Yoga mats can be absolute breeding grounds for bacteria. This is especially true if you're using a mat with an open cell structure (like natural rubber) or one of the cheaper mats with all the perforations in them. That’s why we always recommend you buy your own yoga mat. But if you clean your mat or yoga towel with the wrong solutions, you’ll find yourself with a super slick mat that breaks down faster than you can say banana.
With that in mind, in this post we’ll cover exactly how to clean your yoga mat, when to clean it and some other helpful tips to keep your yoga mat sticky. Let’s do it!
When to Clean Your Yoga Mat
It seems like the obvious answer is, “clean your mat when it's dirty”. Duh right? But the thing is you can’t always tell when your mats dirty.
If it's losing stickiness, smells or feels dirty, then you’re probably past the point that you should have cleaned it. If your mats in this condition, I recommend you go for a deep clean (below) right off the bat and then do maintenance moving forward.
But if it's not losing stickiness or feeling dirty, how do you know?
The answer is, you don’t. It’s better to use your judgment and assume it's dirty after every use. You’ve put your mat on the floor in yoga class, dropped sweat on it and then rolled it onto itself. Chances are high that it has bacteria all over it. For this reason it's a good idea to do a quick wipe down after every class with a solution that kills bacteria (below).
I know this sounds like a lot of work so let me say this, keeping your mat clean shouldn’t take more than two or three minutes after class and then a 10 minute soak and every once in a while. So its not a lot of work and you don’t have to stress about it.
How to Clean a Yoga Mat
There’s a number of methods to cleaning your yoga mat. You can clean it with simple at home stuff, make your own solution, buy pre-made solutions, or if you have a washable mat, you can toss it in the washer.
Here’s the best methods:
Cleaning With Soap & Water
This is the cheapest way to clean your mat with something you have at home right now. I recommend you use your bathtub for this process or the hose outback to make things easy on yourself. To clean your mat with soap and water:
- Run warm water in your bathtub or fire up the hose outback.
- Get your mat wet with warm water.
- Lather your soap (we recommend castile soap) in a clean wash rag and then rub your mat down using a gentle pressure to make sure you get everything off. It's a good idea to let the soap sit for a minute or two before spraying it off so it has time to kill the bacteria. Pro-tip: make sure to use a soap that doesn’t have any conditioners in it. If it does, you’ll end up with a very slick mat in your next class.
- Rinse your mat clean either by spraying it with the hose or running it under warm water in the bathtub - you'll want to ensure you get all the soap off your mat.
- Let your mat dry (we suggest several drying methods below).
Cleaning With Vinegar
You can use a simple vinegar and water solution to disinfect your yoga mat at home as well. To make the solution:
Get a bottle of white vinegar and some essential oils.
Mix 50/50 white vinegar and water with a few drops of essential oil. For example, you can use 1 cup water to 1 cup white vinegar and 2-4 drops of essential oil.
At this point you can either transfer your solution to a spray bottle or grab a clean wash rag, dip it in the mix and wipe down your mat with ample solution and gentle pressure.
Let it rest with the solution on it for a minute or so and then rinse your mat with warm water.
Let your mat dry and you’re good to go.
Quickly Cleaning With Pre-made Solutions
Several companies make solutions designed to quickly strip grime and germs off your mat. They often come in a spray bottle and offer a convenient way to get your mat sanitized in about two minutes.
Here’s our favorite solutions:
Machine Washing Your Mat
If you’re fortunate enough to have a washable mat, then you can simply throw it in the washer once a week or after each hot yoga class. Just make sure that you avoid detergent that has conditioner or softener in it because it will essentially ruin the grip of your mat.
Before putting your mat in the washer though, you might want to check with the manufacturer to ensure it's machine washable. Also, most washable mats are not able to be machine dried so check out the tips below for drying your yoga mat...
Drying Your Yoga Mat
There’s several ways to dry a yoga mat that I’ll cover quickly:
1. Hang dry
After washing your mat, you can easily hang it over the shower curtain rod or on a clip style hanger to let it dry for the night. Try to avoid folding or overlapping your mat on itself though since this will slow the drying process and may breed more bacteria.
2. In the sun?
You can dry your mat in the sun if you have a mat that’s not biodegradable. However, if you’re using a mat like one of the Manduka or Jade yoga mats, you’ll want to keep it out of the sun as much as possible when you’re cleaning or drying it since direct sunlight can cause your mat to break down faster.
3. Roll a towel up in the mat
The final drying method is to take a clean towel and place it on top of your flat yoga mat. Then roll the towel up inside of your mat and step on it to squeeze out any excess moisture. You’ll probably still want to hang dry your mat after this but the towel before hand can speed up the process.
How to Deep Clean a Yoga Mat
Every little while you might want to consider doing a deep clean of your yoga mat. Typically your deep cleaning frequency depends on the type of yoga you practice and how sweaty you get. If you’re doing hot yoga several times a week, you might want to do this every week. But if you’re doing dry yoga, you might only do this a every few months.
You’ll know when it's time for a deep clean when your mat starts to lose its stickiness, begins to smell or you just have that feeling that your mats dirty. For a deep clean it only takes a few minutes. Here's how:
Run a warm bath with soap and water (make sure there’s no conditioner in your soap. We like castile soap for cleaning yoga mats)
Toss your mat in and leave it for 10 minutes to soak in the water.
Scrub your mat with a clean wash cloth making sure to wipe it in all directions.
Drain the soapy water and then rinse your mat under clean water making sure to get all the soap off.
Dry your mat and you're good to go.
How to Clean a Lululemon Yoga Mat
Lululemon yoga mats are soft, squishy and oftentimes cost you a pretty penny - so I’m sure you want to keep it clean so you don't have to replace it anytime soon. With that in mind, here’s a quick and easy way to get your Lululemon mat super clean and preserve its stickiness.
- Grab a fresh lemon, box of baking soda and some water.
- Mix the lemon, one teaspoon of baking soda and about a cup of water together.
- Either pour this on your mat and work it with a rag or dip your rag into the solution and gently scrub your mat.
- Let is sit for a minute or two.
- Rinse the solution off with warm water and dry your mat.
This simple solution works well because the baking soda adds a touch of abrasion while removing odor and the lemon juice naturally kills bacteria. If you want to kick it up a little more, you can add a drop or two of lemon essential oil to the mix for a lemony fresh lulu…”lemon” mat.
How to Clean a Manduka Yoga Mat
Beyond the initial break in, cleaning your Manduka yoga mat can be done with Mandukas organic yoga mat cleaner or any of the solutions we’ve talked about above. Keep in mind that most of the Manduka mats are biodegradable so you’ll want to avoid drying them in direct sunlight.
How to Clean a Gaiam Yoga Mat
According to Gaiam, you can clean your mat with a simple soap and water solution, vinegar and water, essential oil or one of the other solutions we mentioned above. They recommend air drying your mat after cleaning.
How to Clean a Jade Yoga Mat
Jade yoga mats are biodegradable yoga mats made with open celled rubber so they should be cleaned thoroughly and often.
To clean your Jade yoga mat, wipe it down after every use with a cleaning spray or solution of 50/50 vinegar and water. You can also use a simple soap and water solution but you’ll need to thoroughly rinse your mat with warm water after so that your mat isn’t slippery.
A dirty mat holds bacteria, loses grip and can smell. So whether you clean your mat with homemade solutions or buy a pre-made cleaning product, the one thing that really matters here is that you keep a clean mat. And if your goal's to preserve the life of your mat, your in luck because you've just learned everything you need to know about cleaning and extending the life of your yoga mat.