This content was updated for accuracy and relevance on December 13th, 2021
The four corners of your mat should be the sacred walls of your flow zone, not swinging doors for unwanted guests like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. If you’re on the move, your travel yoga mat could also be carrying germs from each location you go to.
What kinds of grime are you cozying up to mid-savasana?
Better question—how often should you be cleaning your yoga mat? And how exactly can you clean it?
We thought you’d never ask. Keep reading, keep calm, and keep clean. Here’s a peek at what’s to come:
- How Often Should You Clean Your Yoga Mat?
- How-To: The Quick Refresher
- How-To: The Deep Clean
- Don’t Forget to Dry
- Frequently Asked Cleaning Questions
How Often Should You Clean Your Yoga Mat?
Be honest. When was the last time you cleaned your yoga mat? Whether it was months ago or just this morning, an extra wipe-down definitely won’t hurt. You should be sure to find one that’s a great fit for you. For your best interest, make sure you can clean it easily when you are looking at how to choose a yoga mat.
When it comes to how to clean your yoga mat and how often you should do it, the short answer is that you should probably clean your yoga mat after every use.
We’re not talking about an hour-long bath, just a quick refresher as a preventative measure for germs and bacteria. Depending on your practice, you may not find that to be totally necessary. However, a quick cleanse after a sweaty Bikram session or a few chaturangas is something you might want to make this part of your routine. Not only will it help your yoga mat last longer, but it will keep unwanted odors and grime from building up and caking on.
You should also consider adding a deep clean to the calendar once a month. Especially since it can minimize the possibility of unwanted nopes, like:
- Skin infections
- Toenail fungus1
How-To: The Quick Refresher
Sometimes, the quick refresh is all you need. It only takes a few minutes, and it goes a long way in preventing any sort of unwanted buildup. For that, we suggest concocting a homemade mat spray that is safe to use whether you're going to hot yoga or your regular yoga class.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Spray bottle
- Witch hazel
- Essential oil(s) of your choice
First, mix one-quarter of a cup of witch hazel with about three-quarters of a cup of water. Then, add two to three drops of your preferred essential oil, mix it up, and transfer to a spray bottle, or assemble the cleaning crew right in the bottle itself. Dampen a microfiber cloth with the mixture and wipe your mat a few times over.
Here are a few of the best antibacterial and antimicrobial essential oils to choose from:2
- Tea tree essential oil
- Peppermint essential oil
- Lavender essential oil
- Cedarwood essential oil
- Eucalyptus essential oil
- Lemongrass essential oil
Don’t have time for a DIY disinfectant spray? Pick up an all-natural cleaning solution. Look for one that boasts an array of clean, easy-to-read ingredients and is appropriate for everyday use, too. You can throw these oils into your gym bag essentials for women for a quick refresh!
How-To: The Deep Clean
If you’re afraid your rubber mat has built up a miniature mountain of sweat and bacteria, maybe you’re due for a deep cleaning.
How often you need this approach really depends on how active you are on your mat. If you can only manage to squeeze in a few sessions a month, don’t worry too much if you skip this sanitizing step every so often. On the other hand, if you’re using, transporting, or (especially) sharing your mat, set a monthly reminder and stick to it.
For this method, summon the following simple, deep-cleaning forces:
- Warm water
- Dish soap
- Baking soda
- Essential oils
The Deep Clean strategy looks a bit different depending on what kind of yoga mat you have. In this case, the material doesn’t matter quite as much as texture. Open-cell mats are more absorbent and porous, whereas closed-cell mats are not absorbent at all. Additionally, open-cell technology tends to be a bit more springy while closed-cell technology is more firm. So, before proceeding, be sure to know which technology you’re currently using.
For Open Cell Mats:
- Submerge it in a tub of warm water (just enough to cover the mat).
- Mix in a couple of tablespoons of your household dish soap.
- Add a sprinkle of baking soda or a couple of drops of essential oil if it’s extra grimy.
- Leave it to soak for a few minutes and scrub it down using a microfiber cloth.
- Be sure to thoroughly rinse off any extra soap and let it dry completely before putting it back in action.
For Closed-Cell Mats:
- Skip the submersion method as it could cause damage to your mat.
- Mix warm water with a tablespoon of dish soap.
- Add baking soda and essential oils, if desired.
- Spot-clean the mat directly using a soft cloth.
- With a clean cloth, wipe off any excess soap, and leave it out to dry completely.
Don’t Forget to Dry
The post-washing part of the cleaning process must not be overlooked. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: be sure to let your clean yoga mat dry out completely before jumping back into your practice. Warm, moist mats can be a breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria—yes, the bacteria you just spent time removing.
To avoid counteracting all of your hard work, practice some patience with a little meditation and let it dry.
Here’s how you can dry your mat without harming the underlying material:
- Air dry
- Pat down any excess moisture with a dry towel
- Hang on a clothesline, although too much time in the sun may cause fading
- Drape over the shower curtain road, or the back of a chair
Whatever you do, don’t dry your yoga mat using the following methods:
- Tumble dry in the washing machine
- Drying with a hairdryer
- Campfires or any other open flames are a no-no, too
Frequently Asked Cleaning Questions
Before we send you off on a cleaning frenzy, let’s address a couple of questions and concerns you yogis might have.
Can I Use Clorox or Lysol Wipes on my Mat?
Chances are, there’s a container or two of Clorox or Lysol wipes in your cleaning cupboard. While these are the captains of cleaning countertops and other surfaces, they might not be ideal for your yoga mat.
Why not, you ask? They are disinfecting powerhouses because of the harsher ingredients lining each fiber. While not all use bleach, you’ll want to avoid any wipes containing ammonia, phosphates, solvents, and petroleum-based ingredients. These harsh chemicals can cause the yoga mat’s material to slowly erode over many washes.
Additionally, having harsh cleaning chemicals around means that you always risk coming into contact with them. If you clean regularly, that means these chemicals can dry out and harm your skin. Additionally, if you have curious little ones (or furry ones) who tend to put any loose item into their mouths, you’d rather your yoga mat be cleaned with safe, non-toxic alternatives.
If you must use them, consider giving your mat a post-bath bath with mild soap and water to wipe away any unwanted chemicals.
Can I Machine-Wash my Yoga Mat?
If you’re trying to cut some cleaning corners, you may have considered the possibility of machine-washing your mat. Work smarter, not harder, right? While we like how you think, it may not be the best option for all types of yoga mats.
Some mats are, in fact, machine washable. You’ll want to double-check with your yoga mat brand and its cleaning guidelines to be sure. Either way, it should probably be done sparingly if you want to increase your mat’s overall lifespan. Sticking with a more hands-on approach is likely the safer option.
Should I Use a Yoga Mat Cover or Towel?
While a yoga mat cover or towel can help keep your yoga mat cleaner than posing directly atop it, this doesn’t mean you should forgo the cleaning process altogether. Additionally, some find that a yoga mat cover makes their yoga experience a bit more slippery.
When in doubt, try it out. You may find that a yoga towel cuts down on the number of times you deep clean and bolsters your yoga practice.
Share Yoga Sessions, Not Germs
From downward dog to pigeon pose, you usually come to your yoga mat seeking peace and relaxation. The opposite effect might occur if you spiral downward into a fungi-infused panic about what could be living on your place of practice.
Just as you commit to showing up on the mat every day, commit to keeping it clean, too. We’re hoping these tips will keep your beloved, flat-lying companion germ-free. A safe, sanitary spot for you to continue your practice is just as important as the practice itself.
If you’re worried your mat has reached the point of no return, consider replacing it with our new travel yoga mat and start your cleaning regimen afresh after each yoga session. If you’re wondering how to stay fit while traveling, it can accompany you wherever you decide to take your practice and, we assure you, it’s cleaner than your old one.
Nama-stay clean, yogis.
- Miller, Louise. “The Best Antibacterial and Antimicrobial Essential Oils.” Vitruvi, 20 Mar. 2020, www.vitruvi.com/blogs/health-and-wellness/which-essential-oils-are-antibacterial-and-antimicrobial
- Palmer, Kate. “Should You Wipe down Your Gym Yoga Mat to Avoid Germs?” BBC News, 27 Sept. 2017, www.bbc.com/news/uk-41411558#:%7E:text=He%20says%20in%20a%20blog,strep%20infections%20in%20susceptible%20individuals.%22.