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A dirty, smelly yoga mat can seriously affect your state of mind when heading to yoga class. On the bright side, washing your mat is simple and it could make a big difference in your practice. Keeping your mat clean not only keeps it smelling fresh, but it also gets rid of bacteria and helps preserve the sticky surface of your most necessary piece of yoga equipment. Using the right ingredients and techniques will have you saying "Om" for months to come.
To Clean or Not to Clean
There are two types of yoga mats available -- those made from PVC and those made from tightly woven fabric. Luckily, both are completely washable, so you shouldn't have to worry about damaging your mat by getting it clean. Both types of mats are meant to be cleaned regularly, as long as you use the right tactics. Your mat doesn't need harsh detergents or scrubbing, but a light hand can go a long way in keeping your mat clean and bacteria-free.
If you're nervous about damaging your yoga mat, hand washing is the way to go, particularly for PVC mats. It's a good idea to hand wash your mat after each use, so fill a spray bottle with water and a few drops of dish detergent or one part water and one part vinegar. Some yogis also add a few drops of essential oil to make their mats smell better. After each class, you only need to spray down your mat, gently wipe it with a clean towel and then allow it to air dry. If you don't want to bring your spray to class, just loosely roll your mat when you're done and take it home for a quick cleaning.
Fabric mats and even most PVC mats are machine washable -- just check the instructions for your particular mat. The trick to washing your mat in a machine is to not let it go through the spin cycle, which can pull and stretch your mat out of shape. Just use a mild laundry detergent -- baby detergent works well -- and run it on a delicate cycle every couple of weeks for a deep cleaning. If you don't love the idea of machine washing your mat or the instructions say not to, submerge your mat in water -- the bathtub works well -- with some laundry detergent for a light scrubbing.
Yoga mats should always be air dried after being washed. Your clothes dryer is too harsh for PVC mats and could melt or warp the shape. Even fiber mats will last longer if you allow them to air dry; just make sure you don't dry either type in the sun. The sun can break down fibers and make mats brittle. Instead, a drying rack in your laundry room is your best bet. It may help to invest in two mats so you don't have to miss class when your favorite is still drying.