19 things you should never do in a sauna

Showing things to avoid in the sauna. Collage by Anna Svensson at SaunaEdge.

Going to the sauna is pretty straightforward. That being said however, there are a few things you should avoid while sauna-ing. Knowing about these is important both for safety and for making your sauna experience smooth and enjoyable. Many of these things are common-sense, but there are a few that you have probably never thought of.

In this post, I will list all the 19 things that you should not do in a sauna. I first give you the full list of what to avoid. Then, I’ll explain each point separately, and describe why it’s important. I’ll also be mentioning my own experiences (gained from a life-time of sauna-usage) in relation to some of these points.

Ok, let’s start!

19 things you should never do in a sauna:

  1. Don’t stay in the sauna for too long.
  2. Don’t sit directly on the sauna bench without towel.
  3. Don’t bring electronic devices into the sauna.
  4. Don’t put your head to close to the hot stones.
  5. Don’t bring any food or drink into the sauna.
  6. Don’t bring wet towels or washcloths into the sauna.
  7. Don’t use swim-wear that is too tight.
  8. Don’t wear anything with many buttons or hard objects.
  9. Don’t wear flip-flops or pool-sandals in the sauna.
  10. Don’t be dirty when you walk into the sauna.
  11. Don’t bring any pets or small children into the sauna.
  12. Don’t wear jewelry or other metal objects in the sauna.
  13. Don’t wear lots of makeup or lotion in the sauna.
  14. Don’t drink alcohol before or during your sauna session.
  15. Don’t enter if door is blocked or if it’s overcrowded.
  16. Don’t use the sauna if you’re feeling very thirsty.
  17. Avoid the sauna if you’re influenced by drugs.
  18. Avoid sauna if expecting, sick, on meds, odd etc.
  19. Don’t use the sauna if you wear harsh hair products.

1. Don’t stay in the sauna for too long

Since the heat and humidity in the sauna is really intense, you should not stay there for too long at a time. If you want to do a longer sauna session, it’s better to instead stay for several short periods, and take breaks outside of the sauna in-between.

If you stay for too long in one session, you could get overheated or dehydrated, so just be a bit careful. It’s often recommended to stay in a traditional sauna for no more than about 15 minutes.

Actually, if you look at the wall next to the entrance of a traditional sauna, you sometimes see a sand-glass timer. This timer typically measures and exact 15-minute session. Infrared saunas however, can handle a bit longer stays.

2. Don’t sit directly on the sauna bench without towel

You should always use a towel while sitting on the sauna bench. This is first of all for hygiene: No one want to come after you and sit in your sweat!

However, it’s also because of the fact that the sauna bench can actually get very hot. It can even get so hot so that it can actually cause small burns if you sit or lied on directly on it.

I in fact have personal experience from getting a tiny burn on my upper foot. This was caused by me doing yoga exercises on the bench, lying down on my stomach. Unfortunately, my towel was a bit to short, so the skin of my upper foot was exposed to the bare bench. I didn’t notice this until after getting back from the sauna session, and it was very tiny. But this shows that burns can actually really happen if you’re not careful!

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3. Don’t bring electronic devices into the sauna

As you might have suspected, the heat and humidity of the sauna can in fact damage electronic devices, including mobile phones. Also, we don’t really full know how these things affect our bodies at very high temperatures. So, they should be kept out of the sauna.

However, that being said, you probably know of people that do bring their mobiles with them into the sauna to listen to music. I have seen that many times, and know of people who claim they have no problem with this.

Nevertheless, if you want to follow the recommendations, you should leave the mobile and other devices outside. Since these devices could also potentially be safety hazards, you should at least be mindful of other people and leave them outside if there are more people in the sauna.

I have personally used a spare mobile phone to take some pictures in the sauna a few times. This has been for very short periods. So far, the phone is still working, but I’ve really restricted the time to only a few seconds.

4. Don’t put your head to close to the hot stones

The hot stones and heater may not look that hot, but they really are! It’s very easy to get too close if you’re pouring water on the stones, or if you do some balancing exercise in the sauna. Try to be careful and hold a distance to avoid getting burnt. This goes especially for your face.

5. Don’t bring any food or drink into the sauna

It’s probably common sense to most to not bring food into the sauna. Not only can you get nauseous if you eat during your session, but it’s also unhygienic. This is especially important if you use a public sauna.

Sugary drinks such as soda are also rather unhygienic, and should be avoided. However, bringing some water into the sauna is a bit less straightforward. Most people probably won’t mind if you just bring a bottle of water. However, keep in mind the normal plastic bottle is not made for these kinds of extreme temperatures. This plastic actually releases certain substances when heated, that are harmful. So, it’s better to keep your water too outside, and drink during your breaks instead.

The only instance when I personally bring a water bottle directly into the sauna is if I want to pour some water on the stones, and there is no bucket and ladle around. This is however only for the restricted time when I’m actually pouring the water onto the stones.

6. Don’t bring wet towels or washcloths into the sauna

You should not bring a towel dripping with water into the sauna for the simple reason that it can get very slippery. Firstly, it will drip on the floor so unsuspecting people that enter after you may slide or fall. Secondly it also makes the benches slippery. The same goes for bringing in wet washcloths. Also, these things don’t enhance the sauna experience in any way. If you find that it gets too hot in the sauna, it’s better to stay for a shorter session or take a break outside.

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7. Don’t use swimwear that is too tight

If you’re in a mixed-gender, public sauna where you need to use swim-wear, it’s important that it’s comfortable and loose-fitted. If you’re a woman, don’t wear a tight bathing suit that restricts you breathing! Choose a loose-fitted bikini instead.

8. Don’t wear anything with many buttons or hard objects

For swim-wear in the sauna, also try to choose those kinds that don’t have any buttons or hard objects. These can be uncomfortable against your skin, and they can also get hot.

9. Don’t wear flip-flops or pool-sandals in the sauna

Make sure to leave your flip-flops or pool-sandals outside of the sauna. These can be slippery and thus increase the risk of falling. Also, they are often made out of cheap plastic, which is not a recommended material in a sauna.

10. Don’t be dirty when you walk into the sauna

Make sure to take a shower before you walk into the sauna, so that you’re eliminating any accumulated dirt from the day. This is both for yourself and others, and is important due to the excessive sweating that occurs in a sauna. Firstly, if you walk in not being clean (especially in the face), you run the risk of getting clogged pores. Secondly, this will make the sauna dirty, and others that some after you won’t have an as enjoyable experience. Thirdly, it’s out of respect for any other people that may be in the sauna.

11. Don’t bring any pets or small children into the sauna

The extreme heat and humidity in the sauna may not be safe for pets or small children. So, leave these little friends in the safe hands of someone else while you’re visiting the sauna.

12. Don’t wear jewelry or other metal objects in the sauna

The reason why you shouldn’t wear jewelry, or any other metal objects for that matter, is that these can get too hot. This means they both risk getting damaged, and that they can burn you. So, leave you ring or favorite necklace outside. It’s not worth getting it damaged!

13. Don’t wear lots of makeup or lotion in the sauna

Makeup and lotion can clog your pores. This means you can get breakouts afterward if you use these in the sauna. I have myself seen the negative effects on my face of going to the sauna without taking off my face cream. Thus, I can attest to that this is something that actually happens. Also, if you’re wearing mascara, it will run down from your eyes and make you look kind of funny. Just remove your makeup of face-cream before entering the sauna!

14. Don’t drink alcohol before or during your sauna session

As most people are aware of, alcohol can really impair your judgment. Thus, if you have been drinking, you might get tempted to challenge yourself in a negative way, and stay for too long in the sauna.

Also, alcohol and makes it more difficult to regulate body temperature. It also increases the risk of overheating and dehydration.

In my experience, sauna (or hot-yoga) the day after an evening with alcohol is much worse than doing a normal fitness-session the day after. It’s really not recommended!

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15. Don’t enter if door is blocked or if it’s overcrowded

Avoid the sauna if it’s overcrowded. Firstly, it won’t be a pleasant experience. The ventilation may get affected, and you’ll run the risk of breathing in other people’s sweat. Secondly, it’s not really safe if there are so many people in there so that you have to ask people to move over just for you to get out. Be especially vary of the door area: Make sure to avoid a sauna that is so overcrowded so that the doorway is blocked!

16. Don’t use the sauna if you’re feeling very thirsty

If you’re feeling extremely thirsty, it’s usually a sign that you are not well-hydrated. Not being well-hydrated can cause problems in the sauna due to the excessive sweating. You can easily resolve this problem by just making sure to drink a lot of water before you start your sauna session. It’s also best to bring a bottle with you that you leave right outside of the sauna, so that you can drink during breaks or right after your session.

17. Avoid the sauna if you’re influenced by drugs

Just like alcohol, it’s better to avoid the sauna if you are influenced by drugs. The sauna-experience is already very strong in itself, and does not need additional enhancements. Also, you need to be alert and have a clear mind in the sauna, so you don’t fall asleep, get drowsy or slip and fall. Further, if your judgement is not clear, you might ignore signs of overheating and stay for too long in the sauna.

18. Avoid sauna if expecting, sick, on meds, odd etc.

It is generally not recommended to use the sauna if you’re expecting, if you’re sick, if you’re on certain meds, if you have certain conditions (such as those related to the heart), if you’re feeling light-headed, exhausted, if you have open wounds, or if you’re in any way feeling funny in general. If you have questions about these issues however, you need to consult an expert, and not just rely on a blog online.

19. Don’t use the sauna if you wear harsh hair products

I often enter the sauna with a hair-conditioner, some serum or a natural hair-mask. However, some harsh and non-natural hair products may cause a problem. In fact, some products have chemical ingredients that don’t go well with the high temperature in the sauna. For example, if you are using hair-spray, it’s better to remove this before entering the sauna. Just take a few minutes to wash these products off from your hair, before you enjoy the sauna-session!

Okay, so that completes the list of 19 things you should never do in a sauna. What did you think about the list? Were there some points that you had not thought of before? And do you know of something we should not do in the sauna that was not mentioned here? I’d be happy to read your thoughts in the comments!

Anna

Author: Anna Svensson

Anna is a Scandinavian who grew up with saunas. She has had a life-long love for, and interest in, saunas. In this blog, she shares her best hacks and things she has learned about saunas over the years. You can read more about Anna in the “About” page.

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