Cleaning your yoga mat is a simple task that keeps it sanitary and odor-free. Germs, viruses, and bacteria love sweaty places. Ringworm, for example, is a fungus that can grow on well-used surfaces, like yoga mats. Even shared mats at studios and gyms can be virtual riots of fungus and bacteria! Bringing your own mat to practice is the best way to stay hygienic — as long as your mat itself is clean.
Note that you don’t want to be too aggressive with your cleansing. Keeping the "sticky" grip of your yoga mat is essential for a safe and beneficial practice. It’s easy to keep your mat fresh and germ-free! Just follow the steps below and you’ll have a sanitized and stink-free mat in no time.
There are a few different methods you can apply to scrub your mat. If it’s not too grungy, soap and water will work just fine. If it’s pretty gross — or if it’s been shared — a sanitizing solution is your best bet. And if you’re short on time or space, a washing machine should work just fine.
Soap & Water
There are a couple of good options to remove dirt and sanitize your mat. The most basic way to clean your mat is with diluted dish soap and water. Create a solution made with two cups of water to every four drops of dish soap. Be careful not to use too much soap! Doing so can leave a slippery residue on your mat, making future yoga practices dangerous.
Use a damp sponge or rag to scrub the soiled areas. Don’t use steel wool or any other type of coarse scrubber, as these can damage your mat. Rinse the mat thoroughly with clean, hot water. If your mat is deeply soiled, submerge it entirely in a solution of warm water and dish soap or mild detergent (like Woolite).
You can buy pre-made, mat-sanitizing sprays, or go the homemade route. It’s easy to make your own sanitizing spray with water and essential oils. Tea tree oil is a great choice because it is antifungal. Lemon and lavender essential oils also have mild antibacterial and antifungal properties. Make sure you’re not allergic to the essential oils that you choose. Also, never spray your mat in a public space, as other yoga students might have adverse reactions to the ingredients.
Be sure your water-to-oil ratio is very high:
- Add one or two drops of essential oil to a spray bottle filled with clean water.
- If your mat is especially stinky, add a teaspoon of baking soda to your solution.
- Shake well.
- Spray a fine mist of the solution over your mat.
- Wipe clean with a hot, damp towel.
Commercial mat sanitizers sometimes contain bleach or alcohol. Bleach solutions can be useful to destroy most viruses and bacteria, but the solution can be very irritating to the skin. Tea tree oil, though, is effective and less irritating. If you choose to not use essential oils, try making a solution with three parts water to one part hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol. You can also use watered-down witch hazel (an astringent).
Some yoga mats are machine washable. Be sure to check with the manufacturer’s website before tossing your mat in the machine. Many eco-friendly mats are meant to only be hand-washed, and can get damaged or destroyed by the tumble cycle.
If you’re using a washing machine, use a very small amount of gentle detergent (like Woolite). Choose the gentle cycle with cool water. Wash your mat separately from clothing and do not use the spin cycle.
To dry your mat, roll it up and squeeze out any excess water. Rub it dry with a terry cloth towel and then hang it to air dry. If your mat is very absorbent, lay it open on a dry towel. Roll the mat and towel together. You can step on the mat to squeeze out even more water. Then unroll the mat and hang it up to dry. It will usually dry overnight, but may take longer in humid weather. Do not put your mat in the tumble dryer or place it on a radiator or space heater.
Keep It Clean
Wash your mat once every couple of months, depending on your practice schedule. Hang your mat between classes rather than keeping it rolled up. Spray it down each time you use it with commercial mat-cleaning spray or your homemade solution. A light spritz after each practice is all it needs — you don’t need to saturate it each time you do yoga.
To avoid a potential fungal or bacterial infection, don’t share your mat and wash your feet before practice. Buy your own and bring it to class, rather than using one of the shared mats at the studio or gym.
If you sweat a lot, you may want to consider buying a yoga towel. These are designed to fit the entire length of your mat and are made from extra absorbent material that dries quickly. Some of these yoga towels even have rubber nubs on the bottom to prevent slippage! Yoga towels can be hand-washed or tossed in the washing machine, making it an easy way to keep your mat clean for a long time.
Keeping your mat clean will extend its life! As long as it stays "sticky," your mat may last several years. Staying sanitary will help you to enjoy all the benefits of your yoga practice.