How to clean your yoga mat, according to a yoga teacher
Your yoga mat might be harbouring more germs than you realise, but we’ve got the ultimate guide on how and when to clean your yoga mat, with advice from a yoga teacher.
According to a recent study from FitRated, exercise and gym equipment can be hotspots for germs, harbouring more bacteria than we realise, and this includes your yoga mat. Studies found eight times as many germs on a mat than on a toilet seat! These unwanted microorganisms can lead to skin conditions such as pimples, rashes and fungal infections - not what you want.
So, be honest: when was the last time you cleaned your yoga mat properly? Or have you ever even cleaned it at all? We’ve got the ultimate guide on cleaning your yoga mat - from a step-by-step on how to do it and how often to recommended products to help you along the way. We’ve also included top tips from yoga teacher and founder of Yoga Cat, Tristan Post.
Read on for all you need to know and get practising your poses, from cobra to downward-facing dog, using your freshly cleaned and hygienic mat.
Why is it important to clean your yoga mat?
Looking after your yoga mat may not be your top priority, but regularly cleaning and disinfecting it can avoid several negative consequences, Tristan explains. We’ve rounded up some of them below:
The mat can become damaged: Your mat may wear out faster if it's not properly looked after. Over time, grease and solid particles such as skin flakes can accumulate on the mat’s surface and in the pores of the material, causing it to lose its grip and compromising your stability and balance in poses. This will result in your slipping more and the mat becoming less durable and shorter lasting.
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An unpleasant smell can develop: As the mat is used for exercise, it will pick up sweat from its users. Not cleaning it after your workout can result in a build-up, causing an unpleasant odour to linger during your practice and affecting your focus and enjoyment.
Skin problems and illness: An uncleaned mat can hold germs and bacteria. These can lead to skin problems such as blemishes or rashes, fungal infections such as athlete's foot and nail fungus, or even flu viruses due to the presence of dangerous pathogens.
How to properly clean your yoga mat: a step-by-step guide
Cleaning your yoga mat doesn't have to be a difficult task. Follow this simple step-by-step guide to maintain a fresh surface to practise all your poses.
- Start by spot-cleaning any visible stains or marks of dirt. Use a mild solution of water mixed with a few drops of gentle soap or a specifically designed cleaning product suitable for the material of your exercise mat. Dampen a soft cloth or sponge to gently apply to the mat.
- Continue by giving the rest of your mat a thorough clean, wiping down the entire surface.
- Rinse your mat well and gently squeeze out any excess water before laying it flat to air dry. Avoid direct sunlight as it may damage the mat's material.
How often should you clean your yoga mat?
How often you clean your mat can depend on how often you practise yoga and to what intensity. As general guidance, it’s recommended to disinfect your mat after every session, wiping it down to remove surface sweat and dirt, especially if you share it with others.
Yoga expert Tristan recommends avoiding alcohol-based disinfectants as they can harm the mat and also evaporate too quickly to effectively disinfect. He also suggests avoiding sprays based on essential oils, as they won’t provide adequate disinfection.
As well as disinfecting, it’s crucial to regularly clean your mat more thoroughly to remove accumulated dirt from its surface and pores, as well as restore its grip. Tristan recommends washing your mat every two to three weeks, using a soap specifically formulated for mats. You’ll need to wash it more frequently if you practise daily or engage in hot yoga.
Recommended products to clean your yoga mat
Look for high-quality cleaning products which can be used on the material of your mat to help prolong its life whilst giving it a thorough clean. Natural ingredients are effective at removing dirt and bacteria without compromising the material, and microfibre cleaning cloths are good to use as they are great for wiping down the mat.
We’ve included a couple of cleaning supplies below to help you get started. You can also create your own natural cleaning solution using mild soap and warm water.
- Yoga-Mad Yoga Mat Cleaner Spray, £6.99 from Amazon: This spray is suitable to use on all yoga mats, will kill 99.9% of bacteria, and leave your mat with a lovely lavender scent.
- YogaMatters Revive Yoga Mat Cleaner, £15 from YogaMatters: Made from all-natural ingredients, this spray has antibacterial properties to freshen up your mat with a couple of sprays.
- Liforme Ultimate Everyday Yoga Mat Cleaner, £18 from Lifrome: Keep your mat in its best condition and germ-free with this easy-to-use cleaning foam. Freshly scented for a refreshed finish.
- Manduka Yoga Mat Wash and Refresh, £12 from Amazon: Clean your yoga mat with this natural spray, providing long-lasting hygiene and a refreshing lemongrass fragrance.
- Yoga Cat Cleaning Bundle, €45,90 from Yoga Cat: Tristan is the founder of the German-based company Yoga Cat and highly recommends its Cleaning Bundle. The products are non-toxic and don't contain alcohol - instead, they contain an active ingredient to effectively kill bacteria, fungi and germs without becoming corrosive. As Yoga Cat is based in Germany, its products are priced in euros, but they do ship internationally, just make sure you allow for the additional time for international shipping.
- Eco-Fused Microfibre Cleaning Cloths, £5.99 from Amazon: Wipe down your mat with these super soft microfibre cloths, ideal for picking up grease and dirt. These come in a multipack of five.
Should you clean mats at a studio?
Ideally, you shouldn’t need to, as many studios have cleaning protocols, and this is often done by staff at studios/gyms. Yoga teacher Tristan explains this is not always the case, though, and often there are places where mats are neither cleaned nor disinfected.
With that in mind, it’s best to use disinfectant and wipe down the mats before use, or bring your own yoga towel for an extra layer of protection. Tristan advises, if and when possible, to stick to using your own personal mat.
Why aren't normal cleaning products enough?
Exercise mats tend to be made of materials including rubber, PVC, caoutchouc or cork, with textured suitcases to absorb sweat. These materials can be quite sensitive, and some regular cleaning products can therefore do more damage than good.
It’s important to pay attention to the ingredients of cleaning products. Normal cleaning products containing alcohol or essential oils, for example, can harm the mats and often don’t provide enough thorough cleaning, shortening their lifespan. Opt for products specially designed to clean your mat.
When is it time to get a new mat?
Over time, constant use and constant cleaning can cause your mat to wear down, affecting its performance and hygiene. Knowing when it's time to replace your yoga mat is essential for achieving the best experience for your practice.
If you notice visible signs of wear, such as cracks in the surface or fraying edges, or the mat becomes slippery with reduced grip, it’s time to upgrade your mat. If you think you need a new mat, make sure you check out our guide to the best yoga mats, as recommended by expert yoga teachers.
Cordelia Aspinall is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media, working across brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeForMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. She has previously worked and written for digital publications including Condé Nast Traveller, The Evening Standard, Cosmopolitan, and several other lifestyle brands.