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All the Sauna Tips & Rules You Need to Know

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Keys to Being a Good Sauna Host

If you are running a brick & mortar or mobile sauna business, a sauna coop, or your own personal backyard sauna retreat, there are only three important rules for being a good sauna host:

Rule #1

Keep the sauna hot. People go to the sauna bench to sweat. Let them wear their spring jacket when they go to a baseball game.

Rule #2

Keep the sauna hot. Each time the hot room door opens and closes, the hot room loses heat. We need to stay ahead of this.

Rule #3

Keep the sauna hot!

Consider that each person sitting on the sauna bench is a relative ice cube, 100 degrees cooler than the sauna that you should be keeping hot.

If you are hosting a sauna and your hot room is too hot for someone, they can go sit on the low bench, where it is less hot. It’s ok to be a low bench Larry.

Any other rules to sauna hosting are way down the list to these 3:

As long as your sauna is hot, you are a good sauna host. Stay out of the way and let them sweat. Your job is to keep the sauna hot.

Sauna Tips

Get Your Hair Wet

As we settle into our first sauna round on the sauna bench, or before we even step into the sauna for round one, many sauna enthusiasts benefit from dumping some fresh water over our heads, ruffling our fingers through our hair, and getting our hair really wet.

Benefits of getting our hair wet at the beginning of our sauna session:

  1. It starts opening up our pours, and probably our hair follicles too.
  2. It helps moisturize our hair, naturally.
  3. It starts the flushing out process – ridding our system from products and tonics that are found at Walgreens but are not found in nature.

For those of us who sauna regularly, the real kicker is the clean rinse after every sauna round.

“How do you get your hair looking so healthy? What do you use?” Water is the simple answer. We get our hair wet as we settle into round one, and nature does what it does.

DANGER: It’s one thing to give sauna advice, and another thing to give sauna advice without sounding like a know it all. Above is subjective, and may not be for all, but it works for many. More thoughts and tips about water and sauna here.

When There’s a Dry Eye in the House

“I love sauna but it dries out my eyes too much.” Cool dry mountain air and below freezing sunny winter days suck all the moisture out of the air. A hot Finnish sauna stove blasts back with more bite with water being tossed on sauna rocks. Yet overall low humidity levels can leave eyes vulnerable to drying out.

Four Simple Tips for Dry Eyes in the Sauna

  1. Drink Plenty of water. A good rule of thumb is to drink a big glass of water, 20 oz. or so, before your sauna session, and drink plenty during and between rounds.
  2. Wet down before round one. Many folks shower before sauna. Entering a sauna with hair and face wet is a good idea. BONUS: we find keeping hair wet in sauna keeps hair soft and healthy.
  3. Cover your face with a wet washcloth. This practice is especially popular in rural Finnish towns in Northern Minnesota.
  4. Close your eyes. Whether a solo sauna or sauna party, it’s nice to kick back and close your eyes during a sauna round. Eyes closed allows for better introspection, relaxation, and immersion into conversation or music in the sauna. Eyes never dry out.

Sauna Rules are Few, as Confirmed by Finland Sauna Guide


The Guardian published this article, reporting on winter travel to Finland. The journalist was escorted around by Ritva, a sauna guide “plucked from retirement by the tourist office.”

The sauna guide confirmed that “golden sauna rules are: only ever stay in as long as you want. And remember to shut the door.

In a world of rules, regulations, and how to books, isn’t that refreshing?

Sauna Rules are Like Road Signs in the 1800s


There were no road signs or traffic rules 125 years ago. People got in their cars and just drove. That’s how sauna should be and certainly is if you own your own sauna. Yet as sauna becomes more popular in public places like hotels, health clubs and spas, for better or worse, people need rules, signs and instructions for sauna.

Chris at Saunascape provides a guide to sauna etiquette. These are public sauna tips: like sit on a towel, don’t spit on the rocks, and shower before entering sauna as “if you’ve been swimming, there is chlorine on your body that will volatilize in the sauna and can irritate everyone’s eyes and lungs who shares the sauna with you.”

All great tips. However, with your own sauna you don’t need signs or a list of rules, it’s back to pioneer days. As my then 10 year old son noted in his school report: “There are no rules to the sauna except no yelling, keep away from the stove and most importantly DON’T leave the door open. So that’s the end of my project, I hope you learned a lot.”

No rules. Reason number 14 to get your own authentic Finnish sauna idling in your own backyard.

Sauna Rules

Drink Plenty of Water

Sauna rules #2-#6, added up, are all less important than sauna rule #1. This is nothing new. I rambled about this in 2009. Folks who have taken sauna regularly their whole lives understand Sauna Rule #1. How much water? 32 oz. (1 liter).


  1. Heading to a sauna party? Drink 32 oz. (1 liter) of water before you head out the door.
  2. Partaking in sauna after exercise? Fill your 32 oz. (1 liter) of water when you’re done exercising. Drink it, then go into the hot room.
  3. Enjoying a sauna at the cabin? Fill your favorite 32 oz. (1 liter) bottle with water and drink it, then go to sauna.
  4. About to hit the health club sauna? You guessed it. Fill up that water bottle, AND DRINK IT.

It’s okay to bring your 32 oz. (1 liter) water bottle into the hot room with you for your first sauna round, but be sure it is empty before you are done with your first round (don’t pour drinking water over your head). Just as with exercise or while at the beach, during a sauna session, if you get behind with staying hydrated you will never catch up. Call it a day, and remember this rule for next time.

I will put on my tombstone Sauna Rule #1: “drink plenty of water”. I’ve seen too many folks fuck this up. Sauna goers who under hydrate are often the same folks who:

  • Don’t sweat well in sauna.
  • Get lightheaded in sauna.
  • Get too hot in the hot room way too quick.
  • Get too cold outside way too quick.
  • Tell other people that “sauna isn’t for me.”

Bonus: drinking plenty of water makes for a better, more fulfilling sauna session. A hydrated body is oil for the body. A hydrated body is fuel for the body. A hydrated body encourages sweat: more sweat and sooner. When your body is well hydrated in the sauna, you will be able to stretch out more as you feel your muscles expand more fluidly (cough cough). Your skin pores will open up sooner and better, cleaning your skin naturally. All those toxins in your body will get the hell out of there quicker, naturally. Your mind will expand better and you will start to recite phone numbers from your childhood. This is what we want.

5 Simple Sauna Rules from the Chicago Tribune


The Chicago Tribune’s hip social news outfit, Red Eye Royalty, has a post, 5 simple sauna rules. They are rules we can all live by:

  1. Don’t spit on the sauna rocks!
  2. Get permission before you turn up the heat!
  3. Hurry up and close the door!
  4. Don’t wear street shoes!
  5. Never sit bare bottom! (“What makes you think someone wants to sit in a puddle of your booty juice?”) – General, that means you!
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10 thoughts on “All the Sauna Tips & Rules You Need to Know”

  1. Hi Mike:

    Yes, you can slope your hot room ceiling, but it’s best to have the high slope on the bench side, not the stove side. This slope will allow for heat to collect where you sit.

  2. I’m building my sauna and the roof line slopes from 7’4” on the front inside to 7’ on the low side. Should I level the inside to a 7’ ceiling or leave it slopes front to back the heater will be on the same wall as the high side. I heard you mention something about a sloped ceiling design that Christiansen in Duluth is doing on one of your podcasts. Thanks!

  3. Hi Glenn, Thank you for your great site.
    I have a couple questions for you.
    1) can you give me an idea of what my sauna cleaning schedule should be. how often and what materials I should use.
    2) I occasionally find moisture ants in and around the sauna. have you experienced this before and do you have any advise?
    Thank you so much

  4. Hi Ralph,

    Glad you are enjoying saunatimes.
    1. Cleaning schedule. If your sauna is well vented, and you practice the bake and breathe method, the only cleaning you should have to do is a 2x a year hose out. A well ventilated sauna means that your sauna will air itself out. A well heated sauna means that your sauna will dry itself out. My saunas, 1996 and 2003 smell great pretty much maintain good cleanliness. That said, there are some good sauna cleaning materials from Finland, and here in US, a few do well with Oxyclean and a brush.

    As mentioned, I clean my saunas 2x a year. I use warm water and the cleaning stuff from Finland, brush it all down and hose it down. (I’ve had the same bottle of cleaning stuff from Finland for over 20 years and it’s still more than half full).

    2. Moisture ants. Well, I feel your pain there. Our cabin (1997) has moisture ants and it pisses me off something fierce. I think we’re getting moisture outside, under our deck, but I don’t have the bandwidth right now to attack it down there, in order to find the source of potential rot to our exterior plywood under our siding.

    In your case, you’re going to have to play detective. There’s a laundry list of ways you may be getting wood rot/moisture ants in your sauna building. Is water splashing up underneath your building? Are your overhangs extending far enough to keep water away from your building? Hope this gets you thinking in the right place,

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