Stop the Yoga Mat Stink
Here at Athletic-Minded Traveler, we fully support the pursuit of hot, sweaty yoga as a means to enhance your overall wellbeing. As Bikram Yoga enthusiasts we measure our efforts not in numbers or with medals, but with how much sweat we can wring from our towels at the end of class. The bigger the puddle, the greater our efforts. And as Erin recently blogged, No Pain, No Gain.
There's only one problem: all of that sweat is now on your mat. And as most of us roll it up and toss it in the car for a few hours, that thing is bound to get pretty funky (i.e., STINKY). Here's a quick biology lesson: moisture + warm temperatures = bacteria. You need to clean your mat regularly with something that will kill the bacteria in order to eliminate the smell and prolong the life your mat.
We've conducted a little research on our own mats to find the best products to de-funk your most important yoga tool. Here are some of our favorites:
Jo-sha Wipes: These handy, individually wrapped wipes are perfect for traveling yogis. Made from biodegradable materials and pure essential oils, these wipes can also be used to clean off hands and feet, or freshen up before class. Choose from 4 delicious scents such as lavender or eucalyptus for a little aromatherapy every time you unroll your mat.
Vermont Soap Mat Spray: A mild cleaning agent made of natural castile soap to help wash away the residue and build up found on mats. Just spray, and wipe away! The 2oz. spray bottle is carry-on friendly and fits easily in your gym bag, while the larger size is perfect for cleaning your mat at home.
Tea Tree Oil: If you're not one for fancy products and prefer to "do it yourself," then try mixing a few drops of pure tea tree oil with water in a spray bottle. Just spray it on and wipe it off! You can find it at most grocery stores, usually in the "natural foods" aisle for about $8, depending on the size.
Other Mat Maintenance Tricks:
If you really want a non-smelly mat, you're going to have to clean your mat after every use (yes, EVERY USE) and let it air dry on a clothes rack or shower rod with plenty of air flow. In fact, we recommend having two mats and alternating, so each can really dry out.
We also suggest hand wiping a brand new mat before use since it may often has a residue on it, which causes slippage. And, don't even think about putting your mat in the washing machine! It may seem like an easy way to disinfect, but it breaks down the fibers and opens the porous surfaces, allowing bacteria to have more places to hide.
Keep your most prized yoga possession looking like new and free from the funk. If not for your own enjoyment, then please consider your classmates (as they scurry to find a new spot every time you unroll your mat.)