Yoga mats don’t always live forever. Even the best ones may wear out with enough use and time, and when that happens, your practice may suffer.
How long your mat lasts depends on your flow, frequency of use, and its overall quality. Our favorite yoga mat, Lululemon’s Reversible Mat, is said to last for many, many years, and you can expect a somewhat basic, generic mat to last 6–24 months with frequent use. Still, all mats eventually show some signs of wear and tear. Here’s how to know your yoga mat is telling you it’s ready to retire.
1. Your Mat Smells Funky
A smelly yoga mat can ruin your zen during practice. You can use a yoga mat cleaner to remove leftover sweat, but they may not be as effective when your mat is past its prime. Once the mat gets porous and loses its top layers, the sweat and bacteria can penetrate the deeper layers of the mat.
Bacteria builds up on yoga mats over time, and the consequences can be more than an unpleasant smell. Dr. Cohen, a podiatrist at Long Island College Hospital, told the New York Times he’s seen a 50% spike in patients with athlete’s foot and plantar warts, and thinks likely culprit is dirty exercise mats.
2. You’re Losing Your Grip
Your yoga mat should provide enough traction to keep you in place when trying out your poses. And it probably won’t start off that way—many mats are slick when new, and you may have to break them in with a few practice sessions or by scrubbing them off in the shower. (If needed, the mat manufacturer should provide instructions for doing this.)
Then, over time, repeated practice may cause tearing and holes in some well-trafficked spots—and, in turn, make transitions between poses more difficult. This could lead to Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine “Yoga-Related Injuries in the United States From 2001 to 2014” View Source , like wrist and ankle sprains. If you’re slipping, sliding, or tripping during your practice, you may need to upgrade.
Some of the best Market Research Report “Yoga and Exercise Mats Market by Material (Polyvinyl Chloride, Natural Rubber, Polyurethane, Thermoplastic Elastomer, Others), Distribution Channel (E-Commerce, Supermarket & Hypermarket, Specialty Store), End-Use, Region - Global Forecast to 2026” View Source for traction—and the environment—are natural rubber, PU, TPE, and cork.
3. Your Mat Is Thinning
Consistent practice is great. However, the consistent pressure from your hands and feet may cause the mat to wear down and become thinner in some spots. You can test the thickness of your mat by performing some poses that require you to put your knees on the ground, like a lunge or cat-cow. If you feel misaligned or off balance, then it’s probably time to replace your yoga mat.
The lack of cushion can cause joint pain, which isn’t conducive to a strong practice. That said, you’ll likely notice shedding and holes in the mat before it starts to thin out.
4. You’re Struggling With Balance
Balance is a buildable skill. But if your yoga mat has lots of bumps that make it feel uneven enough to trip you up or make you feel lopsided, there’s only so much you can build on.
If your mat starts to feel dented enough to make you tumble out of eagle or warrior pose, then you may need to look for a replacement mat.
5. Your Mat is Peeling or Shedding
Shedding is a surefire sign that your yoga mat is ready to call it quits. If you notice flakes around the edges or the top layer of your yoga mat is peeling off, then you likely aren’t getting the stability and support you need to practice at your best.
Plus, that stuff gets everywhere. Rolling up your mat after practice? You’ll find remnants of it scattered throughout your living room for the next few days. Want to try an inversion? Pieces of the mat will fall on your face. Having an extra-sweaty practice? Little rubbery bits will stick to your hands and elbows. Mats made with high-quality materials, like microfiber and rubber, will hold up longer.
6. Your Joints Start To Hurt
If you exercise regularly and notice your joints hurting, it may be because you need a new mat. This pain could occur from yoga mats that aren’t thick enough for the practice you’re doing.
Mats can lose their thickness over time and become uneven with overuse. If you’re practicing Pilates, stretching, or performing complex yoga positions, find a yoga mat that will protect your knees, wrists, and ankles. That said, you don’t want a mat that’s too thick—an extra soft, cushy mat may cause you to trip in some poses. Look for something between 1 and 7 millimeters thick.
How To Make Your Yoga Mat Last Longer
Proper maintenance will extend your mat’s life. When you take care of your yoga mat, you prevent unwelcome smells, wear, and overall degradation.
1. Clean Your Hands and Feet Before Practice
Everyone’s hands carry germs, and it’s easy to spread them to your yoga mat, where they’ll live and grow. But don’t let bacteria scare you from practicing yoga. Wash your hands—and, if you can, your feet—before hitting the mat. This will help prevent the transfer of dirt, grime, and germs to the mat, and is especially important if you’re sharing with a friend, roommate, or family member.
2. Wipe Down Your Mat After Practice
Even with clean hands and feet, your yoga mat will inevitably come into contact with some sweat and oil as you flow. To keep your mat fresh for longer, be sure to wipe down your yoga mat with a mat cleaner (or DIY solution) after every session. This won’t just keep it from smelling yucky; it’ll also prevent dirt and sweat buildup and keep your mat nice and grippy.
3. Use a Mat Towel
If you’re performing a particularly sweaty practice like hot yoga or Pilates, a mat towel can provide a barrier between you and your practice pad. Place the towel on top of your mat while exercising so you receive support from your mat but reduce the risk of drenching it in sweat. Unlike most yoga mats, you can easily throw your towel in the wash, so it’s easy to keep sanitary for every session.
4. Let Your Mat Dry Completely Before Storing
Moisture is often the culprit of bad odor on your yoga mat. While it’s important to clean your mat frequently, you also need to let the mat dry before rolling it up.
Even if you only leave mat cleaner on your mat, its moisture can still create a breeding ground for bacteria. A wet mat is also weaker and can cause your mat to disintegrate.
5. Avoid Prolonged Sunlight
Sunlight can dry your yoga mat quickly after a workout, but too much time in the sun can also fade or even melt some parts of your mat. While you don’t need to avoid sunlight completely, be mindful to not leave your mat in hot, direct sunlight for long periods of time.
How To Clean Your Yoga Mat
Your yoga mat should come with cleaning instructions that are specific to the material. Depending on your yoga mat construction, harsh chemicals may not be the best option for cleaning your yoga mat.
Most yoga mats can benefit from a wipe down with mild soap and a damp cloth. If you want something stronger, look for a cleaner specifically made for yoga mats.
Performing a deep clean of your yoga mat monthly—or bimonthly, depending on your use—can prevent bacteria and dirt from building up. A DIY yoga mat cleaner should be effective, but you should always default to your manufacturer’s care instructions.
DIY Yoga Mat Cleaner
You can make your own mat cleaner with witch hazel or alcohol and essential oils. The oils will leave your mat with a pleasant scent while the alcohol will sanitize.
Buy a spray bottle and mix up the following scented formula:
- 1 cup of filtered water
- 1/2 cup of white vinegar
- 3 drops of tea tree oil
- 1-3 drops of your favorite scented essential oil
For an unscented formula, a simple mix of one part white vinegar and two parts warm, filtered water should do the trick. Note that you should clean natural rubber mats with only water.
What to Look For in a New Yoga Mat
If you’ve decided that it’s time to replace your yoga mat, there are a few things you can look for when shopping for a new one. Quality yoga mats are thick enough to offer support and thin enough not to inhibit your balance. They’re also slip resistant.
You should also do research on the mat’s materials. Natural rubber is a popular option (Lululemon’s reversible mat is made of the stuff) but it contains latex—so people with latex allergies should avoid it. Other options include PVC (found in Manduka and Gaiam’s mats), polyurethane (the Alo Warrior mat and top layer of Lululemon’s mat), and TPE (Heathyoga mat). Whatever material you pick, just make sure it’s something you’re going to want to practice on—and maintain.
Qualities of a good yoga mat include:
- Practice-specific (you’ll want a different mat for hot yoga than pilates)
Before you purchase a new yoga mat, download our app so you can earn rewards! Then, you can put those rewards toward other health-related items.
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- Yoga-Related Injuries in the United States From 2001 to 2014. SagePub (November 2016)
- Yoga and Exercise Mats Market by Material. Markets and Markets (April 2021)
- Yoga for Balance. VeDA (August 2013)
- The Benefits of Yoga for Bad Knees. Very Well Health (January 2021)
- What’s Living on Your Yoga Mat? Philadelphia Magazine (February 2012)
- Beware of Germs. YogaJournal (October 2008)
- How to Clean a Yoga Mat During COVID + What to Bring Hormonely (September 2020)
- How to Clean a Yoga Mat. LiveScience (December 2021)
- How To Clean Your Yoga Mat. REI Expert Advice
- DIY Yoga Mat Cleaner. HGTV (August 2020)
- Why the Thickness of Your Mat Matters. Mind Body Spirit (October 2021)