Make this a monthly (or weekly) routine - for you and your fellow yogis.
Once I started practicing yoga regularly, I quickly realized yoga is much more than stretching.
If anyone ever tells you that yoga isn't a workout, they haven't drowned in their own sweat during a rigorous vinyasa flow class or been so sore the next day they feel like they got hit by a bus.
Speaking of sweat, however, eventually you're going to need to learn how to clean your yoga mat. All it will take is one child's pose combined with a rank smell to send you running to Google.
How do you clean a yoga mat?
It isn't hard, but you do want to do it correctly to keep bacteria from turning your mat into a veritable petri dish. After all, your face is going to spend a lot of time on that mat, and you don't need to make bacteria your best friend.
Don't have a yoga mat yet? Check out a few of our recommendations here.
What You'll Need
You'd be hard-pressed to find a non-natural method when learning how to clean your yoga mat. It seems to be a universal rule among yogis to avoid chemicals as much as possible.
As a result, there is a long list of DIY natural cleaners you can easily make at home. These recipes are easy to make and store, so there's really no excuse not to have a bottle sitting at home for your trusty mat!
These items are sufficient if your yoga mat is lightly soiled and just needs a straightforward cleaning after a typical yoga class.
All you need to clean your yoga mat is:
- Spray bottle
- Damp sponge or soft rag
- 4 drops of dish soap
However, if your mat has seen quite a few hot yoga classes or you've had one too many yogis rudely walk on your mat, you might need a more powerful cleaner.
Hopefully you clean your mat regularly, even if it's just with soap and water. Even if you don't know how to clean your yoga mat, it still needs done! It's best to do it after every class with a simple spritz of your mat cleaner, but you should do it weekly at the very minimum.
Some brands recommend tossing your mat in the washing machine once a month, but you should always check with the manufacturer before doing this so you don't end up with a shredded mat, and you should never let it go through the spin cycle or your expensive mat will definitely end up in pieces.
It may also be tempting to sunbathe your mat because the sun's UV rays are a natural anti-bacterial. However, the strength and heat of the sun will actually break the materials of your mat down and dry them out, leading to a crumbling, useless mat.
The Process of Cleaning Your Mat
When your mat hasn't seen a bath in...well, ever, then you'll need to break out the big guns for its inaugural cleaning. Use your bathtub for this deep cleaning to make it easier on you.
Your mat will be wonderfully clean but soaking wet, so don't do this right before your next yoga class. Your mat will need a good 24 hours or more to dry completely.
Step 1: Soak Your Mat
Fill up your bathtub with warm (not hot) water. You only need enough to submerge your mat. You don't need to let it soak for too long.
In fact, if you leave it in the tub for too long, it's going to take forever to dry. Instead, allow the mat to soak for 10 to 15 minutes before getting to work on scrubbing it.
Step 2: Hand Wash with a Soft Cloth
Add a few drops of mild detergent to your water. This can be a simple dishwashing liquid or a natural soap. Just don't add too much or you're going to be rinsing your mat for the next hour to get rid of the suds.
Using either a sponge (a non-abrasive one) or a cloth, start scrubbing your mat. Don't be surprised if the water starts to get murky. As the water gets gross, simply drain the tub and add fresh water until your mat stops giving off nasty colors.
Step 3: Rinse Your Mat in Clean Water
You can rinse your mat in two ways. First, you can refill the tub and repeat until the mat stops throwing suds. Squeezing it helps push out the excess suds. If this is taking too long, you can lug it outside and spray it down with the hose.
Step 4: Remove Excess Water
If you don't get the excess water wrung out, your mat is going to take days to dry, if not longer. Yoga mats are quite porous, so they soak up a lot of water and hold onto it.
Taking the time to manually wring your mat out is going to help it dry a lot more quickly. Rolling it up like a sleeping bag as you squeeze it out is the most effective. You'll just need to do it a few times before you get all of the water out.
Step 5: Hang Your Mat to Dry
Your mat is going to need 24 hours minimum to dry. A wet mat won't just make weird noises when you're practicing on it; you'll be sliding around like you're practicing on ice.
Tossing it over a shower rod will let any lingering water drip into the tub/shower, or you can drape it over a drying rack. Putting it in the sun might be tempting, but the UV rays will eventually break the mat down and cause it to crumble.
Thicker mats could need 48 hours to dry, so don't rush the process. If you can't bear to take that much time off from your practice, have a backup mat on hand.
Using a Washing Machine
A washing machine can be a great way to get even the most disgusting mat clean, but it is also a death sentence to certain mats and the spin cycle will destroy any mat. Always check with your mat's manufacturer before loading it into the washer.
Step 1: Put Mat in the Washing Machine
Put your mat into the washer and don't use any bleach or fabric softeners. Now isn't the time to be efficient and save time doing laundry, so don't add any towels or anything to the load.
Step 2: Set the Washing Machine to Cold
Under no circumstances should you wash your mat on anything other than cold. Warm and hot will increase the risk of your mat falling apart.
Step 3: Use a Mild Detergent
No matter how tempting it is, put down your most powerful stain-lifting detergent. In the instance of washing your mat, gentle soap is going to do an efficient job.
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day detergent is all natural with plant-based surfactants and essential oils. It's gentle but still removes even the most stubborn grime without chemical-laden ingredients.
Unlike many natural detergents, it's easy to find in most big box stores, too. If you're working with a high-efficiency laundry machine, Puracy natural liquid detergent is free from sulfates, perfumes, and dyes--all things that can harm your mat.
Step 4: DON'T LET THE SPIN CYCLE BEGIN
The spin cycle is the most vicious part of your washer's cycle, and even the most high-quality mat won't escape unscathed. Newer machines will let you eliminate the spin cycle completely, but if your machine doesn't have this option, you'll need to sit close to the machine so you can shut it off before the spinning starts.
Step 5: Hang Up to Dry
Skipping the spin cycle means your mat isn't going to get the excess water wrung out, so you'll have to manually squeeze it out. Once you've got the excess removed, hang it up to dry and give it a good 24-48 hours before you use it again.
Special Instructions by Brand
If you own one of the brands below, here are some special instructions from the manufacturer.
Manduka is one of the premier yoga mat brands, and they're particularly famous for their PRO mat line. The company recommends scrubbing your mat with a soft sponge, cloth, or brush. Use water and a mild detergent or a specialized mat wash to clean the mat.
Manduka makes its own mat wash, Mat Renew, that's 100 percent safe for your mat whether it's Manduka or another brand. Whatever you use to wash it, Manduka recommends wiping your mat with clean water afterward and letting it air dry.
The company says you should never put your Manduka into the washing machine or the dryer. Always clean it by hand to ensure you're getting the most life out of your investment.
Lululemon's "The Mat" is by far one of the most popular yoga mats on the market. It's so popular because the top layer is polyurethane that's been treated with an Ultra Fresh antibacterial treatment to prevent bacteria, mold, and mildew growth.
While this is a handy feature to have on your mat, that doesn't mean The Mat never needs to be cleaned, and many owners of The Mat think they just bought an invincible mat. Don't be this person! Lululemon recommends skipping the chemicals and only clean The Mat with a natural cleanser.
This can be a simple mixture of water with lemon juice, the 50/50 vinegar-water cleaner mentioned earlier in this article, or a commercial cleanser. You can deep clean the mat in the bathtub, but you should avoid using the washing machine no matter how dirty it is.
Jade offers very specific instructions on how to clean their mats. Jade mats are very porous, so they act like a sponge. This means it will hold a lot of water, and it's not recommended that you submerge it in water or wet it down with a hose.
Instead, the company recommends a simple wipe down with plain water. If you do this on a regular basis (i.e. after every class), you won't need any stronger cleaning agents. If your Jade does need a more thorough clean, however, you can put it in a bathtub, hose it down, or use a non-agitating washing machine (on gentle) with a mild soap.
You should never use any oils, alcohol-based cleaners, or harsh abrasives on your Jade. Once it's clean, you can hang it to dry or lay it flat. Whatever you do, though, don't subject it to direct sunlight.
I bet you never knew there was so much information about cleaning your yoga mat, did you? But really, if you're using it every day and it's absorbing all of the sweat you're dripping all over it, it needs to be cleaned.
I hope the tutorial was helpful and encouraged you to go wash your mat immediately. If you've been putting it off because you don't have a specialized mat cleaner or fancy essential oils, then you're being silly. If you have soap, vinegar, and water in your home, you can wash your mat!
Clean yoga mats are important to me after my friend got an awful rash from his dirty mat and his doctor said it was from a bacteria-ridden mat. Statistically, a yoga studio floor is a prime breeding ground for athlete's foot, ringworm, and even plantar's warts.
Your studio probably cleans their floor at the beginning and end of each business day, but there are a lot of bare feet walking across the floor the rest of the day. Since you walk into the studio without shoes, you're essentially tracking all of that nasty stuff right onto your mat and then sealing it in when you roll your mat up.
Before you roll up your mat at the end of your class, spray it down with your cleaner and avoid taking warts and foot fungus home with you. After all, the only thing you should be taking home with you is peace and contentment.
How do you clean your mat? Do you have a special recipe for your homemade yoga mat cleaner? Let us know in the comments! Also as always, please share this post if you found it useful!