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Yoga Mat Care: 101

Yoga mats are an important part of our yoga practice. They are not only a cushion to flow on, but they are also an expression of us as yogis. We run to them for release, build energy, work on self-improvement, and relax on. It is important to take care of them…unless you like buying new yoga mats as much as I do. Seriously, I have seven mats and I have an addiction to collecting them. 😊

No matter how often you practice, your yoga mat will get dirty, sweaty and possibly stinky over time. This is not conducive to a pleasant yoga experience! Skin and product oils, sweat, and dirt can penetrate the surface of the mat and can expedite deterioration of it. These elements can also make it difficult to practice yoga on your mat because they may make you slide. By washing your mat regularly and keeping up with daily maintenance, you can extend the life of your yoga mat and continue to enjoy a clean and slip-free practice.

Below I share some of the ways to keep your mat as healthy and glowing as you are.

Washing Your Yoga Mat

Be aware of when to wash your mat. You should wash your yoga mat completely every couple of months, and more often if you do not practice regular maintenance or you perform yoga every day. This can not only extend the life of your mat but will also keep it from smelling and transferring bacteria to you.

· If you practice yoga every day, you may want to wash your mat once a month, especially during hot weather.

· The more soil you see on your mat, the more likely it needs to be thoroughly washed.

· If your yoga mat is peeling or pieces of it are adhering to your clothes, consider purchasing a new mat.

Soak your yoga mat. Use a solution of warm water and a mild detergent such as dish soap. Submerge your yoga mat in a bathtub and allow it to soak for a few minutes. This will help dislodge dirt, oils and any odors.

· Dish soap or hypoallergenic laundry detergent are two of the best options for mild cleaners for your yoga mat.

· Avoid using too much detergent in the warm water. You want just enough soap to clean off your mat. Using too much detergent can make your mat slippery and difficult to practice asanas on.

· Mix 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of laundry detergent or dish soap for every 1 gallon (3.7 l) of lukewarm tap water.

· Some sources suggest using vinegar to wash your mat. Be aware that this can leave a lasting and unpleasant scent on the surface of your mat, which could make practicing yoga less enjoyable. Depending on the material of your yoga mat, vinegar may also degrade the quality of the mat.

Hand wash the mat with a soft cloth. Once your mat has soaked for a few minutes, use a soft cloth to wash both sides of the mat. Thoroughly wipe each side, concentrating on the areas that your hands and feet touch most often.

· You can tell the areas you use the most because they will likely have a slightly different color to the rest of your mat.

· Make sure you wipe each side gently so that you do not degrade the mat or pull off any chunks of it.

· If you do not see bubbles from the detergent, that is fine. Remember that you only want enough detergent—and bubbles—to clean the mat and not make it slippery.

· Never put your yoga mat in a washing machine. It can significantly degrade the quality of your mat and make it impossible to practice on the mat because it is too slippery.

Rinse your mat in clean water. Drain the tub in which you have your mat and rinse the washed mat with clean water. This will help remove any residue from the soap and minimize the risk of having a slippery mat.

· Rinse off the mat until you notice that the water is clear.

· If the water does not clear quickly, consider washing it off again with the soft cloth.

Remove excess water from your mat. Shake off your mat to remove water on the surface of your mat. Lay the mat flat on a dry towel and roll the two together to squeeze out remaining moisture.

· Do not wring out your mat! It may cause wrinkling, tearing or warping.

· You can step on the rolled-up mat and towel, which is more effective at getting out excess water.

Hang your mat to dry. When you are done with squeezing out excess water, unroll your yoga mat from the towel. Hang it up until it is thoroughly dry.

· You can use pant hangers to hang up your mat but understand these may leave marks.

· If you have a laundry drying rack, drape your yoga mat over this, which can effectively dry both sides of your mat.

· Never put a yoga mat in a clothes dryer. Not only can doing this ruin your mat but may cause a fire.

· Only use your mat again once it is completely dry. Squeezing bits of the mat between your fingers can help you feel remaining moisture.

Maintenance of your yoga mat

Understand the importance of regular cleaning and maintenance. Dirt, oils, and sweat can quickly degrade the quality of your mat and make it more difficult to practice. Performing simple maintenance tasks on your yoga mat after each use can help extend its life and decrease how often you need to thoroughly wash the mat. If you practice yoga daily or multiple times per week, it is important to clean off and store your mat properly after each use.

Clean your feet and hands before practice. Your hands and feet will constantly touch your mat, and these areas of the body tend to be dirty. Using your mat with clean skin can help extend the life of your mat and help bacteria from spreading between your skin and mat surface.

· Cleaning your hands and feet will also wash off any lotions or creams that can degrade the mat and make you slip during practice.

· If you cannot wash your hands and feet prior to practice, consider using gentle baby wipes so that you can wipe off your palms and soles.

Wipe off your mat. Each time you practice yoga on your mat, wipe it off with either baby wipe, yoga mat specific wipe, or a cloth with some mild soap. Roll it up after it dries, and you are good to go. This can help to keep your mat clean and free of sweat, dirt, and oils, but may also extend its life.

Add an Essential Oil to the Mixture: Buying a mat spray that contains essential oils (or making your own!) is a great way to clean, disinfect, and add a nice scent to your mat. The scents I have had the best luck with are lemon, orange, and eucalyptus for energy, or lavender and mint for a more relaxing scent. At Spark., we use my favorite essential oil Bergamot mixed with Tea Tree.

Vinegar and Water: For a quick clean, create a 50/50 mixture of water and apple cider vinegar to wipe down your yoga mat. Let it hang dry in a well-ventilated room or outside in the fresh air.

· Wipes that are specifically formulated for yoga mats are available at sports stores or online at specialty yoga retailers.

· Wipe off your yoga mat with reusable towelettes so that you do not create much trash or waste after each session.

Consider placing towels on your mat during practice. If you sweat a lot, you are in a hot room or just want a layer between you and your mat, place a towel on your mat. Towels can absorb excess moisture and make it easier to grip your mat.

· Regular towels may slip around during use. It can become a hazard.

· Try a yoga towel. These super absorbent towels come with special grips that will keep the material—and you—from slipping all over your mat.

· You can buy yoga towels at some sports stores and at most online yoga specialty retailers.

Air out your mat regularly. Most people will roll up their yoga mats after each use and cleaning and either store it in a mat bag or in a corner of their home or studio. Ideally, allow your mat to