There are dozens of ways to practice yoga, from Hatha to hot, but only one essential piece of yoga equipment: a mat. Whether you invest in a high-end yoga mat or grab a communal one off the shelf at your yoga studio or class, it will provide a necessary surface for your practice. Here’s how to make sure it’s a safe one.

Keep it clean. Like any type of workout gear, mats can get sweaty — and germy. While no studies have found that yoga mats directly cause infections, it stands to reason when you’re in a pose that brings your head in contact with the mat, you easily could be rubbing your face in bacteria, viruses or fungi that could potentially make you sick. Here are some tips for cleaning your yoga mat from Sky Meltzer, CEO of Manduka, a leading yoga mat maker:

  • Wipe it down regularly. How often depends on your practice, says Meltzer. “If you have a particularly vigorous, sweaty practice, give your yoga mat a gentle wipe down after every use. Otherwise, think about cleaning your yoga mat about as often as you clean your floors,” he advises.
  • Use the right stuff. “You can use a commercial yoga mat cleaner,” Meltzer says, “or simply mix equal parts water and apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle. The vinegar offers both a natural disinfectant and an emulsifier that will break up oils on the surface of the mat. Plus, it’s kinder to the planet than white vinegar because usually it’s processed less.” You also can use a 50/50 mix of water and tea tree oil, which also is a natural disinfectant. Never use bleach on your yoga mat, though. It may leave a toxic residue that can get on your hands, body or face. “Bleach also could cause permanent discoloration and damage to your yoga mat,” says Meltzer.
  • Spray, wipe, dry. To clean the mat, unroll it and spritz it all over with whatever cleanser you’re using — about 20 times. Wipe off the cleanser with a damp cloth. Let the mat air-dry. (If you have a two-sided mat, do both sides.) Meltzer suggests allowing your mat to air out as often as possible regardless of whether of you wipe it down or not.
  • Play it safe with communal mats. If you’ll be practicing on a studio mat and mat cleaner is available, wipe down the mat before and after class. You can buy prepackaged yoga mat wipes if your gym or studio doesn’t supply cleaner. Another option: Put a layer of protection between you and a shared mat with a microfiber sports towel. “Laid out over the surface of the mat it will offer a hygienic barrier between you and the mat — and will keep you from slipping,” says Meltzer.

Related: How to Stay Germ-Free at the Gym

Bring it inside. It may be convenient to leave your mat in the trunk of your car, but doing so can cause it to wear out faster. Temperature extremes can speed up the degrading process, explains Meltzer. The same goes for exposure to direct sunlight. If you like to practice outside, never leave your mat behind afterwards.

Related: Why You Should Take Your Exercise Routine Outside

Don’t lose your grip. When a mat starts to deteriorate, pieces can flake off at the edges. Those flakes can be toxic, says Meltzer. “And if you notice that your mat has developed couch cushion-like sinkholes where your hands and feet usually go, it’s not longer supporting you safely. Those depressions could cause you to lose your balance or to slip and fall.” As soon as you notice these signs of wear-and-tear, invest in a new mat.

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