TPE Yoga Mats - What You Need To Know Before You Buy
TPE is basically the manufacturing world's response to yoga customers' concerns for making a “safer” yoga mat. Yet, is it really that safe?
We’ll examine these mats in detail to give a full 360 view on this material, why it’s used in mats to begin with, and ultimately - if they even make for a good yoga mat at all.
I’ve compiled a list of questions I feel will help you make an educated decision on whether TPE yoga mats are a good mat to buy, or if you’d rather look elsewhere.
You’ll also see a few recommended mats you should check out. The are some of the highest rated mats available today.
Let’s dive right in and find out exactly what this material is...
What is a TPE?
TPE stands for thermoplastic elastomers. Interestingly enough, there are 9 different types of this material.
I understand most people reading this (my self included) do not have an advanced degree in chemistry. Just know that for now TPE makes for a good yoga mat material because it is resistant to tears, stretches well, and provides a good amount of cushion.
Top TPE Pick
This mat is basically a knock off of Liforme’s flagship yoga mat. If you’re looking for a budget choice over a more expensive model then this might be a good pick for you.
Why use TPE?
As I mentioned earlier, the basic properties of this material make for a good yoga mat. When you are walking, moving, sliding, and digging your hands into your yoga mat, you want something durable.
These yoga mats are far from being a natural material, but manufactures and customers often choose TPE because it’s far cheaper to make and has many of the same properties as rubber or even silicone.
Are TPE Mats Good?
The short answer is, yes! They are good - at least in terms of how they perform when doing yoga.
The overall feel of these mats is pretty close to that of top tier mat companies like Manduka and Jade. They are also much cheaper - typically half as much or even a third!
So the question is, why would you want to pay more for something that’s basically the same?
In all fairness, rubber mats are of much better quality and will last you longer. Furthermore, top tier mat companies tend to have more ecologically friendly processes and products when it comes to manufacturing yoga mats.
Overall, TPE mats are pretty darn good - just not quite as good as rubber ones.
This is one of the premier quality rubber yoga mats on the market.
Jade is a fantastic company that gives back by planting a tree for every mat sold! To date, they have planted over 2 million trees!
TPE vs PVC Mats
The use of TPE for yoga mats, at least in part, came about as a result of wanting to move away from PVC yoga mats.
If you’ve ever seen a yoga mat for $10 or $15 in a sporting good store then you’ve probably seen a PVC yoga mat. They get the job done, but they are fairly toxic overall.
There’s basically no part of a PVC yoga mat’s lifecycle that is non toxic. From manufacturing and emissions to even the mat being biodegradable - it’s just not an ecologically friendly process.
TPE mats are a big step above because they are safer to manufacture and will actually break down in a landfill.
Is TPE Safe?
The jury is still out on this question…
It is a blend of synthetic materials that have yet to be thoroughly tested on humans.
Most all TPEs are free from the big toxins we would all recognize:
- And other noxious chemicals
Overall, TPEs are accepted to be generally “safe,” but that’s up for debate. Actual proof is pretty scarce. We do know that these materials are used in contact with humans all the time.
You have probably seen them:
- As grips for handles on tools
- As sealing rings on car parts
- As liners and/or seals on soda bottle caps
- And even as soft spoons for babies.
I understand the logic of, “well if it's used in everything else then it's probably fine in a yoga mat.” isn’t the most sound reasoning… If your standards of what you come in contact with prevent you from touching any of the above items then you’ll want to stay away from TPE.
My personal choice is this… If I couldn’t afford a top quality and more “natural” $120 yoga mat, then I’d be happy to settle with a $40 that provides close to the same performance.
Is TPE safe for babies?
This is the ultimate question right?
Do you trust it enough for your baby to crawl around on it and even chew on the corner of the mat?
This is a personal choice. Given the section above on how much we know about this material, you’ll just have to decide for yourself. Look here if this is your primary concern with regards to the safety of TPE for babies.
Are TPE Yoga Mats Bad For The Environment?
The short answer is, “kinda, not really.”
I know that may sound frustrating because they either ARE or ARE NOT bad for our planet. Again, this all depends on which viewpoint you choose to take.
Technically, this material is biodegradable and also recyclable. That’s two positives right there. At least you know it won’t be sitting in a landfill for 1000 years. It’s also good to know you can recycle your old yoga mat as well.
On the negative side, we may need a dose of reality. Biodegradable can mean many things. You can bet that a quasi plastic yoga mat won’t break down nearly as fast as a brown paper bag. In terms of recycling - can you put your old stinky yoga mat in curb-side recycling bins? Probably not...
The Factory Is Also A Consideration
If we look at the bigger picture it’s not just the mat itself we need to worry about. The factory is also a major factor.
As a cross example, most Manduka yoga mats are made in Germany. This country has VERY high ecological standards in place so you can imagine they are doing everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint.
Sadly, most yoga mats made from TPE will come from countries that do not have these high standards.
It’s all a matter of how deep you want to consider the ecological impact of your buying decision.
If you want a certified ecologically friendly company then look no farther than Manduka.
They are a leader in the yoga space for a reason. Their mats last forever, their customer service is second-to-none, and you’ll love the feel of your mat from the moment you step on it.
Is Rubber Better Than TPE?
The short answer is easy on this one. Yes... Yes it is…
Rubber made from natural rubber trees is biodegradable, and will last you a very long time. If you are considering a rubber mat like a Manduka or Jade then there’s no comparison really.
Rubber mats will outperform TPE in every category. Well, every category but price that is. You can expect to pay around $40 for a TPE mat. A top tier rubber mat costs between $70 to $150.
If you can afford it then here is one of the top performing yoga mats on the market...
How much would you pay for a yoga mat?
Well, if it’s arguably the “best” then you’d pay top dollar right?
The LIforme mat has the best grip of any yoga mat on the market. You could be sweating buckets with a literal puddle under you and you still won’t slip.
Furthermore, the “AlignForMe” design on this mat has been copied by many tpe mat manufacturers in an attempt to duplicate it. The fact remains, Liforme is the original.
If the environment is your number 1 concern then I strongly urge you to look into cotton yoga rugs.
They check all the boxes when it comes to being non toxic. It’s sustainable, organic, biodegradable, and overall the best pick for an ecologically friendly yoga mat.
Ekaminhale mats are handmade!
These yoga rugs are the best option for anyone with the strictest of ecological standards.
Beyond being an eco friendly choice these mats also deliver on performance. The texture provides for a solid grip, the size is slightly wider than most yoga mats (28 inches), and its machine washable.
How Long Will A TPE Mat Last?
A TPE yoga mat will last you about 1 to 3 years depending on how often you use it.
Certain cleaners can break these mats down and cause them to wear out quicker with use. It’s always best to use the company recommended cleaner for your yoga mat.
This has a lot to do with open cell mats and closed cell yoga mats…
Closed Cell Vs Open Cell Mats
Open cell yoga mats have a top layer that is open for germs and bacteria to more easily get inside your yoga mat.Closed cell yoga mats have a top layer that prevents harmful organisms from entering your mat.
Some companies brag about being open cell because it provides better grip. This might be true in some cases, but I would rather have a closed cell mat that isn’t a breeding ground for germs.
Blue Box “Best Closed Cell TPE Mat”
Best Closed Cell TPE Mat
So why would you even want an open celled mat?
Let’s look at how slipping and sliding around on your yoga mat comes into play when answering this question.
How Slippery is a TPE Mat?
Grip can be a big consideration when looking into a yoga mat.
Some yoga mats will have a good grip when your hands are dry, but not when wet. On the flip side, you may have fantastic grip when your hands are a bit moist.
This is often why you see people use a spray bottle on their yoga mats before doing yoga. Just a little mist of water can go a long way.
The question of if your mad is going to slip or slide however, depends on if it is an open cell or closed cell.
On Your Hands
Open cell TPE mats will have a bit better grip. This is good if grip is your primary concern, but I’d advise against it as these mats will break down easier and are more susceptible to germs.
Closed cell TPE mats will cause you to slip if you sweat a whole lot. If you are a profuse sweater then I’d say you’d be best to go with a towel on top of your mat.
On The Floor
With an open cell construction you’ll notice that the mat sticks to the floor really well. This should be true for even dusty hardwood floors that can cause a normal mat to slip around easier.
When you have a closed cell mat surface on the bottom (imagine the top and bottom layer are that smooth glossy finish) then you’ll have a mat that could slide on hard surfaces.
The best option is to get a mat that has a closed cell on the top and a slightly rough, bubbly, closed cell layer on the bottom. This way you get the best of both worlds.
Best Dual Layer Mat
If you’re looking for these mats then just be sure to pay attention to how the top looks vs the bottom.
It should be easy to tell the closed cell surface on the top, it’s smooth, but not slippery. The bottom will look bubbly - almost like you could easily pick part of it away if you were to dig your nails into it. This is how you know you’ll have a dual layer mat.
If we take into consideration all of the above you find two common themes emerge. One is the ecological side and two, is the price side.
Overall, TPE is a moderately ecologically friendly choice. There are absolutely better materials out there, but at least it’s not PVC. Please stay away from PVC mats as best you can.
The price of a TPE yoga mat will run you around $40 depending on which you choose. If you feel saving money by going with one of these mats over a more expensive natural option is better, then that’s your decision.
Any comments or questions feel free to let us know below!