My yoga mat has gone from sitting in the back of my closet collecting dust, to being my quarantine MVP. As someone who’s more a group fitness gal and less solitary yogi, when studios suddenly closed in mid-March, I grew slightly anxious. Knowing that exercise was inextricably linked to my mental health, I decided to pull out my yoga mat from its dusty home and explore remote ways to sweat it out. (Luckily, I quickly found a slew of talented instructors hosting Instagram Live workouts.) Today, I still don’t do much yoga, but I do use the mat for everything from high-intensity interval training to pilates. My mat has turned into my happy place and I’m thankful for that fleeting moment when I was convinced I was zen enough to purchase one.
Of course, now that my yoga mat is my best friend, it gets sweaty on the regular. As a pre-pandemic germaphobe, my instinct was to give it the occasional once-over with a sanitizing wipe. Now that I'm hyper-aware of all the germs, bacteria, and viruses that threaten our well-being, I know it needs more. I decided to dig deeper to find the right way to clean a yoga mat; here's what I learned.
Honestly, the truth is worse than what I had feared. Germs, bacteria, and fungi congregate in sweaty places and the yoga mat is a more-than-suitable home for them all. Even though your personal yoga mat isn’t being shared with others at a studio, it could still harbor things like ringworm, athlete’s foot, plantar warts, and staph infections if not properly maintained.
You Should Disinfect Your Mat Daily
Any time you use your mat, you should disinfect it to immediately eliminate germs, dirt, and oil. While you might be inclined to reach for your go-to cleaning products like I used to, it’s wise to avoid sanitizers and all-purpose cleaners that contain bleach, alcohol, and other ingredients that could irritate the skin.
In fact, the disinfectant that’s provided in spray bottles in most yoga studios truly works wonders. Luckily, this solution is easy to conjure up at home. All you have to do is combine equal parts water and white vinegar, then add a splash of tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is naturally antibacterial and antifungal, so it’ll work to kill any unwanted microbes on your mat. Essential oils like lavender and lemon also have similar properties and work well in a homemade solution. Just make sure to spray and wipe down both sides of your mat!
You Should Clean Your Mat Monthly
Once a month, your mat will require a deeper clean. Scrubbing with your trusty soap and water should do the trick, but be careful about overusing soap and overdoing it with your scrub. If you use too much soap, you risk the mat accumulating a slippery film. Too much scrubbing power might result in the erosion of the grippy texture that’s key for safe use. With just a few drops and a gentler hand, you should be able to rid your mat of any odor or build-up that the disinfectant didn’t address.
Most mats can withstand an occasional cycle through the washing machine. Of course, you should check the manufacturer’s recommendation, since some advise against it. If your mat is washing machine-safe, use a gentle or delicate cycle, cool water, and a small amount of mild detergent. However, you should definitely skip the spin cycle, and steer clear of the dryer altogether.
You Should Be Sure to Dry Your Mat
The whole reason that bacteria and its friends are attracted to your yoga mat is the damp, warm environment. Therefore, it’s imperative that you allow your mat to dry completely each time you disinfect or wash it. This means you should pat it down and leave it out to air dry before rolling it up.
Your Mat Should Avoid the Sun
Though it might seem like a good idea to let your mat dry under the healing rays of the sun, direct sunlight can actually harm your mat. Any intense heat could cause your mat to become brittle and crumbly, which is exactly what you don’t want to occur.
Have a trick for a so-fresh, so-clean yoga mat? Tell us in the comments below.
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