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Yoga mats are pretty filthy—and they might make you sick

Photo: Bianca Cheah/Repeatly
Photo: Bianca Cheah/Repeatly

Whether you’re regularly that girl on the subway (or the grocery store) with a yoga mat tucked under your arm, or you’re more of a I’ll-rent-one-at-the-studio type, it’s very likely your downward dog home base is very, very dirty.

“Yoga mats are the worst,” Robert Lahita, MD, a professor of medicine at Rutgers School of Medicine (and a yogi himself!), tells Elle. According to Dr. Lahita, yoga mats are crawling with bacteria, fungi, viruses, and more. “A yoga mat is a perfect incubator for many of our skin infections,” he tells Elle. “The yoga mat is a very fertile source for infection, mainly because people sweat on them and they are rarely cleaned.”

The mats, particularly the ones you’re prone to sharing at your fave studio, may get quickly spritzed between classes, but unless they’re getting deep, proper washes after each use, they become hotbeds for some pretty serious diseases. “If you hit it the right way, say you’re a diabetic and on insulin and you’re on a yoga mat that’s been used by five other people and not washed, you run the risk of getting an infection and you can get carbuncles and boils in your skin,” Dr. Lahita tells Elle.

First the gym, now the sweet savasana spot? Nama-stay away, germs.

Here’s how to really clean your yoga mat. Or, if you’re ready to just start over, here are seven top-of-the-line options

(Photo: Bianca Cheah)