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How To Clean and Disinfect a Yoga or Pilates Mat With Safe, Effective, Natural & DIY Options


March 3, 2015 by Bob Hannum

Be Sure Your Mat Cleaner Won't Harm You, the Environment or Your Mat

There are growing health risks in sharing a mat without disinfecting it - any kind of exercise mat. Even your own unshared yoga or Pilates mat poses risks if you don't clean it after each use - click here to learn more about these risks. Let's look at the most effective and healthy options for cleaning your mat. By the way, to reduce your risk of skin diseases spray or wipe both sides of your exercise mat after each use using any of the disinfecting products listed below. For optimal protection, every couple of months additionally give it a thorough washing with any of the cleaning products reviewed below.

Is Bleach the Best Disinfectant?

Bleach is the cheapest, most effective and most readily-available disinfectant, but it may not be the best choice for disinfecting a yoga or Pilates mat. The reason is that bleach poses its own health risks. It's dangerous for the lungs, skin, eyes and your mat.
Amy Hanoian-Fontana, community education specialist at the Connecticut Poison Control Center says, “Most poison center calls involve exposures to household bleach. The symptoms are mild to moderate, resolve after thorough flushing with water, and leave no long-term effects.” 

She explains that household bleach products contain 5 percent hypochlorite - a very dangerous chemical. Although most people dilute bleach with water for home cleaning, mixing even diluted bleach withdisinfecting exercising mat certain other common household cleaners such as ammonia, vinegar or other acids produces toxic chlorine gas.

Though swimming pool chemicals and other products with higher concentrations of hypochlorite are safe if used as directed, there's got to be a safer alternative for cleaning a mat.
The other serious concern is our environment. The manufacture of bleach generates dioxin which has been linked to cancer and birth defects, and is highly toxic to birds and fish.

Other household cleaners are not disinfectants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that ammonia, baking soda, vinegar and borax are not registered as disinfectants with the Environmental Protection Agency, because they have little or no effect on staph infections, salmonella and E.coli. And forget about hydrogen peroxide because it causes severe burns at high enough concentrations to be an effective disinfectant.

Best Mat Sprays

Ok so what can we use that's just as effective as bleach but not as dangerous? Good news. There are alternatives.

  1. Rebel Green mat disinfectant – "Kissed with essential oils- coconut, jojoba, lemongrass, cedarwood, tea tree and eucalyptus have cleansing and therapeutic properties." No animal testing.
  2. NAMA mat sanitizer. Natural mint and green tea scent. No animal testing.
  3. Melaleuka’s “Tough & Tender” available thru – natural disinfectant and safe on foam and vinyl – comes in liquid and wipes. Natural scent.
  4. Dollar Tree 50% wintergreen rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Some of my students don't like the scent.
  5. Vermont Soap Organics offers an exercise mat spray. Certified organic. Found at health food stores, Amazon, and at Also comes in travel sizes and unscented options.
  6. Manduka antibacterial mat spray is made from organic, all natural ingredients. Sprays come in a variety of convenient sizes, including a travel size. Gingergrass, lavender, and citrus scented options.

mat disinfectantBest DIY Mat Disinfectants

Interestingly, placing your mat in the sun is a natural bleacher and disinfectant.
You can also make your own disinfectant spray with water, rubbing alcohol, and a tiny amount of tea tree oil, or just tea tree oil and water. Vinegar and water with a little lemon is also an effective recipe.
My favorite Do-It-Yourself mat disinfecting spray recipe is found here. This recipe is particularly good because it contains all-natural antifingal and antibacterial ingredients.
One of my readers suggests Citra-Solv plus tea tree oil and water. "I've been using it for years....My equipment looks great, stays clean and clients love the smell so much they don't mind cleaning up!"

Best Mat Wipes

If you prefer disinfectant wipes rather than a spray, here are my favorites:

  1. Jo-Sha all natural wipes are excellent – found in health food stores – contain no alcohol or bleach and even the packaging is biodegradable. 
  2. Stirlen Chi sells wipes, washes and sprays that are all-natural found in health food stores and at Amazon.

Best Mat Cleanersmat cleaner

To wash your mat I suggest the following safe and effective products. Laundry detergent is too harsh:

  1. Dr. Bronner's liquid soap – found in food coops, natural foods stores, and supermarkets - all natural ingredients with unscented options.
  2. Simple Green – at hardware stores and
  3. Shaklee’s “Basic H” is all natural and the first certified green cleanser – also the least expensive.

If you come across a product that impresses you please contact me.

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