10 Tips for Making the Most of Your Sauna

Enjoy your home sauna to the fullest with these tips from dedicated users.

Image Credits:clu / Getty Images

Home saunas are no doubt relaxing, and studies show they may well improve users’ health, too.

One found that 30 minutes in a sauna lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure, while another showed that sauna use reduces systemic inflammation. Yet another discovered that sauna use substantially lowers the risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

To increase the health and enjoyment factors, check out these how-to-use-a-sauna tips from home sauna devotees.

Preheat It

Christine Wang, founder of Ski Girl, uses her home sauna almost every day. She recommends warming things up well before you step in. “Especially during colder months, if you forget to warm up the sauna and have to wait for a half-hour or more for it to get warm, you are less likely to use it daily,” she says. “I have a ‘sauna reminder’ on my phone that goes off about an hour before I typically go in.”

Be Mindful of What You Eat Beforehand

As a three-times-a-week sauna user and writer for sauna manufacturer Vidalux, Katie Miils suggests using your sauna on a mostly empty stomach. “It’s fine to have a light snack like fruit or yogurt to tide you over, but avoid going in a sauna when you’re still digesting heavy food because this will overload the body,” she says. If possible, choose a snack high in potassium, like bananas or edamame, since you expel that mineral when you sweat.

Shower First

Showering with soap and water before your sauna session has several benefits. It removes the oily film from your skin, which helps your sauna stay clean. It also helps you sweat faster. A warm shower relaxes your muscles and perhaps your mental state. And always towel off well before entering a sauna, because wet skin makes it harder to start sweating.

Consider Going In Nude

Wearing just your birthday suit in your home sauna is best because it lets your skin sweat freely. If you must cover up, an absorbent cotton towel is your best choice. Avoid tight-fitting clothes and swimsuits, since their fabric tends to be insulating. Definitely skip anything containing PVC, which can melt and give off toxic fumes at high temperatures. It’s also a good idea to remove metal jewelry, which can heat to uncomfortable temperatures in a sauna.

Gather Pampering Supplies

A few well-chosen items can make your home sauna feel like a spa-like escape. “Our sauna is our 80-sq.-ft. sanctuary, so I wanted to make it feel as luxurious as possible,” says Elizabeth Alexander, a regular home sauna user in Brooklyn, N.Y. “I bought a nice wooden bucket and ladle for water, quality towels, a thermometer, a hygrometer to measure humidity and some delicious smelling essential oils.” She recommends mixing a few drops of “the best essential oils you can afford” into a bucket of water before ladling it over the sauna’s hot rocks.

Keep It Clean and Well Maintained

Regularly clean and disinfect your sauna following the manufacturer’s recommendations, since saunas are often made of delicate natural woods. Stay on top of maintenance, too.

“Saunas are connected to many of your home’s key systems like HVAC ventilation and electrical wiring,” says Shane Dutka, founder and general manager of Review Home Warranties. “These elements should be routinely inspected at least once a year, if not more for regular sauna users.” He also recommends regularly sanding the benches, which improves the look of the wood and helps sanitize its surface through exfoliation.

Ease In

It’s recommended to cap your sauna session at about 20 minutes, but newbies should bow out well before then. “Ease into it,” advises Brandi Andrews, a sauna enthusiast from Tampa, Fla. “Unless you’ve been using a sauna on a regular basis, you shouldn’t immediately start using it all the time. Start with short periods in the sauna and slowly advance them as your body gets used to it on a regular basis.”

Consider Chromotherapy

Chromotherapy is the science of using colors to promote health, healing and relaxation. Alexander also installed the remote-controlled Chromotherapy Light for JNH Saunas, which lets you choose among seven colors that help calm frazzled nerves, support circulation, reduce indigestion and more. “The blue light is my favorite,” she says. “It helps me to relax after a long day at work.”

Stay Hydrated

It’s important to hydrate before, during and after your sauna session, since you’ll lose a good amount of water through all that sweating. Water is always your best bet. Definitely avoid alcohol, which poses serious health risks when consumed in a sauna, like making it difficult for the body to maintain its blood pressure.

To calculate how much water you should be drinking, divide your body weight by two and drink a minimum of that many ounces of water each day.

End With a Cold Shower or Bath

A post-sauna chilly shower or bath delivers healing benefits. It can quell joint inflammation, improve blood flow and kick-start lymphatic circulation, which ultimately helps flush out waste and detox the body. Going from hot to cold also triggers the release of endorphins, the “happy hormones” that help improve your mood.

Amanda Prischak
Amanda Prischak is a freelance writer based in Erie, Pennsylvania.