An unseen woman unrolls a yoga mat.

Are there gross germs lurking on your workout mat?


Nothing is more distracting than making it 30 seconds into a core crushing plank, then noticing grubby marks or – even worse – bad smells coming from your workout mat.

While a lot of good can come from the time we spend on our mats, unfortunately they also make great breeding grounds for germs. Swabbing of gym equipment has found that hot yoga mats carried 8 x the bacteria of a toilet seat. Can we get an “Ewww, gross!”?

More than ever, good hygiene is essential. And with many gyms now requiring members to bring their own mats to classes, you’ll want to make sure you’re not bringing extra nasties back home with you. 

We can hear you already: “Please tell me how to clean my yoga mat!”

Don’t worry, we’ve got you. First, let’s take a look at WHY we need to clean our workout mats, then we’ll share a DIY yoga mat cleaner so you can continue to get your sweat on – minus the “ewww”!

Why is my mat a germy nightmare?

Think about it: your mat doesn’t just get sweated on, it gets coughed and sneezed on, shedded on (we typically shed 30,000-40,000 skin cells a day), stepped on by our sneakers (which we’ve worn outside), and covered by all that microscopic stuff that lives on our skin – like bacteria, fungi, viruses and mites. 

Now think about multiplying and sharing all those nasties with previous users of a communal yoga mat at the gym… No thank ewww!

The type of germs that accumulate on workout mats can lead to fungal and viral infections like ringworm, athlete’s foot and plantar warts, and other nasty contagions such as staph and strep. 

And while our immune systems are usually strong enough to survive a close encounter with an icky mat, if you have a cut or graze on your skin, or you’re immuno-compromised, your chance of infection is higher. 

Emily Skye in a all-fours position on her workout mat, with one leg lifted.

After a good wash let your mat air dry between workouts to keep it, and you, germ-free.

How to make our ESF DIY workout mat cleaner

Good news – for a mat that won’t put you off every time you do a push-up or downward dog, you only need to grab a few things from your pantry and bathroom cabinet.

You may have used tea tree oil on cuts or as a hand sanitiser – that’s because it’s a natural antimicrobial and it will kill bacteria and other nasties on your mat. (Bonus: it smells nice, too!) Combined with the antibacterial properties of white vinegar, it will keep your mat spick and span.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Spray bottle

  • White vinegar

  • Tea tree oil

  • Water


  1. Pour equal parts water and white vinegar into the bottle

  2. Add a few drops of tea tree oil

  3. Give the bottle a good shake 

How to clean: 

  1. Lay your mat out flat and give it a liberal spritzing all over, then wipe it down with a clean towel.

  2. Flip your mat and repeat on the other side – nasties on top will transfer to the bottom when you roll your mat up.

  3. Ensure the mat is fully dry before rolling it up again.

But wait, what if my mat is super nasty?

Good workout mats can be expensive, so you don’t want to have to buy a new one every time your mat gets a bit whiffy. If you can’t shift the smell or your mat is feeling sticky, it’s time to go old school: a good scrub with dishwashing liquid and water should get the job done. 

And for those days when you’re in a rush, wiping down your mat with antibacterial wipes won’t go astray. Just make sure the wipes don’t irritate your skin.


Aim to clean your mat with my DIY solution once a week – especially if you’re using it at the gym or outside your home – and you can plank on in peace!

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