No matter how Zen your yoga sessions are, your yoga mat is bound to get grubby — that slightly tacky surface is good at holding sweat, dirt and oil. It needs just a little bit of attention after each yoga session and a good cleaning once a month (more if you love hot yoga!) to keep it fresh.
How to wash your mat
• Combine a little mild dish soap and warm water in a pail or wash basin. Just a few drops of soap will do. Too much soap will leave a slippery residue on your mat — which you don’t want for your next downward dog.
• Wash both sides of your mat with the slightly soapy liquid, using a washcloth. Don’t use anything too abrasive or you might damage your mat. In fact, don’t scrub too energetically either!
• Use another, clean washcloth to rinse the mat well with clean warm water.
• Hang to dry on a clothes rack or over a railing or chair that can get wet without damage. Don’t apply heat — such as drying your mat in a clothes dryer or over a heater or radiator.
For a very dirty mat
• Run warm water and a little liquid soap in a bathtub – use enough water to cover the mat and just a few drops of soap. Swish it around.
• Submerge the mat in the tub and let it soak for about 15 to 20 minutes.
• Drain the tub and replace with clean, cool water to rinse.
• Roll the mat up in a clean, absorbent towel. Roll tight enough that the towel absorbs much of the water. Unroll, and hang the mat to dry (see above).
To disinfect your mat
Combine an essential oil with antibacterial/antifungal properties and water in a spray bottle. Tea tree is the best antimicrobial bet, but I have a strong negative reaction to the smell, so I prefer lemon or lavender, though they’re somewhat less effective. It takes just a couple of drops of essential oil per spray bottle of water. Oil and water don’t mix well, so shake the bottle just before use. Spray both sides of your mat, then dry with a clean, dry towel. (If you have time for an added step to boost effectiveness, wipe the mat with a hot, damp towel after spraying it, then dry.)
Can I throw my yoga mat in the washing machine?
Only if the manufacturer of your mat recommends it. A few yoga mats are machine washable. If yours is, use a little gentle detergent, the gentle cycle, and cool water. Don’t spin it! And don’t put it in the dryer. Roll in a towel (as described above for tub washing). Hang to dry.
Other good yoga mat practices:
• Spray your mat lightly with your solution after each practice to keep it fresh. Wipe with a dry towel.
• If you have a spot for it, hang your mat rather than rolling it up when you’re not using it.
• Don’t share your mat with others.
• Make sure your feet are clean before stepping on your mat.
• Think about buying a yoga towel to place under you. These slide-resistant, absorbent towels sit on top of your mat when you practice and are machine washable. These are especially useful for hot yoga class!
What are your tips for taking care of your yoga mat? Do you have a favorite brand mat?