Taking a yoga class without your trusty mat is unimaginable, they keep you comfortable whilst you’re in the lotus, Balasana, or child’s pose positions and can be taken with you anywhere in case you fancy an impromptu yoga or meditation session.
So, what happens when you go to your wardrobe, take out your exercise gear, and find that your yoga mat is covered in what looks like a layer of mold? Can the mat be saved, is the mold dangerous, how can you clean it and prevent this from happening again?
In this article, we will cover all these questions and more, so, for all you need to know about how to clean moldy yoga mats, keep reading.
Why do yoga mats get moldy?
Yoga mats get moldy because they provide everything fungi and bacteria require if not stored correctly and kept clean.
Mold is a complex organism, but its needs are fairly basic. In order for it to begin growing on your yoga mat, it only needs a source of hydration, nutrients, oxygen, and to speed up its growth, a temperate climate between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Let’s take a closer look to see how your yoga mat may be providing mold with exactly what it needs.
Mold doesn’t need large quantities of liquids in order to stay hydrated, and there are several ways that it can get all the moisture it needs from a yoga mat.
Firstly, as you exercise, you sweat, and this will either drip off your skin or will be rubbed against the mat and absorbed into the fabric. In high-heat yoga classes (Bikram), you will sweat a great deal, making the mat very moist after each class.
The second way that moisture can find its way onto a yoga mat is through high-humidity environments. Gym classes such as Pilates and yoga will often be very warm, causing the members to sweat and release moisture into the air, this moisture can then condense into microscopic pools within the fabric of the mat.
You may well be wondering how there could possibly be any nutrition to be found on a yoga mat, and unfortunately, the answer is a little grim.
As you exercise and move around on your yoga mat, your skin will come into contact with it, and dead skin cells will fall from the body and become lodged in whatever material the mat is made from.
Skin cells along with other decayed organic materials provide the minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that mold and bacteria can use for sustenance.
The ideal temperature for mold is between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and many gyms will be either within this temperature range or slightly higher.
Even when storing your yoga mat at home, the average temperature of US homes is between 68 and 76 Fahrenheit, so mold will always be growing at its fastest rate.
Is the mold dangerous?
Potentially, yes. As you will be taking your mat from your home and using it in the gym, there are many different types of mold that could decide to set up a colony on it, because of this, you could be dealing with an entirely harmless strain or, one with the potential to cause health complications and potentially serious allergic reactions.
The three most common strains of mold found growing within a property (and therefore potentially on your yoga mat), are Cladosporium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus. All three of these strains have the ability to produce mycotoxins as a defense mechanism.
Most otherwise healthy people would not suffer health complaints from inhaling a small number of spores once or twice, but should this happen frequently, symptoms could arise.
For people with suppressed immune systems, allergies, or those who are pregnant, the symptoms could be far more serious, and so any contact with mold should be avoided.
Common symptoms of mold exposure include:
- Fatigue (in rare cases)
- Skin irritation
Why should you keep your yoga mat clean?
It’s important to clean your yoga mat on a regular basis (after each session or class if possible), to reduce the number of bacteria and the amount of mold that could be growing on it.
As previously explained, inhaling mold spores can have serious health implications if you suffer from any allergies, and the bacteria that can grow on a yoga mat can be potentially very harmful, causing food poisoning symptoms, rashes, and breathing difficulties.
How to clean a moldy yoga mat
The good news is, that in the vast majority of cases, if mold is spotted growing on your yoga mat, it can be removed fairly easily. The trick is to remove it as quickly as possible as if it is left on the mat for some time, it can stain and damage the material.
There are several methods you can use to clean a yoga mat that will remove all mold and bacteria, including the following.
The detergent method is not only simple but is also highly effective at removing both mold and the stains it can cause.
Use the following steps to clean mold from a yoga mat using detergent:
Step 1. Place your yoga mat into the bathtub
Step 2. Add a small amount of detergent or dishwashing soap.
Step 3. Cover the mat in warm water and agitate.
Step 4. Leave the mat to soak in the soap solution for 5-10 minutes.
Step 5. Carefully scrub the mat using a soft-bristled brush and hang it to dry fully before being stored.
Vinegar is an acid with a ph of between 2-3 meaning it will easily kill most strains of mold. You should check with the manufacturer that vinegar will not damage your yoga mat as some materials may be damaged by the high acidity level.
To use vinegar to kill mold on a yoga mat, use the following steps:
Step 1. Place the mat into a bathtub and lay it flat so you can clean the entire surface.
Step 2. Take a spray bottle and fill it with one part white distilled vinegar to one part water.
Step 3. Liberally spray the mat on both sides with the vinegar solution and allow it to sit for 15 minutes whilst the vinegar gets to work.
Step 4. Using warm water and detergent, wash the vinegar and mold residue off of the mat.
Step 5. Hang the mat to dry in a warm location and store it away only once it is fully dried.
To make life a little easier, I’ve placed a few links below to Amazon where you can very easily pick up white distilled vinegar. It’s not only an effective anti-bacterial and mold killer, but it is environmentally friendly, very affordable, and can be used to clean bathrooms and kitchens too. Clicking on the links will take you directly to the Amazon store.
Aksoy White Vinegar (UK)
Washing machine method
The washing machine method is probably the easiest of all, however, you must check with the manufacturer that your mat is machine washable, otherwise, it could be ruined by the action of the machine.
To use a washing machine to clean a yoga mat, use the following steps:
Step 1. Place the mat into the washing machine, preferably with other similar items if you have them.
Step 2. Set the machine to wash cold on a short cycle without adding any fabric softeners or detergents.
Step 3. Once the cycle is complete, remove it from the machine and hang it until fully dried.
Steam clean method
Because of the extreme temperatures that steam can reach, it has the ability to kill mold and bacteria. Yoga mats that are made of synthetic materials such as foam should not be steam cleaned, as the temperatures may melt or warp them.
To clean a yoga mat using steam, use the following steps:
Step 1. Wear protective equipment such as gloves and goggles as you will be dealing with high-temperature steam.
Step 2. Prepare the steam cleaner of your choice using the recommended settings.
Step 3. Place the yoga mat in a bathtub so you can easily clean both sides and keep any liquids contained.
Step 4. Steam clean the mat using long strokes from one end of the mat to the other.
Step 5. When cooled, wipe the mat with a damp cloth to remove any debris and mold residue.
Step 6. Hang the mat and place it into storage once it is fully dried.
If you’re in the market for a steam cleaner, I’ve again placed links below directly to the Amazon store where you can pick up some great models.
Anti-mold solution/spray method
If mold is rampant on your yoga mat, you may need to use a solution or spray that is specifically designed to kill mold on fabrics.
These can be used on many types of material, but do check with the manufacturer before cleaning with it just to be certain.
To kill mold on a yoga mat using mold-killing solutions, use the following steps:
Step 1. Open your yoga mat and place it on a clean surface, preferably outside.
Step 2. Spray the surface with the anti-mold solution or follow the instructions on the container if using the solution.
Step 3. Allow the liquid to work for 15-20 minutes, then wash the mat with warm water to remove any mold residue.
Step 4. Hang the mat and allow it to fully dry before being stored away.
How often you should clean your yoga mat
You should be cleaning your yoga mat after each use to prevent the buildup of bacteria and to halt any potential mold growth.
It does not need to be a deep clean each time, but a simple spray with an anti-bacterial cleaner and a quick wipe-down will work.
Once every month, a deep clean using one of the methods mentioned above is a good way to ensure your mat stays perfectly clean and free of mold and bacteria.
How to prevent mold on a yoga mat
Rather than needing to clean your yoga mat once mold has already set in and begun to cause damage, consider using the methods below to prevent its growth in the first place.
In order to prevent mold growth on yoga mats, use the following options:
Store in a dry location
When storing your yoga mat, keep it in a dry room such as a bedroom or hallway. Try to avoid storing it anywhere near high-humidity rooms such as bathrooms or kitchens, as the moisture can condense on the mat and cause mold.
Wipe down after each use
After each use, give your yoga mat a quick wipe with antibacterial spray or disinfectant wipes. This will help to kill any bacteria and make it an inhospitable environment for it to grow in.
Make sure that the mat has completely dried before you roll it up.
Deep clean once a month
Once per month, use one of the methods described above to deep clean your yoga mat. This will prevent the buildup of bacteria and organic matter that mold can use for sustenance. If deep cleaning every month is not possible, aim to do so once every two months as a minimum.
Never store away a damp yoga mat
It’s easy to accidentally store a yoga mat away whilst it is slightly damp after use after you have wiped it down or after it has been deep cleaned.
The reason this should be avoided is that mold can grow exceptionally easily once it has the moisture level it needs, so keeping your mat as dry as possible creates a strong barrier to mold and bacteria growth.
Spray with an anti-mold solution
As a precaution, every few weeks you can spray or wipe down your yoga mat with an anti-mold solution. This will help not only kill any mold that may have already begun to form but will make it a hostile environment for mold growth.
Hang the mat rather than roll it up
Rolling a yoga mat up is the most common storage technique as it saves space. However, if there is any residual moisture within the mat, it cannot escape if it is rolled tightly.
If possible, hang your mat on a wall or leave it open for at least several hours after being cleaned or used. This will allow plenty of time for any water to evaporate, leaving you with a perfectly dry yoga mat.
Yoga mats can grow mold and harbor harmful bacteria due to the organic matter that they pick up during use, combined with the high moisture levels they are exposed to from being stored away without adequate drying time.
To prevent mold from growing on yoga mats, clean them with antibacterial wipes or solution after each use, deep clean them once per month and ensure they are fully dry before storing them away.