Smoke sauna – what is it?


Smoke sauna – is a one-room wooden room or dugout with a stone hearth without a chimney. As the wood burns, the interior of the sauna fills with smoke, which is discharged only before going inside. Water is poured over the heated stones to create the necessary humidity. Saunas with the stench of smoke and the aftertaste of soot still have their fans in Finland, Estonia and other Scandinavian and Eastern countries.

Smoke sauna is a traditional form of sauna that has a long history and a special place in the culture. In this article, we will take a closer look at this unique type of sauna, focusing on its history, current use and comparison with modern alternatives. The smoke sauna was one of the first ways to enjoy warmth and relaxation, especially during periods when classic chimneys were still unknown. Let’s discover the fascinating history of the smoke sauna and find out what place it has in our world today.

The principle of the smoke sauna

When preparing a smoke sauna for sauntering, a large hearth with a large number of stones is lit for six to eight hours. After six to eight hours, the fire is extinguished, the corners are pulled apart and the room is ventilated. The stones have a temperature of about 600 degrees, so after they are ventilated, they return the heat to the sauna room. The stones are poured with water to create steam. The stones can keep the sauna warm for a long time, up to 6 hours, depending on the number of stones.

History of smoke sauna

The smoke sauna has its roots in the distant past, having existed for more than 1,000 years, and we don’t know exactly when it originated. In the past, when chimneys did not yet exist, the smoke sauna was a popular way to get warm and relax. It was a simple structure (first an earthen house, later one-room wooden houses began to be built) that used wood as the main heating source. A fire burned in such a sauna, and smoke flowed out through holes or gaps in the wooden walls.

The lack of a chimney in a traditional smoke sauna had some consequences. The smoke that could not escape through the chimney remained inside the sauna, which always resulted in a very smoky room and smoky boards and benches inside. Nevertheless, our ancestors learned to use such a sauna, taking advantage of its advantages and adjusting to certain restrictions.

smoke sauna

After thousands of years of smoke saunas, chimneys appeared in the late 19th century. The principle of building saunas changed, and from around 1920 saunas took on an appearance similar to today, with a wood-burning stove with a chimney that carries the smoke outside.

The smoke sauna is still used in some parts of the world, especially where there is a strong connection to tradition and culture. It is especially popular in Scandinavian and Baltic countries such as Finland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. There, smoke saunas are valued by locals and tourists alike as a unique experience and part of cultural heritage.

Alternatives to the smoke sauna

Modern Finnish saunas with fireplace and ventilation

Thanks to technological advances and the development of the sauna industry, modern alternatives to the traditional smoke sauna have been created. One of these alternatives is the classic smoke sauna, which has a chimney and ventilation system. This type of sauna allows you to control the smoke and vent it outside, eliminating the problem of heavy smoke inside the room. The ventilation system provides better air circulation and maintains the air quality in the sauna.

Sauna culture

Innovative sauna heating methods

Another alternative to smoke saunas are modern electric stoves for Finnish and Russian saunas, which do not require burning wood. Another modern and popular option is the infrared sauna, which uses infrared radiation to heat the body without heating the air in the sauna. Infrared saunas are faster to use and more energy efficient than traditional wood-burning and electric saunas.

Comparison of performance and safety of modern alternatives

There is no doubt that in terms of efficiency and safety, modern alternatives to smoke saunas are superior. Saunas with a chimney and ventilation minimize smoke and improve indoor air quality, and consequently are less harmful to health. Of course, the presence of a chimney requires maintenance. Electric sauna stoves do not have a chimney and are very easy to use, but require electricity. If for some reason you don’t have electricity, you can’t get a good temperature in the sauna.

Infrared saunas are more energy efficient and do not require wood burning, which can be good for the environment. However, some people may experience a difference in feel and atmosphere compared to a classic wood-burning Finnish sauna.

In conclusion, almost no one is currently building a smoke sauna on their property. Europeans build a Finnish dry sauna or a Russian bana.

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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!