How To Properly Take Care of and Clean Your Yoga Mat



Yoga mats are no different than any other tool you use for any other purpose. If you want to get the most mileage out of your yoga mat, you need to care for it properly. This includes several proper practices for cleaning your yoga mat and maintaining this essential yoga tool.


Related Article: Expand Your Yoga Routine with these Yoga Props


As you use your mat, you may notice a build-up of sweat and body oils that could become dangerous as they reduce the traction of your mat. This will be especially noticeable when you start performing certain poses that require enhanced stability. Not only is you traction potentially interrupted, but your mat may harvest bacteria. 


Rule #1: Don't put your yoga mat away covered in sweat!


There may be nothing worse for any yogi then to roll out there yoga mat, only to uncover whitish colored sweat lines or grime build-up, and having to clean, before you even start. Talk about "killing the mood". So rule #1, is to never roll-it-up dirty. 

What's even worse is that if you can see the "old sweat", imagine what's absorbed into the material. That being said, some materials are more porous then others and may absorb more moisture, so keep this in mind. 

Yuck!

Imagine an intense yoga flow class or a hot yoga routine, and the amount of moisture and bacteria lingering on your mat, in every crevasse. 

Gross, don't be that one!

Think about the basic practice of yoga as well. This is suppose to be a time (regardless of style) that you're connecting your mind-body. Many of us, use yoga as a tool for relaxation. A dirty yoga mat has to make this more difficult, right?!

We may also multipurpose our mats, using them at time of meditation or other daily routines where we wish to relax.

Yoga Journal recommends to deep clean your yoga mat at least 1 time a month!


Rule #2: It Doesn't have to be a deep clean every time! Don't make this too difficult!



Fact is, during some of your yoga sessions, you're going to sweat more, right! Well, if this is true, your cleaning efforts may change from time to time, or even practice to practice. If you have an extreme intense session, where you are sweating 30 seconds in, until the last moments, you may need to give it a more thorough, "wipe-down". 

Think of this as a maintenance stage. If you clean it regularly after each session, the time spent, should be minimal. 

It's kind of like when your clean your car once/month VS. once/year. The cleaning is much more intense for the latter circumstance. 

Wiping it down after every use will make sure that you don't give body oils or soils time to build-up, making them much more difficult to remove in the long run. Not to mention, wiping it down after every use, will help to inhibit the growth of bacteria that could cause unpleasant odors to occur on your mat.

If you need more reason to clean it often, read this article posted over at the healthy.com. It talks about a women who likely contracted an infection from a yoga mat at a studio, leading to a condition known as cellulitis. 


Enough already, right? Well, let's dive a little deeper into some research studies on gym equipment before we chat more about how to clean your yoga mat. 


What Does the Research Say?

As far as specific research into yoga mats, there is not much out there. However, what we can provide is gym equipment in general, so some of this may relate to you more if you're practicing yoga in a social setting, like a gym or studio. 

A research article published in July 2020, discussed results of a study which found that regularly contacted surfaces, like gym equipment, can harbor MDRSA, or multi-drug resistant bacteria. Probably all the more reason to disinfect equipment, before and after use, right!

The study included samples collected from 2 university recreational facilities. Samples were collected from equipment such as; dumbbells, barbell handles, kettlebells, & treadmill handles. The study found that high levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria resided. 43% of the bacteria were noted to be resistant to a common antibiotic, known as ampicillin. Of that 43%, 73% were resistant to more then one type of antibiotic. 

Given the recent pandemic, is probably even more the reason to take some caution as well when using recreational facilities, like public or private gyms. 

Another study looked specifically at the diversity of bacterial communities of fitness center surfaces in a metropolitan area (Memphis, TN, USA). Samples were taken from surfaces such as gym equipment, "floor mats", and handrails. In total, 17 bacterial families were identified, which included some potential pathogenic bacteria's, like Salmonella & Staphylococcus to name a few. 

One final study that we found indicated similar findings of gym equipment, but also gave a better perspective of the results. The study included sampling of 27 pieces of gym equipment. Results indicated that over 70% of bacteria found are potentially harmful to humans. Other results showed comparisons of bacteria on an exercise bike having 39x more bacteria then a reusable lunch tray, and free weights having 362x more bacteria then a toilet seat. Crazy right!


Rule #3: Use the appropriate cleaning solution for "your" mat!


An article in Boston Magazine (referenced an interview of a Boston area yoga instructor), whom spoke about this very thing. She stated that she uses either the cleaning spray at her work or a combination of tea tree oil (a known anti-microbial) and water, or diluted Mrs. Meyers. Keep in mind do we really know what is in "gym cleaning solutions"!


Tip: Be sure if using any essential oil to properly dilute!

Another commonly used at home cleaning solution you could prepare includes, warm water, vinegar, as well as adding a small amount of tea tree oil. 

If you are a beginner and you don't want to spend a bunch of money on supplies, this is a great option because most pantries have readily available vinegar.

One of the most recommended options is a mild liquid dish detergent, coupled with warm water in a spray bottle.

What and how your wipe your mat matters. It probably seems naturally to really want to scrub away after reading this post with the strongest, most abrasive of sponges. Regardless of what you may be thinking after reading the research, as long as you are cleaning with the appropriate solutions, using a simple microfiber cloth works wonders. Abrasive materials may cause breakdown of your mat or for it to loose some of "it's stickiness". 


Rule #4: Let your mat air out (Not in direct sunlight, however!)


Another important consideration that should be on any list of how to clean a yoga mat is to make sure to let it hang so that it can dry out properly after every use. You can hang the mat on hangers or use clothespins to hang it up in a place where it can thoroughly dry.

Allowing excess moisture to escape from the mat will avoid the buildup of bacteria and fungus that can develop in the material.

On this same note, be mindful not to leave certain brands or materials of yoga mats in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. This could cause the color, or material to fade or deteriorate more quickly. 


Take Care Of Your Yoga Mat and It Will Take Care Of You






Final Thoughts:

At the end of the day it's important that you follow some of these maintenance strategies to get the best return on investment, as far as durability is concerned. Some practitioners who are more religious with their practice may have to implement some of these strategies more often then someone that uses their mat one time a month.

Generally speaking, if you purchase a yoga mat or other yoga tool from reputable retailers/manufacturers you should see a pretty good return on investment. Thanks for stopping by!

Be sure to share all of your experiences with cleaning your mats in the comments below. Have a great day!


Resources:

- https://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/2013/10/16/how-to-clean-yoga-mat/

- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4276630/

- https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/yoga-basics/the-ultimate-guide-to-cleaning-your-yoga-mat/

- https://asm.org/Press-Releases/2020/July/High-Levels-of-Antibiotic-resistant-Bacteria-Found

- https://www.fitrated.com/resources/examining-gym-cleanliness/

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