Your yoga mat has been with you through it all: sweat, tears, meditation, invigorating flows (and more sweat). And if you want it to continue to be your trusty fitness buddy, it needs a little extra TLC on the reg. "You should be cleaning your yoga mat after every class - especially if it's heated," recommends Sarah Levey, founder of the beats-drive hot yoga studio Y7.
To figure out how to clean yoga mats properly, I reached out to Levey, plus Lauren Porat, yoga instructor and founder of YogaSpark, and Craig Stiff, head of hardgoods for the yoga mat company Manduka, to ask them for their top tips for making sure your mat stays clear of bacteria, odors, and grime–so you can keep flowing (without the funk).
They all agreed that, whether you're at home or in the studio, cleaning your mat should be priority. In terms of best practices, Porat says, "The rule is, the sweatier or dirtier your mat gets, the more important it is to clean it after every practice." Need some ideas on just exactly how to clean yoga mats? Keep reading for pro intel.
How To Clean Yoga Mats
Rub 'em down with antibacterial wipes or cleansing spray
When to do it: After every class
"Generally, we recommend you wipe down your mat after each practice—this is especially true if you are a heavy sweater," says Stiff. So what exactly do you use to do that? The antibacterial wipes that your studio provides are one option, or a simple warm water and soap solution can do the trick. Depending on your mat (always check the manufacturer suggested cleaning method first), you can also wipe down with a vinegar solution (Y7 uses a combo of water, vinegar, and tea tree oil, FYI), or a special yoga mat cleaning spray.
DIY your own yoga mat cleaner with equal parts distilled water and white vinegar, plus a few drops of tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Bonus points if it's glass and not plastic.
Give Your Yoga Mat A Bath—Or Shower
When to do it: After every other regular yoga class or after every super-sweaty asana practice
To really take care of gross sweat, dirt, and grime from an intense workout, you'll want to wash or deep clean your mat regularly. How often is up to you, but Stiff suggests thinking about your mat the same way you do your sheets: "Some people wash their sheets multiple times a week and some wait, well, way too long."
Cleaning your yoga mat can be done in one several ways, depending on your preference (and the type of mat). "A natural rubber mat and/or a grippy yoga mat absorb a lot of sweat, so they require a regular deep clean in a bathtub or shower," says Porat. You can wash your mat with your preferred cleaner (DIY or store-bought) and let it soak in the water or give it a good rinse in the shower.
Some cleaning products (like Manduka Yoga Mat Cleaner for example) say to let the cleaner sit on the mat for several minutes before wiping down or washing. (Again, always follow the instructions that come with your mat as to avoid stripping it or making it lose its grip.)
Toss Your Yoga Mat Into The Washing Machine
When to do it: Every other practice—but ONLY if the manufacturer says it's okay
Does the idea of not having to wash your yoga mat by hand leave you as blissed out as a few breaths in headstand? Good news: Some brands, like Yellow Willow, for example, make yoga mats that are actually machine washable. Just know that while the thought of tossing your mat in the wash along with your yoga pants sounds tempting, be sure to read the instructions first and do exactly as described by the manufacturer (or else, your mat may come out of the rinse cycle in less-than-usable shape). Common no-nos include turning on the spin or tumble cycle and adding harsh detergents—and definitely don't put it in the dryer.
How to Dry Yoga Mats
If you're concerned about keeping your yoga mat free of bacteria, mildew, and mold (you know, all the gross stuff), you'll definitely want to pay attention to how you dry it. One major don't? Rolling it up immediately after you clean it. "Let it air dry and then roll it up," says Porat, who also suggests investing in a yoga towel to help keep your mat from getting so dirty/sweaty in the first place. As for how to air dry it? "I recommend finding a chair or other bar outside that you can throw it over to get maximum air flow, but if the weather is too cold, indoors will do—you just want to create maximum surface area," Porat adds. Also, avoid hanging your mat in the shower or over the bathtub (unless you won't be showering soon) since the humidity will hinder the drying process. Follow these simple tips and your mat will nama-stay (had to) ick free and ready for your asana practice.