Types of Saunas – 11 common varieties


Saunas are one of the oldest methods of relaxation and purification of the body. Different types of saunas include dry sauna (Finnish or Swedish), wet sauna, steam sauna, infrared sauna (IR sauna), salt sauna, biosauna (tilarium), caldarium, herbal sauna, Russian banya (bath), phytosauna, dry cabinet sauna, dry Roman sauna, ice sauna and others.

If we divide all types of saunas roughly, we get only two types – dry sauna and steam bath. All other sauna types are derived from these basic types.
For example, the wet sauna is derived from the dry sauna. All you need to do is increase the humidity by actively pouring hot water over the stones.

In this article, we explain the different types of saunas and how they differ from each other.

A brief summary of sauna types can be seen in this table:

Type of sauna Temperature Moisture Description
Dry sauna (Finnish/Swedish) 60-120 °C 5-15% Wooden sauna with wood or electric stove with stones, room with good ventilation.
Wet sauna 45-65 °C 40-60% The same Finnish sauna with a wood or electric stove, but with a stone water dispenser or steam generator.
Steam bath (steam sauna) 40-60 °C 80-100% A room, usually finished with tiles, in which heated air and steam are produced using a special steam generator.
Hammam – Turkish bath 35-45 °C 70-85% A room with high humidity and moderate temperature, where heat and steam are generated by a special heating and humidification system, all often combined with traditions of purification rituals.
Caldarium (Roman Thermae) 35-40 °C 20-40% A room with moderate temperature and humidity, where heat and steam are provided by a special heating and humidifying system.
Russian banya 50-90 °C 40-70% A wet sauna with a wood-burning stove in authentic Slavic style, where the body is massaged with a broom.
Sauna infrared 40-50 °C 40-50% The heating element is infrared radiators that heat the body. The air in the cabin is not heated.
Sanarium (biosauna) 45-60 °C 40-60% It’s basically the same as a wet sauna, but with the addition of essential oils or fragrances, usually using an electric stove.
Herbal sauna 45-65 °C 40-60% A simple wet sauna that uses herbal decoctions or essential oils sprayed with steam.
Salt sauna 60-100 °C 10-15% A typical dry or wet sauna with salt blocks in the walls or additional Himalayan salt accessories.
Ice sauna -5-+5 °C unknown A low-temperature room for cooling down after a Finnish sauna.

Dry sauna (Finnish/Swedish)

A dry sauna (Finnish/Swedish) is a type of sauna that is characterized by dry air and high temperatures. At a temperature of about 90 degrees Celsius, intense sweating occurs, which effectively cleanses the body of toxins. Dry saunas can be heated using different types of stoves, including electric or wood-fired. It is important that the power of the stove is correctly selected for the volume of the sauna.

The typical temperature in a dry sauna is about 80-120 degrees Celsius. The length of time spent in the sauna depends on individual preferences and health. It is recommended not to exceed a time of 15-20 minutes and a rest break between entries. An hourglass mounted on the wall will help you control the time.

In a dry (Finnish/Swedish) sauna, humidity is usually very low, averaging about 5-15%. Although some people say that you should not pour water over the stones in a dry sauna, we can say from our own experience that it is necessary to do so to improve the microclimate in the sauna, as the dry air dries out the skin and hair a lot.

You can pour hot water over the stones and get a gentle, light steam, which will slightly raise the humidity. But the effect will be short-lived and after a while the air will become dry again. In a dry sauna, you can also use special aromatic concentrates, which are added to the water for watering the stones. A visit to such an aromatic sauna will be even more pleasant.

If you frequently pour water on the stones, the humidity of the air will increase significantly, and the dry sauna will turn into a wet sauna (which we will tell you about next).

Consider that if you are visiting a sauna for the first time in your life, you should shorten your visit. Enter the dry sauna for 2-3 minutes and observe how you feel. As soon as you feel the slightest discomfort, leave the sauna immediately. It is better to divide the first sauna session into several short visits. The first 3 minutes, the second 5-7 minutes, and the third 10-15 minutes if you feel comfortable. Don’t forget to drink water!

When using a dry sauna, there are several safety rules to follow. Avoid eating heavy meals and drinking alcohol before entering the sauna, and take a shower before entering to cleanse your skin of impurities. Sit or lie on a towel in the sauna to avoid direct contact with the seat. After using the sauna, it is a good idea to take a shower to cool the body and remove sweat and impurities.

Exhausted sweat and moisture lost in the sauna can be quickly replenished by drinking herbal teas or water.

The use of the dry sauna is especially recommended for people with cardiovascular diseases and those struggling with rheumatic ailments. The dry sauna has a beneficial effect on blood flow and the regeneration of muscles and connective tissue, improving their elasticity and resilience. Regular use of the dry sauna can also improve mood and relaxation.

Wet sauna

A wet sauna, also known as a wet sauna, is a variation of the traditional Finnish sauna in which higher humidity is present. The main difference between a dry sauna and a wet sauna is precisely the humidity and the lower temperature. In a wet sauna, the temperature is usually between 45 and 65 degrees Celsius, and the humidity can be as high as 40-60%.

Talking with customers, I find that many people confuse the wet sauna with the steam bath.

To use a wet sauna, pour water over the hot stones, which increases the humidity in the room. You can also add a few drops of essential oil to the water to give the sauna a pleasant scent and additional aromatherapy benefits. In the wet sauna, it is recommended to relax for 10-20 minutes, and then cool your body in a cold shower or a dip in a cold pool.

The wet sauna has its advantages and disadvantages. Among the advantages are better skin cleansing, stimulation of the immune system and improved circulation. In addition, the higher humidity can be beneficial for people with respiratory problems. On the other hand, the disadvantages of a wet sauna include the limited analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits of high temperatures and potential mold and bacteria problems as a result of maintaining high humidity.

In conclusion, the wet sauna is an interesting alternative to the classic Finnish sauna, offering higher humidity and lower temperature. Although it has its drawbacks, it can provide health benefits, especially for those suffering from respiratory problems. It is important to follow the rules of using a wet sauna to get the best results.

Differences between dry and wet sauna heaters

You can use the same stove in a wet sauna as in a dry sauna, as the difference between the two is mainly in the humidity of the air. However, there are some details to pay attention to when choosing a wet sauna heater. First of all, the stove should have a large enough surface area for the stones that will be responsible for generating steam. In addition, the furnace should be made of corrosion- and moisture-resistant materials.

In a wet sauna, you can also use a parogenerator or automatic atomizer, which maintains the right level of humidity by regularly spraying the hot stones. The parogenerator generates steam, which it introduces into the room, while the automatic atomizer is equipped with a humidity sensor, which allows you to automatically adjust the amount of water sprayed on the stones. As a result, wet sauna users can enjoy a constant level of humidity, without having to manually pour water on the stones.
There are also combination wet sauna stoves that have a built-in primitive steam generator.

Steam bath (steam sauna, Roman bath)

Now let’s talk about the steam bath, which is just confused with the wet sauna. It is also known as a Roman bath or Turkish bath (roughly speaking, a hammam can also be included in this category). Unlike other sauna types, a steam bath is usually not made of wood, and its interior is lined with mosaics, which adds to the charm of the place. The benches in a steam bath are also lined with ceramic tiles. Ducts are fed into the interior of the bath, which generate hot steam, resulting in a humidity level of around 100%.

Łaźnia parowa (sauna parowa, łaźnia rzymska)

In a steam bath there is no furnace, the steam generator plays the whole role. In addition to tiling the room, the steam bath can be made of plastic materials. Wood is not suitable for a steam bath because it absorbs moisture, which will cause mold.

With such high humidity, the temperature in the bath is usually kept between 40-60°C. Unlike a dry sauna, overheating of the body occurs in a steam bath, but at a lower temperature. Due to the increased humidity, the process of sweating is impeded, which does not allow the body temperature to decrease quickly.

It is worth mentioning that the use of a steam bath can have a beneficial effect on the condition of the skin, which is intensely moisturized thanks to the high humidity However, due to the high humidity, a steam bath may be less pleasant for people who cannot tolerate high humidity. In that case, a dry sauna or infrared sauna may be a better choice.

It is also worth noting the health benefits of using a steam bath. The high humidity and heat help clear the respiratory tract and relieve symptoms such as mucous membrane congestion and coughing. In addition, a steam bath can support the immune system, improve circulation and reduce muscle tension. However, people with cardiovascular problems should consult a doctor before using a steam bath.

When it comes to using the steam bath, it is recommended that you wash your body thoroughly before entering the steam bath, and then spend 10-20 minutes in it. After a session in the steam room, it’s a good idea to cool down your body in a cold shower or take a dip in a cold pool. It’s also a good idea to take a break and drink some water before entering the bathhouse again to replenish the fluids lost through sweating. It is important to remember that no towels or bathing suits should be used in the steam bath, as they can absorb moisture and impede the sweating process.

A steam bath may require a bit more care and maintenance compared to a dry sauna due to the high humidity. The walls, benches and floor should be cleaned regularly to avoid mold and bacteria growth. It is also worth investing in a proper ventilation system to maintain the air quality in the steam room.

All in all, a steam room is a great place for those seeking the relaxation and health benefits associated with high humidity. While some aspects may be less comfortable for those unaccustomed to humid conditions, it’s worth trying this type of sauna to evaluate its advantages and disadvantages for yourself. Be sure to properly maintain your steam room and follow the rules of use to reap the full benefits of this relaxing experience.

Hammam – Turkish bath

The hammam, often referred to as a Turkish bath, has a long history, dating back to ancient Rome and Byzantium. Although the hammam shares many features with the steam bath, there are some differences and unique traditions associated with this type of bath.

The main difference between a hammam and a steam bath is the way it is heated. In a hammam, the floor and walls are heated, leading to a gradual heating of the interior. Unlike a steam bath, the steam in a hammam is less dense and the humidity is slightly lower. Typically, the temperature in a hammam varies between 35 and 45°C.

Traditions associated with the hammam include a cleansing and body care process that consists of several stages. The first stage is relaxation and acclimatization in a moderate-temperature room called “ılıklık.” Then one moves to the “sıcaklık” – a hot room where the body warms up and begins to sweat. During this phase, body scrubbing with a special “kese” glove is often used to remove dead skin. The scrubbing is followed by a body wash with olive soap and a massage. Finally, the process ends with a relaxation stage in a cooler room.

It’s worth noting that a hammam is often part of a larger complex that also includes pools, saunas, steam rooms and relaxation areas. Therefore, it can be a great place to spend time relaxing and rejuvenating.

Caldarium (Roman Thermae)

Caldarium is a type of bathhouse that draws inspiration from both the steam bath and the traditional hammam. Caldarium is particularly popular in Italian and Roman baths. The similarity to the steam bath and hammam is that the caldarium has high humidity (up to 40%), which creates a pleasant and relaxing environment. However, the caldarium differs in that the temperature is maintained at a lower level than in a steam bath, usually between 35 and 40°C.

It’s safe to say that the caldarium is one of the mildest types of sauna.

Its milder temperature makes it ideal for those who are beginners in sauna use or for those who prefer less intense conditions. The caldarium is also a great choice for those who want to relax and recuperate between sessions in the dry sauna or steam room. Unlike the hammam, the caldarium does not offer beauty rituals such as massages, scrubs or body washes, but it is still a great place to relax and unwind.

Russian banya

Russian banya is a type of sauna that is very popular in Eastern countries, especially in Russia. It differs from steam saunas, dry saunas and wet saunas in several features, both in terms of construction and traditions associated with its use.

The Russian banya, like dry and wet saunas, is made of wood. However, unlike these types of saunas, the temperature in a Russian banya is usually between 50 and 90°C, and the humidity oscillates between 40 and 70%. An important difference is also the method of heating – the Russian banya uses an open hearth stove, which heats the stones and the room, which allows to maintain the right humidity and temperature.

One of the characteristic elements of the Russian banya are bundles of twigs (veniki), usually from birch, oak or linden, which are used to massage and irritate the skin while in the sauna. The veniki increase blood circulation, contributing to better cleansing and regeneration of the skin.

There are certain rules and traditions in the Russian banya. Before entering the sauna, one must wash the body thoroughly. Then you enter the room, where you spend 5-10 minutes, after which you can go outside or cool off in a cold shower. This process can be repeated several times, but the total time spent in the sauna should not exceed 30-45 minutes.

Using the Russian banya has many health benefits, such as cleansing the skin, improving circulation, relieving stress and reducing muscle tension. Nevertheless, people with cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, or other conditions should consult a doctor before using the banya.

Stove in the Russian banya

A Russian banya oven differs from a Finnish sauna oven in its design, in which the stones are hidden and invisible. In such an oven, the stones can easily heat up to 400 ° C, and the steam produced from them is very fine (in the language of professional banya makers – finely dispersed). Such a stone is evenly heated, since it is located in the firebox and surrounded by fire from different sides. You can serve water on it more often than on open stones, because it quickly recovers its temperature.

For a Russian banya, a better solution may be a tunnel stove, in which the hearth chamber is located on the other side of the room. This avoids overheating the air inside, which could lead to the need for frequent ventilation and topping up the stove.

There are also stoves with combined stoneware, that is, open and closed at the same time. Such a compromise will be suitable for lovers of different brewing modes.

Nowadays, the Russian banya is not only a place for relaxation and body care, but also a place for socializing and conversation in a friendly atmosphere. Traditional rituals of using the banya include not only bathing, but also eating, drinking tea or soft drinks in between sessions, and enjoying other services such as massage and body care.

When using the Russian banya, it is advisable to remember proper hygiene and respect the traditions and observe the rules of such a place. Before entering the banya, remove jewelry and watches, and make sure there are no metal objects on the body that could get hot and cause burns.

It is also worth remembering that the Ruska banya is not recommended for pregnant women, the elderly and children under 12. For children over the age of 12, use of the banya should be limited to shorter sessions and lower temperatures.

Infrared sauna

Infrared sauna, also known as infrared sauna, is an alternative to classic dry saunas. Unlike traditional saunas, the action of an infrared sauna is based on infrared radiation, which penetrates the skin and then heats the body from the inside. This makes infrared saunas more energy-efficient and can heat the body up to 40-50°C. The air is not heated.

Infrared saunas have many health benefits, such as detoxification, improving circulation, reducing muscle pain, speeding up recovery after exercise and improving skin condition. Because the temperature in an infrared sauna is lower than in a traditional dry sauna, it can be more easily tolerated by people who can’t tolerate high temperatures.

However, infrared saunas have their own contraindications. They are not recommended for pregnant women, people with heart disease, kidney or circulatory failure, and children under 12. It is advisable to consult a doctor before using an infrared sauna.

Home sauna – infrared

Small cabins for 1-2 people are available on the market that can be easily installed at home. As a result, infrared saunas are gaining popularity as an easy and practical solution for people who want to enjoy relaxation and health benefits without having to leave home.

Although infrared saunas are becoming increasingly popular, the classic Finnish sauna should not be overlooked. The traditional dry sauna has its own unique advantages, such as stronger sweating, which leads to more intense cleansing of the body, and also affects the body’s immunity. Therefore, it is worth using both sauna types to reap the health benefits from different sources.

Sanarium or biosauna

A sanarium, also known as a biosauna, is a type of sauna that combines features of different types of saunas in one room. This hybrid sauna offers gentler conditions than a traditional Finnish dry sauna, but more intense than a steam sauna. The sanarium has become popular because of its gentleness and the ability to customize conditions to suit the user’s individual preferences.

As if not to sweeten the deal, it is a simple wet sauna modeled after a Finnish sauna. Ideally, an electric stove is installed in the sauna, on which you can set the desired temperature and water the stones with essential oils or aromatic concentrates, maintaining the humidity.

In the sanarium, the temperature varies between 45 and 60°C, and the relative humidity ranges from 40% to 60%. This allows you to experience a pleasant warmth that is not as intense as in a dry sauna, but at the same time more like a traditional sauna experience than a steam bath.

The bio-sauna is suitable for people who want to gradually get used to using a sauna, as well as for people who are looking for an alternative to a dry sauna or steam bath. A sanarium can provide many health benefits, such as muscle relaxation, improved circulation, skin cleansing, stress reduction and stimulation of the immune system.

It is worth noting that the sanarium room is usually equipped with modern temperature and humidity control systems, allowing the conditions to be precisely adjusted according to the needs and preferences of the users. This makes the biosauna an attractive solution for people who want to experience the variety and benefits of sauna in a less extreme way than more traditional forms of sauna.

Herbal sauna

The herbal sauna is a subspecies of the classic sauna using herbs and natural essential oils. You can make the herbal sauna your dry or wet sauna. You can read more about this type of sauna in our article – Herbal sauna.

The atmosphere in the herbal sauna is enriched with scents from herbs and oils, spreading their scent and having a therapeutic effect on the body and mind.

The herbal sauna uses different types of herbs, such as lavender, mint, eucalyptus, thyme, rosemary or lemon balm, which are introduced into the sauna in the form of essential oils, fresh herbs or dried herbs placed in special containers. The properties of herbs are used to improve well-being, relieve stress, relax muscles, cleanse the body and alleviate ailments such as headaches and runny noses. The herbal sauna is suitable for people who are looking for a holistic approach to wellness, combining the benefits of the sauna with aromatherapy, using the power of natural herbs.

Salt sauna

A salt sauna, also known as a solarium, is a special type of sauna that combines the advantages of a classic sauna with the healing properties of salt. A salt sauna is characterized by salt on the walls, ceiling and lights. The temperature in a salt sauna is lower than in a traditional dry sauna – 40-60°C, and the humidity ranges from 40-60%.

The salt sauna has many health benefits, including improving respiratory function, relieving symptoms of allergies, asthma and skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis. Salt is a natural antiseptic that helps clear the respiratory tract, reduce inflammation and regenerate the skin. The salt sauna is especially recommended for people suffering from respiratory problems, allergies and skin diseases, as well as those who want to improve their overall well-being and recuperate after a hard day.

Salt sauna

A salt sauna can also have additional decorative and functional elements, such as salt placed in special lamps or fluorescent lights.

In addition, it is worth mentioning the possibility of LED strips, placed behind a layer of salt bricks, which creates not only a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere, but also attracts the eye and adds additional charm to the salt sauna. LED strips can change color, creating a rainbow-like atmosphere and adding even more relaxing effect when using the salt sauna.

Basically, you can build a classic Finnish sauna and line part of one wall with salt bricks, achieving a salt sauna with a beautiful appearance and health benefits.

Ice sauna

An ice sauna, otherwise known as an ice cold room, is a unique place where instead of extreme temperatures, the user encounters very low temperatures, even below 0°C. The interior of the ice sauna is lined with ice, and the walls and floor can be covered with a layer of frozen ice, which adds to the refreshing and cool sensation.

The main purpose of the ice sauna is to bring relief and relaxation after a session in a hot sauna, by using a cold environment. Being in an ice sauna helps tone down the heat, improve blood circulation, increase energy and improve overall well-being. It’s a great place for people who want to relax and feel their body gain new energy after being in a hot sauna. Using an ice sauna has a beneficial effect on the circulatory system, accelerates muscle recovery, increases immunity and has an analgesic effect.

Tips for visiting the sauna:

  • Before entering the sauna, it is a good idea to take a shower to cleanse the skin of impurities.
  • Avoid eating heavy meals and consuming alcohol before entering the sauna.
  • In the sauna, sit or lie on a towel to avoid direct contact with the seat.
  • After using the sauna, it is a good idea to take a shower to cool your body and remove sweat and dirt.
  • Be careful and do not exceed the sauna time.
  • After using the sauna, drink enough water to avoid dehydration.

Using a sauna can be relaxing and beneficial to your health, but caution and safety precautions should be observed. If you have any concerns or health problems, consult your doctor before using a sauna.

Frequently asked questions

Is sauntering good for health?

Yes, sauntering can be beneficial to your health, but be careful and follow safety rules.

How long should one stay in a sauna?

The time spent in the sauna depends on the sauna type and individual preference. It is usually recommended not to exceed 15-20 minutes in a Finnish sauna and 10-15 minutes in a steam sauna.

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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!