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How to Clean a Sauna

light steam graphic

Clint’s Sauna Cleanser

8/9/2014

How to clean a sauna? Clint’s sauna cleanser, of course.

“Dilute it WAY more than the back of it suggests. I think I did a scoop for a whole gallon of warm water. Scrub it down and then fire it up to dry it. I’ve had great results. I do it a few times a year. In my experience it doesn’t affect the smell at all. A very weak solution is key.”

The Best Way to Keep Your Sauna Dry, Germ Free, and Clean

Many authentic sauna enthusiasts know how to keep their saunas dry, germ free, and clean. And the method is super easy, requires no cleaning or scrubbing. Authentic sauna enthusiasts practice the “bake and breathe” method, in Finnish: “leipoa ja hengittää”).

What is the Bake and Breathe Method for Keeping our Saunas Dry, Germ Free, and Clean?

Bake

When we are done with a sauna session, we make sure we still have some good heat in our sauna stoves. Then we exit our hot room and leave the door closed for the night. Why? A hot sauna will dry out our saunas after a sauna session. Germs can’t live in this heat.

Breathe

Next morning, authentic sauna enthusiasts will return to their saunas and prop open the hot room door until their next sauna session. Why? An open sauna hot room door will air out our saunas between sauna sessions.

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15 Comments

15 thoughts on “How to Clean a Sauna”

  1. I have to admit, I only clean out my saunas 2x per year. In fall, before I need to winterized the garden hose, I will pull my floor mat, give the sauna a good sweep, then hose it all down good from about half way up the wall down to the floor drain. As Clint suggests, fire up the sauna right away to dry it all out.

    I do the same thing again in spring.

    A wise Finn once told me that bacteria and stuff can’t live above 140 degrees f. So, a well heated sauna should clean itself.

    LEFT TURN: This could be reason number 14 why infrared light bulb closets are so substandard/wrong/lame/yucky.

  2. Great post Glenn. Saunas use dry or steam heat to provide relaxation and therapeutic benefits. Over time, a sauna can get grimy and could lead to growth of mold or mildew. To prevent a sauna from becoming unusable, it’s important to clean it every few weeks. Public saunas can spread the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause serious skin staph infections. So, I much prefer home saunas.

  3. Thanks Glenn, this something I have always done. It just seemed like the the right thing to do and now I know why. It,s nice to go into the steam room the next morning and find everything dry, just open all the doors and windows and let it air for a day.

  4. I cleaned my sauna for the first time by giving the walls and bench a sanding with a fine grit sandpaper and then a light scrub of baking soda/water solution.

    Problem now is that the sweat stained the walls and bench after one use. Anyone else encounter this?

  5. There is a 2000 study from Finland that details the temperature at which living organisms (bacteria, virus, mold) cannot survive. 56c (135f) is the temperature. I don’t have access to this study, and it is only in Finnish.

  6. Very much recommend leaving the cedar inside the hot room alone (no treatment of any kind). For a few reasons, and one being experientially speaking, my first sauna, built in 1996 with t&g cedar interior paneling, never treated, and it’s in great shape: looking fine.

  7. I purchased you Build a Sauna information and am almost done with my outside sauna. Do you recommend sealing the cedar inside a sauna? If so, what do you recommend?

  8. Totally, Bob. Bake and breathe is good for outdoor saunas, indoor saunas, but infrared cabins have no lampömässa, so you can leave the light bulbs on all day and get no baking.

  9. I’m really hoping someone can help with some advice. My family owns a camp with a wood stove sauna, river rocks and all. The sauna was built first by my 100% Finnish, Great Grandpa, as that is tradition. The sauna is around 60 years old and overall in great condition. Water is pumped up from the river and there’s a water tank in the sauna to provide hot and cold water for bathing.

    The benches have been well kept up, for the most part. They aren’t sparkly and brand new but they have been sanded down. However, the cedar walls have seen some smoke damage from people adding wood and creating too much smoke within the sauna. Is there any way to fix this without replacing the cedar planks?

    I know the cost of cedar is insane right now, but if there is a most cost efficient way to get them somewhat back to normal. I appreciate any advice. Thank you.

  10. Bonjour Jaime,

    I would attack disinfecting the hot room with a different approach than spraying down the wood.
    1. Home Depot sells heat guns for less than $30.00. I would get one of these, and a clipboard, and a schematic of your hot room printed up. (work you only have to do one time).
    2. I would take heat readings of all the areas inside your hot room. Anything registering above, say 130°f., arguably does not need any disinfectant. At the bottom of your one page schematic, you can reference a couple of different studies (links I don’t have off the top of my head but have been referenced here on saunatimes… try search bar above).
    3. And before applying this system, I would run the plan by some infectious disease expert in your area, in order to get engagement, and sign off.

    We all know that germs cannot live above a certain temp. So, this is the most organic, sustainable, sure fire way to ensure your hot room is germ free. Sure, someone infected sitting on the sauna bench who coughs could, in theory, transmit Covid to next person sitting on the sauna bench, but given that the air is hotter than at a football stadium, the infectious disease expert in your area may get into the analysis of how long it’d be until the virus dies.

    As far as any areas where the surface temperature does not exceed the service temp. that kills germs (door handles, etc.):
    1. Disinfect with the stuff you use in other areas.
    2. Call it good.

    And if I were a commercial owner, I’d share this information and process, as your concern for the safety and wellbeing of your guests is commendable.

  11. Glenn,
    For a commercial unit, what products do you recommend for cleaning the interior wood? Also, is it possible to disinfect the wood with regards to Covid, or is time and heat the way to go?

    I’m not finding much info on the CDC site.

    Thank you!
    Jaime

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