How To Use A Sauna


Whether you use it as an enjoyable experience reserved for vacation or as a routine of your gym workout, a relaxing and hot sauna provides health and relaxation benefits. Saunas can get heated up to 195° F, so knowing how to use a sauna properly is very important. Wood interiors and unpainted walls are a standard in these small rooms. Another important part of their heating system is sauna rocks, which are commonly used in their design.

Using a sauna may seem pretty straightforward – you get in and you sweat. But, since there are several different types of saunas you might not know what is the proper way for every type. For example, Turkish-style saunas usually have a lot of moisture. On the other hand, Finnish saunas usually use dry heat.

How to Use a Sauna

You won’t have to worry about etiquette if you are lucky enough to have a home sauna. However, there are certain rules you should follow if you are using a sauna with other people in public (for example in a gym). Here are some things you should keep in mind if you want to know how to use a sauna properly:

  • Make sure you take a quick shower when you are done with a workout, but before entering the sauna.
  • Keeping the heat inside the sauna is ensured by making them airtight. This is why you have to enter and exit very quickly. The heat is released whenever you open the door, so make sure you do it expeditiously.
  • Some saunas accept nudity, but others require some clothes. Take a look at the sauna to see whether you should be wearing a sauna suit or a towel before you enter.
  • Using a sauna without a towel is usually not allowed, whether you are nude or not. Sitting directly on the bench is never appropriate, so remember to bring a towel inside.
  • Stretching in the crowded sauna should be avoided.
  • The temperature in the sauna will sometimes be too hot or too cold for you. Make sure that everyone inside the sauna is fine with you adjusting the sauna thermometer. You can always change your seat level to adjust the temperature the way it fits you.
  • Do not be rude and don’t make a lot of noise. Most people go to a sauna to relax and you should not be the one who ruins that for them.
  • You shouldn’t groom or brush your hair while inside a sauna. Also, shaving is very inappropriate.
  • Do not leave bobby pins or band-aids around.

Safety Tips

There are important safety measures you should follow and be aware of, whether you’re using a private or a public sauna. Of course, saunas have their advantages and disadvantages.

  • Saunas may not be appropriate for everyone, despite their benefits. You will have to consult with your doctor before you get into a sauna, especially if you have unstable angina, heart failure, diabetes, abnormal heart rhythm, or uncontrolled high blood pressure. Having any of these conditions will require you to cool down slowly. Your doctor should be able to tell you exactly how long you should stay in a sauna.
  • Don’t get into a sauna if you are pregnant and you haven’t consulted with your doctor beforehand. Also, if you are trying for a baby, make sure your doctor knows you use a sauna.
  • Taking medications that make you drowsy, or medications that can disrupt the regulation of your body temperature should never be combined with a sauna.
  • To avoid dehydration, drink at least one glass of water before and after you use a sauna.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol if you plan to use a sauna that day. Alcoholic beverages after sauna are also not recommended. The same goes for recreational drugs.
  • Make sure you use a sauna backrest if you have back pain while seating.
  • Large meals before a sauna are usually a bad idea.
  • Not knowing how to use a sauna properly may have negative effects on your health. The American Journal of Public Health published an article that says that 10-15 minutes is more than enough for healthy people. Listen to your body and start slowly if you’re just starting to use a sauna. Don’t spend more than 5 minutes inside. Once your body gets used to the heat the tolerance will also increase and you will be able to spend more time inside a sauna.
  • Sauna is very relaxing and you may feel a bit sleepy when you go in. However, make sure you don’t fall asleep while you are inside, especially if you are alone.
  • Exit the sauna immediately if you start feeling dizzy.
  • Traditionally, using a Finnish sauna will end up with a jump in cold water. Those with heart conditions or other health problems should avoid doing this. Also, jumping into cold water after spending some time in the sauna can be bad for pregnant women. Let your body temperature return to normal gradually if you belong to any of these groups.
  • The heat inside a sauna will increase the temperature of the scrotum. You should avoid saunas completely if you’re trying for a baby since regular sauna use can lower the amount of sperm you produce.

Traditional Finnish Sauna Use


Give yourself a sufficient amount of time to enjoy a traditional Finnish sauna, according to the North American Sauna Society. There are some general steps and rules you should take:

  • Rinse off in a shower and drink at least one glass of water before you enter the sauna.
  • Without adding humidity, enjoy the heat of a dry sauna for about 10 minutes.
  • Rinse off in a second shower after you exit.
  • Drink something refreshing when you are done with the sauna to cool down your body.
  • Get back into the sauna for another 10 minutes. Ladling the water onto the sauna rocks will add steam to the room.
  • Traditional Finnish saunas usually have a traditional whisk you can use to massage or gently beat the skin. It is also known as vihta. The whisk is usually made of oak, birch, or eucalyptus and is used to soften the skin and reduce muscle aches.
  • Wash your body thoroughly when you exit for the second time. Drink a glass of water again to cool down.
  • Enter the sauna for the third time and spend another 10 minutes inside.
  • Once you exit, roll in the snow to cool down. You can also use a cold outdoor pool. Finnish saunas usually have cool-to-cold indoor showers you can use if you are extremely uncomfortable with the other two options.
  • Grab a snack and drink at least one glass of water after you cool down. Relax for as long as you need afterward.
  • When you notice that your body is completely cooled down, start dressing, and prepare to exit the building.

How do Saunas work?

As already mentioned above, there are different types of saunas. This is why you have to know how to use a sauna before you enter – not all of them work in the same way. Some of them use the Finnish model, with dry heat, ladle, and a water bucket. Others generate dry heat only. Another very popular type of sauna is Turkish, which is similar to steam rooms in design and function. Wet heat is a standard in Turkish-style saunas.

Using a sauna properly means that you know how the heat is generated in it. There are a few heating methods that most saunas use:

  • Infrared saunas use infrared heaters to generate electromagnetic radiation and heat only your body instead of the entire place. Such saunas typically have lower temperatures, usually around 140°F. People usually prefer either infrared or steam saunas.
  • Wood burning saunas work according to traditional methods of burning wood to heat sauna rocks or generate embers. Such a technique produces dry heat and low humidity. The rocks may be splashed with water every 10 minutes or so to heat the room and add bursts of humidity.
  • Electric heaters are used by many gyms and health clubs to heat the sauna rocks to high temperatures. The result is the same as with wood – dry heat and low humidity. But, there are major differences between wood-burning and electric saunas.
  • Steam from boiling water generates high humidity and wet heat. It is used in most Turkish-style saunas. Such saunas are also called steam rooms or Turkish bathhouses.

Steam Room vs. Sauna

Steam rooms are airtight and small. They are made from materials (acrylic, tile, or glass) that can endure wet heat. Steam rooms are heated by special generators that work by turning water into steam.

The temperature in the steam rooms is around 110°F. But, they may feel much hotter than regular saunas because their humidity is close to 100%. Saunas are kept between 150°F and 195°F, with low humidity rates of 5 to 10 percent.

Steam rooms and saunas usually have several seat levels. The higher the set is, the higher the temperature will be. A steam room and a sauna are often located next to each other in health clubs. However, they feel and look different because they do not use the same type of heat. Both provide various health benefits and relaxation. You can choose what suits you best according to your needs.

Uses of Steam Room and Sauna

Many people use both types of relaxation during one visit to the gym or alternate their use. But, there is no definite rule for which you should use first. Some people like to start by visiting the sauna and ending by going to the steam room. No matter which orders you choose, taking a quick shower as well as drinking some water between your sessions is the way to go.

Additional Information on Saunas

Using a sauna was discovered over 2000 years ago in Finland. There, sauna bathing is an essential part of the Finnish lifestyle. You can see them everywhere – from homes and community centers to business locations.

This type of relaxation may have been brought to America by Finnish settlers during the 1600s. Sauna is a Finnish word that means bathhouse, or bath. Steam rooms, steam baths, and saunas of different kinds are commonly used in many cultures and countries. A lot of people use saunas for weight loss as well.

You may enjoy exploring different options. For example, you may want to try Russian banyas. They combine elements of steam rooms and Turkish saunas. Russian banyas are typically made of tile and wood and they can be communal and large.

Banyas usually heavily rely on sauna whisks and they use moist heat. You may even find some banyas that have employees that will massage you with a whisk during the experience. Banyas are very popular in Brooklyn because there are a lot of Russian immigrants which are also usually the owners too.

There are also Japanese traditional communal baths called Sentos in the USA. Most of them are located in Hawaii and California. Sentos are usually constructed to hold many people and there are hot and warm pools of water available. Some of these are filled with dense and dark minerals, and others are gently warmed.

Another relaxing option is natural, outdoor hot springs. These are usually heated naturally by geothermal groundwater. This is also the reason why you can’t bathe in them – they get too hot.

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Knowing how to use a sauna properly is very important if that’s part of your gym routine or if you just enjoy relaxing in it frequently. Inappropriate use can lead to some serious health conditions. This is also extremely important if you’re using a private sauna since there probably won’t be anyone to help you if anything goes wrong. On the other hand, using public saunas will be much easier since there are usually employees who set up everything for you.

Make sure you don’t use a sauna if you have a serious health condition. However, if you want to use it, make sure you consult with your doctor whether your body can withstand such high temperatures.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!