Ask the Expert: How to Clean Your Yoga Mat

We asked a yoga instructor how to properly clean your most important yoga accessory.

yoga mats image via shutterstock

yoga mats image via shutterstock

Whether your yoga mat is used on a regular basis or not, it can still get filthy. Think about it: After class you may notice the sweaty proof of your hard work, but what you don’t necessarily see is the dust on the studio floor, the dirt from your feet, and your body’s natural oils and bacteria. Without a second thought, you roll it up and stow it away until next class.

To help rest your forehead at ease in child’s pose, we asked Sandy Kalik, a Boston-area yoga instructor and Thai-style bodywork practitioner, to share her mat cleaning rituals.

When do you clean your mat?

Always after class. Sometimes in between classes, if it’s particularly sweaty.

How do you clean your mat? Is there a particular cleaning solution you use?

At the studios where I practice or teach, I’ll use the solution they have on hand, spraying the mat down evenly with the mixture of tea tree oil and water (my preference) or diluted Mrs. Meyers.

If the mat is super sweaty or in need of deeper cleaning, air it out by placing it outside or hanging it over a door in your home. If the combination of spray and air isn’t enough, you can run your mat through the wash (not the dryer), but depending on the brand, it might take a couple of days to dry.

Why is it important for yogis to clean their mats?

Cleanliness (or Saucha) is a yogic principle. We can talk about the bacteria sweat activates or how bodily oils and dirt get embedded into the mat, but I’ll leave the science to a biochemist. At it’s core, the idea of cleanliness in yoga is about cultivating a sense of order for the practitioner. When things are organized, clean and clear, it’s easier to concentrate. If your mat is a microcosm for how you live your life, as we yoga teachers often say, creating a ritual for wiping down your mat is like having a specific way you like to clean your kitchen or a particular time of day you respond to email. It fosters a sense of order.

Do you have any other tips?

When it’s time to let a mat go, if you’ve bought a new one or if it doesn’t have anymore life in it, look into mat donation and recycling programs. Some mats are actually designed to break down over time, so that when they end up in landfills the mats won’t be there, in that state, forever. Others are supposed to be indestructible and could be cleaned up and passed on.