If you haven’t tried sauna, it is likely that you don’t appreciate what a delightful and refreshing activity it can be. This can be a little hard for the uninitiated to accept; after all, aren’t you just sitting in a very hot box and sweating?
Well, yes, that really is about all there is to sauna, at the same time there is so much more! Many cultures that live in the higher latitudes indulge in some sort of sweat bathing. The North American Indians enjoy the sweat lodge. The Japanese have a long tradition of bathing in very hot natural hot springs. Many Russians enjoy time in the banya, a type of public steam bath.
Traditional Finnish sauna shares elements of these other traditions, but adds some of its own twists. There are certainly public saunas throughout Finland, but sauna is also enjoyed privately, in the comfort of the home. The sauna is such an important part of Finnish culture that many women prefer to deliver their babies in the comfort of the family sauna.
Part of this is because the sauna is an almost holy place, but it is also usually the cleanest part of the home. The sauna is a place where sweaty, naked people congregate, so obviously there are some hygiene issues that must be addressed.
Keeping the sauna sanitary is a much simpler commitment than is required for other recreational bathing systems. Hot tubs, swimming pools, and steam baths are all not only warm, but also moist, which can be an ideal environment for all sorts of nasty bacteria to grow. Because sauna is much drier, it is harder for the bacteria to take hold.
But it is not completely dry, so there can be some danger. For the most part, keeping your sauna sanitary is simple house keeping. This is obviously much easier to accomplish with a home sauna than the one found at the gym or the health club.
Between uses, take a couple minutes to dust and sweep the inside of the sauna. Once in a while it is a good idea to gently wash the floor with a mild bleach solution or a commercial sauna cleaning agent from the pool supply store.
Occasionally it will be necessary to wash the boards of the benches and walls with a mild detergent. Afterwards, wipe the wood down with clean water, dry with a towel, and allow to air dry. One way to make this necessary less often is to insist that sauna users sit on a towel, which provides a barrier between the wood and the oils from sweaty bodies.
If you find the wood becomes discolored, it can be treated with a light grade of sand paper.
If your heater uses stones, they will occasionally need to be washed as well. Be sure to allow the stones to completely air dry before turning on the heater.
That is really about all there is to keeping a sauna sanitary. Because they use mostly dry heat, saunas are largely self cleaning. As simple as they are to keep clean, there is no end to the amount of enjoyment you can derive from your home sauna!