Our yoga mats are familiar places to us yogis, often feeling like second homes to us despite being nothing other than a small, rectangular piece of material. Our mats may come to represent a place of growth, a place of connectedness, and a place of inner peace in our minds every time we roll them out across the floor to begin our practice.

Knowing how to take good care of our yoga mats is essential to avoid transferring any harmful bacteria to our skin and to extend their lifespans so we can roll them out and practice on them again and again. It’s easier than we think to mistakenly clean them improperly or neglect them in ways that end up ruining them for good.

Those of us who’ve already invested in high-quality yoga mats know they’re not cheap to replace. Here are just a few key things to remember to never do.

1. Don’t put your mat in the washing machine.

Unless you 100% absolutely know according to the manufacturer that your mat is washing machine safe, don’t consider it. Depending on what type of material your mat is made of, throwing it in the wash (especially with soap) can instantly ruin it.

2. Don’t use just any soap to clean your mat.

You may be tempted to use a few drops of dishwashing soap to wipe down your mat, but you’ll learn quickly that this is a good way to make it extra slippery. If you don’t properly rinse off all the soap, a soapy residue could be left on it as it dries, leaving you to slip and slide around during your practice.

3. Don’t soak your mat.

When a deeper cleaning is in order, you may think that submerging your mat in some warm water in the bathtub and leaving it to soak will help lift out some of the dirt and grime. Soaking it, however, may cause your mat to absorb more the water, which could warp the material or cause it to take a super long time to dry out completely.

4. Don’t forget to clean the other side of your mat.

Even if you do a great job of regularly cleaning the main side of your mat that you practice on, make sure you get the other side as well. Constantly rolling it out on several different flat surfaces is bound to make it dirty.

5. Don’t leave your mat rolled up after coming back from class.

Whether you gave your mat a wipe down or not right after class before rolling it up and heading home, make sure you remember to roll it right back out again to let it dry out properly. Leaving it rolled up makes for a moist, dark environment that bacteria just love to thrive in.

6. Don’t leave your mat inside your car on a hot day.

The scorching hot temperatures that car interiors tend to reach can be hot enough to melt the stickiness of your mat. So if you’re heading to yoga class after work in the summer, make sure you bring your mat inside with you instead of leaving it in the car all day.

7. Don’t leave your mat to dry out in the sun.

Some yoga mats come with warnings about keeping them out of direct sunlight due to the damaging effects it can have on the materials. If you’re going to even consider allowing your mat to dry outside, or inside in a very sunny room, make sure it’s in a very well shaded area.

This helpful list should help keep your mat in great shape for a long time. Check out our previous article on how frequently you should clean your mat, what you should use to clean it, and how to keep it cleaner for longer.

Image (edited) via Gabriel Garcia Marengo