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Water Cooler: How to keep your exercise mat clean

Aug. 27, 2021 Updated Sun., Aug. 29, 2021 at 8:17 p.m.

After a yoga session or workout, you roll up the mat you just sweat all over and place it in some dark corner. Sweat, germs, grime, no airflow and complete darkness – the perfect recipe for microbial growth. If you’re sufficiently grossed out now, here are a few tips on how to keep exercise and yoga mats clean.

It’s best to quickly wipe your mat down after each use. You can opt for a store-bought mat cleaner, which usually includes a blend of essential oils for various cleaning and odor-reducing qualities. For the budget friendly route, make your own cleaning solution. A mixture of one part white distilled vinegar to three parts water works well to help remove debris, deodorize and sanitize the mat. You can add a few drops of essential oils if desired. Make sure to check your mat manufacturer’s advice on cleaning to avoid any cleansers that could potentially damage your mat. Some may caution against vinegar solutions and essential oil use.

It’s also important to know how porous your mat is. Most exercise mats are closed-cell mats that expel moisture. Other mats, usually designed for hot yoga, are open-cell so they can absorb moisture like sweat droplets so the mat doesn’t become as slippery when wet. Closed-cell mats can be damaged if submerged in water, however open-cell mats can benefit from being submerged during deep cleaning.

For a routine cleaning after a workout, spray your cleaning solution on the mat, then wash it with a lint-free rag in circulation motions. Spend extra time on any particularly dirty area, but otherwise this should be a quick routine that takes you less than a minute. If you’re able, give the mat a few minutes to air dry so you don’t roll it up with residual moisture. If you’re at a class and don’t have time to let the mat air dry, take it out once you return home so it can be exposed to the open air. This routine will help keep your mat fresh between uses.

If you use your mat on a regular basis, you should do a deep clean about once a month.

Open-cell mats can be submerged in a tub of water with a small amount of dish soap, about 1 teaspoon per gallon of water. If you use too much soap on the mat, it may have soap residue after cleaning which will make your mat feel slippery the next time you use it. Let it soak for about five minutes, then lightly scrub it with a cloth. Rinse well. If you have hard water, using a bit of vinegar in the rinse water will help prevent any residue. Shake it out, then hang it to air dry until it is completely rid of moisture.

Closed-cell mats should be laid flat and spot cleaned with a rag and soapy water. Again, use a very small amount of soap to prevent soap residue. Clean in a circular motion from top to bottom. If need be, flip it over and clean the back side as well. You can go over the mat again with a vinegar water solution or just water to rinse it, then wipe dry with a clean towel. Hang it in open air until completely dry.

You can hang a mat to dry outside, but be careful as prolonged exposure to sun or heat can damage the mat. Mats are best hung over a chair or porch railing for maximum exposure to open air. Store it in a place with good ventilation, and if the mat isn’t being used, try to unroll it at least once a month and hang it up so it can air out.

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