Yoga mat cleaners

yoga mats rolled and leaning against a wallAfter talking about the yoga towels in my earlier post, I realized I had never thoroughly talked about the details of cleaning a yoga mat. There are several techniques that can be used as well as several products on the market that are designed to clean yoga mats. Today I will go over the why, how, and what of yoga mat cleaning.

Do you really have to clean your yoga mat?
Okay, let’s get this one out of the way first. If you don’t want to clean your yoga mat, you do not have to. I personally own yoga mats that I have used for several years and never once cleaned. I do take pains to make sure my mats do not get exceptionally dirty (see the yoga towel post) and I also don’t loan my mat to anyone else. It is my belief that your own personal mat is unlikely to harbor anything harmful to you (once the mat new out-gassing has ceased) if you are the only one using it. Now, if I were to spill something on my mat or get mud or other nasty dirt on it – yes – I would at least spot clean it. People ask me “Doesn’t your unwashed mat begin to smell ‘used’ after a while?” No. In my case due to my constant use, the mats typically wear out long before they would suffer any ‘used’ aka body odor smells. If my mats begin to smell, I figure it is time for a new mat.

This is just my way of dealing with mats. I know other yoga instructors that wash their mats every week. I know yoga students that wipe down their mats before every use. We all have our own level of comfort with dirt and germs, actual or imaginary. Follow your own personal desires in cleaning your yoga mat.

On the other hand if it is a studio mat used by multiple people then you may want to at least wipe it off with some sort of mat wipe. Some yoga studios have a policy that you must use mat cleaning wipes on any studio mat you use, so follow the rules if there are any.

How exactly does one clean a yoga mat?
There are many methods for cleaning a yoga mat. If you are in a hurry or the mat is not especially dirty, you can wipe down your mat with a damp towel. You can spot clean your mat with pre-moistened mat wipes. You can also more thoroughly wash your mat with the following steps:

  • Place your mat in the bathtub or any surface that is clean and you don’t mind getting wet.
  • Rinse off both sides of the mat with warm water.
  • Mix up a solution of soap and water – not too much soap.
  • Using a washcloth or brush, apply the soapy solution to your mat and briskly rub the entire surface. Do this as well to the other side of the mat.
  • Rinse the mat thoroughly with water. Do this on both sides. Rinse it again just to be sure. You do not want any soap to linger on the mat surface or it could make your mat slick.
  • Roll the mat and squeeze out excess water. Unroll the mat and place a large towel on top of it. Roll the mat and large towel together and squeeze. Unroll and place a dry towel on the other side of the mat. Roll the mat and towel together again and squeeze.
  • Do this towel/mat rolling process until your mat is only slightly damp, not dripping wet.
  • Hang your mat over the shower rod or clothes line. Make sure your mat will not be in direct sunlight. Sunlight can destroy some mat materials.
  • Allow to dry completely. This can take a couple of days.

Can you put your yoga mat in the washing machine?
Yes, with some of the thinner mats you can. However this can also lead to the washing machine totally destroying your mat – so be cautious, especially with top loading machines. Keep it to a gentle cycle and DO NOT LET IT GO THROUGH THE SPIN CYCLE. This should be reserved for the PVC material mats and not attempted with other substances because I am not sure what would happen. DO NOT PUT YOUR MAT IN THE DRYER. As with the hand washing instructions, your mat should be allowed to air dry for a day or three in a location where it won’t be exposed to sunlight.

How often should you clean your yoga mat?
There is no correct answer to this because it typically is up to the mat user to decide. How often do you want to go through the above cleaning ordeals? If you think your mat is dirty or if your mat smells unpleasant then perhaps it is time to clean it. If you plan on cleaning your mat frequently, then perhaps you also need a second mat considering it will take a couple of days for your mat to thoroughly dry out. You do not want to do yoga on a wet mat – trust me. Not only is a wet mat unpleasant to feel under your hands and feet, it also will cause you to slip.

If I don’t want to wash my mat can I use mat wipes to clean it?
Mat wipes may be the answer for those who want a clean mat but don’t want the ordeal of washing the mat. There are several on the market and they are all very similar to hand wipes we might use to sanitize our hands. Do they really and truly clean the mat as well as washing? Well, they work about as well on the mat as using one of the wipes on your hands. You will not be getting a deep down clean, but they can clean off the surface and maybe get rid of a few germs. More importantly perhaps is that they can briefly cause your mat to smell less ‘matty’. The use of mat wipes can also help you feel less exposed to germs and stuff if you use a studio mat. Here are some of my favorite mat wipes. They also work great as a quick after workout wipe down for your personal body if you need to freshen up and have no access to a shower.

jo-sha mat wipes in four fragrances
Jo-Sha mat wipes

These Jo-sha mat wipes are great and they come in four fragrances: Lavender, Eucalyptus, Tangerine and Peppermint . Each one is individually wrapped so the travel easily. They are a large enough size to give your mat a good wipe down. They contain no alcohol or harsh chemicals so they are not going to dry out your skin or leave a residue on your mat. These are great for mats or your personal body and their scent is pleasant, not overly strong. I keep some of these in my car because they come in so handy. You can read more reviews on Amazon.

Vermont Soap Organic Mat Cleaner bottle
Vermont Soap Organic Mat Cleaner

This organic yoga and exercise mat cleaner comes in a 16 oz spray bottle. It is made from organic vegetable and botanical oils and is free of synthetic chemicals, artificial colors and fragrances. It has a nice lemon/ginger scent. You can use it as a wipe on spot cleaner, or you can use it as the soap for your more thorough mat washing. This would may a more economical way of taking care of your mat, but the bottle would be less travel friendly than the packaged wipes. You could always dampen a washcloth with the cleaner and put that in a ziplock bag for travel. You can read more reviews on Amazon.

DIY mat cleaner

Oh yes, you can make your own wonderful mat cleaner.

  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1 tablespoon witch hazel
  • 15 drops tea trea oil (anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties)
  • 6 or more drops of one of these essential oils or a combination of them: Lavender, Eucalyptus, Citrus (anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties)
  • Optional – any other essential oils you find pleasant. You will add more for a stronger effect and less for a lighter smell. Don’t go too heavy at first since you can always add more.
  • Add the mixture to a spray bottle and shake well before each use.

So, clean your mat, or don’t clean your mat. Wash your mat thoroughly or use mat wipes or sprays. Just remember, a dry mat is a safe mat. Whatever you do, make sure your mat is completely dry before use.

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