Different Types of Saunas: A Complete Guide

Different Types of Saunas

Saunas have been around for thousands of years and are a popular way to relax and unwind. Saunas provide various health benefits, including improved circulation, stress relief, and pain relief. They are also known for their detoxifying properties, which help to rid the body of harmful toxins. There are many different types of saunas available, each with its own unique features and benefits.

Each type of sauna has its own unique benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to choose the one that best suits your needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Saunas have been around for thousands of years and provide various health benefits.
  • There are many different types of saunas available, each with its own unique features and benefits.
  • It’s important to choose the type of sauna that best suits your needs and preferences.

Historical Evolution of Saunas

If you’re interested in saunas, you might want to learn about their historical evolution. Saunas have been around for thousands of years, and they have undergone many changes throughout history. In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular types of saunas and how they evolved over time.

Types of Saunas

If you’re looking to buy a sauna, you’ll quickly discover that there are many different types to choose from. Here are some of the most popular types of saunas:

  1. Finnish Sauna:
    • Traditional sauna with dry heat.
    • Wood-lined rooms with a wood-burning or electric stove.
    • Temperatures between 70°C and 100°C (158°F and 212°F).
  2. Infrared Sauna:
    • Uses infrared heaters to emit radiant heat absorbed directly by the skin.
    • Operates at lower temperatures, around 60°C to 70°C (140°F to 158°F).
    • Often considered more comfortable for people who can’t tolerate the high heat of traditional saunas.
  3. Steam Room (Turkish Bath or Hammam):
    • High humidity and moist heat environment.
    • Temperatures typically range from 40°C to 55°C (104°F to 131°F).
    • Walls are usually tiled, and steam is generated by boiling water.
  4. Smoke Sauna (Savusauna):
    • A traditional Finnish sauna without a chimney.
    • Wood is burned in a particularly large stove and the room is filled with smoke.
    • Once the room is heated, the smoke is cleared out before entering.
  5. Electrically Heated Sauna:
    • Similar to a Finnish sauna but uses an electric heater instead of a wood stove.
    • Convenient and easy to control the temperature.
  6. Wood-Burning Sauna:
    • Heated by burning wood, typically in rural areas or places where electricity is not readily available.
    • Provides a traditional experience with a natural aroma from the burning wood.
  7. Portable Sauna:
    • A small, movable sauna that can be set up indoors or outdoors.
    • Usually infrared or electrically heated.
  8. Barrel Sauna:
    • Unique design shaped like a barrel, offering efficient distribution of heat and space.
    • Can be wood-fired or electrically heated.
  9. Bio Sauna (Soft Sauna):
    • A milder version of the traditional sauna with lower temperatures and higher humidity.
    • Temperatures usually around 50°C to 60°C (122°F to 140°F).
  10. Ice Sauna:
    • A unique experience where the sauna room is made of ice.
    • Contrasting environment where the inside is heated but the structure is made of ice.

Traditional Finnish Sauna: The Dry Sauna Experience

The traditional Finnish sauna is perhaps the most well-known type of sauna. It originated in Finland and is still popular in that country today. The Finnish sauna is typically a small, wooden building that is heated with a wood-burning stove. The stove heats up the sauna rocks, which are then sprinkled with water to create steam. This process is known as “löyly.”

A sauna session in a traditional Finnish sauna usually lasts around 20 minutes, and it’s customary to take a break between sessions to cool off. Finns often take a dip in a nearby lake or roll in the snow to cool down.

Finnish Sauna Is Ideal for: Traditional sauna enthusiasts who enjoy high heat and dry conditions.

Infrared Sauna

An infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses infrared heaters to emit radiant heat that is absorbed directly by the body.

Unlike traditional saunas, which heat the air around you, infrared saunas penetrate your skin and heat your body from the inside out. This can result in a deeper, more detoxifying sweat that can help to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and boost your immune system.

Infrared Sauna is ideal for: Those preferring lower temperatures, direct heat therapy, and a gentler sauna experience.

Steam Room: Hammam & Turkish Bath

A steam room is a type of sauna that uses moist heat instead of dry heat to create a relaxing and detoxifying experience. Steam rooms are typically made of tile or stone and are heated using a steam generator. The humidity level in a steam room is much higher than in other types of saunas, which can help to open up your pores and promote sweating.

Steam Room (Turkish Bath) is ideal for: Moist heat lovers, individuals seeking respiratory benefits, and those who enjoy a spa-like experience.

Smoke Sauna

Smoke saunas are another type of traditional Finnish sauna. They are similar to Finnish saunas, but they are heated differently. Smoke saunas are heated by burning wood in a large stove, and the smoke is allowed to fill the room. Once the room is filled with smoke, the fire is extinguished, and the smoke is allowed to dissipate. The sauna is then ready to use.

Smoke saunas have a unique smell and are often used for special occasions like weddings and funerals. They are also popular with tourists who want to experience a traditional Finnish sauna.

Smoke Sauna (Savusauna) is ideal for: Traditional sauna enthusiasts who appreciate a deeply authentic and rustic sauna experience.

Electric Sauna

An electric sauna is a type of sauna that uses an electric heater to create heat. Electric saunas are typically easier to use than wood-fired saunas, as you don’t have to worry about chopping wood or building a fire. However, they can be more expensive to operate than other types of saunas.

Electric Sauna is ideal for: Individuals seeking a convenient and easy-to-maintain sauna experience.

Wood Sauna

The type of traditional Finnish sauna that is heated with wood logs. This is, in my opinion, the only way to experience a real sauna… But it’s more work than electric saunas!

Wood-Burning Sauna is ideal for: Enthusiasts seeking an authentic, rustic sauna experience, typically enjoyed outdoors.

Portable Sauna

A portable sauna is a type of sauna that can be easily moved from one location to another. Portable saunas are typically made of lightweight materials like canvas or nylon and can be set up in just a few minutes.

They’re a great option if you don’t have a lot of space or if you want to take your sauna with you on the go.

Portable Sauna is ideal for: People with limited space or those who want a movable, convenient sauna option.

Barrel Sauna

A Barrel Sauna is distinctively designed in the shape of a barrel, offering both aesthetic appeal and functional benefits. Its cylindrical structure allows for efficient heat distribution due to the natural air circulation provided by the curved walls.

This unique design not only maximizes space but also enhances the sauna experience by ensuring a consistent and even distribution of heat. The barrel sauna, often made from durable wood like cedar, provides a cozy, intimate setting for relaxation and is an innovative addition to the traditional sauna landscape.

Barrel Sauna is ideal for: Those looking for a unique, efficient, and space-saving outdoor sauna experience.

Bio Sauna

A Bio Sauna, also known as a Soft Sauna, represents a milder version of the traditional sauna experience. It is designed to offer the benefits of a sauna at lower temperatures and with higher humidity levels.

Typically, the temperature in a Bio Sauna ranges from 50°C to 60°C (122°F to 140°F), which is significantly lower than in a conventional sauna. This gentle heat is complemented by a slightly increased humidity level, creating a comfortable environment that is easier to tolerate for longer periods.

The Bio Sauna experience provides a relaxing and therapeutic environment, promoting wellbeing and relaxation without the stress of high temperatures. Additionally, the Bio Sauna is often considered a more accessible option for people with certain health conditions who still want to enjoy the benefits of a sauna but in a gentler setting.

Bio Sauna (Soft Sauna) is ideal for: Individuals who prefer a milder sauna experience with moderate heat and humidity.

Ice Sauna

An Ice Sauna offers a unique and contrasting sauna experience. In an Ice Sauna, the room or structure is made of ice, creating a fascinating blend of warmth inside while being surrounded by cold. Despite its icy construction, the interior of an Ice Sauna is heated, offering a sauna experience in a chilly, visually striking setting.

This type of sauna is especially popular in cold regions and is often found in winter-themed resorts or special wellness retreats.

Ice Sauna is ideal for: Adventurous individuals seeking a unique and contrasting sauna experience.

Sauna Construction and Materials

When it comes to building a sauna, the materials you choose can have a big impact on the overall experience. Here are some key factors to consider:

Choosing the Right Wood

Wood is the most popular material for sauna construction, and for good reason. It’s a natural insulator and can absorb excess steam, making it the perfect material for a hot and humid environment. Some popular wood types for sauna construction include cedar, pine, spruce, and hemlock. Each wood type has its own unique properties, so choose one that fits your needs and budget.

Insulation and Ventilation

Proper insulation and ventilation are crucial to the performance of your sauna. Insulation helps to keep the heat inside the sauna, while ventilation ensures that fresh air is circulating. Without proper ventilation, the air inside the sauna can become stale and uncomfortable. Make sure to install vents and fans to keep the air moving.

Electric vs. Wood-Burning Heaters

When it comes to heating your sauna, you have two main options: electric or wood-burning heaters. Electric heaters are more convenient and easier to use, but they can be more expensive to operate.

Wood-burning heaters, on the other hand, require more maintenance and effort to operate, but they can provide a more authentic and traditional sauna experience. Consider your budget and personal preferences when choosing a heater.

Overall, the materials you choose for your sauna can have a big impact on the overall experience. Choose high-quality materials, like wood and ceramic tile, and make sure to properly insulate and ventilate your sauna for optimal performance.

Sauna Experience and Practices

Temperature Control

One of the most important aspects of the sauna experience is the temperature control. Saunas are typically heated to high temperatures ranging from 70°C to 100°C. The temperature is controlled by the heating source, which can be either electric or wood-burning. You can adjust the temperature by adding water to the rocks in the sauna.

Humidity and Löyly

Humidity is another key factor in the sauna experience. The humidity level can vary depending on the type of sauna you are using. In a traditional Finnish sauna, the humidity level is low, while in a steam sauna, the humidity level is high. The steam is created by pouring water on the rocks in the sauna, which creates a vapor called löyly.

Sauna Etiquette

Sauna purists take sauna etiquette very seriously. It is important to respect the traditions and customs of the sauna.

One important rule is to always sit on a towel or bench cover to keep the sauna clean.

Another rule is to avoid using strong-smelling products like perfumes or colognes in the sauna. It is also important to avoid talking loudly or making excessive noise in the sauna, as it can disrupt the peaceful atmosphere. Finally, it is customary to take a shower before entering the sauna to ensure cleanliness.

Here are some etiquettes to follow:

Best sauna temperature

What is the best sauna temperature?

Well, it really depends of wha kind of sauna you are looking to experience, but some saunas become mush hotter than others. Here’s a simple table over the regular temperatures on different saunas:

Sauna TypeTemperature Range
Finnish Sauna70°C – 100°C (158°F – 212°F)
Infrared Sauna60°C – 70°C (140°F – 158°F)
Steam Room (Turkish)40°C – 55°C (104°F – 131°F)
Smoke Sauna (Savusauna)Usually high like Finnish Saunas
Electric Sauna70°C – 100°C (158°F – 212°F)
Wood-Burning SaunaVaries, but typically high heat
Portable SaunaVaries; often similar to Infrared
Barrel Sauna70°C – 100°C (158°F – 212°F)
Bio Sauna (Soft Sauna)50°C – 60°C (122°F – 140°F)
Ice SaunaInterior heated, exterior ice-col
Table covering various types of saunas along with their typical temperature ranges.

So what sauna should you visit or own? Let’s find out your sauna type!

Let’s Go To Sauna. But How To Choose The Right Sauna To Visit?

Choosing the right sauna to visit depends on various factors including personal preferences, health considerations, and what you aim to achieve from the sauna experience. Here’s a guide to help you make an informed decision:

Personal Comfort and Heat Tolerance

  • High Heat Tolerance: If you enjoy high heat and a traditional sauna experience, a Finnish or wood-burning sauna might be ideal. These saunas offer intense dry heat.
  • Moderate Heat Preference: If you prefer moderate temperatures, an infrared sauna could be more comfortable. They provide a milder heat and directly warm the body without overly heating the air.
  • Low Heat Tolerance: For those who prefer lower temperatures and higher humidity, a steam room (Turkish bath) or a bio sauna would be suitable.

Health and Wellness Goals

  • Detoxification and Relaxation: Traditional high-temperature saunas like Finnish saunas are excellent for sweating out toxins and muscle relaxation.
  • Pain Relief and Muscle Recovery: Infrared saunas are known for penetrating deep into tissues, potentially providing pain relief and aiding in muscle recovery.
  • Respiratory Benefits: Steam rooms offer moist heat that can be beneficial for respiratory issues.

Specific Health Considerations

  • Heart Conditions or Blood Pressure Issues: Consult with a doctor before using a sauna. Lower temperature options like infrared saunas might be recommended.
  • Skin Sensitivity: If you have sensitive skin, milder saunas like bio saunas or steam rooms can be gentler options.

Accessibility and Location

  • Convenience: Consider the location and accessibility of the sauna. Is it close to your home or workplace? Does it fit within your daily routine?
  • Facility Amenities: Look at the overall amenities the facility offers, such as showers, relaxation areas, and other spa services.

Personal Preferences

  • Aroma and Ambiance: The ambiance in wood-burning saunas, with their natural wood aroma, offers a traditional and rustic experience.
  • Privacy and Size: Portable or home saunas offer privacy, whereas public saunas can provide a more communal experience. Consider which setting you are most comfortable with.


  • Try Different Types: If possible, experiment with different types of saunas to understand what suits you best. Many wellness centers offer various sauna options.


  • Always follow safety guidelines, stay hydrated, and limit your time in the sauna, especially if you are a beginner or have health concerns.

Which Type Of Sauna Should You Buy or Build?

Deciding whether to buy or build a sauna, and choosing the right type, depends on several factors including personal preferences, available space, budget, and intended use. Here are key considerations for building or buying your home sauna:

Considerations for Building:

  • Customization: Building a sauna allows for customization to fit your space and preferences.
  • Skill Level: Requires a certain level of DIY skills, especially for traditional or wood-burning saunas.
  • Regulations: Check local building codes and regulations, especially for outdoor or wood-burning options.

Considerations for Buying:

  • Convenience: Buying a pre-built sauna or a kit is often more convenient and less time-consuming.
  • Warranty: Pre-built saunas usually come with a warranty and professional support.

Frequently Asked About The Different Types of Sauna

What are the key differences between infrared and traditional saunas?

Infrared saunas use infrared heaters to emit infrared light, which is absorbed by the body, causing you to sweat. Traditional saunas, on the other hand, use a stove or heater to heat the air, which in turn heats your body. The main difference between the two is the type of heat they produce. Infrared saunas produce dry heat, while traditional saunas produce wet heat. Infrared saunas are also typically less hot than traditional saunas, making them more comfortable for some people.

How do dry saunas compare to steam saunas in terms of health benefits?

Dry saunas, also known as Finnish saunas, provide a dry heat that can help with muscle relaxation, stress relief, and detoxification. Steam saunas, also known as Turkish saunas, provide a moist heat that can help with respiratory issues, skin health, and relaxation. Both types of saunas have their own unique health benefits, so it really depends on what you’re looking to get out of your sauna experience.

Can you list the types of saunas suitable for indoor installation?

There are several types of saunas that are suitable for indoor installation, including traditional Finnish saunas, infrared saunas, and steam saunas. It’s important to consider the size of the sauna, the type of heating element, and the ventilation requirements when choosing a sauna for indoor installation.

What should I consider when choosing a sauna for my home?

When choosing a sauna for your home, there are several factors to consider, including the size of the sauna, the type of heating element, the ventilation requirements, and the overall cost. You should also consider the space you have available in your home and whether you want an indoor or outdoor sauna.

Are there unique advantages to outdoor infrared saunas?

Outdoor infrared saunas offer several unique advantages, including the ability to enjoy nature while relaxing in the sauna, and the ability to get fresh air while sweating. Outdoor saunas also tend to be larger than indoor saunas, which can be beneficial if you have a larger group of people using the sauna.

How do electric saunas stack up against other sauna types?

Electric saunas are a popular type of sauna that use an electric heater to heat the sauna. They are generally less expensive than other types of saunas, and they are easy to install and use. However, they may not provide the same level of relaxation and detoxification as traditional Finnish saunas or infrared saunas.

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