Whether you are using your yoga mat for yoga or other workouts, there is a good chance you haven’t cleaned it in a while… or ever! Sweat, oil, lotions, dust, and remnants from the environment are all accumulating on the surface of your mat. This results in built-up grime and stickiness, where a simple wipe-down won’t cut it any longer. Furthermore, you may be thinking that it is more hygienic to bring your own mat to classes. Research has actually found that in-studio mats can be up to four times less bacteria-filled than your own (1) – yikes! This is because studios (mostly) are more likely to clean their equipment because it’s required. The truth is, a clean yoga mat can contribute to your physical as well as your mental wellness.
Why it’s Important
Not only does this sound gross, and you probably are thinking to buy a brand new one after reading this. However, it is definitely possible to salvage your mat and maintain its hygiene with a few tips and consistency. It is pretty important to keep your mat and other equipment clean because the build of fungus and bacteria can actually lead to some infections such as ringworm, athlete’s foot, warts, and even acne.
Also, you really don’t want bacteria to come into contact with any open wounds you have either. Other people’s germs can also be left on your mat, especially if they have been coughing, sneezing, and been dripping sweat during the class (2).
Ever heard of the saying that goes: “clean space, clean mind?” Similarly, you want to keep your mat clean, not just for avoiding stickiness and grime, but also for a clear mentality during your practice/workout. Practicing with clean equipment, clothes, towel, etc. all support the respect you should have for yoga and the good you are doing your body.
One of the pillars in yoga is the Niyamas (positive duties). One of the Niyamas is the practice of “Saucha,” which entails that you are clean in your body and space in order to upkeep your own self-care and appreciation to the practice. Studies have also shown that you increase your productivity and can even lessen the risk of depression when keeping your space tidy (6).
Having a routine that goes beyond just the time on your mat can also enhance your experience with your practice and workout. Therefore, it is no wonder that the cleanliness of yourself and your surroundings is part of the pillars of yoga.
Ultimately, a clean space will invite more positive energies to the practice and/or workout that you are about to do.
Practicing with clean equipment, clothes, towel, etc. all support the respect you should have for yoga and the good you are doing your body.
How to Clean a Yoga Mat
The most recommended way in cleaning your yoga mat is to wipe it off AND disinfect it. This way will remove the germs and kill the stubborn ones too. Depending on the texture of your mat, you might need to take extra time to clean (see what type of mat you have: https://mbzen.com/yoga-mats-vs-pilates-mats/).
Thicker mats have more open cells and, thus, tend to absorb more oils and dirt. A higher-quality mat that has a thinner and smoother material will also be easier to clean as well as longer-lasting (Buy a nonslip yoga mat here).
- Use natural ingredients in your spray, as these ingredients will come in contact with your skin. Sometimes the studio will provide a spray, otherwise, you can make/buy your own where you can choose the ingredients you are comfortable with.
- Use a few drops of dishwashing soap with some water for a deeper yoga mat wash. Try to do this every two weeks or every month, depending on how often you use it. The dishwashing soap will remove stubborn odors and grime remnants.
- Clean the entire surface area of your mat! You are moving all around it and dripping sweat will travel all over.
- Wipe down your mat with your spray every time you use it.
- Store your mat in a cool and dry place.
- Roll/Fold up your mat tightly to store it, and air it if you haven’t used it in a while.
- Leave the other side of the mat uncleaned. Dust and bacteria from the ground will go on the top of your mat once you roll it together. Unless you own a Relief yoga mat.
- Put the mat in your washing machine or dryer UNLESS stated specifically by the manufacturer. You can crack and ruin the texture of your mat by doing this.
- Dry your mat in direct sunlight, as this can ruin the surface of your mat.
- Use a rough cloth or the rough side of a sponge when wiping and cleaning your mat. Stick to cloths with microfibres, an old T-shirt, and soft towels to avoid scratching the surface.
- Overuse soap – this makes the mat slippery!
Roll up your mat when it is still damp/wet, as bacteria and fungus thrive in moisture (3).
Depending on the texture of your mat, you might need to take extra time to clean.
As mentioned above, you can use the studio sprays or store-bought ones to wipe down your own mat. However, sometimes these sprays have ingredients you don’t want on your skin and/or have scents you don’t particularly like.
When making or choosing a spray, you want to stick to scents and essential oils that are in line with how you would like to feel.
Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that might be great for our health (some compounds are actually harmful). When applied to our skin, our body absorbs the essences to work in different ways. The aroma that the oils have can also have an effect on our minds by stimulating parts of our brain for emotions and behaviors.
For yoga, you want to stick to essential oils that are more soothing and relaxing such as lavender, rose, jasmine, and citrus (7). Here are some DIY options for you to keep your mat and other equipment clean, depending on what you (and your mat) need.
OK… this isn’t a remedy, but yoga towels can definitely be useful in a longer-lasting and cleaner mat. Given that you also wash your towels, these can be another hygienic option for your practice and even a practical one too! Yoga towels can help you stick to your mat, especially if your mat is old or low quality. They are also great if you don’t want to bring your own to class and are borrowing the studio’s. An added bonus is that they can give you an excuse to have a fashionable moment, as they come in different colors and patterns (click here for hot yoga towels and here for more colorful ones!).
Tea Tree Oil Spray
Tea tree oil is a great ingredient to disinfect your mat naturally, and it is a less distracting and unpleasant scent than most other disinfectants. Mix these ingredients in a spray bottle for you own, all natural mat spray (4)! (You can get a spray bottle here).
- 1 1/2 cups filtered water
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 5-10 essential oil of your choice (Get a pack here)
Baking Soda Hack
Try sprinkling your mat with baking soda to absorb excess oils and remove lingering odors. After leaving it for 15-20mins, brush/vacuum off the powder and wipe down your mat (5).
Mix together a cup of water and the juice of a lemon to rinse your mat (5). Not only does lemon have natural anti-bacterial properties, but it also leaves your mat with a nice citrus scent. Be careful though with the amount of juice you use as being an acid, it might change the look of your mat.
Dissolve 4 tbsp of salt in 500ml of warm water in a spray bottle. Spray and let the mat soak for 15 mins before wiping it dry. This saltwater mixture helps absorb dampness and has natural anti-fungal properties (5).
When applied essential oils to our skin, our body absorbs the essences to work in different ways. The aroma that the oils have can also have an effect on our minds by stimulating parts of our brain.
Keeping your mat clean is not more of a hassle than you think. With these simple steps and remedies, you can maintain a more hygienic space, with fewer chances of getting infections and a sticky mat.
Nobody wants to be working out in dirty clothes, so the same should go for the equipment we use.
Not only will you have physical cleanliness, but you also soothe your mind and enhance your experience on the mat. It doesn’t have to be a chore, but a mindful activity to further increase your respect and appreciation for the good you are doing to your body. You can also get creative by making your own scented spray and/or decorate your mat with a fresh yoga towel.
Nevertheless, if you stick to these tips and tricks consistently, you will no doubt enhance your experience from now on when you use your mat.
Hi, I’m Amanda! I’m a singer/actress as well as a yoga instructor, who is super passionate about holistic wellness. Having suffered mental and physical stresses due to the hectic life of a performer, I have regained strength through practicing yoga, mindfulness, and healthy eating. I am a firm believer in the power of holistic health to navigate this crazy world we live in, and I hope to help and inspire others on their journeys to a healthier, happier self.