How to Clean a Yoga Mat So That It Lasts Longer
Knowing how to clean a yoga mat properly can make it last longer and prevent infections. Yoga mats, like any other thing out there, get dirty. As you practice, they get exposed to sweat, body oils, skin products, and dirt.
Depending on how they are made, yoga mats can become either sticky or slippery. Or they can soak up all the nastiness and become a nest for microbes, fungi, bacteria, and infections to grow. Not to mention, dirty mats can smell really bad and deteriorate faster.
So, if you usually roll yours up after each practice and leave it be till your next class, it may be overdue for a good cleaning.
No judgment here. My first ever yoga mat didn’t get much love from me either. Well, honestly, it barely got any love at all. Live and learn.
How To Clean a Yoga Mat?
Although the methods I list below apply to most yoga mats, not all of them are the same. The type of a yoga mat determines the best cleaning approach. Inappropriate care can damage it or significantly shorten its lifespan.
Your best and safest bet is following the caring instructions provided by the manufacturer. Brands usually list them in their product descriptions, FAQs, or on their blog. Therefore, you can simply go to their website and look them up.
If you can’t find anything or have doubts about following general cleaning guidelines, you can contact the manufacturer and ask for caring instructions for your specific yoga mat.
Unless instructed otherwise, for optimal upkeep, you should do both:
- give your mat a regular quick wipe, and
- do a deeper and more thorough cleaning from time to time.
As if you would vacuum your apartment every week and do a massive spring cleaning every year.
Regular Yoga Mat Maintenance
Consistent care for your mat will ensure that it smells and feels nice and fresh. It’ll also keep bacteria, fungi, and infections at bay.
So, at least once per week, you can do one of the following:
- Apply mat cleaning spray directly to your mat and wipe it off with a cloth or a towel. Pre-made sprays tend to come with a microfiber towel, but you can use any sort of rag, cloth, or towel that you have.
- Use special mat-cleaning wipes.
- Make your own cleaner. Take an empty spray bottle, and mix together 1:1 water and vinegar. Spray your mat with it and wipe it with a cloth. You can add a few drops of essential oil of your choice, for example, tea tree oil or lavender. Tea tree oil is a great option because it has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-microbial properties. Don’t use too much oil and not too often, though, as excessive use can damage your yoga mat. Note that vinegar will have a particular lasting smell. Especially when combined with essential oils.
- Dilute mild soap with water, dip a cloth or a rag into it, and use it to wipe your mat. Choose water-based, organic soap, and avoid using too much of it. Particularly on natural rubber, as it can soak up the suds and become slippery.
- Simply wipe your yoga mat with a damp cloth.
After you’ve done that, hang your yoga mat or lay it flat to dry, though never in direct sunlight. That can damage it.
Deep Cleaning Your Yoga Mat
Every one or two months, thoroughly clean your yoga mat. That’ll prevent nasty smells and possible infections from developing.
This is particularly important with natural rubber mats. They have an open-cell structure and absorb everything like sponges.
You can do one of the following:
- Soak your mat in the bathtub for a few minutes. This will help any dirt, oils, and nasty stenches to separate. Pour enough water to cover it and add a few cups of vinegar, some mild soap, dishwashing liquid, or laundry detergent to it. Choose organic, perfume-free, or hypoallergenic cleaning products if you can. It will leave less residue.
- Handwash your mat with soap or dish cleaning liquid and then rinse it in the shower or hose it in the backyard.
- If you have a front-loader type of washer, you may be able to wash your yoga mat in it. Front loaders are gentler and need less detergent than top loaders. Set it on gentle mode and on low temperature, and add a bit of vinegar or mild detergent. Skip the spin cycle if you’re worried that it will cause damage. This works for most PVC mats as well as cotton rugs but is not advised for all kinds of yoga mats. So, check the instructions for yours to be certain.
Always make sure you rinse your yoga mat thoroughly. Use hot water if you apply vinegar and the smell is bothering you.
Don’t wring or tumble dry it. It can tear, distort, or otherwise damage the material.
To remove excess moisture, place a dry towel on top and gently roll the yoga mat up (don’t leave it this way, though).
When you’re done cleaning and rinsing it, lay it flat or hang it to dry, always away from direct sunlight.
How Often Should You Clean Your Yoga Mat?
It all depends on the intensity and type of yoga that you do. The harder you go and the sweatier your practice, the more often you should be cleaning your mat.
To give you an idea, if you practice the gentler styles of yoga, you should wipe your yoga mat at least once every week. Give it a thorough washing once every couple of months.
If you do the dynamic types or sweat a lot, wipe it after every class and deep clean it every month.
Other Yoga Mat Caring Tips
There are a few more things you can do to ensure that your mat serves you long and well:
- Keep it away from direct sunlight. For example, avoid leaving it on the back seat of your car on a hot day. This can deteriorate it faster or even make it start to decompose. This is especially important for natural rubber and TPE. They really don’t get along with the sun.
- Air dry your mat regularly (in a place where the sun can’t reach it). This is essential for rubber mats as they absorb moisture. So, if you own one, it’s a good idea to let it dry after each practice instead of leaving it rolled up.
- Wash your hands and feet before each practice. It will ensure that fewer body oils and less dirt will get onto the mat.
- Don’t constantly leave your yoga mat rolled up or packed up in a bag.
- Don’t use alcohol or alcohol-based cleaners on it.
Special Caring Instructions
- Some mats, such as Manduka eKo, should never be soaked, machine washed or cleaned with soap. Instead, use premade cleaning sprays or the water and vinegar solution described above to wipe it regularly.
- Though natural rubber is a durable material, it has been softened to create a mat. Because of that, the material is not as dense as other types and also more delicate. So, always clean your rubber mat gently.
- Never machine wash TPE mats. Machine washing can deform their shape and wash out the glue that holds them together.
- Cotton yoga rugs and some hybrid mats can be machine-washed. Do so in cold water and separately from other items, particularly during the first few times. Cotton rugs that have stripes and patterns in bright colors can bleed.
What If You Practice at a Studio and Use Their Mats?
Rest assured that yoga studios should regularly clean their mats. However, may not be able to do it after every single use. This means that you can still get exposed to someone else’s sweat and bacteria.
Here’s what you can do to avoid that:
- Use a yoga towel over a studio yoga mat. It can be a more hygienic way of using the studio’s mats. It is also more lightweight than a travel mat as well as easy to pack and transport.
- Use a mat spray and a microfiber towel. Take a few minutes to give the mat a quick wipe. Sprays come in small bottles that can be easily stored in your bag, and you may even be able to buy one at your local studio. Do come on time for your practice to do so.
- Use yoga mat wipes. It is another way to freshen a mat up right before practice. Wipes won’t leave any residue and will dry instantly. You can also use them to clean the other props you will be using, for example, blocks, as well as your hands and feet if need be.
How do you take care of your mat? How often do you do it? Do you use any methods that have not been listed here?