Saturday, March 6, 2010

DIY: How to Eco-Clean your Yoga Mat

I've written about this topic before, but I thought it would be good to have a post specifically on how best to eco-clean your yoga mat, instead of looking all over different posts to piece it together.

After five years of trying different things and evaluating various options on mat cleansing, here are my favourites.

For those yogi-nis who are a little type A when it comes to 'germs', a regular spritz of vinegar+water+tea tree oil concoction after you practice is an easy way to keep bacteria levels down. The vinegar acts as an acidic substance that helps break down dirt and soil while the tea tree oil helps zap the bacteria. Just spray and give it a quick wipe with a face cloth or towel. 

Vinegar water spray recipe:
In an old spray bottle (I just keep ones after they run out) combine
1 part vinegar, 3 parts water and 10 drops of tea tree essential oil. You could also add some lavender or other essential oil that makes you happy. Just make sure that you a) aren't allergic to tea tree oil and b) aren't pregnant... essential oils can be sketchy for those with child.

You can totally keep this recipe for cleaning mirrors, sinks and faucets. Nothing leaves a streak-free shine other than vinegar and water.

Despite regular sprays (or if you're like me and totally lazy), regular mat cleanings should be essential. (note the key word *should*. I clean my mat about every three weeks... and it's gross).

What has worked best for my mat:
A bath.

1) Place your mat in the tub as best as it can fit and spray thoroughly with the vinegar and water mix. You could add lemon juice, but really the acidity is provided by the vinegar and it's SO much easier to have on hand than lemons. 

2) Plug the drain and add water. Scrub with a wash cloth or rag. Move the mat around and over, spraying and scrubbing until you feel you've covered most of the mat or the water has turned pretty brown and gross. Feel free to drain some of the water, re-plugging and rinsing. *Note* you do not require a lot of water here, so please don't be wasteful :)

3) When you feel that you've scrubbed enough (or are grossed out by the smell-sight of brown sweaty water) drain and carefully twist and rinse the mat as much as you can into the tub. This might require some help from a handy assistant (for me this is Andrew).

4) *KEY*: hang your mat to dry on a clothes rack dealy for at least 24 hours if not 48 hours. I have found that my mat needs two days of air drying to be back to it's regular sticky self. Anything less and I risk seriously slippage. Even if the mat looks and feels dry overnight, while practicing I'll start slipping all over the place. So if you can, either use a different mat the following day, or go sans yoga for a few days (gasp!).

That's it.

What is NOT eco-friendly or good for you mat:
Using the washer
Seriously, using the water and energy to run the washing machine JUST for your yoga mat is a huge waste of resources. It really only takes a an inch of water in your tub and human muscle energy. If you practice yoga than you can scrub your mat. Just sayin'.

Using Jo-sha Wipes
Ugh. These things are individually packaged in wasteful plastic-y material. Think about all the energy required to make and package those wipes... all to be thrown into the landfill adding to our planet's waste. Not only do they come in individually wrapped plastic wipes, but each bunch comes in a plastic bag. As plastic if forever, recycling isn't always an option (HRM only accepts #1, 2 plastics).
Also, their claim on biodegradability is sketchy. As we know, the term 'biodegradable' simply means 'to break down in smaller parts'. HRM does not accept soiled towelettes or face tissues that may contain bacteria in their compost system. I also wouldn't advise tossing the wipes in a regular compost bin- essential oils may be natural but aren't that great for your soil.

Finally, their ingredients consist of essential oils, a preservative and an emulsifier. Our vinegar+water spray contains... essential oils for scent and anti-bateria properties and vinegar to break down the dirt. So why would you pay money for a wasteful, individually packaged, not really biodegradable product?

Washing your mat with soap
I say this because I have tried it... and soap tends to soak into the mat. A friend of mine also recently tried this and the soap stayed there... for a few practices. She said not only was her mat slippery, but it seeped out making a white icky foam while she practiced! It has taken a few soaks in the tub to rinse it all out.

So there you have it! Instead of having icky, wasteful individual wipes in your studio, why not have a spray bottle filled with the same stuff and a few clean cloth rags for students to use to spray down the mats? That way you save money and the environment at the same time :)


article copyright of EcoYogini at 


  1. Hmmm...I took my old beat-up/bought at a supermarket in 2001/made of nuclear waste and styrofoam yoga mat down to Costa Rica with me...leaving it coated in gallons of sweat, suntan lotion bug spray, and blood from where the bugs got me in between the sprayed areas...leaving it stinking so bad I threw it in the washer for two cycles (both with other laundry)...and it seems to be okay.

    My new eco-friendly/longer-than-me/thick and heavy enough that I didn't feel like taking it on the plane yoga mat, on the other hand, is about due for its first washing (okay, by normal people's standards, it was probably due a month or two ago...hey, not being dirt- or germ-phobic is good for the environment...imagine how much water and how much fewer chemicals you'd use if you stopped bathing completely...not that I'd do that...and, in fact, I got the whole idea from a 30 Rock Episode, where the guy who never bathes got the greenest employee award...but I digress) thanks for this post, Lisa...good to know ya got my back...

  2. Great bit of info! Thanks for putting this all together! I've been wanting to try the mat bath, but am scared to see all the crap that comes out. (I am the most lazy mat washer you will EVER meet!)I'll try it this month...

  3. This post is very eye-opening. I don't actually own a yoga mat, so I use the gym's mats when I need one during exercise classes. Imagine how disgusting they would be if I tried to give one a bath? Ewe!! ha ha. I just need to keep remembering to give my hands a nice wash after gym class. I eat after the gym, so I'm pretty diligent about hand washing after working out. I wonder how often they wash them? They are "supposed" to spray them every day, but who knows if they actually do. Been going to the gym for 8 yrs now and I'm still pretty healthy, so far, so good! Maybe I should consider getting a mat of my own! Pilates is the only class where the mats are used for the entire workout, the step and weight classes use mats for stretching afterwards.

  4. Thank you! I have been searching for an eco friendly way to clean my mat! I am looking forward to try the vinegar recipe :)

  5. Thanks for the tips! I never know how to clean my it remains super gross :D

  6. Just out of curiosity does the vinegar smell end up staying with the mat? I know it is probably better than months old sweat smell but as I said, just curious. Thanks for all the tips!

  7. EcoY--I'm just cutting & pasting from my comments section as I'm not sure people always check back for responses--I know I forget to! ;-) In regards to the Insulated Klean Kanteens---They are awesome! They keep stuff cold for over 24 hours. If you put something hot in there you might want to give it a little room to breath or keep upright cause some leaking can happen. BUT they're definitely worth the money and the cafe lid works really well---and comes apart for easy cleaning. Besides that they're so rugged they hold up so well! I'd definitely suggest them.

  8. Another great post! Blech to the dirty tub water photo hahah. Goes to show you a good bath is all the mat needs! Thanks for the eco-cleaning tips...I love them! I am sharing this :)

  9. Thanks for the eco-friendly mat cleaning tips! I'm going to give the vinegar solution a whirl.

  10. Hi! I found your blog about a month ago and I've been stalking it ever since. I love it! I know this is an older post, but I'm hoping you could answer a question about your mat cleaner recipe. I just mixed 1 cup vinegar and 3 cups water in an old spray bottle, and added 10 drops of tea tree oil. My question is--what is the purpose of the tea tree oil? 10 drops doesn't seem like much when compared with the 4 cups of liquid in the bottle. It also doesn't even begin to cover up the vinegar smell (a cup of vinegar is pretty potent!). Is the tea tree oil there primarily to help disinfect, or is it also there to help it smell nicer? Would there be a downside to adding more?

    Thanks so much, and again, WONDERFUL blog. It has quickly become one of my favorites :)

  11. Elyse: Awww- thank you!!

    well, here's the thing. Supposedly the tea tree oil is disinfecting, but you're right... ten drops isn't very much. I was VERY careful because I had some weird reaction to tea tree oil once. But I truly don't see any problems adding more, just be careful how much. It can get pretty overwhelming.

    I think another option, to cover up the vinegar smell, would be to add another scent or oil. Like peppermint. :)

    The cool thing about vinegar, although I agree that it smells stinky (and took some getting used to) it does actually fade in smell pretty quickly. Especially if you leave your mat to dry on a clothes rack for a few days.

    I didn't want to believe it when a friend of mine claimed vinegar smell fades, but after a few hours, I have to admit she's right.

    if you have more questions, feel free to email me, i'd be happy to try my best to help answer them :)

    So Glad you like the space!

  12. Really useful blog.Good work keeping this updated! natural yoga mats Thanks a lot!

  13. would like to add that tea tree oil and other essential oils are bad for cats, so if you have a cat you should probably avoid spraying it into the air.

    would it be ok to use just the vinegar/water mixture without the essential oil?

  14. Wonderful! I keep a vinegar/water spray bottle in the kitchen and use it for everything--the counter, sticky spots under the table, the patio door window... I even wash my kitchen floor with vinegar water and a teeeeny splash of detergent. Sure, it smells like pickles in the kitchen for a few minutes, but that fades and takes any offensive odors (sick kitty smells, for one) with it. I hadn't thought of using my spray bottle on my mat, but will after class tomorrow! Thanks.

  15. Adding a few (5-10) drops of Patchouli oil and Bergamot Oils while it's in the bath before it rinses was nice.

  16. I have used the vinegar and water solution for a while now and sometimes a DROP of castile soap (lavender scented, mmm)and it works well. I once used TOO much vinegar and smelled like salad dressing for a few days but it got better.

    Being a teacher of kids yoga, I need to clean my mat A LOT as the kids ALWAYS love my mat and we play lots of games and change mats a lot. I also teach some adults classes and am always walking around class and then back onto my mat... That being said I'll bet I don't wash it enough... ;)

  17. I use a Norwex enviro cloth to wipe it chemicals or cleaners needed, just warm water. The cloths have silver in the fibers which make them naturally antibacterial. They are washable and reusable. I have one dedicated for my sweaty mat.

  18. Then again, if you're me and love anything pickled...

    What a good reminder (especially the visuals). I imagine the water will be suitable as a growth medium after I wash my mats.

    Thanks for the review!

  19. Thanks for the instructions on how to clean a yoga mat in an eco-friendly way. I just volunteered to clean the yoga mats for my food co-op (co-op members get free yoga!) and I wanted to be able to clean them in the spirit of protecting our planet @ the same time. The only downside was the amount of water I used. It took several rinses to get the dirt out. Any suggestions? Should I have soaked them for a while and let the dirt settle? (kind of like cleaning spinach...) Anyhow, I didn't use the essential oils, just the vinegar:water concoction, so as to not impose my aroma preference on anyone. The mats are now drying on my drying racks and we'll see how long that takes up here in the Pacific Northwest.
    Thanks for the blog!

  20. @Cathy: I would say that the more often you clean them (ie daily) the less dirt you'll need to remove. that said- if that's not an option I'm not sure what you could do other than rinse a few times. Soaking in the tub for longer might help too though.

    Very cool Co-Op! :)

  21. Makes no sense. I get the water-vinegar ratio but 10 drop of tea tree oil needs to be adjusted for the amount of water and vinegar I use. If I use 3/4 cup of water in my mix it's not the same as using 1 cup of water in my mix. It can't be 10 drops of oil no matter how much water you use. If you want to specify a spray bottle size, that would help.

  22. To dry the mat more quickly- after rinsing, try rolling it up with a towel then stepping all over it to squeeze out more water.

    Also, for an unscented spray, Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) could work, just needs a few drops. Hospitals use it to disinfect.

  23. Hello !
    I absolutely love your blog!
    I will e-mail you soon to talk more.
    An environmentalist who loves yoga

  24. A tip for the post tub squeeze out... Roll the mat, cover with a clean hand towel, then stand on it gently stepping with your whole body weight from end to end a few times. After this you should be ready to hang your mat on a rack to dry.

  25. No need for all this hassle. I figured out an efficient yet thorough way of washing my mat. This mat made me so frustrated because I kept slipping on it. Finally, I took it to the bathtub and gave it a good makeover.

    Easy and clean. I was done in less than 10 minutes, which was nice judging from the perfectionist side in me that expected at least 30 minutes of work.

    -1 lemon cut into six pieces,
    -Half a cup of salt (I used less because my mat was semi-dirty)
    -Two long towels

    Sprinkle salt on your mat, take one slice of lemon and squeeze over a section of the mat, then take that slice and start scrubbing the mat gently but firmly. (IF NOT ENOUGH LEMON JUICE WAS PRODUCED, TAKE THE LEMON AND MICROWAVE IT FOR 25 SECONDS to get the juices flowing.) Do this for the rest of your mat, and then rinse well with warm water. You'll see spots starting to manifest on your mat as you wash it: that's the oil imbedded in the mat and the dirt that tagged along. Then lay your mat on one towel and the other towel on your mat. Start to roll it up, then near the end, take the towel underneath and just use that to cover the outer surface. JUMP on your mat to squeeze all the soap and water out. Unroll, let hang overnight, you're good to go in the morning!

    No vinegar smell, no oily residue, and it cleans the dirt and sweat off of your mat. Lemon is a disinfectant that discourages bacterial growth due to its pH, and salt is a great moisture-and-oil-absorbent as well as a scrubber.

    *Just be careful not to have any cuts on your finger or hands when you're doing this. And try using the rind of the lemon to also scrub the mat (works with the salt better in exfoliating!)

    *Steer clear of using soap to wash your mat! I did so the first time and as I was washing it this time, all the slime from the soap (and a bunch of other tiny gross fellows from the studio floor) starting oozing out. No wonder why I kept slipping.

  26. Thanks for all the information. I prefer the smell of lemon over vinegar so will try that for the first (gasp - yes, I said first) bath of my yoga mat.

  27. I am happy to have discovered your blog! I am a beginner in yoga and this article on how to clean my yoga mat helps a lot! I usually just scrub, wash with detergent, and let it dry for a day or more. Thanks for the tips! I am now following your blog. :-)


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