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Cork yoga mats are not only cool but they are also remarkably functional and non-toxic mats that have some amazing properties that make doing yoga with them a joy.
You are going to be surprised about just how cool cork yoga mats are. And before you ask…Yes, cork yoga mats can be rolled up.
So now let’s dig into everything you need to know about these amazing natural yoga mats.
P.S. If you just want to jump to our recommended cork yoga mats, you can click HERE.
What Is Cork?
Cork is a raw material valued because of its economic use. It is harvested from the bark of the Cork Oak Tree and is used as a base material for many modern products, including cork yoga mats.
According to the study done by Leite and Pereira (2017), industries often treat the bark of trees as residue and there are limited studies done to understand bark development, properties, and chemistry. However, the bark from the Cork Oak Tree (Quercus Suber) is an exception to this.
This is because the cork from this tree is highly valuable as a foundational material used in many unique and valued products, including some of our favorite yoga mats.
Cork can be harvested from a cork tree without killing the tree and will regrow in time. On average, the bark from a Cork Oak Tree can be harvested about every nine to twelve years.
It’s good that we can harvest cork without killing these trees because they are slow-growing trees that live about 250 years!
The Cork Oak tree is found in the southwestern parts of Europe as well as in the northwestern parts of Africa. Cork Oak trees also grow in Morocco, Algeria, France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
The Cork Oak trees are known for their majesty. These trees usually grow to about 30 feet tall, though they can grow up to 65 feet or 20 meters tall.
The Cork Oak Tree is also known as an Evergreen tree. This means that the tree never sheds its leaves.
What Are Cork Yoga Mats?
Cork yoga mats have a top surface made of the natural cork from a cork oak tree and they usually have a backing made of either natural rubber or TPE. This combination makes cork yoga mats some of the most natural and least toxic yoga mats available.
Cork yoga mats have a smooth surface and are very absorbent.
Despite its smooth surface, the great moisture absorbency of cork allows for sold grip and stable yoga practice.
Advantages Of Cork Yoga Mats
Cork yoga mats are very comfortable, making them ideal for anyone with tender knees, hands, or feet.
Cork yoga mats are natural since they are created from material harvested from nature.
Cork mats are also hypoallergenic because they don’t contain latex which is a common allergen in rubber yoga mats.
Properties Of Cork Yoga Mats
Cork is used in a lot of industries today. According to a study conducted by Pereira (2015)2 cork and in turn, cork yoga mats have the following properties: low density, buoyant, not easily permeable to liquids, exhibit elasticity and do not fracture under compression. Cork also exhibits great durability.
Cork is a cellular material. This means that a cork material is made up of a network of cells.
The metaphor used to visualize this “network” is a honeycomb. The interiors of each honeycomb segment are filled with air.
Cork has a unique cellular structure that gives it its unique and interesting properties as a raw material.
The unique properties of cork yoga mats make them a popular choice for yogis.
Cork yoga mats are soft and have a great grip that makes for a stable practice. Cork also has antibacterial properties and this makes cork yoga mats not only one of the most durable choices but it also makes it the more sanitary choice.
How Cork Yoga Mats Are Made
The cork used as the raw materials for cork yoga mats is harvested from Cork Oak trees. The bark of the trees is peeled off and turned into the cork used for yoga mats.
No trees are cut down during the harvesting process. The trees can regenerate their bark and can be harvested again in about nine to twelve years.
Once the bark is harvested, the cork has to be prepped before it can be molded into the smooth surface of a cork yoga mat.
First, the freshly harvested cork bark is cured or dried out. This is often done in full sunlight.
After the cork bark is thoroughly cured, it is taken to a processing facility to be cleaned and processed.
The process of cleaning cork bark removes any dirt left by its long exposure to the sun and any debris that comes from its previous life as part of a tree; cleaning cork also renders the material softer and more malleable.
Then the cork bark is inspected for quality. Only the highest quality cork bark is destined to be part of a cork yoga mat.
This high-quality cork bark is then soaked and boiled in a natural fungicide mixture to ensure that no fungus survives in the bark and will be safe to be made into final products.
Once the cork is done being boiled, it once again undergoes a process of drying. When completely dry, the cork is shipped to different facilities to be molded and manufactured into the finished product, like our favorite yoga mats.
12 Advantages Of Cork Yoga Mats
- Basically odor free
- No chemicals that can be toxic
- Does not contain common allergens
- Has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties
- Very easy to clean
- Cork is smooth and soft to the touch and adds cushioning for the joints
- Cork is less dense than rubber and is lighter and more travel friendly
- Cork Yoga mats get grippier when yet
- Doesn’t easily absorb odors.
- Cork exhibits elastic properties, so you don’t have to worry about it losing its shape because of use
7 Disadvantages of Cork Yoga Mats
- Cork mats need to be damp to activate their grip. It tends to have less traction when it is dry
- Will develop creases if folded
- Less durable than some manufactured mats
- Minimal choices when it comes to design unlike rubber, PVC, or TPE yoga mats
- Can be damaged by exposure to direct sun for extended periods
- Cork is very soft so it can be punctured accidentally
Cork Yoga Mats FAQs
Are cork yoga mats 100% made of cork?
Authentic cork yoga mats are 100% made of natural cork on the topside (the side that faces you during your practice). However, all cork yoga mats have a backing of another material to make the mats more durable and to insure a solid grip on the floor under the yoga mat.
The underside of most quality cork yoga mats is either made from natural rubber or TPE.
Natural rubber backing creates one of the most natural and non-toxic yoga mats available, but it’s really heavy and quite pricey.
TPE backing isn’t as natural as rubber, but it’s generally considered one of the least toxic materials for yoga mats. It’s as comfortable as natural rubber and a fraction of the weight and cost.
It is worth noting that some manufacturers offer synthetic or fake cork yoga mats at a lower price. Synthetic cork yoga mats can be made of any of the standard yoga mat materials, and they are simply designed to look like real cork.
Fortunately, it’s easy to spot a fake cork over a real cork.
First, while fake cork mats have a visual “cork pattern”, they don’t feel like real cork. Secondly, fake cork mats have a manufactured smell while real cork yoga mats smell…natural.
Are cork yoga mats eco-friendly?
Cork Yoga Mats are one of the most eco-friendly yoga mats available. The most eco-friendly cork yoga mats will have a natural rubber backing. The next best are the mats that have TPE backing.
The cork used to make yoga mats is sustainably harvested, not heavily chemically processed, durable, and biodegradable
Natural rubber is also sustainably harvested, durable, and biodegradable.
TPE is not sustainably harvested, but it is durable and contains less toxic chemicals than other options.
Are cork yoga mats sustainable?
The cork used to make cork yoga mats is 100% sustainable and renewable. Cork bark is harvested from Cork Oak Tree without needing to cut trees down. The cork can be harvested without killing the tree and will regrow on the living tree. Cork can be harvested about every nine years.
Also, when the cork is harvested from the cork oak tree, it allows for the tree to absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide harvested in turn is converted by the trees into oxygen that we need to live. Amazing, right?
Keep in mind that the backing on cork yoga mats complicates the answer of sustainability.
Natural rubber backing is sustainable.
TPE backing isn’t natural or really sustainable, but it is considered healthier than other options.
Are cork yoga mats recyclable?
Cork yoga mats, much like other materials made out of cork are recyclable. You can try to be creative and repurpose your mat to serve another purpose such as coasters, or outdoor sitting pads. But, some manufacturers also collect used cork yoga mats and recycle them to produce new yoga mats as well.
Our team recommends that you check with your yoga mat’s manufacturer to see if they have any initiatives for recycling worn-out mats.
However, keep in mind that cork yoga mats are quite durable so they will serve even the most active yogi for years.
Are cork yoga mats toxic?
Cork yoga mats with natural rubber backing are not toxic. Cork yoga mats are 100% natural and since cork is sourced from trees it does not contain any harmful allergens or toxins that can be harmful to the user. The same is true of natural rubber.
Cork also has natural antimicrobial properties, so rest assured that your cork yoga mat can stay fresher for longer.
There are no synthetic smells from cork rubber yoga mats too. Some find the synthetic smell that comes with other synthetic materials bothersome especially since some asanas require that you keep your face close to the mat.
We don’t know about you, but we are digging the slightly earthy, woody smell of cork yoga mats. It makes us feel grounded and connected to nature. And isn’t that what yoga is all about? To feel connected to nature?
How do Cork Yoga Mats compare to PVC, TPE, and Rubber mats?
|Cork is natural, non-toxic, light, durable, latex-free, hypoallergenic, and has a good grip especially when misted prior to your practice. All cork mats have a backing of some non-cork material.
|TPE is one of the healthiest manufactured materials for yoga mats. It is affordable, durable, and light. It has a good grip and does not contain latex.
|PVC is perhaps the most unsustainable and toxic raw material commonly used for a yoga mat. PVC is purely synthetic and can be toxic when inhaled or ingested. However, PVC is really inexpensive.
|Natural rubber is a non-toxic and sustainable material, but it is expensive and heavy. It has a very strong rubber odor that can be offputting. Can also trigger allergies, especially latex allergies.
How To Clean And Take Care of Cork Yoga Mats
Cork yoga mats are not any more difficult to clean or care for than most other types of yoga mats.
Cork does not easily absorb odors and has natural antibacterial properties. Both of these properties mean that most owners of cork yoga mats clean their mats less often than common with other mats.
The best way to clean a yoga mat is to spray it with a mixture of 3 parts water and 1 part white vinegar. Allow the spray to sit on the cork for three minutes, then wipe it off with a clean dry cloth. Repeat the process until the clean dry cloth remains clean after wiping.
Then leave the yoga mat flat on the floor to completely dry before rolling it up.
Also, remember to not leave a cork yoga mat in direct sunlight for too long as the direct sun can damage the cork.
Best Cork Yoga Mats Available
Best Premium Cork Yoga Mat
The Luxury Cork Yoga Mat by Body By Yoga is not inexpensive, but it is natural, sustainable, and high-quality.
The Luxury Corg Yoga Mat comes is made from Portuguese Cork and uses six times more cork than most cork yoga mats. This means that this yoga mat has a thicker layer of cork than most which make it the softest and most comfortable cork yoga mat that our team has ever tried.
The backing on this mat is a thick layer of natural rubber which gives it a great grip on the floor and adds, even more cushioning to this luxury mat.
As an added bonus, this yoga mat is larger than most mats available. It is 80″ long, 26″ wide, and 6.5 mm thick.
It comes in three designs, one that is plain, one with just a center alignment line, and a third with both vertical and horizontal alignment lines. We prefer the one with both types of alignment tools.
We are in love with this cork yoga mat and we are pretty sure that you will fall in love with it too!
Best Mid-Budget Cork Yoga Mat
The CorkTec NonSlip and NonToxic Yoga Mat is a great cork yoga mat that cost about 30% less than our premium choice.
Once again, this yoga mat is made of all sustainable, biodegradable, and renewable raw materials including the natural rubber backing.
It is a standard-sized yoga mat at 72″ long, 24″ wide, and 4.5 mm thick.
Note that is roughly 30% thinner than our premium choice above. However, this also means that it’s a lighter cork yoga mat.
It does come in two designs, though neither is particularly striking.
Overall, this is a great mat for the money.
Best Budget Cork Yoga Mat
The Giam Cork Yoga Mat is the best cork yoga mat for budget-conscious yogis.
The top surface of this yoga mat is 100% natural cork and the base is made of TPE rubber.
The cork surface gives you all the advantages of cork yoga mats, and the TPE backing has some great advantages, but it is not as environmentally friendly as the natural rubber used on the other mats we recommended.
However, the TPE backing is lighter, more durable, and significantly less expensive. This mat is roughly a third of the price of our the recommended premium cork yoga mat.
This yoga mat is also a bit smaller at 68″ long, 24″ wide, and 5 mm thick and only comes in a plain design.
Still, for the money, it’s a great cork yoga mat.
Leite C and Pereira H (2017) Cork-Containing Barks—A Review. Front. Mater. 3:63. doi: 10.3389/fmats.2016.00063
2Pereira, H. (2015). “The rationale behind cork properties: A review of structure and chemistry,” BioRes. 10(3), 6207-6229.