This is a love story. If you have practice yoga for any amount of time, by now you have develop a trusting relationship with your yoga mat. Yes, you have blamed it for your short comings, you have step all over it, you have tried parting with it, you have even cheated on it, but your heart and practice always comes back to it. So as any good relationship counselor will tell you, today is the best time to pamper this relationship and I suggest you start with a bath. Now lets face it, after the bliss of Savasana, picking up a spray bottle may be the last thing in your mind. But as with any cleaning strategy, maintenance is your friend. If you keep your feet clean and your practice isn't, lets say, a sweat fest, a quick spray and wipe once a week if you are an active practitioner (or every other week if you are a passive one) should be enough to keep your mat fairly clean and free from smell-inducing-bacterias.
I have tried various methods to clean my mat; from good 'ol soap (bad, bad, bad idea), to fancy prepackage wipes, I didn't find them very effective. If you own an upscale yoga mat, chances are that the manufacturer has instructions for cleaning it (and you are welcome to follow those instructions), however after many trials I am telling you this works. Below I will provide you with my inexpensive, environmentally friendly recipe for a yoga cleansing solution (i.e., for the quick spray/wipe) and I am also including a deep cleaning method in case your mat need further cleaning.
Things you will need
for the yoga mat cleansing solution:
white vinegar (a natural bleach, disinfectant)
water (Universal solvent, ask any Alchemist!)
alcohol such as vodka (natural drying agent, ask anyone who drinks martinis)
Tea Tree Essential oil (any other antibacterial Essential Oil will work, Thieves is a great alternative for all of you Young Living lovers)
for bathing your mat:
yoga mat cleansing spray
a bath tub
drying rack (or two chairs, though you should really consider having a drying rack at home)
This is what you do
So this is my formula for a yoga mat cleaning solution, which I have created after trying various versions. There are products out there in the market to clean yoga mats, by all means try them out, I am sure some are fantastic. Whatever you use, make sure there isn't any surfactant (i.e., a fancy way of saying soap) in it or you will be sliding on your mat like an iguana on marble floors - not pretty.
To prepare the yoga mat cleansing solution mix in a spray bottle 1 part white vinegar, 2 parts water, 1 part alcohol and 1/1000 parts tea tree essential oil or Thieves essential oil. [For example, 1 cup vinegar, 2 cups alcohol, 1 cup alcohol, ~15 drops of essential oil] This is a very inexpensive way to create a disinfectant and cleaning agent that does not contains any type of surfactant and it is also great to clean windows/mirrors! This solution works great, just spray it on your mat and use a cleaning cloth to wipe out the mat. Let it dry and store away.
Now, if your mat is dirty, you may need more than a spray and wipe to get it clean. Here is when the romantic bath comes in. Now I have read that you can place your mats in a washer and clean it that way, but are you really going to waist a whole load in your washer to clean a single item? You are green; wash it by hand, isn't doing things like this a side benefit of building all those muscle doing yoga? To give your yoga mat a bath, you will need about twenty minutes for the bath portion and a space to hang to dry your mat for at least 48 hrs. Set the drying rack onto a towel, this will save you time. Take you mat and roll it out into your bath tub, the fitting may depend on the size of your tub and mat, so do the best you can. Spray the yoga mat cleansing solution as described above, if the mat is really dirty, add baking soda (this may work for a date too, but that is a different post). Fill the tub with about 1 to 2 inches of water and begin to use the good 'ol elbow grease with the scrubbing brush. I will not show pictures of the resulting water, for the same reason I won't show pictures of ear candling; it is disgusting. You can repeat the spray, baking soda, water and scrubbing as many times as your mat needs it. When you are satisfied, rinse the mat. Here is where your muscles come in place. You must wring out as much water as you can, this is also when having a significant other can come in handy, ask for help. When you are exhausted, roll your mat and one of the towels together as shown in the picture. You can step on this roll to get as much water out of the mat as possible. You can even practice Ankle Loop - Anusara joke, sorry. You can hang your mat on the drying rack for 48 hrs or so, make sure the mat is dry before you start using it again (remember the image of the iguana on the marble floors?) You will feel so good and proud of your mat. Keep cleaning it with the spray/wipe method and you probably won't need to do the bath more than once or twice a year.