This is the complete guide of all things cork yoga mat on the internet.
Choosing your first or next yoga mat can be a difficult decision with so many options. We have tested hundreds of yoga mats over the years. Several great and many that let us down when we needed them most. We also remember the excitement of choosing our first mat!
If that sounds familiar to you, then we have you covered.
This is a comprehensive guide to all things cork yoga mats whether you are just looking or recently purchased a mat, you will find what you need to know here!
So, if you are ready to know more about cork yoga mats then let's dive right in.
We wrote this definitive guide to answer the question we had when we first started, are cork yoga mats good?
At Asivana, we have decades of experience practicing yoga. It is our passion and life!
This guide applies to all cork yoga mats, not just our own Flux cork yoga mats.
Have you recently purchased a cork yoga mat, are you researching a new mat, or are you just interested in learning about cork mats? Then this guide is for you!
You can learn more about our story and our mission on Our Story page.
What is a Cork Yoga Mat?
Cork yoga mats are a sustainable, antimicrobial, durable, and easy to clean yoga mat that most people find has superior grip compared to other mats on the market.
Most cork mats on the market have two layers, a top layer of cork and a bottom layer of natural rubber or thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). Some mats are made with 100% cork however these are rarer and have some downsides such as lower absorbency and less traction on the floor.
Cork mats perform fantastically in active yoga classes like hatha yoga, hot yoga, vinyasa yoga, power yoga, and similar formats. Cork is extremely comfortable and non-toxic which makes for an excellent mat for other styles of yoga as well like gentle, restorative, and yin yoga.
Furthermore, cork mats are ready to go out-of-the-box. No break-in process or period is required for them to function properly. You will have a slight waif of cork oak smell that will eventually fade away.
Cork yoga mats are a great tool for your yoga practice.
Want to know more? Then let’s get into some details!
Beneficial Properties of Cork Yoga Mats
Let's start with a list of what makes cork yoga mats so great.
In research studies, cork displays high antibacterial activity against staph bacteria, with a bacterial reduction of almost 100% (96.93%) and a 36% reduction in E. coli.
Cork contains strong antimicrobial compounds called phenolics. We believe it is vital to implement antibacterial materials and practices in our lives with the rise in bacterial resistance. For this reason, cork yoga mats make for great yoga studio and fitness club yoga mats.
Due to cork’s closed cell structure, it does not absorb dust or other air particles which makes your cork yoga mat hypoallergenic.
Cork is the bark of the evergreen oak tree Quercus Suber (oak cork). The tree lives up to 300 years, the bark is harvestable every 9 years, and harvesting the bark does not hurt the tree. This makes cork a highly sustainable material for cork mats!
Natural rubber is the sap of the rubber tree which is sustainably extracted as latex. This process does not hurt the tree making it a sustainable material for yoga mats.
TPE (thermoplastic elastomer)
TPE is a biodegradable synthetic plastic that does not leech harmful chemicals into the environment. It is a blend of non-toxic thermoplastic rubbers that is mostly recyclable and new research is making it more sustainable every year.
Biodegradable & Recyclable
Synthetic materials are being reassessed due to their extremely long degradation period which is returning us to many naturally occurring materials such as cork due to their renewable properties.
Cork does not undergo any chemical processes and begins decomposing immediately after being buried. Further, cork is recyclable in many ways as the material can be shaped and formed from small ground up pieces.
Natural rubber begins decomposing once buried. It may take up to 100 years to decompose. This is acceptable when the alternatives may not decompose for hundreds of years. Natural rubber is recyclable.
TPE is a new material for yoga mats with many claims of being eco-friendly, biodegradable, and recyclable. It uses non-toxic recyclable plastics and less energy during production. The material can be reused for similar if not that same applications in the recycling process.
You will have a hard time going back to a "sticky yoga mat" after feeling the natural grip of cork on your hands. Cork mats typically have two layers for optimal grip and traction on your studio floor. As implied by the name, the top layer is made of cork while the bottom layer is either natural rubber or TPE.
Cork’s non-uniformity creates plenty of surface space for additional grip when under the pressure of your hands and feet. When your mat gets wet, its grip increases, no mat towel necessary in a hot yoga class!
Note: if your hands are super dry, they may struggle to get traction on cork surfaces. This quickly changes as the body warms up.
Something we love about our cork mat is how different it feels to traditional "sticky mats" that feel a bit like a sticky floor to us after using cork. You have been warned!
Natural rubber is heavy and has a lot of surface area securing it to the floor. When pressed into the ground it grips even more. Float back all day long and your mat stays where you put it!
TPE is not as grippy as natural rubber but it still holds itself to the floor when under pressure. A TPE bottom may squeak and slide on the floor when not being pressed into. Part of the problem with TPE as a bottom layer is how little it weighs. While great for carrying around it is less than satisfactory when sticking to your studio's floor.
Durability & Cushioning
Cork is an impermeable material meaning the structure of cork is tiny cells of trapped air that liquid and gases cannot penetrate. This helps to keep the cork layer clean and cushioning to the body.
Cork’s cell walls are highly resistant to abrasion. The material’s elasticity makes cork yoga mats pliable and rebound well to their original size and shape.
Creases may form in cork when the cork layer is folded into itself. These will slowly go away as they reform the original shape of the mat. Repeatedly folding your cork mat may permanently damage the cork.
Crease in folded cork yoga mat
Natural rubber has a denser give than other yoga mat materials. This is great when putting a lot of weight into the wrists and knees. Having natural rubber as a backing makes for a flexible yoga mat that holds shape whether rolled up or rolled out.
Tip: Rubber may begin to flake apart if left in the sun or intense heat for extended periods of time.
TPE is lightweight, making it ideal for you on-the-go. It is soft and squishy, giving it a cushioning feel. TPE is elastic, however it may stay curled at the ends and unravel when rolled up unless held in place by a strap.
How to Clean your Cork Yoga Mat
Let's start with making a cleaning mixture. Mix the below ingredients together and gently shake the spray bottle for 15-20 seconds. Spray a few test mists into the air and your cleaning mix is ready to go!
- Small spray bottle
- Half distilled water
- Half distilled white vinegar
- [optional] 6 drops of essential oils
- Tea Tree
- Lemon Grass
- If your mat is drenched, use a dry clean cloth, and press into the cork to absorb the excess water.
- Spray your cleaning mixture generously on your mat.
- Wipe it down with a clean lightly damp cloth.
- Air dry only. Hang or lay your mat flat on the ground until dry.
- Make sure to clean the bottom of your mat as well. When your mat is rolled up, the cork top touches the rubber bottom.
- Avoid using vinegar on natural rubber. The mild acid may damage the rubber. You can simply wipe natural rubber bottom layers with a damp, clean sponge
- It is a good idea to clean your cork yoga mat once a week or more frequently if you practice every day.
How to Store and Transport your Cork Yoga Mat
Cork yoga mats are minimal maintenance requiring truly little attention to keep clean. You can extend the life of your cork mat with some simple storage and transportation practices.
Carry your mat in a yoga bag
A yoga bag protects your mat from direct sunlight and other environmental exposure.
Do not pinch or crease the cork layer
Avoid unnecessary pinching or creasing of the cork layer. Stressing the cork may result in the material cracking apart or flaking away.
Avoid exposure to the elements
Leaving your yoga mat in a vehicle, in direct sunlight, or exposed to dry heat for extended periods of time will cause it to dry out and begin flaking apart.
Do not store your mat wet
You may roll it up after a great hot yoga session but set it out to dry as soon as you can.
Stored in a temperature-controlled space
Properly stored, your yoga mat will last you for many years to come. Clean your mat before any long-term storage.
Why are Cork Mats Bad?
Some yogis may find it difficult to stick to a cork surface. There are a few reasons this may happen and some solutions to try.
Practicing in a cool dry environment may result in slippery conditions
It is not ideal to do any physical activity while cold however that cannot always be avoided during the winter months or more gentle yoga classes. If you find yourself in a cool and dry environment try some of the below suggestions to increase your grip.
- Try gently misting clean water onto the spots you are slipping. You can even spray your hands and rub them together to create some friction on your hands to improve friction.
- Press your hands and feet as evenly as possible into the mat surfaces. We tend to press our weight into an edge or point instead of the full contact surface in our poses.
- Practice isometric strength holding the body in place with the muscles instead of structurally with the bones.
- In most cases, slipping on a cork yoga mat is rarely a problem and with these practices can become non-existent.
Not all cork mats are made the same
Cheaply made cork mats tend to unravel at the edges separating the cork layer from the bottom layer. Once this happens, the mat is done for.
The bonding between the layers can also come undone causing wrinkles in the cork surface.
Invest in a quality cork yoga mat made by a manufacturer that will back-up their work. Quality companies want you to have quality experience and will work with you to fix any problems that occur.
Nothing in life is perfect but we can always make things right.
Natural rubber contains latex
There is nothing inherently wrong with latex. You are unlikely to touch the natural rubber bottom layer often (never during a normal yoga practice). However, those with an allergic reaction to latex will want to avoid cork yoga mats or purchase one with a TPE bottom layer.
Cork Yoga Mat FAQ
Let's answer some quick short questions about cork yoga mats.
Why should I switch to a cork yoga mat?
We do not believe you need to "switch" yoga mats but having a cork yoga mat is a great tool to improve your yoga practice.
- It feels great to the touch in any practice
- It is sustainably made
- No need for a towel in hot yoga classes
- No sticky floor feeling
- Easy to clean
Can I practice with my cork yoga mat outside?
Yes! Like with any mat outside, it is best to avoid any sharp rocks, roots, or other objects that may cut into the bottom of the yoga mat. Clean your cork yoga mat after outside use.
Are cork yoga mats toxic?
No, cork yoga mats contain all natural sustainable materials that do not leech toxic materials into the environment during production, use, and/or when recycled.
What kind of yoga are cork yoga mats designed for?
Cork yoga mats are great for all types of yoga. They have superior grip for active classes, balanced cushioning for more gentle classes, and have a natural warm feel to touch that will make you love setting up for your practice
How long do cork yoga mats last?
Cork yoga mats are new enough that we are not exactly sure how long they will last. We expect at least 2 years or several hundreds of hours out of our own mats.
To get a better idea, cork is used for household flooring and has a 25+ year life expectancy in that function. We believe that cork yoga mats can expect several years of use even in the most rigorous of practices.
Are trees cut to make cork yoga mats?
No trees are killed to make cork yoga mats. Cork comes from harvesting bark that does not hurt the trees. Natural rubber is tapped from rubber trees just like our beloved maple syrup.
Why Invest in a Cork Yoga Mat?
A cork yoga mat is a solid option for your practice especially if you are in a more active style yoga class, enjoy the warmth of cork over plastics, or feel good about using a sustainably crafted yoga mat.
The antimicrobial properties of cork yoga mats is vital as our antibiotics begin to wane in effectiveness.
Beyond the materials, your cork yoga mat is an eye-catching tool that will bring you into a deeper yoga practice. You will almost forget you are using a mat in your practice!
You can learn more about our cork yoga mats at AsivanaYoga.com
Let us know what you think of cork yoga mats, why you practice with one, or if we missed anything in the comments below!