How To Clean A Desk Mat – The Ultimate Guide

Desk mats and pads are great additions to any desk setup. However, like anything that gets a ton of use, over time your desk mat will start to get a little dirty. Especially if you’ve had the occasional spill, who hasn’t?

Desk mats also just attract and hold a ton of dirt and dust. We talk about how to reduce this in our guide to prevent dust build-up on desks. Also, check out our article on why desk mats are so much better than mousepads.

Today we’re going to walk you through different ways to clean your desk mat so it looks just like the day you bought it. Check out the following article if you’re interested in tips on how to clean your desk in general.!

vacuuming desk mat to remove dirt and make it clean

Both my partner and I are big desk mat fans, and these mats have gained some serious dirt in the past few months. We’re going to walk you through exactly how we clean our desk mats so you can do the same!

Let’s get started with the full clean!

Key Takeaways

  • There are a few methods you can use to clean a desk mat, it just depends on how dirty it is.
  • Surface-level dust and dirt can be cleaned easily with a few quick methods. Stains and discoloration will have to be addressed with a full desk mat wash.
  • Look at your desk mat and first determine what type of cleaning your desk mat will need. Then follow the steps we outline below.

What You’ll Need To Clean Your Desk Mat

The first step here is to get your desk mat ready to be cleaned and prepare what you need to clean your desk mat. Remove your keyboard, mouse, palm rests, coasters, and everything else from your desk mat.

vacuuming desk mat to remove dirt and make it clean

Here is a quick list of what you might need for this cleaning.  Keep in mind that a lot of these items are optional as there are multiple ways to clean a desk mat effectively. We will touch on the different methods later. 

In general, here are the items you may need.

  • Vacuum Cleaner
  • Air Blower
  • Lint Roller
  • Soap or Laundry Detergent
  • Wash Cloth or Soft Bristle Brush
  • Sink or Bathtub
  • Simple Rack For Air Drying

Now that we have those items out of the way, let’s get into the cleaning!

Removing Surface Debris On Desk Mats

Not every desk mat needs a full wash. Even if you do need a full wash, you will be surprised at what a difference removing the surface-level dirt does. We’ll start here.

This desk mat might not look like it has a ton of debris, but check out what happens when I light it from the side with a flashlight! That’s a ton of surface-level debris.

Normally lit desk mat.
The same desk mat is side-lit with a flashlight.

We want to get rid of as much surface debris as much as we can. If you have any crumbs or other powdery debris on the mat, we don’t want to be scrubbing those.

Vacuum cleaning the desk mat.

Vacuum cleaners can make this step nice and quick. Simply use the nozzle end of your vacuum to get all the surface dirt off of your mat. If you don’t have access to a vacuum cleaner for any reason, a simple alternative can be walking your mat outside and shaking out all the loose dust.

While you’re outside, you can also use a small can of compressed air or an electric blower to help push off loose dirt. Be sure to do all the dusting and blowing outside. You will be surprised how much dirt your mat can actually hold. You’ll create another mess for yourself if you do the dusting inside. 

A lint roller can also be a super simple way to remove surface debris from your desk mat. This is especially helpful for any pet hair or lightly stuck crumbs and such. A lint roller has a sticky surface that grabs and pulls away dirt and doesn’t smear it.

Check out the difference in the below before and after pictures. A ton of surface-level debris and pet hair was removed from my desk mat. The remaining particles are actually fibers of the desk mat itself.

Before lint rolling the desk mat.
After lint rolling the desk mat.

At this point, we have either loosened or completely removed all the surface-level dirt that was loose. If you have any stains or discoloration, we’ll address those in the spot cleaning step next.

Spot Cleaning Your Desk Mat

If you only have a small stain on your desk mat, it may not make sense to wash the entire mat. Sometimes only a small area needs some love, this is where spot-cleaning helps.

Only spot clean if you don’t want to do the full wash. If you are doing the full wash, no need to spot clean, that would just be redundant.

Spot cleaning is a much simpler step that’s faster and can take place while the mat is right on top of your desk.

To spot clean, you simply need a small bowl of soapy water and two cloths. One cloth will be for scrubbing with soapy water, and the other cloth will be used for drying. I will be cleaning this green leafy desk mat below as it has plenty of random stains.

The steps are pretty simple:

First, dab the cloth into your bowl of soapy water so you have a bit of soap in the cloth. Don’t over-saturate the cloth. You don’t want soapy water dripping all over your desk.

Next, you want to start agitating the stained spots on your desk mat. Re-apply the soapy water and scrub two or three times until you no longer see the stain.

Lastly, grab your clean drying cloth and add pressure to all the spot-cleaned areas to absorb any water that might be present. Do that a couple of times, each time dabbing with a new dry section of the cloth.

Check out the before and after images of the stained areas on this desk mat! I did not have to scrub super hard on for these stains below.

Viola! Your mat stains should be gone and your mat should be mostly dry. After a day or so, your mat should be completely dry with no trace of the stains!

Washing Your Entire Desk Mat For Stubborn Stains

Now we’re going to get into the meat of the cleaning process: washing! This step is where you will really see results. 

The recommended method to wash a desk mat is by hand. Machine washing is possible and can work well for some mats, but most desk mats will appreciate the gentler hand wash.

For example, if your desk mat has a non-slip bottom that is starting to crack a little, stick to a hand wash. If you have any loose desk mat fibers, a hand wash is also the way to go. For most people, hand washing is the right way to go.

Hand Washing Your Desk Mat

Let’s talk about how we can hand wash desk mats effectively. First, we’re going to need a sink or a bathtub. Because desk mats are pretty large, a bathtub will be the easiest solution here. 

I recommend washing down the tub surface or sink surface just so you have a clean place to work. You can also use a bucket or tub of water. Anything can work here as long as you can submerge the desk mat and scrub the entire surface somehow.

If you have a clean table outside and a hose, you can also use that. A tub just helps you soak your mat which loosens a lot of tough stains. 

Soak Your Desk Mat

Now that we have a clean area to wash our desk mat, submerge your desk mat in water. If you’re using your bathtub, seal off the drain and add cold water until the water level is slightly above the mat thickness. 

This will fully soak your mat with water which makes it easier for the soap to travel everywhere within your mat.

Now add a bit of soap or laundry detergent across the surface of the mat. You don’t need a ton, we’re going to be moving it all around. 

Rub The Soap Into Your Desk Mat

I like to spread the soap by hand and rub it all over the mat surface. Afterward, get out your scrubbing brush. 

If you are using a wool mat, you have to use a very soft scrubbing tool here. A horsehair or a Bohr’s hair brush should be soft enough to do the job. Even a soapy microfiber cloth will be good enough here. A wool mat has lots of loose fibers, so a hard scrubbing brush could rip out and further loosen fibers which will look really bad. 

Scrub your mat starting with the bottom surface. Be sure to scrub the entire surface including all the edges and corners. There’s no need to scrub too firmly either. Because the mat is soaked and the soap is rubbed in, the soap is already traveling deep into the mat.

Scrubbing too firmly could also loosen cloth fibers. The main goal here is to cover the entire surface with your scrubbing brush. Focus on areas that are especially dirty if applicable. 

Flip the mat and now focus on scrubbing the front surface. All the dirt and residue that we remove will rest at the bottom of the tub. That’s why we are scrubbing the front of the mat last, so it’s not sitting in the dirt.

Rinse Off Your Desk Mat

Now that we’re done scrubbing, we can drain our washing area and rinse off the mat. Try to rinse your mat without touching the floor of your washing area. The floor will still have some of the dirt from your desk mat. 

Safely Drying Your Desk Mat

Finally, the last and easiest step! Hang your desk mat somewhere warm for it to be air-dried. 

Do not place your mat in direct sunlight. Direct UV exposure can damage desk mats. They can damage the non-slip backing of your mat, and they can even discolor your graphics. UV rays are known for discoloring lots of things!

Instructions here are simple: hang your desk mat for air drying and do not put it in direct sunlight. 

Also, don’t throw this in your machine dryer. Dryers are where most fabrics are destroyed, even in delicate settings. All dryers have different delicate setting temperatures so there is no guarantee it will actually be delicate.

Don’t risk your desk mat here, patience with the air dry will work well.

That’s it! Your desk mat should be free of debris, odors, and any other dirt. Our deep cleaning should have your desk mat looking refreshed and brand new!

Are Computer Desk Mats Machine Washable?

Desk mats can be machine washed as long as you use the delicate setting with cold water and air dry your mat afterward. Just be cautious about very delicate mats. The more delicate a mat is, the more you should lean toward hand washing.

If you have a mat that is relatively robust, a machine wash could save you a lot of time and manual labor. The hand wash had a good amount of steps. That will be applicable to most people with wool and delicate mats. 

Simply throw your desk mat into your washing machine alone. Add some detergent and set the machine to “delicates” using cold water. 

We want the machine to perform the least intense wash with cold water. Those settings will ensure we impart the least amount of stress to our desk mat.  The machine soaks, washes, and rinses our desk mat for us. Easy peasy. 

Keeping Your Desk Mat Clean

Now that we have a fresh and clean desk mat, how do we keep it this way?

The best way to reduce the amount of dust that lends on your mat is the reduce the amount of dust at your desk. We have a dedicated article on how to prevent a dusty desk.

Another factor that many people overlook is that the items they place on their desk mat might actually still be dirty!

Your mouse and keyboard might have some gunk trapped in their base! If you start using them with your clean desk mat, you see have a dirty desk mat in no time. Take a quick moment to wipe down the base of everything that typically sits on your desk mat.

This way, you have a clean surface sitting on a clean desk mat.

I have my mouse, keyboard, and stream deck all sitting on my desk mat most of the time. Look at the dirt that is trapped underneath!

Check out how dirty the underside of my Stream Deck is below! All that dirt could have been trasnlated to my clean desk mat if I skipped this step!

I rolled the back side of my stream deck with a lint roller, and now it’s perfectly clean again! Also the rubber base became grippy again and doesnt slip when placed on my wood desk! Sweet!

How To Clean RGB Desk Mats

RGB desk mats are basically large versions of RGB mousepads. We have a dedicated article walking through how to clean these RGB devices safely in this article: How To Clean RGB Mousepads.

Before You Go

If you don’t have a desk mat yet, check out our article on why you should be using them. Just be cautious about going for wool or felt desk mats. Also, if you just got your desk pad and it is all curled up, here’s our guide on how to flatten it.

Photo of author


I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!