Yoga may be cleaning your mind and body, but it's dirtying your mat!
People always associate dirty exercise equipment with a hard workout, but you don't need to be dripping with sweat to contaminate your yoga mat. Dirt and grime can track onto your mat from the floor every time you step on it and will build up over time. This can lead to some serious bacterial growth which is not only smelly, but bad for your skin. How long will you be able to hold a Child's Pose with that kind of funk in your face? It's important to practice regular and proper cleaning of your mat and we're here to tell you how!
What to use?
There are two things you need to think about when it comes to cleaning your mat. The first is getting rid of that funky foot smell and the second (and more important) is disinfecting. There are many methods and products out there that you can use, but not all are equal. So let's take a look at them.
Soap & water
This is a simple way to clean a mat (or any surface for that matter). Just dilute some dish soap in water and scrub away with a rag or soft sponge - do not use any kind of coarse scrubber as these can damage your mat. This solution is easy, but not a fix-all. Certain materials, like foam mats, can become water logged if they are overly soaked. Also, too much soap can cover your mat in a slippery film of residue that could lead to dangerous falls when practicing.
Many people like going the home-made route, which is great. It's cheap and easy to throw a cleaning solution together that'll make your mat smell great. Commonly, people use essential oils like tea tree, lemon, and lavender because they have anti-fungal properties and they smell great. All you need is a few drops of each in a spray bottle filled with water and you're good to go. The only problem with these kind of solutions, though, is that they don't go a great job at killing the bacteria that can lead to skin irritation and infection.
Lysol and other heavy duty disinfectants
You probably already have these kind of wipes or sprays under your kitchen sink and, while they're great for cleaning surfaces, they can wreak havoc on your yoga mat. The harsh disinfectants used in these cleaners will definitely kill most or all of the bacteria, but over time they'll eat away at the soft material of your mat. They are also likely to cause irritation to your skin. It is highly recommended to avoid these types of cleaners.
These cleaners are great if you're looking for convenience and effectiveness. They are specially formulated to clean your mat without damaging it or your skin. But make sure you check your labels, not all cleaners are created equally! Alcohol based cleaners are great because they evaporate quickly, which prevents the mat from becoming water logged (which can happen with many water/oil based cleaners). It's also a good idea to look for a disinfectant that is certified to protect against MRSA, ringworm, and other dangerous skin infections.
No matter what you use, make sure you use it!
Which ever method is best for you, just make sure you use it regularly. A good cleaning routine will go a long way to extending the life of your mat and keeping your skin safe. Also, never roll up and store your mat before it is completely dry. Hang it up or use a fan if you have to. Nothing will help bacteria grow better than excess moisture. So next time you're finishing up your favorite routine, take a second to give your mat a wipe down and tell those germs to namastay away!