Differences between dry and wet sauna


Although the Finnish sauna and steam bath are often used interchangeably in the context of relaxation and wellness, the differences between the two are significant and affect the experience and benefits they offer. Do you prefer a dry or wet Finnish sauna? Or do you prefer the gentleness of a steam bath?

Understanding the differences between these three sauna types can help you make an informed decision on which best suits your health needs and comfort preferences. In this article, we’ll discuss the basic differences between a dry and wet sauna – both variations of the traditional Finnish sauna – and a steam bath, also known as a Turkish sauna.

Here you will learn about the differences in temperature, humidity, design and overall experience that each type offers. So you’ll be able to make an informed choice about which one will best suit your needs. Read on to find out more and discover which of these three options is best suited to you.

Comparison of sauna and steam bath

The Finnish sauna, also known as a dry sauna, is undoubtedly the most recognisable and popular around the world. In this sauna type, the temperature can reach up to 100 degrees Celsius, which is made possible by the low humidity, usually between 10% and 20%. This intense heat combined with the dry climate makes the dry sauna ideal for people who prefer a strong thermal experience.

However, the Finnish sauna is not just a dry sauna. There is also a ‘wet’ variant, which is less thermally intense but much more humid. The temperature in a Finnish wet sauna usually oscillates between 50-70 degrees Celsius, but the humidity is much higher, ranging from 40% to 100%. This increased humidity gives the climate in the wet sauna a milder character, which may be more attractive to those who prefer a less intense but equally satisfying thermal experience.

Unlike Finnish saunas, both dry and wet, the steam bath, often referred to as a Turkish sauna, is a completely different concept. In fact, the differences start with the construction itself. Steam baths are usually lined with ceramic tiles, which are more resistant to moisture than traditional wooden sauna finishes.

The temperature in a steam bath is usually lower than in Finnish saunas, but the humidity is definitely higher, often reaching close to 100%. This creates a completely different kind of experience, which is less about intense heat and more about the relaxing and moisturising effects of steam. Furthermore, unlike the Finnish sauna, the steam bath does not contain a furnace. Instead, the steam is generated by specially installed steam generators.

This is an overview of the basic differences between a dry and wet sauna, both Finnish saunas and a steam bath. The choice between the two depends on personal preference, as well as the expected health benefits.

Choosing between dry, wet and steam saunas

The choice between these three types of sauna largely depends on individual preference and health. The dry sauna, due to its high temperature and low humidity, is ideal for people who want to cleanse their body and accelerate the burning of calories. However, this form of saunas is not recommended for people with cardiovascular diseases, rheumatism, epilepsy and asthma.

The wet sauna, especially the typical Russian banya, which is a type of wet sauna, can be a good alternative for those who prefer gentler sauning conditions. The high humidity in a wet sauna helps to mitigate the effect of the high heat, which can be beneficial for those who cannot tolerate extreme heat. However, the wet sauna is not recommended for asthmatics, people being treated for cancer, epilepsy or glaucoma sufferers.

The steam bath, with its very high humidity and moderate temperature, is good for people who cannot tolerate high temperatures but can tolerate high humidity. Unlike the dry and wet saunas, the steam bath must be built with other materials, such as tiles, which can better withstand the conditions inside.

Features Finnish Sauna (dry) Finnish Sauna (wet) Steam Bath
Building Material Usually wood Usually wood Tiles, ceramics
Temperature Up to 100°C 50-70°C 40-60°C
Humidity Low, about 10-20% High, about 40-60% High, up to 100%
Atmosphere Dry and hot Warm and humid Warm and very humid
Health Benefits Detoxification, improved circulation, calorie burning Skin cleansing, improved respiratory system, relaxation Skin cleansing, improved respiratory system, relaxation
Usage Rules Cover your body with a towel, adjust time and temperature based on heat tolerance Cover your body with a towel, adjust time and temperature based on heat tolerance Cover your body with a towel or be naked and perform a skin scrub, avoid contact with hot surfaces
Limitations Not recommended for people with circulation problems, asthma, rheumatism, epilepsy Not recommended for people with circulation problems, asthma, rheumatism, epilepsy Not recommended for people with asthma, those undergoing cancer treatment, suffering from epilepsy or glaucoma

Is it possible to build a multi-purpose sauna?

Building a sauna that can serve as both a dry sauna, a wet sauna and also a steam bath can be a difficult task. The main obstacle is the difference in building material and design requirements between the three types of sauna.

In the case of dry and wet saunas, which are usually built of wood, it is possible to adjust the conditions inside by adjusting the temperature and humidity. These saunas can be adapted to either the hot and dry atmosphere of a Finnish sauna or the slightly cooler and moister atmosphere of a wet sauna.

A steam sauna (steam bath), on the other hand, requires other materials such as tiles that can withstand high humidity and moderate temperatures. In practice, this means that the steam bath usually has to be built as a separate room.

All this does not mean that you cannot enjoy different sauna types in your home. It is possible to build a sauna that allows you to regulate the use of both dry and wet saunas, with a separate steam room next to it. In this way, you can enjoy the benefits of different forms of saunas, although this requires more space and investment.

The choice between a dry, wet or steam sauna should depend on individual preference and health. Each has its own unique benefits and limitations. Remember, no matter which type of sauna you choose, the key to achieving the health benefits of sauning is regularity and proper adherence to sauna rules.

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Since 2011 I have had my own business selling sauna building materials, sauna cookers and sauna accessories. I know all about building a quality sauna!