9 Ways to Keep Your Mat Germ Free

After a few dozen yoga classes, a mat starts to stink to high heaven. The reason for this isn’t terribly mysterious once you stop to consider the amount of your sweat the mat absorbs off your feet and forehead (not to mention back, butt, shoulders, and stomach) during each class. Then there’s the dust, dirt, grime and microscopic germs and bacteria that stick to the bottom of the mat from the floor, and whatever it picks up from the inside of your bag once you’ve rolled it up and stowed it after class.

With consistent use, the mat should smell. This is a sign that you’re doing things right. That said, if you’re practicing yoga regularly, you should aim for cleaning your mat about once a week. How to do it? Here are some ground rules.

1. When possible, allow your mat to dry before you roll it up after class.

It’s even better if you can put it out to dry in the indirect sunlight for a few hours after class before rolling it up again. Do not allow it to sit for long periods of time in direct, intense sunlight. This may cause the mat to dry out or crumble.

2. Rotate between two or three mats for your classes, provided this is financially feasible.

This allows each mat plenty of time to air out in between classes.

3. If your mat is plastic, using soap and water should be avoided.

That is because it will absorb the suds without doing much cleaning, and possibly contribute to a mildew problem. Cold water followed by air-drying in the indirect sunlight may be preferable.

4. Another suggestion is to add a few drops of white vinegar to a moist rag and wipe down the mat before leaving it out to air dry in indirect sunlight.

5. Some yogis recommend a witch hazel solution for cleaning their mats.

Mix a one part witch hazel, three parts distilled water solution in a spray bottle. Mist the mat and wipe down with a wet rag. Air dry in indirect sunlight.

6. Soap nuts.

A recommendation for the greenest of yogis: boil soap nuts and use them to wash the mat, then leave out in the rain to rinse.

7. Tea tree oil or other essential oils mixed with water is another option for misting and wiping down.

8. Commercial yoga mat cleaner and/or wipes.

There are several brands of wipes and cleaners on the market. These are all fine, but not really necessary. Great for the lazy or extremely busy.

9. The washing machine.

Yes! I was surprised by this, too. About once per month, most mats are able to withstand a trip through the washing machine. Caveat: some manufacturers claim their mats are not safe in the washing machine; nevertheless, there are many users who report successfully washing these mats in machines. You must decide for yourself. If you decide to use this option, put the machine on gentle cycle, don’t use any soap (the bit about absorption stands), and don’t put the mat in the dryer.

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