Stepping out of a shower on to a fluffy, warm bath mat is one of the simplest pleasures in life. So you don’t want to step out of a refreshing shower only to put your feet in a cesspool of bacteria.
Bathroom mats are notorious for harboring serious gunk and grime. Toilet mats can contain urine and feces particles, and bath mats are known to host mold and mildew. Your bathroom is where you take care of your hygiene. You don’t want hidden grime and bacteria damaging your health and wellness.
If you want to keep your bathroom clean and sterile, you need to clean your bath mats regularly.
When to wash bath mats
The frequency of washing your bathroom mats depends on how many people use the bath mat and how often. The more time the bath mat spends wet, the more frequently you need to clean your mat.
The warmth and moisture in the bathroom becomes a breeding ground for mildew, mold, and fungi. The humidity from the shower is what causes those black mildew spots in the corner of your shower and the peeling grout in between the tiles. That same steam can also seep into your bath mat, sitting there without any way to dry. This causes a buildup of moisture—and bacteria love moisture.
This is especially problematic because the bath mat is up against the floor, so it has no way to dry or circulate air. This can quickly create unwanted, unhealthy growths. It’s also where you step with your wet feet and where you drip off as you’re drying. Bath mats are designed to catch water—and it holds that moisture, breeding bacteria until you wash your mat.
The more you use your shower, the more moisture can get trapped in your mat. This means there’s a directly proportional relationship between use and washing.
However, if your rug has a non-skid rubber backing, the backing can take a beating with frequent washings. We recommend cleaning these mats every 3-4 weeks in cold water. You can also spritz them with white vinegar weekly to kill bacteria without damaging the mat.
If the rug doesn’t have a rubber backing, it should usually be washed weekly or every other week.
You know it’s also time to wash if you look down and see discoloration or black mildew marks. Your bath mat should also not have any smells (which can be an indicator of bacteria).
Thankfully, washing your bath mat or toilet mat isn’t hard. It takes no time at all once you know the proper care and maintenance steps.
How to wash bath mats
1. Check the care tags.
Before taking any action, look at the tags on your bath mat. This will tell you what the mat is made of and how to properly care for it. Follow manufacturer instructions for laundering.
Check out this guide for understanding laundry tags.
2. Shake out mats.
Before you wash the mat, you’ll want to shake out any excess debris. You’ll be surprised (and disgusted) at the amount of dust, hair, and dirt that will fly out of the fabric of your bath mat. Shake it out as much you can to avoid clogging your washing machine.
If your bath mat has a rubber backing, you’ll want to rub it down with a dry microfiber cloth. This removes any excess gunk and dust that may have accumulated.
You may even want to wear gloves if your bath mats are mildewy, smelly, and haven’t been washed in awhile.
Tip: Anytime you have the vacuum out, vacuum your bath mats too. This is a quick and easy way to pick up extra grime and gunk before washing.
3. Throw in the washer.
Most bath mats can be laundered in the washing machine. You’ll want to wash them on a cold or warm setting. We typically recommend cold water because it helps prevent color running, fading, and discoloration. However, warmer water can help kill bacteria particles better.
Never use hot water if your mat has a rubber backing. Hot water can actually cause the plastic to melt.
You should use a gentle, eco-friendly laundry detergent. We also recommend adding half a scoop of baking soda. This helps get rid of odors, brighten colors, and reduce bacteria. You can also add 5 drops of lavender essential oil. It’s a natural antimicrobial that will help get rid of mildew while adding freshness and a light scent.
Note: Make sure you don’t overload the washing machine. Wash each bath mat separately and individually from other fabrics or towels.
4. Put in the dryer or hang dry.
If your mat has a rubber backing, do not put in the dryer. The heat of the dryer can melt the plastic grip.
To air dry, hang so that the widest area of the mat is exposed to the air. If possible, you might want to air dry outside in the sun on a clothesline or portable clothesline. The sun can help kill any additional particles and odors for added freshness.
If you can’t dry it outside, hang the mat over your shower rod or bathtub edge to let it drip dry.
If your mat doesn’t have a rubber back, you can put it in the dryer. Bath mats typically require at least two cycles because they’re thick and take some time to dry.
Ongoing bath mat care
1. Have multiple mats.
Bath mats can take awhile to air dry because they’re so thick and fluffy. If you have a lot of people in your home, you may want to have another bath mat on hand so they can shower while waiting for the cleaned mat to dry.
2. Select the right bath mat.
Some bath mats are easier to clean than others. Memory foam mats look nice, but they’re challenging to clean.
We recommend good old-fashioned cotton. Cotton is easy to care for because you can throw it in the laundry and spot clean as necessary.
Bamboo is another great option. These wooden mats are naturally antimicrobial and they dry quickly. This makes them easy to maintain and require less frequent cleanings. Rather than throwing these in the wash, you simply wipe them down with an antimicrobial solution. (Some bamboo mats can go in the wash if they’re a bamboo fabric.) Plus, they look chic and are safe for use!
3. Look for damage.
If the rubber backing of your mat is cracked or peeling, it’s time to get a new mat. You don’t want to wash a mat with a peeled back, because the rubber can break off and clog or damage the washer.
Don’t risk damaging your washer. Get a new cotton or bamboo mat.
4. Don’t keep towels in the bathroom.
Because bathrooms are such humid environments, we recommend storing the majority of your towels in a separate room. This helps avoid mold or mildew growing in your “clean” towels. The only mats in your bathroom should be your toilet and shower mats—and those need to be cleaned often!
Note: Some experts also say you should keep your medications out of the bathroom for this reason as well. Don’t store any temperature-sensitive items in the bathroom.
5. Focus on ventilation.
Make sure your bathroom is ventilated. This could mean a built-in ventilation system or a separate fan for your bathroom. You may also want to consider using a dehumidifier in your bathroom to remove moisture from the room.
Ventilation ensures steam doesn’t settle into the bath mat or other areas and cause mold, mildew, and bacteria.
After getting clean and fresh in the shower, you want to step out onto something clean. This is especially important since the bottom of your feet touch the most bacteria throughout the day—and then hang out in your comfy, cozy bed all night!
Keep your home clean and family healthy with frequent bath mat washings. Your bathroom mat needs extra love and care, even more than other linens, because of its tendency to attract and breed bacteria.
How do you keep your bathroom grime-free?
Let us know in the comments below!