If it’s true we hurt the ones we love, then our yoga mats are hurting. We roll them out, beat them down and smother them with sweat. It’s a wonder they still support us.
But health-wise, germy mats can be a hazard. Bacteria can grow in warm, moist environments — and loves to live in your mat’s porous material. Add one dirty floor and it’s a recipe for skin infections. “Keeping your mat clean is important for many reasons,” says Cynthia Mendolia, exercise specialist at the Sewall Healthy Living Center at Sharp Coronado Hospital. “Aside from going against yoga’s cleansing principles, dirty mats can be bad for your health.”
The importance of maintenance
Yoga mats should be cleaned after every use. Not only does this keep dirt and sweat from lingering, it also helps avoid the need for future deep cleanings — and prolongs your mat’s life. Mendolia suggests creating your own cleaning solution. In a spray bottle, combine:
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 10 drops tea tree oil (a natural antibacterial and antifungal essential oil)
Be sure to shake the solution well, then spray thoroughly on both sides of your mat. The vinegar and water will cleanse, while the tea tree oil will fight fungus and germs. Wipe down with a cotton towel. Then, let your mat dry completely before using it again.
If you’re wondering when your mat was washed last, it’s probably time. Dig it out from your trunk and follow these easy cleaning tips:
- Hose it down outside, or rinse it in your shower
- Use a few drops of mild dish soap on a sponge, and scrub gently
- Rinse thoroughly — soap residue can compromise your mat’s fibers
- Hang to dry for at least 24 hours
Some yogis opt to wash their mats in a washing machine. This can work with some mats, but it is not generally recommended. “Machines can cause cuts in the mat,” says Mendolia. “It depends on the mat and the machine, but it’s always a good bet to hand-wash it — and then be diligent about spraying it down after every use.”
Germ-scrubbing aside, having a clean mat has psychological benefits too. “In yoga, the four corners of your mat is a sacred space,” says Mendolia. “Cleansing is part of your practice. So be sure you keep your mat fresh so you can get the most out of your time on it.”
Sharp HealthCare offers a variety of yoga and Pilates classes around San Diego County. Visit us at sharp.com or call 1-800-82-SHARP for more information.