You are in the moment, in tune with your body, feeling relaxed. As you slip into Child’s Pose, you take in a deep cleansing breath. Suddenly, you get a whiff of gym socks, mildew and what’s that other smell? Ugh your dog Sparky. Nothing threatens your zen-ity faster than a stinky yoga mat.
Whether you are a yoga connoisseur or a beginner testing the waters, taking care of your mat is important. You’re going to have your face, feet and hands all over it. It’s your trusty partner, keeping your feet from sliding out from under you and cushioning your tooshie. It’s also a gathering place for sweat, make-up and that fruity hand lotion you like to use.
In addition to those culprits, there are other things that can make your mat smell less than stellar. How clean is that floor you are laying it on? Ever find Sparky sprawled on its comfy contours? Does it ride around in your car, rolled up until the next yoga class?
A damp, rolled up yoga mat is prime breeding ground for bacteria. It’s also a favorite growing environment for mold, mildew and fungus. Now that I’ve grossed you out, hopefully you’re on board with the importance of a little tender, loving cleaning of your mat once in a while.
The Best Way to Clean Your Yoga Mat
Here’s what you don’t want to do – stick your yoga mat in the washing machine. All that tumbling can cause it to tear or begin to degrade, and if you add too much soap, you’ll end up with a dangerous, slippery mess.
So what’s the right way to clean? If your mat is just lightly soiled, take a damp sponge or wash cloth and a drop of dish soap or mild laundry detergent. Gently wipe down each side of the mat. Then wipe with another wet cloth to remove soap residue.
Vinegar is a great cleaner to have around the house for many things. It’s all natural and has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Some people though, like me, don’t like its odor and can still detect it lingering after the mat dries.
I prefer another DIY solution of water and a couple drops of essential oil. My favorite is tea tree oil. It has a fresh odor that is synonymous in my brain to relaxation. Tea tree oil carries a whole list of antis in its job description – antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral and antimicrobial. It’s been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of maladies like acne, wounds, sunburn, warts and infections. If you don’t like the smell of tea tree oil, try lavender, peppermint or your favorite.
There are also lots of organic cleaning sprays on the market to try like Aura Cacia Purifying Yoga Mist or Gaiam’s Yoga Mat Wash. These both contain blends of essential oils. So they smell heavenly and also easily remove sweat, dirt or lotions that have found their way on your mat.
Perhaps one of the most popular spray options is Asutra Yoga Mat Cleaner. It’s safe to use on all types of mats and is 100% natural and organic. You can find Asutra and many other cleaners online, in sports stores or your local yoga studio.
The Deep Clean
Every couple of months, it’s a good idea to give your mat a deep clean. You can do this outside using your garden hose, a little soap and a sponge. Make sure you thoroughly rinse so there’s no remaining soap. We don’t want to see a future viral video of you wiping out in yoga class.
For an inside dunking method, fill up your bathtub with lukewarm water. Plop your mat in and allow it to soak for a few minutes. Again take a little bit of soap and wipe down both sides with a soft cloth or sponge. Let out the water and fill the tub again to rinse your mat. A handheld shower head makes rinsing easier.
Now that you’ve got your clean, water-logged mat, how do you get it dry? You may be tempted to put it in the clothes dryer. Don’t. The heat from the dryer can damage it. Instead lay it on a dry towel and then roll it up to squeeze out the extra moisture. You could also lay it between two towels and walk on it.
Then hang the mat across the shower rod or a laundry rack to dry. Don’t hang it in the sun. Depending on what it’s made of, you could really dry out your mat, making it start to crumble. It might take a good 24 hours for your mat to dry. You could speed things along a bit with a fan.
Didn’t really have a good time doing that deep clean? Then add a little regular maintenance into your yoga routine. It will help extend the life of your trusty friend and decrease how often you have to do a deep clean.
- Wash your hands and feet before doing yoga. This will remove any dirt or oils on your digits and keep them off your mat.
- Wipe off your mat after each use with baby wipes (pick a gentle version with no soaps or lotions) or with yoga mat specific wipes. One popular brand is Jo-Sha Yoga Mat Cleaning Wipes. These are natural and infused with essential oils. Your mat will dry quickly, and you can use them on your hands and feet too. For the environmentally conscious, the wipes are biodegradable. Some other brands you could check out are Dragonfly Yoga Mat Wipes and Jasmine Seven Yoga Mat Cleaner Wipes. Just like the sprays, you can find these online, at a sports store or your local yoga studio. Be sure to let your mat dry before rolling it up and storing.
- To protect your mat from sweat, consider using a yoga towel. Note a yoga towel is different than a regular, old bath towel. A regular towel will slip around on your mat, and again, you could end up being a YouTube sensation.
- Air out your mat regularly. Don’t leave it rolled up all the time until your next use.
- When you stash your mat, keep it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Don’t keep it in the basement like I used to. That’s just asking for mold and mildew to take up residence.
Cleaning Your Yoga Mat Wrap Up
Now what did we learn today? A little regular maintenance on your yoga mat goes a long way. There are several ways to safely clean your mat, and it’s not in the washer and dryer. Take care of your trusty mat, my friends, and it will take care of you. Namaste.