How many times have you been in a yoga class and ignored the instructor when they reminded you to clean your mat? If you’re like me, the answer is many times. But it turns out that if you don’t clean your yoga mat often enough, you put yourself at risk of germs, smells, fungus and even illness. Here are five surprising benefits of cleaning your yoga mat more often, plus a recipe for a homemade mat cleaner that won’t leave you with a face-full of chemicals in child’s pose.
1. Extends the life of your mat
It can be tempting to put off cleaning your yoga mat until it’s “really dirty.” But cleaning it regularly means that you won’t have to spend a long time deep-cleaning your mat once every few months. Not only will it smell and look lovely, but it will keep its sticky texture for longer — the one that keeps you from sliding out of downward dog until you’re ready.
2. Eliminates fungus
Some varieties of fungus are attracted to highly-used surfaces. Did you know you can actually catch ringworm from an unclean yoga mat? Germs and bacteria love to hang out in dark, cool spaces, so you can imagine the breeding ground you create every time you sweat on your mat, roll it up and take it home. Makes me shudder to think about it.
3. Reduces the likelihood of catching a cold or the flu
Indoor pollution is a real concern during cold and flu season; those viruses absolutely love enclosed spaces. Gyms and yoga studios can be the perfect place for viruses like the common cold or the flu to grow. After all, we’re told to breathe deeply during class and those germs can fall to your mat. Wiping down your mat with a homemade mat spray can help eliminate viruses that can make you and others seriously ill.
4. You won’t be the smelly yogi
Have you ever noticed that you just can’t shake the body odor smell from your yoga clothes? Your mat might be the culprit. As the mat absorbs sweat, it also absorbs related odors. If you notice your hands looking a little grimy — or something funky when you get your belly breath on — a cleaning is far overdue. Anyone who’s been close to someone who doesn’t practice good mat hygiene also knows how smelly yoga mats can get.
5. Adds to your mindfulness practice
Cleaning your mat is healthy for your body and mind. Taking care of your yoga mat can augment your mindfulness practice. Take a few moments after class to clean your mat, focusing only on the task at hand. Remind yourself to be grateful for the mat and for the yoga practice itself. Don’t forget to clean your at-home props too; blocks, straps and blankets need to be cleaned regularly as well.
Homemade yoga mat cleaner
Use this homemade mat cleaner after every class, or at least once a week to keep smells, germs and dirt away. The tea tree oil boasts antibacterial properties and will help fight germs.
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup white vinegar (or alcohol-free witch hazel)
- 3 drops tea tree (melaleuca) essential oil
- 10 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)
- Glass spray bottle
- Clean towel
- Combine all ingredients in a glass spray bottle.
- Shake to combine ingredients.
- Spray on mat and wipe it dry with a clean towel.
Make sure to leave your yoga mat unrolled so it can dry completely. If you can, leave it outside to dry in the sun. Experiment with different essential oils to find the one (or more) that works best for you. Lavender, peppermint, patchouli and lemongrass are all lovely during a yoga practice.
It’s simple to keep your mat clean. Just a few extra minutes once a week can keep you safe from viruses, fungi and foul odors. Talk about an easy way to care for yourself and practice gratitude for your yoga tools!
Do you have a favorite natural yoga mat cleaner? Let us know in the comments below!
— Megan Winkler