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How to Clean Yoga Mat

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There’s nothing worse than rolling out your yoga mat before you practice and noticing a layer of grime or catching a whiff of days-old sweat. Yet your biggest problem isn’t the cringe factor.

Consider that your yoga mat absorbs all the sweat, oil, and dirt that it’s exposed to from your feet and the floor. That means it can easily become contaminated with bacteria, fungi, and other microbes, especially after a particularly hot, sweaty practice.

To prevent dirt and bacteria from lingering, you need to not only take the time to wipe down your yoga mat but actually know how to clean your yoga mat.

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Assorted bacteria that are often found on unclean yoga mats. (Photo: Steve Gschmeissner | Science Photo Library | Getty)

How Dirty is Your Yoga Mat?

For an article by ABC-13 News, swabs of several personal and communal yoga mats were sent to Melanie Rech, laboratory director at EMSL Analytical, for examination. Shared mats from a yoga studio “came back the cleanest with 3 million counts of normal environmental bacteria,” according to the article. This isn’t surprising since yoga studios are supposedly clean communal mats in between uses. (Whether they always do or not is a different story.)

However, the communal yoga mat from a gym tested positive for staph. The teacher’s yoga mat, which is wiped down every other week, harbored yeast, which is a fungus. And the yoga mat from a woman who admittedly “doesn’t clean her mat often” surprisingly tested “positive for 12 million counts of bacteria,” according to ABC-13 News, including “a coliform bacteria and fecal indicator.”


Woman on her yoga mat in Child's Pose with her face on the yoga mat and the dirt and bacteria from not cleaning it
Dirt and bacteria can be transferred from your mat to any part of your body, including your face. (Photo: FreshSplash | Getty)

The fungi and bacteria commonly found on yoga mats can be responsible for various infections and inflictions, including athlete’s foot, plantar warts, staph infections, ringworm, and more. And we don’t need to remind you of the proximity of your face to your mat in certain poses. So not cleaning your mat can be pretty gross.

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Hand wearing a pink disposable glove holding a spray bottle containing cleaning solution to kill dirt and bacteria
Cleaning solutions vary. What’s nonnegotiable are ingredients that effectively disinfect your yoga mat. (Photo: Polina Tankilevitch | Pexels)

How to Clean and Disinfect Your Yoga Mat

Craig Stiff, director of Hardgoods at Manduka, recommends “cleaning your mat after every practice or use.” And don’t forget to flip your mat over. “Both sides of the mat should be cleaned, as microbes can migrate from the dirty side to the clean,” says Stiff, referring to how the side of the mat that touches the floor will rest against the area where you regularly place your feet, hands, chest, back, and face when it’s rolled.

An important distinction, though, is whether you’re cleaning your yoga mat or disinfecting it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cleaning removes germs while disinfecting kills germs.

Even if you’re giving your mat a quick wipe down after class, you might not be doing enough to get rid of germs. You probably need to also give it an occasional wash with a disinfectant to kill any microbes that have taken up residence.

How to Clean Your Yoga Mat After Each Class

You’ve likely seen and maybe even used the spray bottles found at every yoga studio with a line of people waiting to use them after class. But what exactly are in those bottles?

A common organic cleaning solution is equal parts water and white vinegar with a splash of tea tree oil. White vinegar has antibacterial properties and tea tree oil is an antimicrobial. Together, they can help ensure dirt and most bacteria don’t linger on your mat, although they might not kill some of the harshest germs, including the kind that causes methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

You can also splurge on premade yoga mat cleaning sprays, but check the ingredients and research them carefully. A 2016 study questions the ability of essential oils alone to destroy pathogens.

Whatever solution you choose, spritz it on both sides of your yoga mat and use a towel to wipe it dry after each use. This should remove most pathogens on your mat’s surface, although it might not kill them.

How to disinfect your mat

If you can’t remember the last time you thoroughly scrubbed down your mat, it’s time to give it a proper disinfecting.

Hydrogen peroxide is a natural disinfectant for those who prefer organic ingredients. Dish washing or laundry soap can also be beneficial for cleaning yoga mats due to their chemical formulas that are designed for cleaning. The same applies to any mat wipes that are advertised as disinfectants. Dr. Philip Tierno, a Clinical Professor in N.Y.U Langone Health’s Department of Pathology, told the New York Times in an interview that “for a mat wipe to work, the liquid needs to have alcohol or quat-based disinfectants that are commonly used in detergents.”

1. Use hydrogen peroxide or dishwashing or laundry soap mixed with water in a spray bottle as your disinfecting solution. (Just be sure to only use a few drops of dish soap. Too much can leave a slippery film on your mat’s surface.)

2. Spritz your mat so the entire surface is covered with the solution. Let it rest for two to three minutes. (A bathtub or a backyard work well for this.)

3. Use a microfiber cloth, the soft side of a sponge, or an old cotton t-shirt to scrub your yoga mat clean. (A microfiber cloth will be the easiest on your mat’s materials.) Don’t be too vigorous with your scrubbing as you want to keep the naturally sticky nature of your mat intact.

4. Rinse your mat with warm water and allow it to air dry.

The disinfectant method is not only useful for fending off ailments like athlete’s foot, plantar warts, staph infections, and ringworm but common germ-induced skin conditions, including acne.

Thoroughly disinfect your mat at least once per month. Although your mat’s odor is one indicator of when it needs a wash, if it starts to reek it has already absorbed sweat and dirt that exposes your body to microbes with its every use. Heather Lilleston, one of the founders of Yoga For Bad People, washes her mats more frequently when she’s attending hot yoga classes.

RELATED: How Often Should You Clean Your Yoga Mat?

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A laundromat with washing machines and detergent for washing a yoga mat

How to Wash Your Yoga Mat (Can You Use a Washing Machine?!)

Whether you can use a washing machine to disinfect your yoga mat is actually a much debated topic. The answer depends on your mat. Lilleston tosses her mat into the washing machine with cold water on the delicate cycle along with environmentally friendly detergent when it’s in need of a deep-clean. She then hangs it out to dry. “I wouldn’t recommend putting the mat into the dryer,” says Lilleston.

Stiff, however, encourages hand washing yoga mats. “We do not recommend washing your mat in the washing machine. In most cases, this will damage both the mat and washing machine, leaving you with a very expensive bill to replace both,” he says.

Unless your mat has clear instructions that say you can put it in a washing machine, it’s safest to stick with hand washing.

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Woman sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat that she cleaned with a spray bottle to rid it of dirt and bacteria
Continue practicing with an easy mind—and a spray bottle and towel close at hand. (Photo: FreshSplash | Getty)

Keep Practicing!

If your yoga mat is dirty, that means it’s being used, which is the entire point of owning it. Lilleston says the inevitable wear and tear endured by your mat, along with some dirt and sweat, should be seen as a badge of honor. But you still need to maintain a certain level of cleanliness—and not just for reasons of hygiene.

“The whole idea of the dirty hippie yogi should be thrown out the window,” she says. “A huge part of practice is cleanliness. You’re entering a sacred space when you practice, so the way you keep that space has an effect on what you get out of your practice.”

Keep your practice space unencumbered by unwanted dirt and bacteria by wiping your mat after every use and giving it a deep clean at least once per month.

This article has been updated. Originally published December 13, 2019.

About Our Contributor
Kyle Houseworth is a former assistant editor at
Yoga Journal.

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