The trouble with unwritten rules is that, even if you don’t mean any harm, you could end up disrupting or offending someone without knowing you’re doing anything wrong. Owning a personal sauna means you might bypass some of these hidden conventions, but in an environment as intimate as a public sauna, hot spa, steam room or similar, we would always recommend that you fully understand how to behave respectfully.
So, we put together this go-to guide on sauna etiquette to help newcomers and veterans alike. We find we’re frequently asked the same questions over and over again too, so we’ll even address some of them directly while we’re here.
Keep the noise down.
We’re always tempted to sing our favourite anthems in the shower, but using a sauna is much more of a serene experience. Remember that it is a place known for silence and tranquillity, and you should always consider other people around you; so keep those conversations quiet. Unless it’s just you and your friend, and in that case you can talk your heads off as long as it stays inside the sauna.
Don’t work out in the sauna.
There’s nothing silent or tranquil about the groans and grunts of someone working out. We live in a busy society and multi-tasking is an essential part of life for some people, but doing your squats in a sauna isn’t the same as brushing your teeth in the shower. You could slip and hurt yourself, or even someone else that just wants to spend the afternoon in a relaxed state of mind, and not in a busy A&E room.
“What should you wear in a sauna?”
To get the most out of a sauna session, it is definitely recommended that you’re naked, with a towel around your waist to both protect your privacy and keep the bench sanitary.
However, for those uncomfortable, anything that is used for swimming like bikinis or shorts can do the job while maybe keeping you a bit more comfortable. We would definitely recommend against wearing jewellery, however.
Don’t take long entering/exiting sauna.
Saunas are generally quite small by design so that the steam is more focused and condensed in one area instead of across a vast space. For this reason, you should take care when entering and exiting to not leave the door open for too long, as the temperature will lower and steam can escape.
People will understand, however, if you’re leaving to cool down and then entering again, as this is an essential part of learning to use a sauna. Just make sure the door shuts behind you!
Respect everyone’s personal space.
It’s easy to get carried away in a sauna and get as relaxed as possible, but if there are other people in there with you, try not to sprawl yourself all over the seats. If someone is a little timid, they might see you taking up the seats, be too afraid to ask you to move and then not enter at all. Saunas are meant to be enjoyed by everyone!
Don’t apply water without asking.
Applying water to the sauna stones/stove will increase both the heat and the amount of steam in a sauna. However, while you may like it red hot, that doesn’t mean everyone else in there does. In your personal sauna, it is completely up to you to tailor the session however you want, but during a public sauna session, you should always clear it with the other patrons before you change anything in the sauna. After all, communication is the most important part of sauna etiquette.
“How long should you stay in a sauna?”
Using a sauna is meant to be very relaxing, which is partly why it actually has so many mental health benefits. The human body can only withstand so much heat for so long however, even if the perks are numerous. A shower before hand will help build of your immediate tolerance for heat (and is also recommended anyway, spoilers) but twenty minutes is generally the sweet spot.
If you can’t reach that number, then you can always leave and re-enter a few minutes later. As long as you remain aware of yourself and how you’re feeling, then you will know when “just enough” becomes “definitely too much”.
Always shower first.
While a compact space means that steam is more effective, it also means that all of your body odour will be zip-locked in there with any other sauna-goers. There’s no shame in sweating in there (that’s the point), but you need to shower before you enter so that the sauna doesn’t suck out all the bacteria and dirt that a shower would wash away.
Bring a towel with you.
Some saunas are more welcoming of nude patrons than others, but we would always recommend that at the very least, you enter with a towel wrapped around you. Just like at the gym, a towel is great for wiping down after yourself, but it can also save you from some embarrassment.
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