How often do you clean your mat?

My Manduka yoga mat is arguably my best friend. It’s there for me on the good days; it’s there for me on the bad. It doesn’t care if I’m wearing makeup, or if I’m in a bad mood. My yoga mat supports me no matter what. But, have to admit, I’m not always very nice to it, esepecially when it comes to cleanliness.

I used to be much better about keeping my yoga mat clean, but something changed, and I just kinda stopped. Today I made a commitment to keep my yoga mat clean, and that’s because it was recently discovered just exactly how disgusting yoga mats can be.

News station ABC-13 in Houston decided to swab yoga mats all throughout the city of Houston. The news crew swabbed community mats at a yoga studio, and at a gym, in addition to swabbing the mat of an instructor and a student. The swabs were then taken to EMSL Analytical, a nationwide environmental lab.

The results are disgusting.

Laboratory Director Melanie Rech at EMSL Analytical in Houston tested the samples for bacteria that would grow at 35 degrees Fahrenheit, in addition to fungus that are incubated at room temperature.

The community mats at the yoga studio came back the cleanest with 3 million counts of normal environmental bacteria.

This is bacteria that, “In normal healthy, ambulatory, non-hospitalized-type people, they generally don’t cause infections,” Melanie Rech told ABC news.

The community mats at the gym tested positive for staph. While not the most dangerous strain of staph, it is the strain that can cause UTIs.

The yoga instructor’s mat tested high for yeast.

“You could get wound infections from this,” Rech said.

It is uncommon to see so much yeast on a mat, but Rech said it’s most likely because of his job as an instructor. He lives on his mat, but said he cleans it every other week.

The mat that was most shocking was the mat of the yoga student. The student’s mat tested positive for 12 million counts of bacteria including pantoea agglomerans, which can give you gastroenteritis. (Flu like symptoms including cramps, vomitting, fever, and diarrhea. I had it once as a child. Trust me when I tell you it’s really unpleasant.)

In addition, the student’s mat also had a high count of Aspergillus, a family of mold that can give people asthma. The student, Taserra Tucker, works out regularly but admits she doesn’t clean her mat often.

“I’ve had allergies my whole life, but they’ve been pretty horrific the past couple months, and it’s been the past couple months that I’ve been on the yoga mat all the time,” Tucker said. “I guess I need to really clean my yoga mat really bad.”

I am going to be much more diligent about cleaning my mat. If you want to join me, don’t worry; it doesn’t have to be an expensive or annoying process. There are a number of yoga mat cleaners on the market, but I make my own. It’s incredibly cheap. Here’s what you need:

  • A spray bottle
  • Witch Hazel, Vinegar, or Rubbing Alcohol
  • Water
  • Essential oils

Witch hazel, vinegar, or rubbing alcohol will be the main cleaning agent. I use a mix of the three. We have hard water where I live, and the vinegar prevents calcium build up on my mat, but I don’t use purely a vinegar-based spray anymore as it took too long to dry. Witch hazel and rubbing alcohol are quick-drying disinfectants.

What essential oils you use are largely up to you, but you should include those with naturally occurring antibacterial properties. I use tea tree and lavender. Other antibacterial oils include: peppermint, patchouli, orange, lemongrass, geranium, citronella, and eucalyptus.

Fill your spray bottle about 2/3 full of water. Add your main cleaning agent (or a mix of them) until the bottle is almost full. Then add your essential oils. For my bottle I use about 6 drops of each per cup of liquid. Have fun. Experiment. Find a scent that you love.

Then spray your mat completely, and let air dry. No need to rub it.

How often do you clean your yoga mat? Let me know in the comments.

Photo by Manduka.