Notice an odd smell coming from your yoga mat? If you just bought the mat that’s what is known as the famous “new yoga mat smell”.

But if you’ve been using your mat for quite some time now, that unpleasant odor is a sign you haven’t cleaned your mat in a while.

Today, we will be discussing the possible reasons your mat smells, the best way to get rid of these smells, and how you can avoid these smells in the future. Let’s dive in!

Reasons why your yoga mat might smell

There are only two main reasons why your yoga mat might smell. The first reason is that your sweat has been absorbed by the mat and requires immediate cleaning. The second reason depends on the material your mat is made of.

A natural rubber mat is harmless but does have a weird odor when it is newly opened. Once you’ve given it some time to air out, the smell will go away quite quickly. If the smell is stronger and takes a while to go away it’s possible that what you’re smelling are chemicals. This would indicate that your mat is either a PVC or an NBR yoga mat – bad news.

What is a PVC and NBR yoga mat?

PVC and NBR are two different kinds of yoga mats made from plastic, synthetic rubber, and a plethora of toxic chemicals.

So the “new yoga mat smell” that everyone talks about is actually the smell of chemicals. Now, we know that this may have you concerned, and for good reason. These kinds of mats are not only bad for you, but they are also bad for the environment.

PVC Yoga Mat

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or vinyl, for short, has caused quite the stir in the yogi community. Many beginner yogis have pointed out that PVC mats usually have a dizzying smell to them. This has made a lot of people in the community concerned and rightfully so.

PVC mats are also known as “poison plastic” thanks to the number of harmful chemicals found in them. Some of the main chemicals found in PVC are called phthalates 1 and dioxins. Phthalates are a group of chemicals that help PVC yoga mats become more flexible and durable. Heavy metals such as lead and cadmium are also found in PVC yoga mats.

These substances have all been listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as carcinogens or possible carcinogens to humans 2. Carcinogens are substances that increase the risk of cancer in humans. A majority of these substances, including the ones in PVC yoga mats, can be harmful if ingested or inhaled.

If you like to do a lot of hot yoga or Bikram we highly suggest avoiding the use of PVC yoga mats. Back in 2018, a study found that when a PVC yoga mat is exposed to heat at 104 degrees Fahrenheit, it begins to release the phthalates into the air 1. That temperature is just about the same in most Bikram classes.

NBR Yoga Mat

NBR or Nitrile Butadiene Rubber is a kind of synthetic rubber. It is commonly used for yoga mats due to its thick cushioning making it a very comfortable material for yoga mats.

Unlike, PVC it doesn’t contain any phthalates. But NBR does contain Butadiene, which is a probable carcinogen according to the IARC. Butadiene is also responsible for making yoga mats smell like gasoline.

How to get rid of the smell from a yoga mat

Now that we understand the possible reasons why your yoga mat smells, here are a couple of things to help you get rid of the smell. And – spoiler alert – the washing machine is not an option!

Products that help reduce the smell from yoga mats

There are a few products you can rely on to help manage the odors from your yoga mat. It’s important to be proactive when cleaning because, at a certain point, odors will become permanent.

Yoga Mat Spray or Wipes

There are tons of yoga mat sprays and wipes available in the market. But these products don’t get rid of the smell entirely.

They are more of a temporary solution and only work if the smell is very faint. They are often used more as a supplement for when you’ve finished deep cleaning your mat rather than a cleanser itself.

Apple Cider Vinegar

If you feel like your yoga mat needs a little bit more cleansing instead of just trying to mask the smell, you should use apple cider vinegar.

It has great anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. All you have to do is mix it with water in a 1:1 ratio, put it in a spray bottle, add a couple of drops of your favorite scented essential oils, and spray it onto the entire surface of your mat.

Baking Soda

If the apple cider vinegar doesn’t work, baking soda should. Just sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda onto every inch of your mat and let it sit for about 30 minutes.

How to properly hand wash a yoga mat

Because most yoga mats are quite delicate, the cleaning procedure might damage them. So you don’t want to deep clean your yoga mat all the time, and you definitely do not want to put it in the washing machine.

A washing machine will tear up your mat. This is why you should avoid letting your mat stink up as much as possible. Make it a habit to wipe down your mat and spray it with some store-bought or DIY yoga spray after each use. If you’re proactive in cleaning your mat, you can prevent odors from building up in the first place. Here are 6 simple steps to restoring the freshness of your mat:

  1. When washing your yoga mat you want it to be fully unrolled and open. Find a space large enough to fit your yoga mat such as a bathtub and fill it up with warm water—not hot.
  2. Add 1 whole cup of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar and no more than one teaspoon of dishwashing soap. If you put too much soap your yoga mat will become slippery, which can be very annoying.
  3. Make sure your yoga mat is fully submerged in the water and soak it for 30-60 minutes.
  4. Remove it from the water and gently scrub the surface of your mat to get rid of any surface dirt.
  5. Find a place where you can roll out the mat and dry it by stepping on it to squeeze out the water.
  6. Leave it to air dry completely and if you’re planning to leave it outside, make sure your yoga mat isn’t rubber because the sun will make the color of your yoga mat fade.

Tips to avoid smelly yoga mats in the future

To avoid making your mat smelly in the future make sure to follow these tips:

Wipe down your mat after every yoga session, then apply mat spray or apple cider vinegar spray for extra freshness. Air out your mat if it’s new or if you just finished a particularly sweaty yoga session, such as after a hot yoga class.

And if the smell never goes away, it’s time to replace your mat with a cork mat.

Why cork yoga mats are the best choice

A cork mat is made from the same cork you’ll see in wine bottles and cork boards. The material comes from the bark of a cork tree. And did you know cork has natural antimicrobial properties? But it doesn’t end there – cork mats are also water-resistant.

That means you won’t have to worry about it smelling like chemicals or absorbing your sweat. So you can say goodbye to your smelly yoga mat forever once you’ve got yourself a cork mat.

Pureful Yoga – The Best Anti-Microbial Cork Yoga Mat Online

Never face a smelly yoga mat again, with Pureful Yoga’s collection of organic cork yoga mats! We have two kinds of cork mats, the original cork yoga mat and the cork yoga mat with alignment lines.

Our yoga mats aren’t just eco-friendly, antimicrobial, and water-resistant. They are also very durable and can last up to one to two years long while most mats only last 8 to 12 months.

Another great thing about our cork mats is that they’re sticky—not sticky with sweat—but have a strong grip to keep you from having one of those slippery yoga moments.

And if you’re interested, we also sell cork yoga blocks and a yoga mat bag to complete the set. Ditch the rubber mats—once you switch to cork you’ll never go back!