The Best Way to Clean Yoga Mats and Care for Yoga Mats

The Best Way to Clean Yoga Mats and Care for Yoga Mats

Imagine if your yoga mat could talk. What tales might it share? Each crease, each mark, a testament to your dedication, a witness to your growth, an echo of laughter from a toppled tree pose, a whisper of your breath in Savasana. As practitioners, we form an intimate bond with our yoga mat. It's more than an accessory - it's our partner in practice, our island of tranquility, a map guiding us on our journey within.

"How you do anything, is how you do everything"

The care we extend towards our yoga mat is a mirror to the care we extend to ourselves. It is a practice of seva (selfless service), a gesture of respect to the yoga mat that supports us as we explore our potential, unfold our strength, and cultivate inner peace. It's a tangible way of cherishing the unity between mind, body, spirit, and the world around us. 

So let’s talk about yoga mat care, from cleaning to storage and transportation. We'll delve into the essence of what it means to truly care for your yoga mat and, by extension, your practice, and ultimately, yourself. After all, we're all bound by the common thread of striving to live our yoga, both on and off the mat.

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The Best Yoga Mat Cleaning Methods

The process of maintaining cleanliness in our yoga mats might seem like an after thought action we take or a mundane task, but let's pause for a moment and look at it from a different perspective. 

The Yoga of Cleaning

In my journey as a yogi, I've come to realize that the act of cleaning our yoga mats is, in many ways, a reflection of our own practice. It is a testament to our commitment to sauca (cleanliness), the first niyama of the 8-limbs of yoga. Cleaning your yoga mat after each practice is not only a practical way to keep it free from sweat, oil, dirt, and growing micro-organisms, but it's also a symbolic act of respect and unity with the self and your yoga mat.

Much like the principles of yoga, which call us to unite mind, body, and spirit, the act of cleaning our yoga mats becomes a practice of bringing together our physical efforts, mindful attention, and intention of cleanliness and care. It's a small but profound way of embodying the heroic spirit intrinsic to every yogi, of honoring the sacred space where we challenge, explore, and express ourselves.

How to Clean Yoga Mats - Two Simple Ways

So, how do we go about cleaning our yoga mats? Over the years, I've found two effective quick methods that I regularly use after any yoga class and recommend to my students. These methods are easy to adopt and require minimal supplies that you likely already have at home or are available in your studio.

1. The Quick - Best Way to Clean Yoga Mat

This method is perfect for those days when you're on the go and don't have much time but still want to give your mat a quick cleanse. Most yoga studios and gym rooms have yoga mat and yoga prop cleaning sprays available for you to use. The quality and effectiveness of the products may vary.

Ingredients for Homemade Yoga Mat Cleaner
  • A spray bottle
  • Fresh water
  • Essential oils (I personally love using tea tree oil but many others will be ok to use to preference)
Steps to Use Homemade Yoga Mat Cleaner
  1. Fill the spray bottle with fresh water and add a few drops of your chosen essential oil.
  2. Shake the bottle well to mix the essential oil and water.
  3. Lightly spritz your mat with the mixture and wipe it down with a clean cloth.
  4. Let your mat air dry before rolling it up OR unroll your yoga mat to dry after you’ve gone to your next destination

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2. The Wash - Best Way to Clean Yoga Mat

This method is suited for those days when your mat could use some extra care or after an especially sweaty class. This yoga mat cleaning technique will take more time so use your judgment when you want to use this over the quick yoga mat cleaning method above.

Ingredients for the Best Way to Wash Yoga Mat
  • A location that can get wet such as outside, a bathtub, or a large sink 
  • Lukewarm water or any running water (i.e. a garden hose)
  • Yoga Mat Cleaning Solution:
    • Essential oil mix
    • Mild soap (I recommend using a soap that's free from harsh chemicals)
    • Vinegar mix (I like to add essential oils with my diy vinegar yoga mat cleaning mix)
Steps to Best Way to Wash Yoga Mat
  1. Lay out your yoga mat.
  2. Spray your yoga mat down with running water.
  3. Spray or wipe on your yoga mat cleaning solution.
  4. Gently wipe the yoga mat down a few times in a circular motion.
  5. Spray your yoga mat with running water to remove any remaining cleaning solution.
  6. Hold your yoga mat up and let the excess water drain.
  7. Lay the mat flat or hang it up to air dry. Make sure it's completely dry before rolling it up.
    1. Hang to dry is the preferred solution here. The sooner your mat is dry, the less likely microorganisms will be able to grow on it.

Deep Cleaning Your Yoga Mat

In yoga, we often speak about journeying inward, about diving deep beneath the surface of the physical asanas to discover the richness that lies within. Now, imagine applying the same principle to the practice of deep cleaning your yoga mat. 

Finding Connection in Cleaning

Deep cleaning our yoga mats isn't just about keeping them hygienic or increasing their lifespan, although both are important factors. It's also about taking the time to connect with our yoga mats and by extension, with our yoga practice and ourselves. Just as the mat supports us in our physical practice, it also holds energetic imprints of our experiences — the breakthroughs, the struggles, the times we pushed past our comfort zone, and the moments we chose to honor our limitations.

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Deep Clean a Yoga Mat

With this perspective, let's dive into the specifics of how to deep clean a yoga mat. Here, I want to share a method that has worked well for me over the years. 

Ingredients to Deep Clean a Yoga Mat

  • A bathtub or large basin
  • Lukewarm water
  • Mild, eco-friendly detergent or dish soap

Steps to Deep Clean a Yoga Mat

  1. Fill the tub or sink with lukewarm water and add a small amount of your preferred yoga mat cleaning solution.
  2. Place your yoga mat in the soapy water and gently scrub it with a soft cloth or sponge.
  3. Submerge your yoga mat in the soapy water. You can gently agitate the water with your hands to ensure the soap is well-distributed.
  4. Allow your mat to soak for about 5-10 minutes. This is a great time to sit quietly, meditate, or journal as your mat is cleansed.
  5. After soaking, use a soft sponge or cloth to gently scrub both sides of your mat. Pay special attention to areas that are particularly dirty.
  6. Drain the soapy water and rinse your mat thoroughly under warm water. Make sure all soap residues are removed as they can make your mat slippery.
  7. Hold your yoga mat up and let the excess water drain.
  8. Lay your yoga mat flat on a dry towel and roll the towel and mat together. This will help absorb more water from the mat.
  9. Unroll and let your mat air dry preferably hanging. Keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent any colors from fading and the material from drying out.

This deep yoga mat cleaning method will clean your yoga mat however some materials may have reduced durability after being soaked and dried. It’s often best to regularly clean your yoga mat after use rather than deep clean it occasionally.

How to Store Your Yoga Mat

From my experience, I've found that the way we store and handle our yoga mats greatly influences not just their longevity but also the energy and flow of our yoga space and our practice.

The Significance of Mindful Yoga Mat Storage

Whether you're a studio owner managing multiple yoga mats or a practitioner with a single yoga mat, the essence of mindful storage and handling remains the same. It's about creating and maintaining a space that is not only organized and clean but also welcoming and respectful.

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Three Effective Yoga Mat Storage Methods for Yoga Studios

Through my journey as a yoga practitioner and teacher, I've seen various ways of storing yoga mats. Here are three of the most common methods.

Vertical Yoga Mat Holder

A vertical mat holder is an excellent option for tucking yoga mats into corners and small areas. It's practical and easy to use – simply roll your mat and place it in one of the holder's slots or in the open top of the holder. These add a specific aesthetic to a yoga studio or yoga store space.

Horizontal Yoga Mat Rack

A horizontal rack provides an easy, grab-and-go solution for studios or home use. The rack holds mats in a rolled, horizontal position, making them easily accessible. This is great to save space on the floor. As with the vertical holder, ensure the mat is completely dry before storing it this way.

Personal Yoga Mat Bag

For individual practitioners, storing your yoga mat in a yoga mat bag can be a good choice. It protects the mat, makes it portable, and allows you to quickly go from storage to transportation. Plus, having a designated container for your yoga mat reinforces the idea of yoga being a part of your daily life, not just something you do at a studio or specific space.

In essence, how we store and handle our mats is a reflection of our yoga practice. It's an extension of the respect we have for our yoga mats, our yoga space, and our yoga community. By cultivating mindful habits around our yoga mats, we contribute to a more harmonious, respectful, and welcoming environment for all.

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Storing Your Yoga Mat at Home

Each of the methods above are great, especially if you have multiple yoga mats!

However at home you may simply want to put your yoga mat in a convenient place such as a closet or a shelf near your door. While it is most convenient to leave your yoga mat in your car, the extreme temperature and elements may reduce the longevity of your yoga mat.

Some yoga mats like traditional ‘eco-friendly’ yoga mats may dry out and flake plastic particles in extreme heat. While trapped moisture may freeze in cold temperatures. Natural materials such as cork and natural rubber may weather the elements better but it is still good practice to bring your yoga mat into your home with you to increase its longevity.

Extending Yoga Mat Lifespan

Over the years, as my yoga practice deepened, so did my relationship with my yoga mat. I've found that the extra care and attention I give my yoga mat not only enhances its lifespan but also enriches my practice and alignment with my yoga journey's goals and intentions.

Using a Yoga Towel to Minimize Wear and Tear

The use of yoga towels can prevent wear and tear on your yoga mat, especially for hot yoga classes or those who sweat a lot during practice. By absorbing sweat and reducing friction, the yoga towel reduces wear and tear. The drawback is most towels are finicky when it comes to grip on your hands or your yoga mat. They often get folds and may become slippery. Most are made with materials that may cause skin irritation over time.

Embrace Practicing Yoga Barefoot

I am always barefoot on my yoga mat. Avoiding shoes and even socks helps keep the mat clean and free from unnecessary pressure and strain that can damage its surface.

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Prioritize Regular Cleaning and Proper Storage

As we've discussed earlier, regular cleaning and proper storage are crucial for extending the life of your yoga mat. Regular cleaning is better than deep cleaning for longevity. The consistency of these actions reflects our dedication to our yoga practice and our commitment to the yogic values of cleanliness (sauca) and non-excess (aparigraha).

Transport Your Yoga Mat Mindfully

The way we carry our yoga mat to and from our yoga classes can also affect its longevity. I recommend using a yoga mat bag or yoga mat carrying strap to protect your mat from the elements and make transportation easier. It's also good practice to roll your mat with the top side (the side you practice on) facing outwards. This helps the corners stay flat when you unroll it for practice.

When to Replace Yoga Mat

In the ever-evolving journey of yoga, change is inevitable and often necessary for growth. Our yoga mats, despite the care and attention we shower on them, are not immune to this cycle of life. Recognizing the signs of when it's time to replace our yoga mat is not only important for our safety and comfort during practice but also reflects our conscious adaptation to change and our commitment to sustainability.

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Yoga Mat Wear and Tear Signs

Over time, despite the best care, yoga mats can start showing signs of wear and tear. Perhaps the texture is wearing thin, causing you to slip during your downward dog. Maybe the material is starting to crumble, or there are visible tears or holes. These are clear signs that your yoga mat has served you well and that it's time to honor its service by retiring it.

From a teacher or a studio owner's perspective, keeping an eye out for these signs is crucial to ensure the safety and comfort of your students. After all, the state of your yoga props is a reflection of your service to your community.

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The Durability and Aging of Cork Yoga Mats

If you're considering investing in a new yoga mat, I want to share my personal experience with cork yoga mats. What stands out about cork yoga mats is their incredible durability and unique aging process. 

Cork is a naturally resilient material. Unlike most other mats that degrade with use, cork mats seem to 'break-in' and perform better with time. They increase in grip the more they are used, providing a stable, non-slip surface that's excellent for any form of yoga practice.

Another intriguing aspect of cork yoga mats is how they age. Over time, cork naturally darkens sharing in your yoga journey. Rather than looking worn out, this darkening adds character and depth, making your mat truly unique, much like how our yoga practice shapes and molds us over time.

I wrote a whole article on cork yoga mats and I created the Flux cork yoga mat because I believe that cork yoga mats are the best yoga mats in modern times for practicing yoga while being grounded, cushioned, and stable.

Making the Transition Mindfully

Choosing to replace your mat can be a significant decision, especially if the mat holds sentimental value. I've found that acknowledging the cycle of life and treating the transition as an opportunity for growth makes the process easier and more meaningful.

When it's time for a new yoga mat, consider donating or recycling your old mat if it's still in usable condition. There are many organizations that appreciate such donations, and it's another way we can practice seva.

Replacing your yoga mat is a natural part of your yoga journey. It's an opportunity to renew your commitment to your practice, to invest in your comfort and safety, and to make a conscious choice that aligns with your values and needs. As we navigate this process, we embody the spirit of adaptation and continuous growth that is at the heart of yoga.

What to Do With Old Yoga Mats?

You can do a lot with old yoga mats. They still have a lot of value and function even after they have lost their edge for your own yoga practice.

Repurpose

Use your creativity to repurpose your old yoga mat. It can be cut into mouse pads, jar openers, garden knee pads, shelf liners, camping mats, and even flip-flops. I’ve seen retired yoga mats used for holding rugs in place and bio-degradable materials could even be used as environmentally friendly weed mats in your garden (until the microbes win and break the materials down.

Use your creativity and I’m certain you’ll find a way to repurpose a yoga mat that no longer functions for your yoga practice.

Recycle

Not all yoga mats are recyclable due to the variety of materials used. However, yoga mats made of natural rubber or other recyclable materials can often be recycled. Check with local recycling facilities to see if they accept yoga mats. Or see manufacturer return programs (below).

Donate

If the mat is still in usable condition (clean and free of significant damage), consider donating it to local charities, community centers, animal shelters (they can be used as pet beds), or secondhand stores.

Manufacturer Return Programs

Some yoga mat manufacturers have programs that accept old mats and recycle them into new products. Check if your yoga mat manufacturer offers such a program.

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Conditioning Your New Yoga Mat

Every new beginning, be it a new yoga mat or a new chapter in our yoga journey, brings with it a sense of excitement, hope, and sometimes, a bit of apprehension. As we welcome our new yoga mat into our lives, we can use this moment to set intentions, embrace change, and prepare ourselves for the exciting experiences that await.

Airing Out Your New Yoga Mat

It's quite common for a new yoga mat, particularly ones made of rubber, TPE, and other fossil fuel derived polymers, to have a distinct ‘new yoga mat smell’ due to the manufacturing process which is why your new yoga mat smells like chemicals.

New Yoga Mat Smells Like Chemicals?

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): New PVC yoga mats often have a strong chemical smell. This is due to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the manufacturing process. The odor typically diminishes over time with use and proper airing out.

TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomers): TPE yoga mats may also have a mild smell when new, though not as strong as PVC. It's a synthetic material and its smell is due to the compounds used in its creation.

Natural Rubber: Natural rubber yoga mats can have a distinct, often earthy smell. Some users find this smell strong and a bit unpleasant initially, but it usually fades with time and use.

Cork: Cork yoga mats have a very mild, almost non-existent smell that can be described as slightly earthy or woody. Since cork is a natural material, it does not release harmful chemicals or strong odors.

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Get Rid of Yoga Mat Smell

  1. Unroll your new mat and leave it in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. 
  2. Allow the mat to air out for 1-3 days until the smell dissipates.
  3. You can also gently wipe the surface with a soft cloth and a mild yoga mat cleaner to help speed up the process.

New Yoga Mat Conditioning

Besides airing out your new yoga mat, you may also want to consider a few more steps.

Clean Your New Yoga Mat

Before using your new yoga mat, it's recommended to give it a good cleaning. Depending on the material, you can usually use a soft cloth, warm water, and mild soap. Ensure to avoid harsh chemicals which can degrade the mat over time.

Break Your New Yoga Mat In

Just like a new pair of shoes, your yoga mat will go through a break-in period to some degree. This could be 1 yoga session or dozens. To begin this process simply use it regularly, which will help the material soften up, and improve its grip. Doing a mix of standing poses, seated poses, and flowing sequences can help even out the wear across the mat.

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Proper Storage for a New Yoga Mat

Store your yoga mat unrolled if you have the space, or loosely rolled with the practice side out. This helps the yoga mat keep its shape and prevents creasing or curling. This is only necessary for a short period of time, maybe 1-2 weeks.

Gentle Sanding for Some New Yoga Mats

Some yoga mats may benefit from a very light sanding with a fine-grain sandpaper to remove the thin layer on the surface and improve grip. Many plastic (PVC, TPE, etc) yoga mats will have a film on the surface of new yoga mats that should be removed. See manufacturer recommendations for specifics.

Some people find difficulty in getting proper grip on a brand new cork yoga mat and this option can greatly enhance the initial cork yoga mat grip. As cork ages and is used, the material grows to become more and more grippy.

Manufacturer Recommendations

Always follow the specific care instructions that come with your yoga mat. Each material and brand might have unique requirements or recommendations for conditioning and cleaning. Proper conditioning not only improves your experience with your new mat but also extends its lifespan.

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Setting Intentions With Your New Yoga Mat

When I get a new yoga mat, I take a moment to set an intention or sankalpa. As I unroll the yoga mat for the first time, I silently voice my intention, infusing it into my yoga practice. This could be a personal goal, a commitment to a value or principle, or a mantra that resonates with me.

Your yoga mat is a reflection of your yoga journey. Each time you step on it, you're expressing your commitment to your yoga practice, your personal growth, and your well-being. By setting an intention, you anchor your practice in something meaningful, something that inspires and motivates you.

Your Yoga Mat Care Journey

As we draw this exploration of yoga mat care to a close, let's circle back to the central idea that has been threading through our discussion. Yoga mat care, much like our practice itself, is about more than just the physical. It's an expression of our values, our dedication, and our interconnectedness with ourselves, our community, and the world around us.

"How you do anything, is how you do everything"

Embodying Asivana's Core Values

Through proper mat care, we embody the spirit of Asivana – unity, heroism, service, community, and sustainability. Each act, from regular cleaning to mindful storage, from deep cleaning to recognizing when it's time for a new yoga mat, is a reflection of these principles. 

Every time we unroll our yoga mat, we're not just preparing for a physical practice; we're stepping into a space of personal growth, self-discovery, and transformative power. And every time we care for our yoga mat, we're honoring this sacred space and the journey that unfolds on it.

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Empowering Every Yogi

If you're at a point in your journey where you're considering a new yoga mat, I'd like to share something with you. In my quest for the ideal yoga mat that enhances our yoga practice and respects our environment, I created the Flux cork yoga mat.

Made with sustainable, high-quality cork, the Flux cork yoga mat embodies durability and an ideal surface for grip and control. It becomes grippier with use and sweat, making it a faithful companion for your evolving yoga journey. If you're interested, I encourage you to check it out and see if it resonates with you.

Blessings on your journey, yogi.

Jack

About the Author Jack Utermoehl Asivana Yoga Founder and Owner

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