Sauna Etiquette; This is Exactly How to Use a Public Sauna (2023)

Are you new to saunas? If so, you might be wondering what to do in there.

Maybe you have used them before and want to learn the etiquette in public saunas.

Saunas are a great way to improve your health, relax, and recover. But they can be intimidating for newer users.

I was in a sauna with a first timer recently. It looked like he came from a club with a gold chain, nice watch, and fresh white Nikes, to go along with street clothes. A couple of minutes in, he started to sweat. He began to realize that he was not in the right attire. His gold chain and watch got too hot. He left just a few moments later.

Not knowing how to use a sauna prevented him from an amazing experience.

Most people aren’t taught how to use a sauna. There is also a lack of sauna etiquette because people don’t know what to do, what to wear, how long to be in for, and how to behave.

Follow these steps to use a sauna properly, avoid problems, and learn the unwritten rules:

How to prepare for the sauna

Public sauna etiquette – how to use a sauna

You will have the best possible sauna experience if you prepare in advance. This includes planning your time, hydrating, eating (or not), and making sure to clean yourself well beforehand.

Give yourself time

Sauna bathing is a therapeutic experience, not to be rushed. You will also need time to get ready and recover.

Finnish sauna experiences can be hours long, with plenty of breaks in between. Sure, you can cram in a 20 minute sauna session to fit in tight schedule. That isn’t ideal though.

Prepare 45 minutes, at minimum, as general guidance.

When should you use a sauna?

There is no best time.

Using the sauna post-workout has a lot of benefits, especially to repair your muscles. It is a great way to de-stress from your day in the evening.

I get my intense brain work done before because I feel like a cloud after an intense sauna session.

Some people like to start their day with a sauna. Ben Greenfield uses his infrared sauna in the morning.

It’s up to you and your schedule.

(Video) Sauna Benefits | Rules in a Sauna

Hydration

There is a surprising amount of controversy around how much water you should drink. Some blog posts say 32 oz. while others say 2 glasses before sauna use.

You don’t need to measure your water intake because some blog post tells you to. Realistically, your body knows how to hydrate itself.

As Dr. Tim Noakes said on the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast:

“People should drink to thirst.That’s all you have to know…humans evolve in a very hot arid environment… we have all the evolution controls developed through over the last 3 million years to make sure that we drink when we need to drink. And we drink exactly the amount we need to. What the sports drink industry did, very effectively, was to say you can’t believe your subconscious controls.You have to do it consciously. And that is absolute nonsense.”

Dr. Tim Noakes

In short, drink water to thirst. Listen to your body.

And don’t drink Gatorade. Gatorade is loaded with sugar.

Electrolytes are important; however, Gatorade over-exaggerated the “science of hydration” in order to sell its products. Your body regulates it’s sodium levels so you won’t sweat out all of your sodium, he says.

If you are losing 1.2 grams of salt every hour that you’re exercising, it’s because your diet has too much salt in it. And that’s where it’s coming from.

Dr. Tim Noakes.

If personally noticed that when I have a lot of salt in my diet, I taste the salt in my sweat.

You are better off making your own home “Gatorade”, without the sugar. For example, I use fresh lemon and lime juice with the mineral-rich Celtic Sea Salt, Stevia, and Thorne Creatine.

Sauna while fasting

You can use the sauna in a fasted state. There are amazing benefits to working out, or sauna bathing, while fasted. Ben Greenfield wrote a post about it here and talks about it on this podcast episode:

I frequently use the sauna at the end of my fast, before eating.

The benefits of fasting include burning more fat, having more energy, repairing your gut, better focus, improving immune and brain health, and much more.

Dr. Rhonda Patrick is one of the leading experts on fasting and sauna use. She has great content on the benefits of training in a fasted state here.

You do not have to fast. Just make sure you have had plenty of time to digest if you eat before use.

Don’t eat right before using a sauna: Sauna bathing has a similar cardiovascular effect of exercise.

(Video) Sauna etiquette

For the same reason you don’t eat a plate full of rich, fettucine alfredo pasta right before running a 5k, you don’t eat before a sauna session.

Take a shower before entering

The sauna is supposed to be a hygienic place. Too many people come into the sauna with shoes and sweaty workout clothing.

Clean off whether you are coming from a workout, the pool, running errands, or your mattress.

Use warm water to raise your core body temperature so you can sweat sooner in the sauna.

What do you wear in a sauna?

Nothing.

Dry off from your shower, wrap that towel around your waste, then get in the sauna.

The heart of the sauna culture stems from Scandinavian countries, where nudity is commonplace. It isn’t taboo nor sexy; it’s human nature to be naked. We are all humans and there shouldn’t be any shame in that!

Most Americans won’t go nude. Wrap a towel around your waste if you feel uncomfortable, or if nudity isn’t allowed. Wear a clean bathing suit if it is required. Not one that you just used in a pool loaded with chlorine.

Our clothes are often made with toxic chemicals. These chemicals can be linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and other problems we’d like to avoid. Plus, these clothes were not meant to be heated to such high temperatures in the sauna, where chemical run-off is more likely.

Your clean body, after a shower, is more hygienic than your clothes that carry who knows what bacteria and chemicals.

Many people roll their eyes at these toxic claims, so if you are not convinced, think of it this way. It is much more comfortable to sweat shirtless than sweat into a cotton shirt, underwear, and never-mind wearing shoes.

Towels

It’s best to bring 2 or 3 towels. At minimum you’ll need one to sit on and one to clean off with, after your shower. A third if you plan to lie down on the bench. S

Etiquette inside the sauna

Close the door tight! Enter and exit quickly. Always completely shut the door to keep the cool air out.

It isn’t proper etiquette to swinging the door open, letting the hot air escape as you leave. Too many people do this.

Choose where to sit: The top benches are hotter because hot air rises. The bottom benches are at heater level and are not as hot. Remember to sit on your towel.

(Video) Sauna Tips for Beginners

Relax: The sauna is an incredible tool for recovery and relaxation. Ease the tension in your body as you sit down.

A public sauna isn’t the place for working out or yoga. It is about being, not doing.

The sauna is not a place for drying your clothes, for your gym bag, or for grooming.

The beginning of your sauna session is easy. It gets challenging when you’ve been in there for a while. Your heart rate is rising and you will feel a similar discomfort as you do when pushing yourself during exercise.

You can calm your response by being more meditative or staying present vs. fidgeting around.

Joe Rogan describes in his podcast with Mark Sisson that he keeps his hands crossed, doesn’t move, and feels each bead of sweat on his face. He doesn’t move around or wipe off the sweat.

That may sound extreme; however, you’ll notice the difference.

How long do you stay in the sauna?

Some articles arbitrarily decide how many minutes you should be in the sauna without knowing the temperature in the room, your heat tolerance, and your health situation.

When you look at the authors who post these articles, they are not sauna experts. Many are freelance journalists who clearly are not frequent sauna users.

A Healthline article says “At maximum. Don’t use the sauna more than about 15 minutes at a time.” The article sites the previously mentioned Harvard article saying “stay in no more than 15-20 minutes” without any reason for that “guidance”.

Even the public sauna I use has a sign that says “never spend more than 10 minutes in a sauna”. That’s laughable, but clearly there as a liability disclaimer.

Actual Scientific research (not arbitrary opinion) shows the health benefits of sauna use dramatically increased for those who spend at least 20 minutes in the sauna, compared to those who used it for less than 19 minutes.

The typical temperature in public saunas is between 160-185 because of limits on how hot the sauna heaters are allowed to get.

You will last longer in a sauna at 160°F than at 220°F. The higher the temperature, the more robust the effects.

Listen to your body. The more you use the sauna, the longer you will be able to stay in it over time. This is called heat acclimatization.

Get out to cool off when you reach discomfort like dizziness or lightheadedness. You can always go back in the sauna once you have cooled off to continue your session.

(Video) Proper Sauna Etiquette- Reed Chuda

Be respectful of others

The sauna is an important social scene. Its where friends and family can share laughs, stories, and have deep conversations. I’ve met plenty of people in public saunas. If you are at a public gym, you’ll probably recognize the same people who are frequently there.

Others choose to keep to themselves in public saunas. Do not disturb those people.

Read the room. Don’t make a lot of noise when everyone is relaxing or have disruptive conversations.

Do not have any audio coming from your cell phone. It’s mind blowing that people think it is ok to put their music on speaker phone around other people. That goes beyond sauna etiquette into common decency.

You shouldn’t even bring your cell phone into the sauna. It will overheat. AirPods work so you can leave your cell phone outside of the heat.

And please don’t take phone calls inside. No one wants to hear your business.

Make steam

Use situational awareness.

Löylyis the spirit of the sauna and the steam that comes from pouring water over the rocks.

This makes the room feel hotter and more humid. The moist heat from the steam helps you sweat more and your muscle relax. It is more pleasant to breathe in the moist air compared to the dry heat.

Use a bucket and ladle to pour the appropriate amount of water. And stand back as you pour the water so you don’t get blasted with hot steam.

Cold plunge

A cold plunge is the finishing touches of a sauna session. Many Scandinavian cultures jump into a cold lake or body of water. A cold shower also does wonders to cool your body down.

Cold shocking your body has amazing benefits like improving your mood, makes you more alert, it fights against neurodegenerative diseases, and relaxes your muscles.

Repeat

You can do several sessions going from hot to cool. Hotcold therapy is one of the best longevity practices out there.

This can be done by simply leaving the sauna to cool off, then going back in.

Sauna do’s and don’ts

Do this in a sauna:

  • Hydrate to thirst
  • Give yourself time
  • Bring at least 2 towels
  • Shower
  • Close the door quickly
  • Relax into the heat
  • Be respectful of others
  • Start gradually
  • Leave if dizzy or feeling unwell
  • Finish with a cold plunge

Don’t do this in a sauna

  • Go into the sauna sweaty or dirty
  • Rush your experience
  • Bring your phone inside
  • Sit naked, directly on the bench
  • Bring bags
  • Dry your clothes
  • Groom
  • Workout or exercise in the sauna
  • Be loud or rude to others
  • Try to last as long as possible in the sauna
  • Swing the door open when you leave
  • Skip the cold shower

Considering an infrared sauna? Check out this comparison page.

FAQs

What is the etiquette for saunas? ›

Rinse off any sweat or dirt so you enter the sauna fresh, everyone in there with you will appreciate it. Stay aware of your space. Public saunas can get crowded, so be courteous and be wary of how much space you're taking up. If someone new joins the sauna, make room for them so everyone can sit comfortably.

How do you use a public sauna? ›

Before you enter the sauna, drink one to two glasses of water and rinse off in a shower. Warm yourself in a dry sauna for up to 10 minutes without adding humidity. Exit and rinse off in a second quick shower. Allow your body to continue to cool down by drinking something refreshing, such as water.

Are you supposed to go into the sauna naked? ›

Conclusion. Going nude to the sauna is hygienic and probably the best choice of all. There is no other way to get the ultimate enjoyment and feel all the benefits of sweating. The best of all, if you enter the sauna naked, you don't need to worry about what to wear.

Should you sit on towel in sauna? ›

You should use sauna naked, however you should remember that you must always lie down on a towel and keep your feet on a towel to prevent sweat sinking into timber panels. It is recommended to wrap your hair in a towel to prevent it from excessive drying caused by the hot sauna air.

What do you wear in a sauna room? ›

Cotton is perfect for absorbing excess heat waves. It also allows your skin to breathe properly. Even with cotton clothing, you should still keep a towel close by. Sit on it to keep your sauna clean and help you stay away from bacteria.

What are the benefits of sauna? ›

Possible health benefits
  • Easing pain. Increased circulation may help reduce muscle soreness, improve joint movement, and ease arthritis pain.
  • Reducing stress levels. As the heat in a sauna improves circulation, it may also promote relaxation. ...
  • Improving cardiovascular health. ...
  • Skin problems.
  • Asthma. ...
  • Lower risk of Alzheimer's?

Can I bring my phone in a sauna? ›

You should not bring a smartphone into a sauna or steam room because they often exceed the recommended maximum operating temperature of 113°F or 45°C and could experience permanent damage under those conditions.

What do you bring to a sauna? ›

Bring clean towels and sandals to the sauna.

You'll need 1 towel to lay on the sauna bench so you can sit on it and 1 towel to wrap around your body during or after saunaing. If you're using a public sauna, wear sandals or flip flops. You could also bring in a light snack and some water to drink.

What to do after using a sauna? ›

After using the sauna, experienced users recommend taking a cold shower or a dip in any icy body of water before visiting for another session. Take it easy and stay hydrated. If you're not ready or comfortable with a second round, take a final shower and make sure to drink plenty of water.

Can I wear AirPods in sauna? ›

Don't wear AirPods in a sauna or steam room. Don't expose AirPods to high-velocity water, such as while water skiing. Avoid dropping AirPods or subjecting them to other impacts.

Do you wear shoes in a sauna? ›

Do not wear shoes in a sauna. You can opt for sandals or some flip flops to avoid walking barefoot when heading to your sauna, but take them off once you get inside. Wearing shoes in a steam room not only looks ridiculous but also is impolite to the other people sharing the sauna with you.

Does wearing a hoodie in the sauna help? ›

Increases Body Temperature Faster

What's more, the head is one of the key areas to respond to temperature changes. With your head covered by the hood, you'll notice a far more efficient body temperature increase, providing an ideal environment for heat stress proteins.

Can I go in the sauna with clothes on? ›

Cotton is the perfect cloth for relaxing in the sauna, as it absorbs excess heatwaves and allows the skin to breathe properly. Even if they are cotton, avoid wearing any tight clothes, including underwear. Any bras worn into the sauna should be loose-fitting, breathable, and free of underwires.

Should you talk in a sauna? ›

Keep the conversation cool.

Some people like silence in their sauna and some like to chat. If you are going to talk, then make it light and relaxing. Most people who are new to a sauna will just want to talk about the heat anyway.

Do you wear socks in the sauna? ›

Whatever you do, never wear your sweaty gym clothes in a public sauna. If you step into the sauna wearing your sweat-soaked clothing, without showering – then you can bet someone is going to call you out for it. And rightfully so! Take off your shoes and socks as well.

How hot is a sauna? ›

Most sauna users stick to temperatures of around 80C for periods of five to six minutes, according to Finnish Sauna Society chief executive Kristian Miettinen. However, a self-confessed "sauna freak", he usually heats the room to 100C, while others regularly prefer short three to four-minute bursts at 130 to 140C.

Does sauna lower blood pressure? ›

"The high temperatures in a warm tub or sauna cause your blood vessels to dilate, which lowers blood pressure," says Dr. Adolph Hutter, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Is it good to have a cold shower after a sauna? ›

With the combination of exposure to both the heat from your sauna and the chilly embrace of a cold shower, users can experience a boosted array of benefits, including further improving circulation, muscle relaxation & recovery, reduction in inflammation, hypertension, and arthritic symptoms.

Does sauna reduce inflammation? ›

The concentrated heat in a sauna stimulates circulation with oxygen-rich blood flow which helps reduce inflammation and swelling to alleviate chronic pain. So for those with muscle and joint pain, sauna is a must.

Does sauna help you lose fat? ›

The sauna may be able to help you burn some extra calories, but don't bank on sweat sessions alone to shed pounds. It isn't an effective tool for real weight loss.

Can you bring an iPhone into a sauna? ›

However, all phones will stop working in extreme temperatures or break down. Saunas have extremely high humidity, which can cause water or heat damage on most phones, even if they are water-resistant.

Can I wear Apple Watch in sauna? ›

Water resistance isn't a permanent condition and may diminish over time. Apple Watch can't be rechecked or resealed for water resistance. The following may affect the water resistance of your Apple Watch and should be avoided: Wearing Apple Watch in the sauna or steam room.

What should I drink after sauna? ›

While bathing in the sauna, it is important to remember to drink water. Not coffee, not carbonated soft drinks, but the simplest water. At least one liter of water should be taken after immediately after the bathing to restore water balance in the body.

What to know before going in a sauna? ›

To prepare yourself for what's to come, complete the following prior to your next sauna session.
  • Drink plenty of water. ...
  • Rinse off in the shower. ...
  • Have two towels handy. ...
  • Remove all jewelry. ...
  • Leave the tech behind. ...
  • Start off with a short interval. ...
  • Sit on a towel. ...
  • Relax!
20 Oct 2021

Should you drink water in sauna? ›

Yes, you should drink water in the sauna. The most important thing to remember is to avoid becoming dehydrated. This happens when more fluids leave the body than enter it and even low levels of dehydration triggers headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion.

What happens if you don't shower after the sauna? ›

It is important to shower after you get out of the sauna because skipping the post-sauna shower can result in toxins, bacteria, oil, and sweat re-entering your pores. When sharing a sauna with others, their toxins, bacteria, oil, and sweat may end up on you if they did not shower beforehand.

Should you eat before sauna? ›

We begin our answer to this question with a fundamental one: No! Immediately before going to the sauna, food should be avoided, only small light meals or really small snacks are tolerable. There is a simple reason for our fundamental rejection. Digestion requires a lot of work from the body.

How long you can stay in sauna? ›

If you're not properly hydrated, you shouldn't stay inside a sauna for longer than 20 minutes, as you're risking dehydration. However, if you're fit, healthy and hydrated, you can stretch this out into a significantly longer period of time, in the area of 30 - 45 minutes, even an hour.

Are you supposed to talk in a sauna? ›

Keep the conversation cool.

Some people like silence in their sauna and some like to chat. If you are going to talk, then make it light and relaxing. Most people who are new to a sauna will just want to talk about the heat anyway.

Can you take your phone in the sauna? ›

You should not bring a smartphone into a sauna or steam room because they often exceed the recommended maximum operating temperature of 113°F or 45°C and could experience permanent damage under those conditions.

What do you bring to a sauna? ›

Bring clean towels and sandals to the sauna.

You'll need 1 towel to lay on the sauna bench so you can sit on it and 1 towel to wrap around your body during or after saunaing. If you're using a public sauna, wear sandals or flip flops. You could also bring in a light snack and some water to drink.

How long should you stay in a sauna? ›

While some experienced sauna users, especially in Finland, may turn the sauna into a longer social event, don't overdo it. The longer you stay in the sauna, the more you risk dehydration, so a general rule is to cap your time to 15 to 20 minutes.

Do you wear shoes in a sauna? ›

Thanks to the privacy of an at-home sauna, you can also choose to wear nothing while you soak up the heat. In terms of footwear, we recommend wearing shower shoes or sandals outside of the sauna, to protect yourself from slippery tiles. However, inside of the sauna you should never wear shoes.

Should you take a cold shower after sauna? ›

For some, the cold immersion after a hot sauna can improve blood flow. Indeed, cold shower enthusiasts maintain that a cold shower is rejuvenating, simply because of increased blood flow. The hot/cold experience elevates heart rate, adrenaline, and the release of endorphins.

Can I bring my AirPods in a sauna? ›

Don't wear AirPods in a sauna or steam room. Don't expose AirPods to high-velocity water, such as while water skiing. Avoid dropping AirPods or subjecting them to other impacts.

Can you wear headphones in a sauna? ›

No, we do not advise using any electronics in a sauna, because the standard temperature in a sauna exceeds the recommended limits for operating and storage. This general recommendation applies regardless of the product, brand, or type of electronic that is used.

What should I drink after sauna? ›

While bathing in the sauna, it is important to remember to drink water. Not coffee, not carbonated soft drinks, but the simplest water. At least one liter of water should be taken after immediately after the bathing to restore water balance in the body.

What to know before going in a sauna? ›

To prepare yourself for what's to come, complete the following prior to your next sauna session.
  • Drink plenty of water. ...
  • Rinse off in the shower. ...
  • Have two towels handy. ...
  • Remove all jewelry. ...
  • Leave the tech behind. ...
  • Start off with a short interval. ...
  • Sit on a towel. ...
  • Relax!
20 Oct 2021

Should you drink water in sauna? ›

Yes, you should drink water in the sauna. The most important thing to remember is to avoid becoming dehydrated. This happens when more fluids leave the body than enter it and even low levels of dehydration triggers headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion.

Is sauna good for high blood pressure? ›

Several studies link frequent sauna use (four to seven times a week) to lower blood pressure and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, including sudden cardiac death and stroke.

Does sauna burn fat? ›

It is believed that sitting in a sauna can help you reduce excess fat. If you also believe in this, then you are absolutely incorrect. A sauna does not help you to lose weight; it temporarily removes easily replaceable water from the body. Excessive heat makes your body sweat and sweating can make you lose fluid.

Is sauna good for skin? ›

When you sweat in the sauna, this draws additional oxygen and nutrients to the skin's surface. As a result, you benefit from healthier looking skin through skin cell rejuvenation. This process also aids in moisturizing your face and body naturally and without any toxic or clog filling chemicals.

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