Ever nestled into child’s pose, taken a deep, cleansing breath, and smelled something…seriously off? That’s your trusty yoga mat. With regular use, it gets covered in dirt, oils, and—if you’re doing it right—plenty of sweat.
Unfortunately, we aren’t exactly wiping down our mats at the frequency we’d launder our leggings—oh, unless they’re loaner mats, and the studio requires it. Most of us just roll it up apres savasana and peace out. When our trusty mat sees the light of day again, it’s the same scenario. Unfurl mat, sweat on it, and roll it back up. (In other words, ick.)
Should you choose to take a stab a cleaning your mat more often (please do), there are several right ways to bathe it, and an equal number of absolute no-nos, which is why we turned to the experts for their intel.
Here’s what they said about making your mat its cleanest yet.
Originally posted April 8, 2014, updated March 22, 2016.
DO clean your mat at least weekly
Yes, weekly! That’s according to Jordan Westra, studio manager at Yoga Vida in New York City, who spearheads the cleaning of the studios’ Jade mats. And, it’s up to you, but if you practice regularly, outside, or sweat a lot, think about a quick wipe down after every session. It’s good hygiene, and helps prolong your mat’s life. (Think of it like laundry!)
DO whip up a natural solution
“We usually recommend a water-based, organic, all-purpose cleanser,” says Stacie Leavitt, a product guru for Manduka mats. “If you have a mat made from natural tree rubber, using a 50/50 mix of water and vinegar is a great way to naturally disinfect and restore the rubber’s texture and color.” Tea tree oil, and essential oils, like lavender or thyme can make nice additions, but you should check with the manufacturer of your mat to make sure the mat can tolerate these.
DO buy yoga mat wipes if you’re lazy (or busy)
Jo-Sha makes wipes with essential oils that are safe for its mats (i.e., won’t cause the mat to become un-sticky), and Asutra makes an all-natural mat spray with eucalyptus oils. Plus, most of the major mat manufacturers do, too.
DON’T use tons of soap
When Yoga Vida’s Westra cleans their mats, he spritzes both sides with a vinegar-and-water solution, takes a damp, wrung-out sponge, then gives them a good wiping before letting the mats hang dry. “It’s actually better to use less water and minimal soap, since submerging a yoga mat could cause it to become waterlogged,” echoes Manduka’s Leavitt.
DON’T worry about tossing your mat in the washing machine
Lauren Imparato, founder of I.Am.You yoga in New York City, who provides mats for her students, is very particular about mat hygiene. Even if you wipe them down thoroughly after each use (and she does), “throw yours in the washing machine once a month. No soap. Then into the dryer on medium to high heat.” They hold up, she swears.
DON’T let your mat sunbathe
Hanging your mat in the sun might sound like a good idea (hey, it works for sheets), but it could really dry out your mat, Westra says. “It’ll crumble up and get nasty on you,” he warns.
In the market for a new yoga mat? These 7 top-of-the-line picks will help you practice in luxury.