Can You Paint an Infrared Sauna? (With Important Watch Outs!)

Infrared saunas are generally pretty attractive structures. The natural wood used in a sauna provides a rustic or modern style that is quite beautiful but may not be the style you have in mind. So, you may be wondering, can you paint a sauna?

You may paint the exterior of an infrared sauna; however, the interior of a sauna should never be painted or stained. Coating the inside of a sauna with paint, stain, or varnish can cause damage to your sauna. Additionally, the high levels of heat can make interior walls dangerously hot and release harmful chemicals if coated with various finishes. 

Keep reading for more information on your limitations and options when it comes to painting your sauna. 

Is it okay to paint an infrared sauna?

There are many types of wood used to build a sauna. The most common woods are cedar, pine, and spruce. These types of wood are used because they do not conduct heat very well and do not leak resin in hot temperatures.

Low heat conduction and minimal resin or chemical release are crucial to sauna users’ health and safety.

When you paint or treat the interior of a sauna, you are ultimately changing how the wood behaves while in use. Additionally, you are risking exposure to harsh chemicals in your body.

The only exception to this will be treating the interior with tested and approved sauna wood treatment paraffin oil.  

Painting the interior of a sauna goes against the manufacturer’s recommendations. However, it is safe to paint the exterior of the sauna. Because the heat provided from a sauna does not directly contact the structure’s exterior, treating the outside wood is considered to be okay.

Painting the exterior of a sauna is safe for both indoor and outdoor saunas.

There are many paints and stains that you can choose from and many to stay away from. Outdoor and indoor structures will require different paint or stains and other upkeep procedures.

The best way to ensure that the health and safety of your sauna users are not at risk is by checking the manufacturer’s recommendations before making any changes to the structure.

Although most saunas can be painted on the exterior, treating the wood while not manufacturer-approved may void your warranty or cause unexpected problems.

Why you shouldn’t paint the inside of an infrared sauna

You should not paint the inside of the infrared sauna or any sauna because it can be dangerous.

When the interior wood is heated, any toxins in the paint or stain will be released into the air; these toxins can be harmful to the body.

Varnishes exposed to sauna heat or steam can cause the interior walls to become exceedingly hot and pose a burn risk. Additionally, the wood needs to have the opportunity to breathe, absorb and release heat and humidity.

Some short term side effects of inhaling paint fumes are:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Trouble breathing

Being exposed to these fumes regularly can severely damage the liver, kidneys, and nervous system.

Should you paint an indoor infrared sauna?

Painting the exterior of an indoor sauna is up to personal preference.

An indoor sauna is not exposed to the elements; therefore, it is not necessarily advised to paint the sauna. However, if you are interested in painting the sauna to change the style of the structure, you are welcome to do so.

Painting the outside of an infrared sauna

If you have decided that you would like to paint the outside of your sauna, you should first check with the manufacturer to ensure that your warranty will not be voided and ask for recommendations on paints and stains.

Then, once ready to paint, you can follow the steps below.

  1. Protect the floor with drop cloths.
  2. Coat the wood with a water-resistant preservative that contains 1% or less of wax (if your sauna wood is untreated).
  3. Check the wood for any damage or rough spots and smooth them with sandpaper
  4. Apply a layer of primer to the outer edges of the wood and work your way to the center in 3 foot long strips.
  5. Once dried, apply a second coat of primer.
  6. Apply your topcoat with the same technique that was used for the primer.

Consider your sauna’s construction materials.

Before painting or staining your sauna, you should consider its construction materials. For example, whether or not the wood has been previously treated will make a difference in the type of primer you will need.

Consider the type of wood your sauna is built with. Different kinds of wood may require different paints or stains. Some types of wood may absorb paint differently than others, causing you to need multiple layers or avoid certain paints/stains altogether. 

Additionally, you should measure the total surface area of your sauna to ensure that you purchase the correct amount of paint.

Choosing the right paint or stain

You can be sure to choose the right paint or stain by selecting a finish that will be heat resistant, has high durability, easy to clean, and can withstand its environment (if your sauna is outdoors).

You should also consult with the manufacturer to find out if there is a specific type of paint or stain they recommend for use on your sauna.

Painting the infrared sauna

Outdoor saunas should be painted with latex-based paint because it is more weather resistant. Using deck/patio paints is generally a safe option for your outdoor sauna. 

Indoor saunas have a more comprehensive range of options available when it comes to painting the structure. Since your sauna is indoors, there will be no rain, snow, or sun that can cause damage to the paint. You may use acrylic, latex, chalk, milky, and any other paint suggested for wood furniture.

Be sure to prep your sauna properly by sanding the wood and thoroughly cleaning it of all dust to ensure a solid adhesion to the wood.

Multiple coats of paint will also provide a more durable finish that is less likely to peel or fade.

Staining the infrared sauna

When staining your sauna, the type of stain you use is not affected by whether or not your sauna is indoors or outdoors. Assuming that you have untreated wood that has never been painted, you may choose any brand and color of stain that you desire.

For the best results, start by lightly sanding your sauna and cleaning it with soaping water before applying the stain. Once dry, you will repeat this sanding, cleaning, and staining process as many times as needed to obtain your desired shade.

After staining your sauna, you will apply a layer of polyurethane or shellac to seal in the stain and keep out any moisture.

Using your sealant in a clean and dust-free environment is essential to avoid dirt or air bubbles drying into your clear coat.

Exterior maintenance of your infrared sauna

Maintenance on your saunas exterior after painting or staining the wood is relatively simple. Keep your sauna looking fantastic by keeping it clean and performing touch-ups as needed.