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Figuring out how to clean a yoga mat is an essential part of maintaining a sound and healthy yoga practice. A proper yoga mat cleaning regimen can definitely contribute to the discipline and sense of intentionality most yogis aspire to, but cleaning a yoga mat also serves a practical purpose: basic hygiene. 

Learn more about why yoga mats need regular and thorough cleaning, how to do it correctly with basic items you may already have at home, plus some extra mat cleaning tips and tricks that’ll help keep your yoga practice safe and sanitary.

Here’s Why Your Yoga Mat Needs Cleaning And Maintenance

It comes down to your sweat, and the fact that your yoga mat soaks it up. And it isn’t just sweat that your mat regularly sops up — all your natural body oils, residue from makeup and body products, plus dirt from the environment you practice in gets stuck on your mat (often leaving a slippery film that makes it tough to practice). It isn’t hard to believe, especially when you catch a whiff of your dirty mat or feel its grimy surface.

But if a bad smell or less-than-grippy mat texture isn’t enough motivation to keep your yoga mat clean, consider that these are indicative of a larger, but invisible problem: these factors may contribute to bacteria festering on your yoga mat. And this nasty bacteria on an unclean yoga mat can be responsible for a host of skin conditions, like athlete’s foot, plantar warts, ringworm, or even staph.1

Goodbye, Bacteria: Learning The Best Way To Clean And Disinfect Your Mat

You may be itching to throw your mat into the washing machine, but please don’t just yet — read on for the nitty-gritty on getting your yoga mat safely sanitized.

All yoga mats are not made the same. So, the disinfecting method may vary. Here’s the lowdown on best practices for keeping your yoga mat clean (and your yoga practice stress-free).

Know What Your Mat Is Made Of Before Cleaning It

If you’ve cycled through your share of yoga mats, you’re well-aware that they can be made of many different kinds of materials — from affordable PVC rubber mats to pricier cork yoga mats. All types of yoga mats have their caveats when it comes to cleaning. Some don’t tolerate machine washing, harsh cleaners, or even essential oils well. 

In general, most entry-level mats are made of PVC (a non-porous mat surface that can handle more intense cleaning methods), or polyurethane or TPE (porous surfaces, which means they absorb moisture a little too well — so clean with caution). If you’ve invested a little more in your mat, you may have one that’s either natural tree rubber or cork.

While these may have naturally antibacterial properties, they’re also biodegradable — so they don’t take synthetic detergent or frequent washings that well.2

This is why it’s a must to defer to your mat manufacturer’s instructions on how to maintain your particular type of mat to avoid damage and get maximum mileage from it. But while methods and preferred cleaning materials will differ, the fact remains: you can’t get away with not cleaning it at all.

Make A Spray You Can Wipe Down With After Each Use 

Now, it’s time to get yourself an easy yoga mat cleaner. You can prepare a homemade solution to disinfect your mat after each yoga session. This solution is suitable for most, if not all, types of yoga mats. Fill half an opaque spray bottle with distilled or clean water, then fill it up the rest of the way with plain white vinegar. Shake to mix, then spray over the entire surface of your mat (both front and back). Wipe off the residue with a clean towel or soft cloth.3

This basic method is often enough to rid your mat of germs and grime, but if you want to up the disinfecting properties of your pre-made yoga mat cleaning spray, consider adding a splash of tea tree oil. This may help to increase the deodorizing and germ-zapping power of your mat spray without chemicals or harsh detergents. However, you should avoid tea tree oil (or any kind of oil, for that matter, even ones you rub on your body) if you’re using a polyurethane mat.4

Do A Weekly Deep Clean

If you use your mat daily, or do a lot of hot yoga, a weekly deep cleaning is a must. Again, basic household items can come to the rescue. 

  • Mix two cups of warm water and a few drops of dish washing liquid in a spray bottle. The dish soap will be effective enough to clean the mat without being too abrasive. 
  • Wipe the dish liquid solution all over the mat (both sides) with a soft cloth towel. 
  • Rinse your mat by wiping it down with a damp cloth — simply dip another absorbent towel in clean, cool water and make sure you’ve wrung the excess water out well before wiping.5

Dry Your Mat Really Well (Just Not In The Sun)

Whether you’ve done a basic wipe-down or a more thorough deep clean with soapy water, it’s imperative to allow your mat to dry fully to avoid bacteria buildup. The easiest way to do this is to hang it up over a shower rod and let it air-dry. Never leave your mat out in direct sunlight, as this damages the material and may wear your mat out more quickly.6

More Mat Care Tips

  • Practice yoga with clean skin. Wash your hands and feet before stepping onto your mat, and avoid skin creams and makeup. This may help lessen the transfer of dirt and oils onto your mat.
  • Baking soda may help with stains and odor. Simply sprinkle some on, then wipe or vacuum off after about 30 minutes.
  • Consider using a yoga towel. Laying one over your mat not only helps support your grip and stability but may also help keep sweat and gunk from soaking into your mat. Plus, between your mat and the yoga towel, the latter is definitely more machine washable.8

Keep Your Yoga Mat Fresh And Clean 

Having a fresh, nice-smelling mat can certainly contribute positive energy to your practice. Take the time to care for your mat adequately, and you won’t have to worry about skin irritation or lying on days-old sweat. With some basic household items and commitment, you’ll be able to clean your yoga mat the right way.

Learn More:
What Is Yin Yoga? Learn The Potential Health Benefits
Pilates Vs Yoga: Learn The Difference And Potential Health Benefits
What Is Aerial Yoga And What Are The Potential Benefits?