Sauna FAQ Part 2: Sauna etiquette
Sauna 'How To' Guides

Sauna FAQ Part 2: Sauna etiquette

Dec 11, 2023

Our first part of the Sauna FAQ- series focused on sauna and its associated health benefits. You can read the full article here. In this second part of frequently asked sauna questions, we will focus on sauna etiquette


What are the benefits of using a sauna? - A brief summary

To recap some of the benefits a frequent sauna routine can provide to your health and well-being: 

  • Reduces stress and anxiety  
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Improves cardiovascular health  
  • Relieves muscle pain and soreness 
  • Fosters social connections  
  • Can boost the immune system  
  • May improve skin health   

You can read our evidenced series on potential sauna health benefits here

 Sauna Health Benefits - Narvi Brand Image - Finnmark Sauna

Saunas have many health benefits, especially when combined with cold exposure. Image provided by Narvi


What is sauna etiquette? 

Relaxation is essential to an authentic sauna experience and the key to enjoyment is ensuring a comfortable environment. Knowing what to expect may help with this. Sauna etiquette will differ between countries, families and settings. A friend's home or lakeside sauna will most likely have slightly different rules from a public sauna bustling with both locals and tourists. Familiarity with the unwritten rules comes effortlessly for those well-versed in the sauna tradition of countries like Finland, Estonia, Russia, Germany and Sweden. However, for anyone new to the sauna, navigating the dos and don’ts may raise some questions.  

You can read more about the sauna traditions of the Baltics, Nordics and Central Europe here

Whether you are a seasoned sauna enthusiast or a first-timer, unraveling the “correct” sauna etiquette is the gateway to ensuring that everyone in the sauna has a pleasant experience.  

 Sauna Reception - Lonna Public Sauna Finland - Finnmark Sauna

Sauna etiquette may differ between settings. Public saunas often display instructions to help answer their guests' questions about using the facilities. As an example, the public sauna of Lonna Island in Finland has guidelines written on their reception desk. 

What should you wear in a sauna?  

The traditional norm in saunas is to forgo clothing altogether. Nevertheless, the priority is your comfort so it is okay to wrap yourself around a towel, a dressing robe or wear a bathing suit when enjoying the heat of a sauna. In fact, many public saunas even in the Nordic and Baltic regions may kindly ask visitors to wear a robe or a swimsuit within the facilities. If you are visiting a public sauna, you can usually find information on attire by having a browse on the company's website.

Top tip: Wear a sauna hat to protect your head and hair from the heat. 


Do you need to shower before a sauna? 

Yes, you should always shower before entering the sauna. This will get rid of dirt and sweat, which in turn protects the wooden benches and makes the sauna experience pleasant to yourself and others. In spas and venues with pools, rinsing off will also help protect the interior from chlorine.  

 Rento brand image and Rento Pisara Bucket - Finnmark Sauna

Rinsing off before the sauna is important for hygiene reasons and it also protects the wooden interior, such as the benching. Image from Rento

How do you use a sauna?  

Simply sit or lie down on the benches and relax. Most saunas have a controller that you can use to adjust the temperature. Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during and after your sauna session. If you wish to pour water onto the hot sauna stones to create a warm steam, “löyly” in Finnish, “leil” in Estonian, it is polite to ask others whether they are okay with this. The temperature will feel hotter when you pour water onto the stones. Whilst you may like a spicier heat, some may not. Nine out of ten times, fellow sauna goers will be happy with more “löyly.”

 Helo Ringo Electric Sauna Heater - Finnmark Sauna

Simply sit or lie down on the sauna benches to enjoy the heat. If you want to pour more water onto the stones, it is polite to ask others. Image from Helo with the Helo Laine STJ electric sauna heater


How long should you stay in a sauna?  

For as long as it feels good.15-20 minutes at a time is quite an average duration in one sitting. If you are new to saunas, begin with shorter sessions and gradually increase the duration. Listen to your body and step out to cool down when you feel like it. You can repeat the hot and cold cycle as may times as you’d like.  


To sum up what to do in a sauna

  • Remove clothing, wear a towel, a robe or a swimsuit: The norm in most sauna loving countries is to wear nothing in the sauna. However, it is important that you feel comfortable. In fact, many public saunas may even ask you to kindly wear swim attire. Adhere to the rules of the venue you are visiting.
  • Shower: Rinsing off makes for a more pleasant sauna experience to everyone. It will also help maintain the sauna benching in excellent condition for longer, and prevent chlorine from damaging the wood in spa and swimming pool settings.  
  • Bring a towel or seat cover to sit on: This will help protect the sauna benches from sweat and dirt. However, many public saunas will have disposable seat covers at hand if you forget to bring your own. You can have a look at our seat cover selection here. 
  • Bring water: It is important to stay hydrated before, during and after a sauna.  

 Sauna Accessories by Rento - Finnmark Sauna

You can wear a towel to the sauna and it it is good to bring your own seat covers to sit on. Rento has a wide selection of textiles to complete the sauna experience. Image from Rento. 


Always be respectful of others when visiting a sauna. While sauna is a place to socialize in, it might also be a moment in the week to purely relax to some. Be mindful of your volume and enjoy the heat.  

After you leave the sauna, shower again, drink water and cool down outside or in a relaxation area. If the sauna is located by a lake or equipped with a cold plunge, enjoy a refreshing swim or take a cool shower to make the most out of the health benefits.  


Next part of the Sauna FAQ-series is on sauna planning and building.