special features. When choosing a cleanser, try to opt for natural ingredients as much as possible, so you avoid any irritation that might occur when it gets in contact with your skin.

On the other hand, you can always make your own by creating a simple spray that’s half water, half vinegar, or even adding naturally sanitizing (and wonderfully smelling) essential oils such as tea tree oil, lemon, thyme, eucalyptus, or lavender. Easy, peasy!

What About My Yoga Towel?

You might be thinking, “But, I use a yoga towel when I practice. Does that mean my mat doesn’t need to be cleaned as often?” Well, although using a yoga towel does absorb most of the sweat and dirt instead of the mat itself, some of the moisture still ends up going through, and over time, you’ll be facing the same problem. Staying with the recommended once-a-week routine would still be your best option.

Keeping your mat clean will not only keep you protected from germs and potential bacteria lurking around, but it will also extend its life, so that every time you roll it out, you can “Namaste” your worries away.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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