How to clean a yoga mat and prevent infections

Unwashed yoga mats don’t just smell; they can cause skin infections. Learn in this article how to properly clean a yoga mat to keep yourself healthy and the mat in good shape.

If you want to stay healthy while performing yoga, the first thing you should do is buy your own yoga mat. Communal yoga mats are extremely dirty, serving as breeding grounds for infectious fungi and bacteria that cause athlete’s foot, ringworm, or other rashes. Not to scare you, but this article from the NY Times highlights just how dirty and dangerous communal yoga mats are.

Don’t own your own mat? You can pick up a great starter mat for under $20 from Clever Yoga. If you want to splurge, go for a premium Clever Yoga mat or the Manduka mat. Or if you want to look good, choose from a selection of pretty yoga mats.

Now that you have a mat, here are your options on how to clean a yoga mat:

  1. Wash your mat with mild soap and water, then air dry. Use a soft sponge to scrub gently. A convenient way to do this is to go outside and use the garden hose. Then, hang up the mat on a laundry line or lay out on a bench.
  2. Use a bathtub to soak your mat in soap and wash it indoors. The soaking will provide the most thorough cleansing of deeply absorbed bacteria and dirt. Drying the mat indoors is a bit trickier because it will be dripping water. If you can hang it in a shower stall or bathtub, that works well.
  3. If your yoga mat’s company says it is okay, many mats can be machine washed on a gentle cycle. However, you should still air dry. Also, make sure there is no harsh tumble cycle that can damage or rip the mat. Again, be sure the yoga mat company says it is okay. If you can’t be sure, don’t risk damaging your yoga mat in the washing machine.
  4. You can perform a quick clean after every workout using a sanitizing solution or wet wipes. Commercial sprays and wipes, which we review here, are a fast and convenient option. You can also make a DIY wipe with equal parts vinegar and water. A few drops of tea tree oil in water also works.

We recommend a regular fast wipe down after each use, followed by a more serious cleaning a couple times a year. This is probably the easiest way to clean a yoga mat without too much trouble.

A final tip is to use a thin yoga towel on top of your mat. The towel will be is easy to wash with the laundry and reduce the amount of sweat and grime that gets into your mat.

With these tips, you should now be prepared to clean a yoga mat and keep it fresh!


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