Woman in sauna

When you step into a sauna, envelop yourself in its peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. Sit in the relaxing warmth, allowing your spirit to be refreshed, and stay in long enough so that you begin to sweat. As you sweat, your body will release toxins that have accumulated inside you. The heat inside saunas can also help alleviate aches and pains, and the humidity inside steam saunas revitalizes tired skin. There are many reasons to visit a sauna, but regardless of your reason, it’s important you find a temperature that’s comfortable yet effective for you.

Wet and Dry Saunas

To find the right temperature setting in a sauna, consider the sauna type. There are two main types of saunas: 1) wet or steam saunas (in the style of the traditional Finnish sauna), and 2) dry or infrared saunas. A wet sauna is a small room, usually walled by hardwood, that is heated with a wood-burning or electric stove. Large rocks cover the top of the stove, and water is gently splashed over the top of the heated rocks to release heat and steam into the air. Wet saunas are generally the hotter type of sauna, so choose a wet sauna if you like a lot of heat and humidity. The heat in wet saunas also depends on how much water is poured over the rocks and how often. If you like to be very hot in a wet sauna, pour more water over the rocks. If you like to keep pleasantly warm, splash water on the rocks only sparingly.

Choose a dry sauna if precise temperature control is important to you. Dry saunas have wooden walls and are heated by either an electric stove or infrared lamps. And, as one might guess from the name, water is not used inside a dry sauna. Humidity remains constant within a dry sauna and therefore the temperature can be regulated more accurately. In a dry sauna, turn the temperature knob to find a setting that is comfortable to you.

Sauna Stoves

The stove inside saunas can also make a difference: choose an electric stove for wet or dry saunas if you want to control the sauna temperature accurately. In a wet sauna, consider a wood-burning stove if precise temperature regulation is not a concern for you, and you prefer the ambiance and scent of a wood fire.

Reaching the Recommended Temperature

The Finnish Sauna Society suggests that steam saunas are best enjoyed at temperatures ranging from 176 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit (80 to 100 degrees Celsius), and recommend you leave the sauna when you feel hot enough. For infrared saunas, The Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic recommends temperatures ranging from 109 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit (43 to 48 degrees Celsius).

To reach these temperatures, install a thermometer inside your sauna at about the level your head would normally be. Then, with an electric stove (in wet or dry saunas) or infrared lamps (dry saunas), experiment with the temperature knob setting until the sauna is heated to the recommended range.

With a wood burning stove (wet saunas), you'll need to load the stove with wood, light the fire and wait until the sauna warms, adding more logs if needed, until the temperature is warm enough. Keep in mind that the fire will get hotter as you add more wood, so if you want a hot sauna with a wood burning stove, add more logs. If you want a cooler sauna, add fewer logs.

Cooling Off

Regardless of the degree of heat you take in your sauna, you should take a shower before entering a sauna for hygienic reasons. Harvard Medical School suggests that you stay in a sauna for no more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time. After your sauna, gradually cool down outside the sauna and take a cool shower to wash away the sweat and refresh yourself. Remember to follow up with two to four glasses of cool water so you don’t get dehydrated.