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How To Use A Sauna and Sauna Etiquette

lady wrapped in a towel in the sauna

Knowing how to use a sauna and sauna etiquette are very important in order to enjoy relaxation and pleasure while taking a sauna bath. Furthermore, understanding sauna etiquette or culture ensures others feel comfortable as well.

How To Use a Sauna – Get Ready

Let`start with some general rules which apply no matter where and with whom you enjoy taking a sweat bath.

  1. Food: After a meal you should wait 90 minutes to enter the sauna.
  2. Drugs: Don’t use a sauna after drinking alcohol or consuming similar state altering substances.
  3. Workout: Wait half an hour after your workout before entering the sweat-room.
  4. Clothes: make sure two have two big towels (one for sitting and one for the shower), a bathrobe and slippers
  5. Turn on your (home) sauna in advance: depending on your sauna it might take an hour or more to heat. Therefore make sure to turn it on in advance.
  6. Health: Check with your doctor before using a sweat room This is especially important if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure, abnormal heart rhythm, or unstable angina.

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How To Use A Sauna

  1. Take a shower first. This ensures that we remove perfumes and smells that otherwise become stronger in the sweat room. 
  2. Dry your skin. It helps to speed up perspiration in the sauna.
  3. Sit or lie on a towel. It is much more hygienic as the towel absorbs your sweat.
  4. From Lower to Higher Bench: Try to sit on the lower bench at first. The reason is that the temperature is lower there. This helps the body to get used to the heat.
  5. Sauna Time: 
    1. Beginners: start slowly with not more than 5-10 minutes. Only stay as long as you feel good.
    2. Stay for up to 15 minutes – then take a break to relax from the heat.
    3. Sessions: beginners should start with two sessions, otherwise 3 sessions are recommended.
    4. Hour-glass on the sweat room wall. There are usually several of them to help people watch the time.
  6. Between sessions:
    1.  Depending where you are, take a cold shower or dive in a cold bath or even snow.
    2. Some people like to bring body scrubs. But there are saunas who even provide body scrubs in the sauna itself. 
    3. This is the case in salt saunas where you scrub your body while being in the sauna.
    4. Drink plenty of water or juice mixed with water to stay hydrated. 
    5. Breaks usually last around 15 minutes. Usually deck chairs are provided to take rests.

Sauna Etiquette

Sauna etiquette highly depends on local sauna culture (where) and the type of sauna you visit. This determines the question of what to wear in a sweat room.

Sauna Culture

Sauna culture describes the way people take a sauna bath. This includes the type of sweat rooms and how they use the sauna.

Types of Sauna

This doesn`t refer to the question if the sweat room is dry or steam but to who uses it. There are unisex saunas and single sex saunas. This often impacts what to wear during the sauna bath and how to behave in the sweat room. Especially public saunas in Europe often have times for female or male saunas whereas other times are open to both sexes.

How To Use a Sauna – What to Wear in a Sauna

The traditional way of bathing is nude. The reason is that being nude means your whole body gets exposed to the heat. As a result your skin can sweat and steam all over. Keep in mind that especially in Europe most people will care if you decide to be wholly naked or still have a towel wrapped around you. But in hotels with international tourists people not beingnude are easily identified as speaking English. The reason is that Europeans are usually all nude for sweat roombathing.

Depending on the spa, this can mean nothing. No clothes means no pockets for things to fall out of. All you really need is a towel. In some nude saunas we’ve been to, they’ll give you a bracelet at the reception that you wear to keep track of how long you’re spending in the spa. The bracelet is also a way to buy food or drink while you are there.

Nudity In Public Saunas

While some public sweat rooms are very liberal others are not. Occasionally it happens that people who refuse being nude in a public sweat rooms are forced to leave. So don’t be surprised if a staff member comes up and let`s you know that nudity is mandatory. Hotel saunas usually respect the fact that their international visitors do not feel comfortable being naked.

Nudity during Business Meetings in Saunas

In Finnish companies going to the sweat room with your colleagues and your boss after work is an essential part of work culture. Don`t be surprised when everyone gets naked. We understand that it might make you nervous to be nude in front of other people but I guess your colleagues don`t necessarily understand your shyness. The reason is that they are used to nude coed sauna.

Never Take Photos Unless you are Given Permission

Taking photos of a nude sauna might get you in trouble. Even in a public coed nude sweat room things are supposed to be private. Just because it is funny or unusual for you does not mean that people want to see pictures of themselves being nude in a sweat room on the internet.

No Sex, please!

A coed naked sweat room is not an invitation to inappropriate behavior. European saunas have nothing in common with a swinger or sex club. There are a place to relax, unwind and for wellness purposes. 

Talking in Sauna

Please keep in mind that saunas are a place where people come to relax. Therefore talking should be limited or at least not disturb other users. This might be different when you are in a sweat room with your friends or family members. However when being in a public or hotel sweat room,  you should keep things quiet


Phones should stay in a safe place they have nothing to do in a sauna as they disturb others.

Keep Your Distance

Social distancing is appropriate when being in all public spaces. Respect that others like their personal space. Especially while sitting in a coed naked sauna, keep your eyes under control. Mixed nudity is not an invitation to staring at others. 

Close the Door

Whenever you enter the sweat room, it is important that you close the door. The reason is that open doors cause the temperature to drop which annoys other guests. Therefore sauna etiquette means to always enter and leave as quickly as possible.

What To Do After The Sauna

Make sure to hydrate and slowly acclimate to the outside temperature again. Taking good care of yourselves afterwards is an expression of self-care.

Antje Diana Baumgarten

Antje Diana Baumgarten

I believe that the things we do and the products we use determine our lifestyle. Whether your ultimate goal is to optimize your health, fitness or well-being. I introduce you to content that has the true potential to make a significant difference to how we live, love, perform, learn, look, exercise, travel, relax, sleep, work and more.

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