Sauna Bathing in North America; Similar or Different than Abroad?


A conservative estimate is that there are over a million saunas in North America. There is often a sauna in hotels, gyms, and private clubs and to an increasing extent, also in private homes. North America is a melting pot of most cultures in the world and American sauna bathing can be seen as a mixture of many ethnic and other influences that have consolidated and made the American way of sauna. Besides this, a great and growing trend in American sauna bathing is health conscientiousness/ wellness, which has increased particularly the popularity of infrared rooms (saunas) during the past 10 years.

Sauna-bathing experience differs whether the sauna is traditional, or infrared. It’s a matter of taste which one finds better, but sometimes it can happen that a devoted sauna bather misses some elements in an American sauna that s(he) is used to, regardless of the type. In both cases you should take breaks, and particularly with a traditional sauna you will be highly rewarded if sauna bathing takes place in a space that allows repeated visits to the hot room, relaxation in between, and an ability to take a shower or go for a swim during and after.

Some people say that the modern sauna originates from Finland. There are no such words in the Finnish vocabulary as “dry sauna” at the same time there is no “wet sauna” either it is just “sauna”. Sprinkling water to the heater is a welcome part of sauna bathing, since by it you control the humidity in the room, i.e., the feeling of heat. The most stubborn misunderstanding is that you can’t throw water on to an electric heater. While there can be heaters that are poorly built, all the heaters sold by members of North American Sauna Society are built to take water, and are meant to be used in this way. Not only is it OK to sprinkle water on the heated rocks, it’s an essential part of the sauna bathing experience.

American sauna bathing is sometimes a “side product” of something else; you sauna for the purpose of exercise, weight loss, beauty, etc., and this can sometimes lead to less than optimal locations for sauna rooms. They can be in the far corners of locker rooms, next to exercising equipment, and so forth. For many people abroad sauna is the main attraction and even after a good long exercise it still has its own distinctive purpose. You enjoy the heat, taking breaks and taking it easy. If you are lucky, you even enjoy beautiful scenery both through the sauna window and while cooling off outside. Also, a traditional sauna has to be warm enough to raise your core body temperature to get your endorphins flowing.

There are an increasing number of magnificent saunas in the United States and to back this trend North American Sauna Society is contemplating the idea of starting to certify American saunas and sauna dealers. There is a sauna that fits everybody’s bathing needs and it is paramount that both sellers and buyers know what the customer really wants and needs. Saunas are more affordable than ever, but they are space-consuming dis-investments if they don’t live up to buyers’ expectations. A sauna bathing experience is something intangible and very difficult to convey to people with less knowledge on the topic. The North American Sauna Society’s mission is to be the trusted third party and make sure that objective, unbiased information and advice is given to the general public in the matters of sauna.