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Water and sauna best summarized as: “rinse-offs are a strictly an outside affair.”

light steam graphic

There is a lot of chatter about “dry” sauna, “wet” sauna, and the IRS style stern signage in public saunas:

“Do NOT toss water on sauna rocks”

too many f**ing rules and regulations

What we know:

Water in the hot room

An authentic sauna is meant to take water on the sauna stove rocks.  Loyly, the steam created from tossing water on sauna stove rocks, is an integral part of the sauna experience.  Loyly is an intensely important physical, mental, spiritual element to authentic sauna.  More on Loyly here.

A little water dumped over ones head in the hot room is not a bad thing.  Many prefer to start their hot round with a quick rinse and wet hair.  However, dumping water or showering in the hot room is not the right play.

The cool down

A key element to the authentic sauna experience is the cool down.  This step is best described as departing the hot room, heading outside and either:

  1. Jumping into a cold lake.
  2. Standing under a cold shower.
  3. Dumping 32 oz. of cold water over one’s head.

The Clean Rinse

  1. Gets rid of sweat.
  2. Helps wash open pours of the skin.
  3. Stimulates blood flow and helps jump start the endorphin rush.

Three sauna rounds and three Clean Rinse’s will leave one refreshed and more clean than many hours in the shower or bathtub.  Why?  The repeated process of heat up and cool down is a natural cleaning process.  Opening and closing of skin pores.  Soap is not needed.

After a clean rinse, it is very important to hang out in the misty garden all wet with rain.  Fresh cool air helps relax the body, mind, and spirit.  Fresh cool air helps bring the BODY back to a neutral state.  Many people return to the hot room too soon.  It is best when the entire body cools back down to a neutral state.   Otherwise, sauna sessions become microbursts.  A constant chase from hot to cold, cold to hot.  A chilly wind across wet skin may trigger the mind to say “brrr… cold.. get warm.”  But it’s a trick.   The body is a radiator with lots of heat mass.  Get back to neutral and start again.

“Rinse offs are an outside affair.”

– Miller.

Outside my backyard sauna with outdoor shower and a misty garden all wet with rain.
Outside my backyard sauna with outdoor shower and a misty garden all wet with rain.
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5 thoughts on “Water and sauna best summarized as: “rinse-offs are a strictly an outside affair.””

  1. Not to throw health club saunas and hotel saunas too far under the bus, but most of these \saunas\ don’t allow for an outside cool down area, let alone an outside rinse off area. At these institutions, an authentic sauna enthusiast may be seen wrapped only in a towel boldly walking past the front desk to find respite outside, or testing the \emergency use only\ doors.

    If I were to win the lottery, I would go on a mission all over North America with a jackhammer, a cement contractor and a trailer full of french doors and help liberate sauna cool down areas to the fresh air.

    America deserves this.

  2. missed a key winter cool down technique: the snow jump! it need not be some epic snow swim, all it takes is a quick flop on the back and stomach (powder snow preferred) and stand back up. don’t be tempted to jump back in the hot room too soon. tough it out for a few seconds and your internal heat will eventually melt the snow. the melting snow also washes away the sweat, along with your troubles and sorrows. now one can stand out in the cold, rinsed off, impervious to the cold as the remainder of your excess heat billows away!

    don’t forget the sandals though, the bare feet can only tolerate the snow for a minute or so. a glorious feeling to be standing outside during a polar vortex, half-naked and defying the elements while the neighbors are putting on an extra sweater to catch reruns of ‘mad about you’…

  3. My health club has a very good sauna (for an electric)with a damp cloth on the thermostat it gets over 200 degrees and even though the signs say no water I have been adding water for ten years. I also figured a way past the fire doors and alarm all you need is a small hex wrench and a magnet. Hex wrench unlocks most fire doors so you can get back in and the magnet prevents the contact from separating and going off. It works for now, until I build my own backyard wood burning sauna. Any opinions on the wood burning barrel type saunas?

  4. “However, dumping water or showering in the hot room is not the right play.”

    Obviously you have never been to an old-fashioned Finnish sauna. Because in those you wash yourself on the floor IN the hot room, there were no showers or other heating systems before. There is usually only two rooms in an older sauna. The sauna and the changing room, nothing else.

  5. “However, dumping water or showering in the hot room is not the right play.”

    Following The Finn above, another example of somewhere you DO splash in the sauna itself is the Russian Room at the Russian Turkish Baths in New York (E10th St). You can see the well of water and a bucket in the bottom left of the frame in this photo. I will stay in that room for 30-40 mins having an (ice cold!) bucket every 3-5 minutes. Glory.!Russian Sauna/zoom/c12wr/image783

    But I appreciate it’s a different situation than a wooden sauna. Worth mentioning is all.

    Totally behind the “cool down” section of this post too

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