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Dry vs Wet Sauna – a Comprehensive Guide Helps You Choose in 2023

Looking into getting a sauna for your home but not sure which is best for you? We go through the two main sauna options so you can choose the best option for you.

Saunas are a great way to unwind, relax, and improve your health, but with so many different types of saunas available, it can be challenging to know which one is right for you. The two most common types of saunas are dry saunas and wet saunas, also known as steam rooms. In this article, we’ll compare the similarities and differences between dry saunas and wet saunas so that you can make an informed decision.

Dry vs Wet Sauna – TLDR

The two main types of saunas are wet and dry, each with its unique features and advantages. A dry sauna is a traditional Finnish-style sauna that uses hot stones or an electric stove to heat the room to high temperatures, while a wet sauna, also known as a steam room, relies on a steam generator to heat the room and increase the humidity. Both types of saunas provide similar health benefits, such as improved circulation, lower blood pressure, and stress relief. However, there are also differences in the way they work and the benefits they offer.

Similarities between wet and dry saunas

Despite their different methods of heating, dry saunas and wet saunas have many similarities. They both provide a comfortable and soothing experience that promotes relaxation and stress relief. Additionally, both types of saunas can improve circulation and lower blood pressure, leading to long-term cardiovascular benefits.

Dry and wet saunas also offer similar health benefits for the skin. The heat in both saunas opens up the pores and increases blood flow, which can lead to improvements in skin tone and texture. Regular sauna use can also help alleviate some skin conditions, such as psoriasis and dry skin.

Differences between wet and dry saunas

The most apparent difference between a dry sauna and a wet sauna is the method of heating. A dry sauna heats the air to a high temperature, usually ranging from 160-200°F, using electric stoves or wood fires, and allows humidity levels to stay low. In contrast, a wet sauna, also known as a steam room, pumps steam into the air and maintains a high humidity level of up to 100%.

The difference in humidity levels between dry and wet saunas leads to distinct health benefits. Wet saunas are better suited for people with respiratory issues such as asthma, allergies, or congestion. The moist environment of a steam room can soothe dry respiratory tracts and open up the lungs, making it easier to breathe. Additionally, the steam in a wet sauna can also help relieve sore throats and nasal congestion.

Dry saunas, on the other hand, are better suited for people with dry skin or those looking to improve their athletic performance. The high temperature of a dry sauna helps to loosen muscles, making them more pliable and elastic. This makes dry saunas an excellent choice for athletes who want to recover quickly after training or competition.

Dry SaunaWet Sauna
Heating MethodHot stones or electric stovesExternal steam generator
MaterialWood (pine, cedar, spruce)Ceramic, glass, or plastic
SeatingGraded seating with higher temperatureGraded seating with higher humidity
Similar BenefitsImproved circulation, skin, respiratoryImproved circulation, respiratory, skin
Different BenefitsRelief from rheumatic diseases, sporting performance and recovery, stress reliefParticularly good for respiratory conditions, relief from congestion and excess mucus

What is a Dry Sauna?

A dry sauna, also known as a Finnish sauna, is like a hot, dry oven for your body. It’s a small, enclosed space that’s heated to temperatures between 160-200°F, inducing a profuse, cleansing sweat. The heat is usually generated by rocks or electric heaters, but no matter how it’s created, it’s a fantastic way to warm up on a cold day or to relax and detox after a tough workout. In fact, you could say that a dry sauna is like a gym membership for your skin – it’s a great way to sweat out the toxins and stress of daily life!

How does a dry sauna work?

A dry sauna works by heating a small room to temperatures high enough to make you sweat. The following are the steps for how a dry sauna works:

  • The most traditional version uses stones heated over a wood fire. People throw or sprinkle water over the stones to create steam, which boosts the ambient temperature even further.
  • Modern saunas use electric stoves or other heating methods instead of the more traditional hot stones.
  • Dry saunas incorporate vents to allow steam to escape. This means humidity is usually in the 5-30% range, so although they are sometimes called “dry” saunas, the air inside still retains a certain amount of moisture.
  • The walls are usually made of wood, with pine, cedar and spruce being common choices. These walls absorb moisture, also helping to reduce the humidity inside the sauna.
  • Temperatures in traditional saunas can reach around 160-200°F, and inside, you will usually find seating at different levels – the upper row of seating has a higher temperature while on the lower row, temperatures are slightly less intense.

In a dry sauna, the heat causes your body temperature to increase, which makes you sweat. The sweat then evaporates and cools your body. This process is a natural cooling mechanism for your body, which can help improve circulation and other health benefits.

What are the benefits of a dry sauna?

Dry saunas are not just a relaxing way to unwind, but can also have a multitude of health benefits. One of the most significant benefits of using a dry sauna is improved cardiovascular health. Research suggests that frequent use of a dry sauna can lead to lower blood pressure, improved circulation, and a lower risk of heart attack and other heart-related conditions.

Aside from its positive impact on the heart, dry sauna use can also alleviate the symptoms of rheumatic diseases such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. It can also enhance exercise performance in athletes and lead to relief from certain skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema.

Dry sauna use has also been associated with a lower risk of dementia. Studies have found that regular dry sauna use can help prevent the development of cognitive impairment, and reduce the risk of developing dementia. Additionally, dry sauna use has been found to reduce symptoms of asthma.

In summary, the benefits of a dry sauna are more than skin deep. Frequent use can lead to a healthier heart, alleviate the symptoms of various rheumatic diseases, improve exercise performance, provide relief from skin conditions, and even reduce the risk of dementia. Incorporating dry sauna use into your health routine could be a sweet way to take care of your body and mind.

Here’s a quick summary of the benefits:

  • Improved heart health: Regular sauna use has been linked to lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart attack and other heart-related conditions.
  • Improved circulation: Sauna use can increase blood flow and improve circulation throughout the body.
  • Lower blood pressure: Sauna use has been shown to lower blood pressure, which can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Reduced symptoms of rheumatic diseases: Sauna use can help alleviate pain and improve mobility in people with rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Better exercise performance: Sauna use before or after exercise can enhance performance and reduce muscle soreness.
  • Relief from certain skin conditions: Sauna use can help alleviate symptoms of certain skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
  • Fewer symptoms of asthma: Sauna use has been shown to improve lung function and reduce symptoms in people with asthma.
  • Lower risk of dementia: Regular sauna use is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

How Do Dry Saunas Compare to Infrared Saunas?

Comparing dry saunas to infrared saunas is like comparing a hot summer day in the desert to basking in the warmth of a cozy fire. While both types of saunas will raise your body temperature, infrared saunas do so using electromagnetic radiation from special lamps, which directly heat your body. On the other hand, dry saunas heat the air around you, which then heats your body. This makes infrared saunas the top pick for those who enjoy a more targeted heating experience.

In addition, infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures than dry saunas, usually between 120˚F (48.9°C) and 140˚F (60°C). This means you can comfortably stay in them longer than in dry saunas, with an average time of 20 minutes. If you’re new to the sauna experience, it’s recommended that you start with a 10- to 15-minute session and gradually work your way up. However, some sauna enthusiasts may stay in an infrared sauna for up to 30 minutes for an ultimate relaxation experience.

Home Sauna Heater Cost

What’s a wet sauna?

A wet sauna, also known as a steam room, is like a hot, humid paradise for your body. Unlike a dry sauna, it is heated by a steam generator that pumps steam into a nearly airtight room, creating a humidity level that approaches 100%. Although steam rooms are not as hot as traditional saunas, usually only reaching around 100-120°F, the high humidity can make them feel hotter than a dry sauna. 

Steam rooms are usually made of materials such as ceramic, glass or plastic, and, like traditional saunas, often have graded seating with the higher part being hotter and the lower part being slightly cooler. Sitting in a steam room can offer all the same benefits as a dry sauna, but with the added bonus of extra steam and humidity, which can be especially helpful for respiratory ailments or dry skin. If a dry sauna is like a gym membership for your skin, a wet sauna is like a relaxing spa day that you can experience anytime.

How does a wet sauna work?

A wet sauna, also known as a steam room, works by pumping steam into an enclosed space. The following are the steps for how a wet sauna works:

  • The steam is generated by an external steam generator and is pumped into the steam room, which is nearly airtight to prevent the steam from escaping. Due to the lack of vents, humidity levels can reach close to 100%, making it a moist and warm environment.
  • The steam room is usually made of materials such as ceramic, glass, or plastic, which can handle high humidity levels without warping or rotting.
  • Temperatures in a steam room are typically lower than in a dry sauna, usually around 100-120°F, but due to the high humidity, the heat can feel more intense.
  • In a wet sauna, the high humidity and heat cause you to sweat, which can help with respiratory conditions and moisturize dry skin. The steam can also loosen tense muscles, making them more pliable and elastic, which can aid in recovery after exercise.

Overall, a wet sauna is like taking a warm, relaxing steam bath, providing a range of health benefits and relaxation.

What are the benefits of a wet sauna?

A wet sauna uses moist heat to induce sweating, providing a different experience than a dry sauna. The warm, humid air in a wet sauna can help relax the body and provide a host of health benefits.

One of the most significant benefits of a wet sauna is its positive effect on respiratory conditions. The moist heat helps to open up airways, making it easier to breathe and reducing symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions. This is because the steam in the air helps to moisten the nasal passages and throat, reducing inflammation and clearing out congestion. People who suffer from chronic respiratory problems may find that regular sessions in a wet sauna help to improve their quality of life by reducing the severity and frequency of symptoms.

In addition to its benefits for respiratory conditions, a wet sauna can also be helpful for various skin conditions. The steam in a wet sauna helps to moisturize the skin, improving its overall appearance and elasticity. The heat can also help to open up pores, allowing the skin to more easily expel toxins and impurities. People with eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions may find relief from their symptoms by spending time in a wet sauna. The moist air can soothe dry, itchy skin and promote healing by increasing blood flow to affected areas. Overall, a wet sauna can be an excellent way to improve your skin’s health and appearance.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

What is better: a dry or steam sauna?

There isn’t necessarily a “better” option between dry and steam saunas, as both offer unique benefits. Dry saunas tend to have lower humidity and higher temperatures, while steam saunas have higher humidity and lower temperatures.

When to use a dry sauna?

Dry saunas are a great option when you want to relax, relieve stress, or soothe sore muscles after a workout. They can also help with respiratory and cardiovascular health, but may not be ideal for those with skin conditions or low heat tolerance.

How to use wet and dry saunas?

To use a wet or dry sauna, start by hydrating and stretching, then spend 10-15 minutes in the sauna. You can sit or lay down, but make sure to bring a towel to sit on and another to wipe away sweat. Leave the sauna if you start to feel dizzy or uncomfortable, and cool down with a shower or cool towel.

Are saunas wet or dry?

Saunas can be either wet or dry, depending on the method used to generate heat. Dry saunas use heated rocks or electric heaters, while wet saunas use steam generators.

Dry or wet sauna for weight loss?

Both wet and dry saunas can aid in weight loss by increasing heart rate and metabolism, but any weight loss is likely due to water loss and not fat loss.

Is a dry sauna good after a workout?

A dry sauna can be good after a workout, as it can help relax muscles and improve circulation. However, it’s important to rehydrate after the sauna to replenish fluids lost through sweat.

How long is it safe to be in a sauna?

It is generally safe to be in a sauna for up to 20-30 minutes, but it’s important to listen to your body and leave if you start to feel dizzy or uncomfortable. Make sure to drink plenty of water before and after using the sauna to stay hydrated.

Dry vs. Wet Sauna – How can you decide which one is best for you?

In conclusion, a sauna is a fantastic way to relax, detox and rejuvenate. Whether you prefer a dry sauna or a wet sauna, the benefits for your body and mind are numerous. For those who are looking to buy a sauna, we recommend trying out a few different types and speaking to one of the friendly experts at Epic Hot Tubs to help you choose the right sauna for your needs. With their wide range of high-quality saunas and exceptional customer service, Epic Hot Tubs is the perfect place to start your sauna journey. So don’t hesitate – start reaping the benefits of a sauna today!

About The Author:

Manny Brambila

Pool & Spa Expert

Manny has been in the Pool & Spa industry for over 15 years and is considered a pool, swim spa, & hot tub expert. He has been a Certified Pool & Spa Operator (CPO) since 2009 and worked 15 years in aquatic training and development for the largest pool chemical and customer care company. He also has been an outside consultant for the Pool and Spa industry in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles since 2018. In the past few years Manny has become Director of Operations for Epic Hot Tubs with a priority of providing customers with the most reliable information and best service possible.