A two-step process to a safe, clean yoga mat

Think about the last time you cleaned your yoga mat. Was it just a quick pass with a spray or cleaning wipe? Can you even remember the last time?

When it comes to caring for your mat, you need to both disinfect it (to kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi) and clean it (to remove dirt, debris, fluids, hair, and stains). “You need to do both to fully sanitize your mat,” Striemer says.

And don’t trust your gym or studio to do this properly. In the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health study, researchers pointed to a lack of cleanliness on the part of gyms as one reason so many surfaces were covered in bacteria.

It’s always better to clean your mat before and after you use it, just to be safe. This is just one of the secrets that yoga instructors wish you knew.

Before doing anything to your own mat, start by checking the manufacturer’s website or package insert for the specific instructions for your mat as mats made from special material or with particular finishes require specialized care, says Striemer.

Disinfecting your yoga mat

You should be disinfecting your yoga mat after each use, says Rodriquez-Zaba.

As soon as the class is over, spray both sides down with a disinfectant yoga mat spray. Wait 10 minutes to allow the spray to work, then wipe both sides with a clean microfiber cloth.

The type of disinfecting spray you need will depend on the type of yoga mat you have. PVC and elastomer can stand up to harsh chemical disinfectants like bleach, but with rubber mats you’ll need to use a vinegar-based cleaner so you don’t ruin the surface. Cotton mats just absorb liquids, so sprays aren’t as effective.

Many yoga mat companies sell disinfecting spray designed to work with their mats, but you can also make your own, says Barrett. Combine equal parts vinegar and water, and add several drops of tea tree oil, a natural antibacterial, in a spray bottle.

For extra protection, you can finish by spraying the mat with an antimicrobial spray—Striemer recommends Microban 24.

Note: People who do yoga in a gym or studio should follow any Covid-19 disinfecting procedures, as most places have their own protocols for public safety.

Cleaning your yoga mat

Depending on how often you use your mat, you should be cleaning it one to four times a month, says Barrett.

A simple dish-soap-and-water solution works for cleaning every type of mat. You can use a spray bottle to lightly coat both sides. For a more thorough clean, put it in a bathtub partially filled with soapy water. Lightly scrub any obvious spots or marks with a gentle cloth. Rinse with clean water and hang to dry.

Never use a bristled brush or any tool that may tear the mat, and be careful to not scrub so hard that you eliminate the sticky finish, adds Striemer.

Some cotton mats can be cleaned and disinfected in a washing machine; check the care instructions for your mat. Mats should not be dried in a tumble drier. The process can alter the size and shape, and cause mats to wear out sooner.

Pro tips for keeping your yoga mat clean

There are a few other things you can do to keep your mat clean between washings and reduce the risk of germs, according to our experts.

  • Use a yoga towel, a large piece of fabric specifically designed to cover a mat without slipping. It’s especially helpful during hot, sweaty classes and can be washed in hot water after every use.
  • Let it air out. Don’t roll your mat up immediately after cleaning. Damp sweat and even residual cleaning spray can provide a breeding ground for bacteria, so let your mat hang in your home or in a shady spot outdoors.
  • Keep it out of direct sunlight. Prolonged exposure to heat or the sun can damage your mat, and damaged mats are more likely to breed germs and gather dirt.
  • Fold it in half before rolling. Bring the bottom of your mat up to the top, so the yoga surface is only touching itself, then roll the folded mat from the bottom up. This way the floor side is never in contact with the yoga side.
  • Use a carrying bag. Store and carry your yoga mat in a breathable tote rather than using a strap or your hands.

A clean yogi is a happy yogi

Yoga has a host of amazing health benefits so don’t let a fear of germs or dirt keep you from practicing it, either at home or in a gym or studio. You can’t eliminate all yucky stuff, but do your best to keep your mat clean and sanitized. Then let it go.

“The art of practicing yoga can help provide peace to your mind, body, and soul,” says Striemer. “Don’t let worries about a dirty yoga mat distract you from that.”

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