Why Yoga Mats Smell and How to Remove it?


Why Yoga Mats Smell and How to Remove it?

Yoga mats offer a plethora of unique smells, some of which are very unpleasant to yogis. If you’ve purchased a new mat that has a peculiar rubber smell, or you’ve been using it for a while and notice a stinky sweat-fragrance building up, there are plenty of steps you can take to rectify the foul odors and keep your yoga mat smelling fresh for good! 

Why yoga mats smell and how to remove it? Yoga mats smell for a variety of reasons, most of which are linked to the materials used to make them or sweat. You can remove the smell by:

  • Giving it time to release the VOCs naturally 
  • Using deodorizing spray
  • Yoga mat spray
  • Airing it out
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Witch Hazel
  • Washing your mat by hand

You can’t just toss your yoga mat in the washing machine, but you do not have to suffer through an assault on your nostrils any longer. Use this quick read to understand what’s making your yoga mat stinky, how to prevent it, and if these foul aromas have any negative impact on your health. 

Why Does Your Yoga Mat Smell?

The main two culprits behind your yoga mat smelling are likely:

  • New yoga mat smell – Linked to VOCs 
  • Sweat – From frequent use, often in forms that cause increased sweat such as hot yoga or Bikram yoga

Both of these smells can be treated with the same cleaning practices.

Common Materials for Yoga Mats 

To explain the more common complaint against yoga odors, the new yoga mat smell, yoga mats tend to have a smell right when you purchase them. This fragrance will range in its severity depending on the materials used to make the mat, but the most common materials used include:

  • Rubber
  • Bamboo
  • Jute
  • PVC – (Most popular because it is the cheapest)

VOCs

Most scents in household products or things like yoga mats are created by VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), which are found in:

  • Paints
  • Solvents
  • Air fresheners
  • Preservatives
  • Rubber and dyed products (such as your yoga mat)

VOCs can cause harmful effects, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Long-term damage to body systems
  • Linked to cancer 

Just as with your freshly painted walls – your newly produced yoga mat will only reduce in VOC levels by giving it time to air out. 

How to Remove the Smell

If you don’t want to wait for your mat to naturally air-out over the next few months, there are a few steps you can take to force things along. They may not work quite as effectively as just giving the mat time to breath, but they can certainly reduce the severity of the bad smell. 

The methods to try to reduce the smell include:

  1. Purchase Vapor Fresh Cleaning Deodorizing Equipment Spray – This is made especially for those who are active. Qualities of this spray are:
    • Made for those who sweat
    • All-natural deodorizer
    • Absent of harsh chemicals 
    • Won’t leave a residue on your yoga mat
  • Purchase a Spray Specifically for Yoga Mats – Apart from general deodorizers, there are specific products that are made to keep your yoga mat smelling fresh! A couple of highly-recommended and well-rated variations of this product are:
  • Air it Out – Sometimes, the sweat or strong-rubber molecules are too tightly concentrated. To increase airflow and disperse some of these particles, you can:                 
    • Aim a fan towards it.
    • Hang your mat over the window, pinning it down with something inside so that it doesn’t fly away.
    • Drape it over anything (a closet, a shelf, etc.) so that it’s not rolled up.

Note – Determine if your mat is made of rubber. If it is made of rubber, avoid direct sunlight because the UV rays will cause photo-sensitivity and cause fading. Check the material of your mat to determine if UV rays would be feasible because UV rays are excellent for:

  • Removing odors
  • Disinfecting and killing bacteria
  • Are much gentler on fabrics than a machine dryer

Leave it Unrolled – For all future classes, stop rolling it up as soon as you’re done. Leaving it unrolled will allow sweat droplets to evaporate more quickly and remove themselves from your yoga mat. The tighter your mat is rolled, the more securely it will hold onto those foul odors. 

Use Apple Cider Vinegar – Known as a powerful household disinfectant, you can use apple cider vinegar to clean your yoga mat.

Even products like the above linked Manduka Organic Spray will recommend combining the mixture as a 50/50 solution of the spray with apple cider vinegar. This ingredient offers a natural means for removing bacteria and renewing a surface’s vibrancy. Apple Cider Vinegar is:

  • Anti-fungal
  • Antimicrobial
  • Easily combined with water and essential oils (which will allow the vinegar smell to evaporate with the water, leaving only the essential oil fragrance behind) 
  • Use Scented Witch Hazel – Another product you can use to replace the bad smells with nice ones is witch hazel. You can either:
    • Wipe down your yoga mat with witch hazel (less penetration).
    • Allow it to soak for a few hours (more penetration). This should be followed by a thorough drying afterward, repeating as necessary to remove all traces of sour scents.

How to Wash Your Yoga Mat by Hand 

Since your mat is similar to a sponge, there are specific procedures and steps to take while washing it.

The steps to properly wash your yoga mat by hand are:

  1. Have a bucket that is large enough for your yoga mat to stretch out and not be rolled up tight. 
  2. Fill the tub with warm water.
  3. Add 1 cup of white vinegar with a tiny amount of dish soap. You don’t want to use much, or you will risk making your yoga mat slippery, so within a cup of vinegar, use only around a teaspoon or less of dish soap. 
  4. Submerge your yoga mat and be sure it is fully covered on all sides, not rolled up too tightly or blocked in some capacity from being wet.
  5. Soak for thirty minutes to an hour.
  6. Remove it and scrub lightly to remove excess sweat or dirt.
  7. Dry the mat by stepping on it to remove the water that is tightly packed inside like a sponge.
  8. After drying as well as you can by hand, lay the mat on a towel and leave out in the sun (if it is not made of rubber, UV rays should be safe on your mat for short durations). 
  9. If you don’t want to leave it in sunlight (which will significantly expedite the drying time while simultaneously disinfecting the mat), then simply lay it out in a well-ventilated location. You can also hang it up high and leave a towel below to catch the drips. 

Be sure your mat is fully dry because moisture retained on the inside of these sponge-like materials can lead to mildew and molding.  

Final Tips on Cleaning Your Yoga Mat

The biggest tip we can give you for removing that new-mat smell is – give it time. Within a few months of use, you shouldn’t smell anything at all. 

A few parting words of wisdom for you are:

  • Most yoga mats will get torn apart in a washing machine. 
  • You can also try a Natural All-Purpose Spray (or Lysol, which is commonly used to remove sweat-stains from your mat). These sprays will be ideal for yoga mats made of PVC, which are closed-cell yoga mats.
  • Mike Schade writes in his article Is the ‘New Yoga Mat’ Smell Toxic?: “In order to make yoga mats with PVC, potentially harmful chemicals like chlorine gas, ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride, mercury, and dioxins may be used and released into the environment.”

Due to his research, we would recommend avoiding PVC and vinyl-related materials, even though they will be the cheapest choices. 

  • As an alternative, aim to purchase a natural-rubber mat. This will be considerably safer, and the rubber smell will fade quickly. 

In Conclusion

If you’re seeking to keep a very fresh yoga mat – Giving your yoga mat monthly disinfectant wipe-downs and a quarterly bath should be sufficient. Doing this will place you a step ahead of most yogis, and you might just have the freshest smelling set up in the whole class!

~Namaste! 

Dakota Carroll

Yoga have been a part of Dakota's life for 10+ years. Her practice has helped her grow stronger, more flexible and fearless. Dakota encourages her students to be creative and challenge the body. She seeks to inspire every student to feel refreshed, nourished and balanced both on and off the mat.

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