Any yogi with a regular practice knows just how fast a yoga mat can go from looking clean and new, to visibly dirty and worn. Discolored spots at the top or bottom of the mat where we plant our hands and feet for asanas like mountain pose or downward dog may become more noticeable over time as more dirt and grime makes their way from our bodies to our mats.
Yoga mats can serve as the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria, and this is even truer for shared communal mats. Carpets, yoga mats, clothing, and equipment handles are the grimiest places in public fitness centers according to one particular study, where salmonella, staphylococcus, klebsiella and other pathogens have been known to thrive.
Making a habit out of cleaning our mats is critical if we want to avoid transferring harmful bacteria back to our bodies. Here are a few yoga mat-cleaning guidelines to consider following for yourself!
Hot yoga enthusiasts should definitely clean their mat after every use. All that sweating is just a huge invitation for bacteria to come make a home on your mat thanks to all that extra moisture, so it’s a good to give your mat a good wipe-down immediately after your hot yoga practice.
Yogis who take their mats to studios or outdoors should clean their mats often. If you’re rolling out your mat in a public place and stepping onto it after walking around barefoot, you’ll probably want to clean your mat at least every 1 to 2 weeks, but ideally more often than that if you practice every day. If there are visible stains or noticeable odors, it’s time for a cleaning!
Yogis who practice at home or don’t sweat much can probably get away with less frequent cleanings. While it’s still ideal to clean your mat every few uses or so at the very least, those who don’t track dirt and germs onto their mat from studio floors and other public environments can probably go a week, several weeks, or even months without a serious cleaning. Same goes for those who mostly stick to a low-intensity practice with little to no sweating, such as restorative yoga.
Cleaning Your Mat
Use an organic yoga mat spray. There are lots of different yoga sprays available, and if you’re a Yogi Surprise member, you may just get to try one in your next Lifestyle Box!
Make your own natural cleaner. It’s no biggie if you don’t have any yoga mat spray because it’s easy enough to make your own. Just add 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water in a spray bottle with 10 to 15 drops of your favorite antimicrobial essential oil like tea tree or eucalyptus.
Take your mat to the bathtub for deeper cleaning. A wipe-down is a good, quick way to clean the easy stuff that comes off the surface, but to get to those more stubborn areas within the rubber, you’ll want to fill your bathtub up with warm water, throw your mat in, and probably take a washcloth, sponge, or brush to your mat.
Keeping Your Mat Clean for Longer
Wash your hands and feet. If your hands and feet are clean before your practice, you’re less likely to track lots of dirt and germs onto your mat. It only takes a few minutes to run to the bathroom to wash your hands or clean your feet with something easy and convenient like natural travel wipes.
Let your mat dry out before rolling it up. Regardless of whether you just gave your mat a good spray or not, it’s always best to leave it lying flat for a while to let any extra moisture dry out. If you’re practicing at a studio, rolling it up to take home is fine, but try to remember to roll it back out again when you get home.
Invest in an antimicrobial mat. There are lots of eco-friendly mats out there that are designed to prevent sweat absorption and bacteria growth, keeping them cleaner and more odorless than others.
Remember that cleaning frequency and technique depend on how often you practice, how dirty your practice environment might be, and how intense your practice is. Be mindful of maintaining a clean mat, and you should have no problems!
Image (edited) via bradleypjohnson