The Virtues of a Clean Yoga Mat

This entry was posted on Oct 26, 2017 by Charlotte Bell.

clean yoga mat

It’s a nice perk when yoga studios provide yoga mats for their clients. But it’s not so nice when you can see that previous practitioners have left their sweaty mark on the mats. That’s one of many reasons why it’s smart to bring your own mat to your favorite studio.

But our own personal mats aren’t above getting a little grotty either. Especially if you practice a sweaty style of yoga, your mat may need to be cleaned every day.

Why?

Three things:

  1. There’s the aesthetic assault of looking at a dirty mat while you’re facing downward in Downward Facing Dog (and other poses). It may be harder to relax in Savasana on a less-than-pristine mat. And the smell …
  2. Yoga mats, like any other absorbent material, can harbor bacteria. If you’re sweating on your mat, bacteria are living there. Even the oils in your hands and feet can cause bacteria growth.
  3. When the surface of your mat is less than clean, it becomes less grippy. Sliding around on your yoga mat during practice can cause slipping and even falling. At the very least, your practice will be less satisfying if you’re spending energy on worrying about sliding. Also, a slippery mat tends to cause you to hold back in your asanas because you don’t feel stable. At worst, a slippery mat could cause you to take a fall. A clean yoga mat provides a stable surface for your practice.

Even a new mat, just out of the package, should be cleaned. The manufacturing process leaves a slippery coating on the surface of most yoga mats. The coating can interact with the oils and sweat on your hands and feet and make the mat slippery. Cleaning this coating off your mat will save you a lot of grief when you’re trying out your new mat.

A clean yoga mat gives your practice a fresh start each day. If you practice a quieter, Hatha style of yoga you may not need to clean your mat after every practice, but cleaning it once a week is a good idea.

Tips for a Clean Yoga Mat

There are several ways to start your day with a clean yoga mat. After more than 30 years of selling yoga mats and props, Hugger Mugger has experimented a lot with the best ways to keep your yoga mat in optimum shape. Here’s what we suggest:

  1. Clean after each use with PureMat Gear Wash. Apply a thin coating to your mat and other props and wipe with a clean cloth. PureMat Gear Wash comes in two natural scents made from essential oils: Lemon-Tea Tree and Lavender and the cleaning agent is derived from plants.
  2. Clean your mat with a 1:20 solution of a mild dish soap and water. Make sure to use no more dish soap than this because the soap can be absorbed into the mat and can actually make your mat more slippery! Apply with a soft, clean cloth and wipe dry.

Some Important Cautions and Absolute Don’ts

If you don’t clean your mat regularly and it gets super grotty, it can be tempting to resort to extreme measures. Doing the things listed below can shorten the longevity of your mat. It’s a whole lot easier just to clean your mat regularly. But just in case you find yourself grossed out by your yoga mat, here are some cautions:

  1. Never wash your yoga mat in a washing machine! Also, don’t put your mat in a clothes dryer unless you want to have to replace the drum. Your mat will likely get stuck to the inside of the dryer. So just don’t!
  2. If you let your mat get really grotty, you may, in fact, have to put it in the bathtub with a very dilute amount (1:20) of mild dish soap, and wipe it down with a soft cloth or sponge to get it clean. This isn’t ideal, as it can degrade your mat over time. But if you end up having to do this, know that it will take a very looonnnnggg time to dry. Yoga mats are made from dense materials so they hold onto moisture. Your mat could take a good week to dry completely once it’s been submerged. The best way to dry your mat is to hang it so that it can get lots of air circulation, but definitely keep it out of direct sunlight.

The Exceptions—How to Clean Two Special Yoga Mats

Two of Hugger Mugger’s mats require slightly different care strategies.

  1. Para Rubber Yoga Mat: To clean, use a mat wash or wipe the surface down with a warm, wet towel. Air-dry out of direct sunlight. Do not machine wash (which, of course, applies to all mats) or soak in water.
  2. Sattva Jute Yoga Mat: The care for this textured mat is similar to that of all the rest of our mats. The only difference is, if you use a paper towel to clean this mat, you’ll be picking little crumbs of paper towel off the mat for an interminably long time afterward. Because the surface of this mat is textured, the Jo-Sha Wipes don’t work as well on this mat. Instead, wipe it very gently with a damp towel to clean.

Hugger Mugger is always eager to hear suggestions from the yoga community. If you have any tips for achieving the perfect clean yoga mat, please share them here!

About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.