How to Clean Your Yoga Mat

How to Clean a yoga mat
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If you do a lot of yoga then you probably have a close personal relationship with your favorite yoga mat. After the heady days of new infatuation have worn off, you may begin to notice that your beloved is not as fresh as it once was. If you find yourself wrinkling your nose when lying face down between shalabasanas, it's probably time to wash your mat. Here's how.

What Kind of Mat Do You Have?

The particulars for cleaning your yoga mat are going to depend on what kind of mat it is, specifically, what material it is made out of.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is used for most starter mats, such as those available at Target, but also for high-end mats like the Manduka PRO.  Manduka’s eKO line is made out of rubber, as is the popular Jade Harmony mat. Prana’s E.C.O. mats and Kulae Mats are made from Thermopastic Elastomer (TPE). Finally, some mats, including Lululemon’s The Mat and Liforme are made of a combination of rubber and polyurethane. Check this comparison chart for the materials for five popular yoga mats.

Go with H2O

You can certainly buy a yoga mat cleaner targeted to your specific kind of mat, but it’s not really necessary. The main ingredient you need to clean your mat is water. The first thing to do is sponge the mat down with water and let it dry unrolled. Most yoga mats are absorbent (that’s what keeps you from slipping in a pool of sweat during hot yoga) so you want to wet them minimally for maintenance cleaning.

Some of the most absorbent mats like Lululemon’s The Mat and the Liforme mat are able to provide that great traction though a design that actively draws moisture away from the surface, which means that if you get them very wet it will take a long time for them to dry all the way through. As for soap, some advise adding a little bit of dish washing liquid, while others are in favor of a few drops of essential oils (which can stain some mats) or diluted vinegar (for rubber mats only).

Start with plain old water and if that's not effective enough, check the manufacturer's recommendations before adding any other cleaning agents. 

For an occasional deep clean, you can soak most mats in the tub or hose them off, though Manduka advises against this for its PRO (PVC) mats. Wet mats should be hung up until they are thoroughly dry, which can take a few days. Rubber and TPE mats should not be left in the sun since it can cause them to start to degrade. It’s never a good idea to put your mat in the washing machine or dryer. If you sweat a lot, you may want to try layering a mat towel over your mat since they can improve traction and are easy to throw in the wash.

Don't Over Clean

And finally, just because we tend to be obsessed with cleanliness, don't overdo it. Unless you get really sweaty, you don't need to spend a lot of time cleaning your mat after each yoga session. Yoga studios often provide mat cleaners, but I usually avoid them since I don't know what's in that mysterious spray bottle.

They are mostly intended for shared studio mats. If you have your own mat (which I highly recommend), you probably only need to clean it occasionally. Over cleaning it is not going to improve its performance or make it last longer. 

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