Practising yoga is a sacred ritual for many of us, and now more and more of us are getting our flow on at home. The perk is that you can jump into a Vinyasa or Ashtanga flow at any moment of the day. But it also means that if you don't know how to clean a yoga mat properly – and if you hardly clean yours at all (guilty as charged) – then child posing and the like can quickly become a hindrance to your health.
It may be a shock to learn that using our own very best yoga mat, rather than a public one in a gym, could be cause for concern. But what you have to remember is that public yoga mats get cleaned more frequently than you may clean your own – especially in pandemic times. Mats – provided that gyms are open – will usually be cleaned properly at least once a day, in addition to a wipe down from the person who has used it for a session. So any harmful bacteria levels will naturally be lower.
Why you should clean your own yoga mat
We spoke with Kat Bayly, Founder of the UK-based Secret Yoga Space (opens in new tab) who says, 'It's important to keep on top of cleaning your yoga mat to reduce the amount of germs and bacteria that live on the surface. It's also key in making sure your mat doesn't develop any funky smells!' No one wants that right?
Furthermore, in a study carried out by ABC-13 (opens in new tab) back in 2015, they took swab tests from three yoga mats: a local gym instructor’s mat, one of the gym's public yoga mats and finally, a woman's personal yoga mat which she regularly used at home. The swabs were then sent to a lab and tested. The results? It was the public yoga mat from the studio was the cleanest, followed by the instructor's mat and lastly, the at home yoga mat which tested positive for 12 million counts of bacteria that could lead to gastro problems and allergies... That's a hard pill to swallow but it is not all doom and gloom AND it's so quick and easy to clean your yoga mat using natural ingredients.
- Noticed a grotty carpet when in downward dog? This is how to clean a carpet.
How often should you clean a yoga mat?
As a rule of thumb, you should wipe down your yoga mat after each time you use it with a natural home-made solution containing essential oils like the one we have for you below. You should then look to deep clean your yoga mat at least every month which you can do easily in a bathtub using the same solution. Do this more frequently if you practise more regularly. Especially if you do any form of Bikram yoga.
Bayly seconds this 'I clean mine after every other practice as I regularly practise Yin Yoga and Hatha but I'd recommend doing it more often if you tend to do Vinyasa or Hot Yoga, due to the amount of perspiration that tends to happen during these classes.'
DIY yoga mat cleaner
Cleaning a yoga mat naturally really is the best way. Not only is it more environmentally friendly which goes hand in hand with most yogi lifestyles anyhow, but it is also less likely to damage your yoga mat's material. Keeping it clean is best for you but also best to promote your mat's life!
Melissa Maker creator and author of Clean My Space (opens in new tab), notes how using distilled vinegar is a brilliant way to get rid of the grub, 'Vinegar breaks down dirt and soil, but is gentle enough to not break down rubber'.
As you will have seen in gym or yoga studio-led classes, you'll need a spray bottle to mix your main solution in, then we're using distilled vinegar and water, plus, essential oils to fortify your natural cleaning product with. Choose from popular lavender (calming) or peppermint (uplifting), as well as tea tree (Melissa Maker's favorite), lemon, eucalyptus, and lemongrass which are also naturally antimicrobial.
Tools and ingredients:
- Spray bottle
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar or witch hazel
- A dash of tea tree oil (not obligatory but added microbial support)
- 6-10 drops of your favorite essential oil (we love lavender)
- Learn more about how cleaning with vinegar (opens in new tab) is safe and effective all around your home.
How to clean a yoga mat at home
Clean your yoga mat by filling up your spray bottle with three parts water to one part vinegar. Add a dash of tea tree if using and 6-10 drops of your chosen essential oil. Shake lightly then spread your mat out. Spray one side liberally, let it sink in for a minute or two before wiping off residue liquid. Then, flip your mat oven and do the same on the other side. It will dry quickly so just roll it up and store in your yoga mat bag to keep dust at bay!
Top tip: Use the same solution to wipe down your yoga mat bag/carrier every couple of weeks too.
- If you use your rug for extra yogi comfort, learn how to clean a rug properly at home too.
How to clean a yoga mat in a bathtub
This is the best way to deep clean your yoga mat. Start by laying out your mat in the tub then spray it liberally with the DIY cleaning solution. Let it sit for five minutes or so then use a sponge or cloth to give it a really good scrub. Flip it over and repeat this on the other side. Then fill your bathtub with enough warm water to just cover the mat. Let it sit there for a few minutes until the water is looking fairly grubby (oh and it will). Drain the water then ring out your mat and air dry it for 48 hours.
- Give your tub a scrub when you're done with our guide on how to clean a bathtub.
Can you clean a yoga mat in a washing machine?
We wouldn't recommend shoving your polyurethane, rubber or cork yoga mat in the washing machine unless the manufacturer has specifically stated that it is washing machine safe.
You'll usually find that favorite brands like Lululemon recommend simply wiping down their mats.
- Make sure your washer is up to the job – find the best washing machine for you.
Professional tips for a clean yoga mat
Maker advises, 'When you're cleaning your yoga mat, you want to make sure you're not using any soap. Reason being that soap is slippery, so if you spray your mat down with soap, you're not gong to be able to wipe it all off.'
'Essential oils are antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial," yoga instructor April Reeder said for ABC-13 (opens in new tab).
On the flip side, Bayly does actually recommend soap to clean natural yoga mats, 'I wipe down my natural rubber yoga mat with a mixture of soap and water as anything else can remove it's natural non-slip surface. I spritz a little on and give it a soft rub down with a cloth.' If you want to try this method, be sure to use a tiny amount of soap so that no residue is left.
Home-made yoga mat cleaning solution essentials
Witch Hazel Liquid - 500g (opens in new tab)
One of nature's best astringents and cleaners.
Made from non-toxic materials
Shop Heinz All-Natural Distilled White Vinegar (opens in new tab)- White Vinegar for Cleaning, Pickling, and Cooking, 1.89 Litre from Amazon
A must for natural cleaning around the kitchen and beyond.