Different Ways To Clean Your Yoga Mat

Yoga is supposed to be peaceful, but if you're not properly caring for your equipment, things can quickly derail. If you don't want to be benched with illness or infection, cleaning your yoga mat needs to become a regular part of your routine.


According to Asutra, an untreated yoga mat has 100,000 bacteria per cubic centimeter. That number can be hard to comprehend, but it has very tangible impacts. In fact, podiatrist Dr. Greg Cohen shared with The New York Times that he's seen the prominence of plantar warts and athlete's foot increase alongside yoga's popularity.

Downward dog becomes an even more intimidating pose as you lower your face toward a dirty mat. Fortunately, there are many cleaning solutions available to keep your flow fungi-free. The first step is to treat yourself to your own mat and stop using those ones at the gym. Once you pick your perfect yoga mat, we've got all the tips here for keeping it fresh.

Why do you need to wash your yoga mat?

When you own your own yoga mat, you may question the importance of keeping it clean. After all, if you're using it in the privacy of your own home and aren't afraid of a little sweat, what's the harm in skipping out on washes?


It's true that you won't contract the flu if you're the sole, flu-less user of your mat. However, there are other benefits to keeping a clean workout space that you'll be missing out on. REI notes that allowing sweat and grime to accumulate on your mat can reduce its essential "grippy" texture and shorten its lifespan.

Velscope also points out that, while you might not mind a little dirt, your skin will. Your mat's build up of dead skin, oil, and dirt can block your pores, causing acne breakouts. If you're still not afraid of your own germs, you should remember that even when you bring your own mat into the gym, it can still pick up foreign grime from the air and ground.

How often should you be washing your yoga mat?

Now that you're sold on washing your mat, how often should you be doing it? It's understandable that you may not want your relaxing routine to become the source of a chore, but the disappointing answer is ... more often than you think.


In conversation with SELF, experts recommended wiping down your yoga mat after every single use. If you're working out at a gym with shared equipment, they even suggest giving it a scrub before and after working out as you can't bank on the cleanliness or courtesy of your workout buddies.

On top of these wipe-downs, REI also suggests giving your mat a deep clean every month or so. Fortunately, with myriad cleaning options available for yoga equipment, this new to-do list task doesn't need to be complicated or expensive. Whether you want a DIY dirt-buster or a new product in your repertoire, staying clean is as simple as child's pose.

Natural cleaners for a yoga mat

Just as warm water and soap can get germs off of your hands, it can also remove built-up grime from your yoga mat. A damp washcloth could be all you need to take your first step toward a healthier workout. When you're ready to take things to the next level, however, there are plenty of online recipes for all-natural cleansers. Best of all, they're not too pricey and require no chemistry degree. 


The Healthy Maven shared a recipe for a simple spray you can make in house. By pairing filtered water with natural ingredients like witch hazel and lavender, peppermint, tea tree, and lemon essential oils, you can make your yoga mat feel clean and smell great.

Natural cleaners are also available to purchase online. The main thing to watch out for is harsh chemicals. If you're regularly cleaning your mat with these heavy-duty ingredients, its surface can quickly wear down and need frequent replacement. 

Machine washing a yoga mat

If you're worried about the longevity of your yoga mat, you're typically best-served hand-washing it. However, certain brands of yoga mats do advertise that their products are machine washable, meaning that taking care of this pesky chore just got even easier. Cleaning expert Vera Peterson told Better Homes & Gardens that it's always important to follow label instructions and treat your mat with care. Even if your equipment is "machine safe," opt for gentle cycles and products without harsh chemicals like bleach. 


After your yoga mat has had its spin in the washer, you should hang it up to dry. Skipping out on the hot tumbling of a dryer will help your yoga mat to last longer. You should also take care to let your yoga mat dry fully before getting back into your favorite poses. Dampness is a breeding ground for bacteria, so failing to completely dry your mat will prevent you from getting a truly fresh start. 

Steam cleaning your yoga mat

Steam cleaning is also an incredibly effective way to keep your yoga mat sparkling. This simple solution is especially appealing as many households already utilize a steam cleaner for carpets, rugs, and curtains. If you don't yet have a steam cleaner, adding one to your chore-tackling arsenal is a one-time investment. Steam cleaners create high-power heat through electricity and water, so there's no need to make frequent purchases of specialty cleaners or refills. 


As Best in Yoga explains, the heat that the steam generates is powerful enough to wipe out germs and dissolve grime. Steam also has the unique advantage of penetrating beyond the surface of the mat to thoroughly eliminate the grime that has taken root in your yoga mat. This makes steaming an especially useful tool for yogis who are new to taking care of their equipment. It's never too late to start! 

Caring for and storing your yoga mat

Now that you're an expert on yoga mat cleaning, there's a few more tips you should know to keep your equipment in tip-top shape. Did you know that how you store your yoga mat can also have an impact on its cleanliness and lifespan? It's easy to roll your mat up and throw it into a corner, but there are alternative options that can optimize the mat's utility and prevent its ends from curling. 


Pureful Yoga recommends using a yoga mat hanger or a yoga mat rack to store and display your equipment. This is a great solution for yogis who have made the practice a large part of their lives, as these storage options double as decoration.

However, if you're not quite ready to invest in storage equipment for your yoga mat, the old "rolling it up and tucking it away" method will work in a pinch. As long as you make sure to avoid spots prone to moisture or direct sunlight, your mat should be perfectly safe until your next workout.