How do you Keep Jiu Jitsu Mats Clean and Maintain BJJ Gym Hygiene?
Can you imagine training Jiu Jitsu on any other surface than mats? I have tried it, and nothing comes even close. We truly underestimate how important Jiu Jitsu mats are for our sport. What we also tend to underestimate is how potentially dangerous mats can be to our health if they aren’t properly cleaned!
BJJ Hygiene for Gyms
Gyms of all sorts have a reputation of being slightly smelly, the odor a lingering reminder of countless reps and spent calories. Clean is usually too strong a word – perhaps tidy, but not somewhere you’d like to prepare food or perform surgery.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms should be held to a higher standard than other martial arts gyms or commercial fitness gyms as everyone shares the same training space: the floor. And yet, there is often room for cleanliness improvements, both for the mats and for the oft-neglected changing rooms.
We’ve already covered personal hygiene and etiquette – and it’s vital that coaches teach their students BJJ etiquette and the basic principles of hygiene. This includes looking after their personal hygiene, cleaning training gear after each class, showering before training, and adhering to the gym hygiene protocols that are in place.
However, a coach’s responsibility goes beyond telling their students to wash their belts (you’re not washing away the knowledge!) and to take their shoes off. Coaches are the caretakers of their domain and it is their responsibility to ensure that their gym only transmits knowledge and not staph!
Thankfully it is a simple task to provide a safe and clean training environment. We’ve put together a list of easy-to-follow and proven protocols that will protect your student’s health and extend the lifespan of your mats.
For those of you with a home gym – take note! These tips apply just as readily to a garage or basement gym as it does to a huge training facility!
The Anatomy of BJJ Mats
Most of the BJJ mats available for commercial or home use are made up of two parts: the inner core material, and an outer surface layer.
Puzzle mats are the most widespread mats found in BJJ gyms. They are made out of impact-absorbing foam, most commonly EVA (Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate). This is a closed-cell foam with elastic properties that feels like rubber, even though there is no rubber involved. The EVA foam is molded so that it makes up both the core and the textured surface of puzzle mats. EVA foam is waterproof and very elastic.
Rollout mats use cross-linked polyethylene foam, also of the closed-cell foam variety. which is bound to a smooth or textured vinyl surface layer.
The final type of mats are Judo-style mats. These are generally large rectangular mats and often feature hook and loop connectors on the sides. The core is made from an open-cell type of polyurethane foam (XPE high rebound foam). The cover, similarly to rollout mats, is vinyl.
The reason why we are looking at types of mats and the materials used is that both are important factors in the potential spread of germs. If you neglect your mats they can become a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Some Jiu Jitsu ailments, like ringworm, can be notoriously hard to eradicate – prevention is the key!
Best Practices for Cleaning Jiu Jitsu Mats
Caring for your Jiu Jitsu mats in your academy or at your home is not complicated: clean your mats after every training session. Don’t think you can neglect your mats or days or weeks at a time and do a deep cleaning only occasionally! If you do this you’ll only have clean mats for the next training session – for the rest of the time you’re breeding a nasty stock of germs!
This step is pretty straightforward. While it is ideal to vacuum in between every group you have training at the academy, this is most often not an option for busy BJJ gyms. Vacuuming once a day, though, should be the standard.
During training, everyone that steps on the mats leaves something behind. Hair, skin cells, pieces of nails, lint from training apparel, and more all make their way to the mats. Gross, I know, but that is the truth.
Removing this debris is an important step in keeping your mats clean – chemical cleaners disinfect but will not remove this layer of grime! Long term this debris will find its way into the nooks and crannies of your mats and provide your gym with the unlovely scent of old-sweat and harbor disease-causing microorganisms.
BJJ mats are made to be resistant to chemicals, that is the vinyl or foam cover don’t suffer structural damage as a side effect of using certain chemicals, but you still need to select your cleaner carefully. The wrong cleaner (or too strong a concentration of the right one!) can cause unsightly discoloration of the mats.
Also, you have to take into account the possible effects of the chemicals you are using on the skin of the people training on those mats. This one is particularly important with kids’ groups.
When it comes to selecting your cleaning solution, you have two options: buy and use a commercial cleaning product or mix your own cleaning solution. Regardless of which option you choose, your goals are the same: Remove or destroy harmful germs, don’t harm the mats, don’t leave behind harmful residues.
In general, commercially purchased cleaners are going to help you meet these three goals most reliably and safely, although they come at greater cost. Keep in mind that while cheaper incorrectly guessing with a DIY bleach solution might end up damaging your Jiu Jitsu mats or lead to adverse effects on the skin exposed to it.
However, it is just as important to follow the directions of commercial cleaners. Most require dilution. Too little and you risk leaving behind unwanted germs, too much and you’re wasting money and working with unnecessarily strong disinfectants.
The best way to spread your chemical solution is by using a canister with a spray nozzle, preferably one of those larger ones often used in gardening. Larger canisters also save you time as you’ll have to measure and mix your cleaner less frequently, and they allow you to get an even coating of cleaner across large areas.
After you’ve sprayed your mats you’ll want to use a flat push-mop to ensure that every last inch of mat has been thoroughly coated.
The Best Products for Spotless Jiu Jitsu Mats
Now that you know the basics of hygiene for Jiu Jitsu mat, we can take a look at some products that will help with both stages of cleaning. Following the order, let’s start off with vacuum cleaners:
The best vacuum cleaners for cleaning BJJ mats offer enough suction to thoroughly clean your mats with a single pass. After a long day of cleaning you’ll want to have the proper tools to clean your gym quickly and easily!
The Roomba 675 is a smart robot vacuum cleaner that maps out an area and can be left cleaning on its own. In fact, you can schedule it to clean before classes start, and have it do its job after as well. It is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant so you can easily control it with your phone.
Robot vacuums are a great option for busy gym owners who want a set-it and forget-it cleaning option. Let the robot do its thing and then come in afterwards with the spray!
- Features a 3 stage cleaning system that also contains an Edge-sweeping brush for corners and edges;
- Adaptive navigation ensures it will get to every inch of the mat area;
- An adjustable cleaning head automatically adapts the height to the surface it is cleaning;
- Self-charging – No fussing with cables, this robot returns to its dock to charge itself.
This model from iRobot offers more power and features than the less expensive 675 model. Also compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, this powerful vacuum cleaner offers 10x the suction power of the iRobot 600 series and will definitely suck everything off of the mats.
When paired with the Braava Jet M6 robot mop this is a turnkey mat-cleaning solution!
- Improved navigation system ensures orderly and thorough cleaning
- Optional “keep out zones’ prevents the robot from wandering away from the areas you designate for cleaning
- Suggests personalized schedules based on how often you use it
- Capable of pairing with the Braava Jet M6 Robot Mop to vacuum and mop the floors in perfect sequence
If you aren’t quite ready for the robot revolution, the Zebra Mat Backpack Vacuum is a great option and it’s even made by a company that produces Jiu Jitsu mats! As the name suggests, this vacuum is wearable, allowing you to quickly and easily clean large mat spaces.
- Lightweight and ergonomically designed
- Adjustable back support and shoulder harness
- Specially designed floor tools support “back and forth” and “side to side” cleaning
- High-performance 680-watt vacuum motor with 2,000 + hours of life
- Includes extensions to clean hard-to-reach spots and tight spaces
For a chemical cleaner you want something that can effectively eliminate common gym germs while not harming your Jiu Jitsu mats or the people using them. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best BJJ mat cleaners on the market!
This indoor multi-purpose cleaner is appropriate for a wide range of cleaning tasks, including the chemical disinfection of Jiu Jitsu mats at home or in a gym. The cleaner also deodorizes and does not require a mask or protective gear. The packaging features a built-in sprayer which means you can conveniently use the bottle to spot clean small areas.
- Inhibits the growth of germs, including mold and fungi
- Kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses
- Completely neutralizes bad odors
- Does not contain bleach
- Does not produce irritating or harmful fumes
Zep is an effective cleaning and disinfectant product, originally designed for hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and similar establishments. This cleaner offers powerful disinfection without leaving behind any harmful residues.
- Neutral pH won’t affect the color or surface of your Jiu Jitsu mats even after prolonged use
- Cleans, disinfects, and deodorizes
- Kills bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mold
- Does not require rinsing when diluted according to the label
Another disinfectant that is the primary choice for many hospitals, daycares, and nursing homes. Designed specifically to kill microorganisms, it is a great commercial disinfectant choice for Jiu Jitsu gyms.
- Kills 99.9% of germs including Hepatitis B (HBV), HIV, Staph (including MRSA), herpes simplex types 1&2, influenza type A2, rotavirus, and many more
- Deodorizes in addition to disinfecting
- Meets OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen standards for HBV and HIV
For people looking for a bio-based cleaning option, Bioesque’s Botanical Disinfectant Solution is a great choice. Made from plant-based materials, this disinfectant has been shown to effectively kill the Coronavirus in just one minute. This cleaner has a pleasant lemongrass and grapefruit scent.
- Proven virucidal, bactericidal, fungicidal and tuberculocidal properties
- Sanitizes surfaces in as little as 2 minutes and requires no rinsing
The Fujimats MatPro mat cleaner is a concentrate specifically designed for Jiu Jitsu mats. Fujimats is a brand that makes some of the best BJJ mats on the market. Their cleaner’s formula allows for complete disinfecting, deodorizing, and sanitizing of all surfaces.
- Has a broad spectrum of antimicrobial properties (Including MRSA, VISA, VHIV-1, HBV, HCV; Influenza A, human corona and SARS-associated Coronavirus, pathogenic fungi, and many more)
- Meets the CDC recommended criteria for cleaning and disinfecting hard non-porous surfaces.
- Made specifically for use on Jiu Jitsu mats.
Do It Yourself Mat Cleaner Recipe For A Home Gym
If you want to take care of home mats and you would prefer an all natural way of cleaning them, you could opt for a DIY cleaner. Putting one together is not hard and it will help you get rid of dirt, grime and germs.
To begin with you will need the following:
- A spray bottle
- White vinegar (or witch hazel)
- Essential oils, such as tea tree oil
DIY Home Mat Cleaner Recipe:
- Fill your spray bottle with 1 part vinegar and 4 parts water.
- Add 2-4 drops of essential oil to give your cleaner a pleasant scent and to enhance its cleaning properties. Tea tree oil has antimicrobial properties.
- Shake the bottle gently to combine everything.
- Apply cleaner generously to your mats. Use more than you think you will need. Afterwards, use a towel or push mop to ensure even coverage.
- Allow your mats to air dry completely before training
Cleaning Other Gym Surfaces
Keeping your Jiu Jitsu mats clean is just the tip of the iceberg for having a clean gym. It is vital to keep your gym’s toilets, showers, and changing rooms clean and tidy for optimal gym hygiene. Some of the recommended mat cleaners like Virex All-Purpose Disinfectant Cleaner work here, but many general-purpose products are available.
Changing rooms cleaning requirements will vary with the frequency and number of people that go through them. Since you don’t have to worry as much as with Jiu-Jitsu mats, using heavy-duty solutions is a perfect option in this case.
A 5% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 20 parts water) is a powerful general purpose disinfectant and is effective against a wide range of germs including Covid-19. You can improve the mixture by introducing just as much 70% Isopropyl Alcohol as you did bleach to the mix. The resulting solution is great for spraying on all kinds of non-porous changing room surfaces (walls, hangers, lockers, benches, and floors).
Hygiene in a BJJ starts with the people that come to train and ends with the Jiu Jitsu mats we spend so much of our time on. As long as you lay down and enforce some general personal hygiene guidelines, you’ll take care of the people factor.
Ogi is a brown belt and very passionate about Jiu Jitsu.
He is also the head coach of Carlos Maia BJJ Macedonia and Globetrotter.