If you own your own mat, you probably consider it an essential part of your yoga practice. And if you own an expensive mat, you probably consider it an investment. Caring for your mat properly will not only keep it clean, sanitary, and odor free, but can also extend the life of your mat. There is so much advice online on how to clean and care for yoga mats, that it can be a bit overwhelming. Over the years, I’ve tried a variety of commercial mat washes. One pricey, natural mat cleaner left my mat smelling faintly like vinegar. I’ve washed my mat in the bathtub and I’ve also made some DIY mat cleaning solutions with varying results—you can find lots of recipes online.
Here are some basic tips to consider when caring for your yoga mat.
Follow your manufacturer’s care instructions. It seems obvious, but yoga mats can be made of a variety of different materials--PVC (vinyl), natural rubber, recycled rubber, jute, cork and cotton--how you care for your mat will depend on its material. If you don’t have the instructions that came with your mat, you can probably find them online.
Sometimes the simple solution is the best. You can use a spray bottle with warm water and a soft cloth or sponge to clean your mat. Be sure to let it air dry before rolling and using again.
If you want to buy a commercial mat wash (including sprays and wipes), select a product that is appropriate for your mat (see Tip #1) and only use cleaning solutions meant for yoga mats.
If you Google “mat cleaning” on the Interwebs, you’ll also find lots of DIY recipes. Some include essential oils, such as lemon and lavender, that have mild antibacterial and antifungal properties. Again, make sure that the solution you use is suitable for your mat.
If your mat is heavily soiled, you can submerge it briefly in a tub of water and use a small amount of soap. Be careful not to use too much soap to clean your mat as it can become slippery. Rinse it thoroughly, roll it up in a towel to squeeze out excess water, and let it air dry. Too much water can cause the mat fiber to break down and deteriorate, so don’t submerge your mat too often.
Unless your mat manufacturer says you can put it in the washing machine, don’t do it. Likewise, don’t put it in the dryer.
Try not to expose your mat to extreme heat or cold or to the sun for extended period of time. If you keep it in your car, consider protecting it with a yoga bag.
How often you clean your mat is up to you. The type of yoga you practice, where you practice, and how often will affect how often you clean it, but it’s really a matter of personal preference. If your mat looks dirty or smells funky, it’s probably a good time to wash it, but don’t feel like you have to clean it after every class just because you see other people doing it. If I’m practicing at home or in a yoga studio with a “no shoes” policy, my mat doesn’t get very dirty. However, if I take a hot yoga class, I usually wipe it with water right after class. If I’m practicing in a non-conventional space either indoors or outdoors, I usually take my mat home, give a quick wipe down, and let it air dry.
Take good care of your mat and it will support you and your yoga practice for years to come.