You are probably familiar with felt as a material to make arts and crafts for children. But, do you know yoga mats can also be made of felt?
The felted wool yoga mat is becoming popular in recent years. Yet, felt is not a new material. In fact, it’s one of the oldest non-woven compressed fabrics used for thousands of years. Felted wool yoga mats have some benefits and disadvantages, depending on how you use your yoga mat.
In this article, we’ll have a look at felted wool, what it is, how it’s made, and whether buying a felted wool yoga mat is a good idea.
What Is Felt?
Felt is one of the oldest non-woven compressed fabrics. It’s said that it was discovered by chance when a man put some wool into his sandals to prevent him from getting blisters. Then, his feet’ moisture and friction caused the wool to shrink and tow together to produce a cloth-like felt. So this was the Eureka idea to start creating felt.
Felt has been around for thousands of years, in places like Mongolia where it’s used to make their tents called yurts and clothing.
Initially felt was only made out of wool. However, nowadays, felt can be produced industrially where wool fibres are mix with synthetic fibres such as nylon and polyester.
How Are Felted Wool Yoga Mat Made?
Felted wool yoga mats are manufactured industrially. Felt is a non-woven compressed fabric. The raw materials to make felted wool should be only wool. However, it’s common practice to mix the felt with other fabrics such as polyester or nylon to give more longevity and resilience to the end product.
The mixing ratio to be considered felt is a minimum of 30% wool and 70% other synthetic material.
If you are thinking of buying a felted wool yoga mat, ask the company for the percentage of wool in their mats and the type of dye they use to colour them. Some synthetic colours can be toxic.
When using a mixture of wool and other synthetic fibres, the first step is to mix them to distribute them evenly. Then the fibres are carded, this is like brushing the wool fibres to make them into a mesh.
Felt making consists of compressing the wool fibre mesh. Each fibres mesh layer is subjected to hot steam to reduce the fibres’ length and width and make them thicker. Then layer after layer of wool mesh is added. Hot steam or hot water and sulfuric acid are applied every time until the desired thickness is achieved. Then, neutralising soda ash (Sodium carbonate) and warm water solution are added to stop the sulfuric acid reaction.
The felt is then pressed with a roller to squeezed the water out and put to dry on hot metal beds or sent to a huge centrifugal dryer.
Once the felt is dry, it’s iron to ensure consistent thickness. Finally, the felt is cut to measure and trim. The leftovers from the trimming are sent to landfill.
Traditional Felted Wool Yoga Mats
Traditionally felted wool has been used for thousands of years. In Mongolia, it has been used to make the walls of the yurts, hammocks and clothing.
Felted wool yoga mats are a recent addition to items made of felt. Only a few suppliers use 100% wool to make felted yoga mats in a traditional way without dying the wool.
The traditionally made felted yoga mats are created by pouring hot soapy water on the wool fibres and then stomping on the wool. This process causes the fluffy wool fibres to shrink into a dense solid pad. Then the felt is washed in a washing machine.
These felted wool yoga mats are a much better alternative to the industrial ones. But they are also a bit more expensive.
Pros and Cons of a Felted Wool Yoga Mat
If you are considering buying a felted wool yoga mat. Here are some of the pros and cons to help you decide:
Pros of a Felted Wool Yoga Mat:
It’s thick, so provides good cushioning for your knees.
It’s a good insulator from the flooring.
It can have some designs printed on them.
Suitable for calm types of yoga such as Yin and Kundalini yoga, and meditation.
Cons of a Felted Wool Yoga Mat:
It can be difficult to carry to the studio.
It can be difficult to store as it doesn’t roll very neatly.
If it contains other fibres than wool, keep in mind your product is not 100% wool.
The dyes used to colour the felt could be toxic.
Felt is a recent new addition to the yoga mat materials. There is not an ample amount of suppliers or size options to choose from.
They can be slippery on the flooring.
They don’t have much grip.
Things to Consider when Buying a Felted Wool Yoga Mat
If you have weighed the pros and cons of felted yoga mats and decided this type of mat is for you. Here are some things to keep in mind when buying a felted wool yoga mat:
- Felt composition (pure wool or wool/synthetic blend)
- The thickness of the felt (10-15mm are an excellent option for Kundalini and Yin yoga)
- The manufacturing process (traditional vs industrial)
- Dyes used in the mat (some of them are toxic)
- Design printed on the mat (pure choice)
- Size of the mat (buy a mat that is at least the same length as your height)
There are only a few felted wool yoga mat suppliers and provide little information about their making. So, if you doubt how the yoga mat was made or which materials were used, contact the seller and ask these questions. Remember they are interested in the sale so they will answer your questions.
Felted wool yoga mats are a good yoga mat option if you want a thick and soft mat.
This type of yoga mat is best for meditation or calm types of yoga, such as Kundalini or Yin yoga.
If you think of getting a felted wool yoga mat, keep in mind that the industrial felted wool yoga mats are not 100% made of wool. So, always check with the company before buying it if having a pure wool mat is a priority for you.
Felted wool yoga mats that are made industrially use a significant amount of sulphuric acid to compact the wool fibres and synthetic dyes. If the felt is made in third-world countries, it’s likely that the companies don’t comply with environmental regulations. Even worse, environmental regulations for industrial wastewater may not even be regulated.
Why is this important? Buying a product that has created a lot of toxic waste during its manufacturing is damaging the environment.
In yoga, we aim to create a better inner world and contribute to a better outer world. So non-polluting practices should be in our minds when buying the things we use for our yoga practice and daily lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Often Should You Replace Your Yoga Mat?
There is not an exact time or date for you to replace your yoga mat. But, you will know it’s time to replace it if:
• The material is literally breaking apart.
• The material is getting cracks.
• It has lost it’s bounced, and it’s no longer comfortable.
• It’s has flattened and become slippery.
• It no longer has a good grip to have a safe practice.
• It’s stained and looks old as the material is degrading.
What Can I Do with my Old Yoga Mat?
You can reuse your old yoga mat. There are many options and ideas to convert your old yoga mat into another loved item in your home.
Cotton yoga mats and wool yoga mats can straight away become a rug or a blanket for your dog or cat.
You can cut it and make a couple of home rugs.
You can make a few garden chair covers.
You can donate them to shelters for homeless people, refugees or animal rescue centres.
Can You Recycle a Yoga Mat?
Recycling your yoga mat depends on the material the yoga mat is made of. PVC is a non-recyclable material, and it’s toxic for you and the environment.
A few companies have their yoga mat recycling for their own brand and some others also recycle your old mat when you buy from them.
But for the most part, synthetic yoga mats aren’t recyclable