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Sharing sauna in the time of coronavirus

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How those of us with our own saunas are navigating through sauna shutdowns, social distancing, wearing masks, close contact, and cool downs during the global pandemic.

Ah, those were the days. Kick ass sauna parties, and budding new sauna businesses selling out reservations for “butts on the bench.” Even lame health club saunas were elbow to elbow with patrons getting their sweat on. Then March 2020 changed all that.

Covid-19 hit.

Health clubs shut down. Public saunas shut down. Those of us with our own health and wellness backyard retreats reset our guest lists to include only immediate family. More commonly, the solo sauna emerged as the primary mode for us to get an understanding of how contagious and isolated our world had become.

We navigated ourselves through the summer of 2020. In Europe, lockdown seemed to have done its job. Most all public sauna facilities reopened. In the United States, we had no unified strategy. Some said “f*** it” to masks and attended motorcycle rallies and political gatherings, in defiance. Others wore masks everywhere and abided by major changes to their social activities. Either way, restaurants and all major public gathering facilities, including saunas, shut down or revamped majorly.

Fall 2020 has been met with an upsurge in cases. Health clubs are trying their best, but most have kept their locker rooms closed down, including their showers and saunas. Sharing sauna in the time of corona is difficult.

How about our own private saunas?

Those of us with our own saunas are impervious to the restrictions of Covid-19, yet we are all being smart about our private saunas. We are struggling to figure out the social aspect to sauna.

Should we be inviting friends to come sauna in the time of corona?

Some are. Others are not comfortable sitting on the bench with people they know. Just because someone is a friend doesn’t mean that they are any more or less exposed to coronavirus. We like to think that our friends are aligned to our thinking, in terms of taking good safety measures, but even with friends, there is an expanded risk. When we sauna with someone else, our social circle expands.

What is a creative solution for sharing our sauna in the time of coronavirus?

Outdoor backyard saunas are opening up opportunities to share our saunas with others.

Sharing our sauna by offering separate sauna shifts may be the creative answer.

How does this work?

Many are following the sauna shift sharing program.

It works something like this:

  • 3:00pm – Fire up sauna stove.
  • 4:00pm – Step out the back door, to our own health and wellness backyard sauna retreat.
  • 5:00pm – Look up at the trees and sky between rounds. Take stock in the fact that we are feeling incredibly awesome, and life during the time of corona could be miles worse.
  • 6:00pm – Pull the coals forward, toss another log on the fire. Towel off and retreat back into our primary domiciles.
  • 6:15pm – Hear backyard gate open. Invited sauna pod arrives. Maybe it’s a friend and his wife, or neighbors down the block, or couple health care workers battling it out on the frontlines.
  • 7:15pm – Receive an enthusiastic thank text from crew noted above, something along the lines of “OMG Ty!” or “This feels so great!!! ” or “Thank you so much!!!!”
  • 8:15pm – Hear backyard gate close. Sauna guests have exited the building, after wiping down the door handles with OSHA approved de-germ wipes.

Why does sauna shift sharing in the time of coronavirus make sense?

  1. Both sauna pods (groups) are hermetically sealed off from one another.
  2. Yuckiness can’t live above 140f (60c).*
  3. Once hot, keeping a sauna going gangbusters only takes a couple extra logs.
  4. Good sauna karma is well received.

We are all finding ways to navigate this global pandemic. Those of us with our own backyard saunas are finding creative ways to share the goodness of good sauna in the time of corona.

The sauna shift sharing program is our way to share sauna in the time of corona.

Sharing a few thoughts about sauna and coronavirus:

Urban backyard wood-fired sauna is made possible by the heart – the Kuuma stove.  Hot, Cold, Hot, Cold, Hot, Cold.  And inviting friends to use after my family and I have had our sauna just increases its neighborly utility.  COVID took away the backyard sauna party, but the one on one’s, neighbor use and many silent solo rounds have made COVID time special in its own way.

Rodney Buhrsmith, Eastview Corporation

Man, we’ve been thinking to ourselves, aloud sometimes, “wish we could share this with people” a lot this year. But the immediate reply is “…but how?”. I’d kill for a social sauna with friends, but definitely don’t feel safe about all that close proximity right now. (besides, my household has an agreement with another family that we’ve “bubbled” with that keeps both families’ risk to a minimum). We’ve considered firing it up for folks ahead of their arrival and just letting them have their own night of it. I’m intrigued by your medical findings here that show the viability of the virus is jeopardized by heat…that’s inspiring, for sure. For me, this winter, the sauna is going to save my mental state of mind 100%. I honestly don’t know how I’d survive without it…it’s the only space/time that feels truly mine right now in a world where no one’s leaving the house, working from home, socializing is nil. Thank goodness for a hot, hot sauna.

Tucker Gerrick, Director of Marketing, Fulton Brewing

Mental health and physical health intersect in sauna – accepting some reasonable risk with others who are managing COVID-19 risk is the approach we’ve taken.  I liken it to looking both ways before crossing the street, COVID can’t survive the environment and we are enjoying out time in our sauna with others that take reasonable precautions.  So far so good!

The Jarmo of Minnesota

I was a health club and public sauna regular (every day) prior to covid-19.  In my area (Chicago) very few people have private saunas and nobody I know has a private outdoor sauna.  Earlier in the year, my friend Keith purchased a Morzh tent sauna (link here.) My family and I have used it often and have included some friends at social distance.  The advantage of the Morzh is you can rotate rounds in the hot room and still have a conversation through the tent walls and window while cooling off.  It has been kind of rewarding to hear the Loyly and reaction while cooling down.

Kev O’connell, Chicago area law enforcement, and able to outlast most on the sauna bench.

With sauna, it’s fun to connect with family , friends, and sometimes solo. I Try and make it five times a week. There’s no time limit in the sauna. During covid, I have gone up to seven rounds. The hot to cold and back generates endorphins similar to a great workout. We live about a minute from a lake but not on it. As the weather changes and the water gets colder it’s fun to test it. I take my bike and just go from sauna to the lake. I get some odd looks as I bike to a beach area but thats ok. I love the sauna. Sleep, detox, mind, body, spirit. Sauna is a gift that keeps on giving. About ready to go in mine…hope you are too!

Darby Hendrickson, Minnesota Wild
Jouko (left) and Risto chilling out between Sauna Talk podcast
Late stage Millennials enjoying sauna

Coronavirus study References:

*The heat sensitivity of viruses is used routinely to deactivate viruses within vaccines, and temperatures of 55 to 65°C for 15 to 30 minutes are reported to deactivate a range of enveloped viruses, including coronavi-ruses (Darnell et al., 2004; Duan et al., 2003; Hu et al., 2011; Kampf et al., 2020; Lelie et al., 1987; WHO Report, 2003). SOURCE: “Turning up the heat on COVID-19: heat as a therapeutic intervention” Link here.

*”The effect of heat is explained by thermal aggregation of the SARS-CoV membrane protein [2]. It was shown that the nucleo-capsid protein of SARS-CoV is completely denatured in 10 min at 55C”. SOURCE: “Inactivation of coronaviruses by heat” Link here.

*”The virus is stable for 3 weeks at room temperature in a liquid environment but it is easily killed by heat at 56◦C for 15 minutes.” SOURCE: “The Effects of Temperature and Relative Humidity on the Viability of the SARS Coronavirus” Link here.

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4 thoughts on “Sharing sauna in the time of coronavirus”

  1. Hi Glen,
    After several years of contacting you, reading your e-book several times, and saving my money I’m ready! I’ll call you soon to see if you’re available to advise. I think the last we talked you told me that pouring the concrete floor would be a good first step. I need advice on who to hire and I want to talk to you about floors. I’ve read and re-read your section on floors and I keep circling back to wanting to recreate the sauna I grew up with at Side Lake- cement floor with hole in one corner that drained out to yard. I like lotsa water dumped over my head! The cement floor was covered with wooden “slats” that looked like pallets. I think that’s what you call “duck boards”. Will you please come to my home in Richfield and guide me? Also, how do you enter the drawing for the Kuuma stove giveaway without instagram? Thanks, Jeff

  2. Hi Jeff, you can enter the Kuuma giveaway via the Lamppa Manufacturing page on Facebook. I hear you if you don’t have access to that noise, so maybe you can enlist a trusted family member who is on Facebook. All they’ll have to do is search Lamppa Kuuma, find the post, and submit a note about how you’re been tugging at saunatimes for years and are now ready to rock and roll, et voila, you’re registered!

    Anyhow, back to brass tacks. Yes, slab is a great first step. Alternatively, many build their saunas without a slab – and i’m a big fan of this. For an 8×12, imagine 6 posts, nothing more than cinder blocks dug down a bit, then 2×6 rim joists and joists and 3/4′ subfloor, et voila, you’re off to the races that way.

    Or hire Tuff Shed, and $2,500 later you can be looking at your own structure, ready for you to Finnish.

    I can come to your home and guide you. My book and above should get you moving in the right direction. You can sign up for my capitalist free market economy consultation plan here, where I’ll be happy to invest 200 of your dollars and be your personal consultant. I’ll leave my whip in the car, but will give you all the positive and professional encouragement and advice to help make your vision a reality. Link to Sauna Help, from Start to Finnish.

    You know from our past conversations that I am on your team, and that my aim is true. Good on you, Jeff! Let’s get it goin’.

  3. Hello Glenn, I am trying to figure out the best wood treatment to seal to western red cedar in my sauna. There are a few things as I am sure you have seen them all. Paraffin wax is one of them other sauna wood sealant liquid. What do you suggest as a good option for a wood protector. There is also using nothing at all is one suggestion I found but to wipe it with a rag a water fairly often.
    Thanks very much Daran

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