How to clean a yoga mat correctly—from cleaning to disinfecting and maintenance

Everything you need to know about how to clean a yoga mat, backed by simple methods and pro advice

coloured yoga mats on a wall
(Image credit: Canva)

Wondering how to clean a yoga mat properly? Cue our expert guide to the dos and don’ts of yoga mat cleaning. 

Investing in the best yoga mat is key when it comes to taking your practice to the next level. 

Whether you're looking to try yoga for beginners, or are turning to yoga for weight loss, a good mat will support you on your yoga journey and help you reap the many benefits. If you didn't already know, yoga can help you lose weight, tone up, improve flexibility, balance and posture, but it will also do wonders for your mental wellbeing—helping to reduce stress and anxiety, and encouraging you to be more mindful. 

Whether you buy one of the best thick yoga mats or prefer a thinner option, you'll want to know exactly how to clean it to make sure it lasts for many years to come. 

And there's more involved than a simple spritz or wipe down, even for mats with antimicrobial properties. To help you master yoga mat cleaning, we break down the dos and don'ts with the help of our experts. 

How often you should clean your yoga mat

You should clean your yoga mat after every use, otherwise, it will accumulate and harbor bacteria over time. 

“Your skin, even in completely healthy individuals, is home to numerous microorganisms, like bacteria, that can be transferred onto the yoga mat and thrive in the crevices,” explains Dr. Elitza Theel, PhD, a microbiologist in the laboratory medicine and pathology department at the Mayo Clinic. These experts study microorganisms, like bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and understand how their communities grow. “Dirt, skin cells, sweat, and microorganisms from your skin can all build up on yoga mats, or any surface that is routinely touched but not cleaned.”

Although these bacteria are generally harmless, Dr. Theel says some can spawn grisly fungal infections, such as athlete's foot and ringworm. Commonly occurring in those with sweaty feet, athlete's foot is a scaly rash that causes uncomfortable itching, stinging and burning.

That's why it's so important you clean your yoga mat regularly to keep it fresh between practices.

How to clean a yoga mat

Before deep cleaning your yoga mat, it's important to consider the type of material your mat is made from. 

There are so many options out there, but most mats are usually either open-cell or closed-cell. Open-cell yoga mats, like the Lululemon Reversible Mat, absorb sweat and moisture and are great for sweaty practices or hot yoga. 

On the other hand, closed-cell yoga mats are impermeable and don't soak up moisture or bacteria. Most generic PVC mats, like the Yogamatters Sticky Yoga Mat, are closed-cell. 

Since they vary, it's important to clean and maintain each option differently. 

How to deep clean an open-cell yoga mat

  1. First, you'll want to soak your yoga mat in a mixture of warm (not hot) water and a mild detergent, like dishwashing soap. Dish soaps contain surfactants, which are compounds that break down and dissolve dirt. For holding your solution, use a bathtub or large bucket.
  2. Submerge your yoga mat in the solution and allow it to soak for five minutes. This will help to eliminate odors and grime lingering on the surface. 
  3. Once it's done soaking, rinse, and wipe down both sides of your yoga mat with a microfiber cloth and/or regular soft cloth. This will remove any soap residue. 
  4. Once you're done washing, allow your yoga mat to air dry completely. Make sure to squeeze out excess water beforehand.

How to deep clean a closed-cell yoga mat

  1. Fortunately, you don't need a massive tub within reach. Simply lay your mat on a flat, even surface. It can be indoors or outdoors, although we recommend the latter. That way, you won't have to transfer a dripping mat from different locations. 
  2. Mix warm water and mild detergent in a bowl. Avoid hot water as it may make your mat’s material deteriorate. 
  3. Dip a rag into the solution. Use the same rag to clean off dirty spots on your yoga mat. Make sure to get both sides from top to bottom and move your rag in a circular motion.
  4. Use a dry towel to wipe down your yoga mat and remove excess, soaked-up moisture. Then allow it to air dry for at least 30 minutes, or until it's completely dry.

How to look after your yoga mat

As well as cleaning your mat after every practice, there are other steps you can take to look after it and keep it in great condition for many vinyasas to come! 

  • Clean your feet and hands before practice: Both accumulate dirt throughout the day, and that grime will transfer onto your mat. Soap and water will do the trick.
  • Store your yoga mat in a dry, cool location: This will help extend the lifespan of your yoga mat and protect its material. Not to mention, bacteria thrive in moist, warm conditions. Need we say more?
  • Wipe off your mat immediately: Before you leave the yoga studio or if you're short on time and can't do a deep clean, wipe your mat off with a baby wipe, a yoga mat-specific wipe/spray, or a cloth with mild soap. Wait for it to dry completely and then roll it up. This may be the bare minimum, but it certainly helps prevent sweat and oils from wreaking havoc with your mat. 
  • Replace your yoga mat when you need to: Knowing how to choose a yoga mat that'll withstand the intensity of your workout is key, so if your yoga mat is on its last legs, consider replacing it.

woman&home thanks Dr. Elitza Theel, PhD, of Mayo Clinic for her time and expertise. Research is from The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health; and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dominique McIntee

Dominique worked as a shopping writer at Woman & Home and while with the brand she covered products, sales and deals, and market news across categories. Before joining the team, she penned stories as an editorial fellow at Insider Reviews, the affiliate commerce team at Insider Inc./Business Insider. The bespectacled NJ transplant specializes in commerce journalism, women’s lifestyle content, and hoarding makeup—much to her mother’s dismay.