Can You Wear Workout Clothes in a Sauna? (Proper Etiquette)

If you’re about to visit a sauna in a public place, especially if it’s a place that’s new to you (like at a hotel on vacation, or if you’ve joined a new gym), you may be wondering what’s appropriate to wear. A bathing suit? Just a towel, maybe? What about regular clothes, or workout clothes?

While most people prefer to wear nothing in a private sauna (such as one in your own home), you can wear loose-fitting cotton clothing, a bathing suit, or just a towel in a public sauna. Keep in mind that anything you do wear should be clean and fresh. It’s always best to sit or lie on a clean towel to protect the wooden benches and sauna interior.

There are specific things to keep in mind for different scenarios where you might find yourself sharing sauna space with others.  Keep reading to learn what’s appropriate, and when.

Is it okay to wear workout clothes in a sauna?

If you’re in a public place and sharing a sauna with others and all you have available to wear into the sauna is, say, clean shorts and a tank top, or other workout-specific clothing like shorts and a t-shirt, you may be wondering whether this type of attire is acceptable to wear into a sauna.

Clean, loose, cotton workout clothing is acceptable to wear in a public sauna. Never wear dirty clothing into a sauna, especially after working out (this includes street shoes). Clean flip-flops or shower shoes and absorbent cotton towels are okay.

Clothing that’s too tight won’t allow your skin to breathe or the hot air to circulate, and tight clothing will concentrate heat, but not in a good way. To have the best experience, you’ll want to be able to enjoy the heat on your skin, which is why loose cotton or a towel is the best choice if you must cover up.

If you’ve worked out and want to take a sauna but don’t have a bathing suit available, take a quick shower and wrap up in a big, dry clean towel large enough to sit on. It’s more sanitary to sit on your own clean towel in a sauna anyway, private or public, as it will limit sweat transferred to the wooden surfaces and provide a bit of protection for you. 

(The towel will make it easier to keep the sauna interior clean, too.)

Can you wear workout clothes in the gym sauna?

You go to the gym to sweat, right? What difference does it make if you wear workout clothes into the sauna?

In a gym sauna, where it may be more common to see people in workout clothing, let courtesy guide your selection. You don’t really want to make anyone else smell your dirty clothes, do you? Don’t be that guy.

It’s the same in regard to bathing suits – just because they may be allowed in your gym sauna doesn’t mean you should automatically wear one. Even though bathing suits are the most common clothing choice for sauna use, the tight fit and typical fabrics of swimsuit material make the sauna experience less than optimal because of the fit and the type of fabric.

Loose and flowy and cottony works best for that dry high sauna heat. Synthetic materials, including zippers, buttons, or other attachments may heat up in the sauna and burn you. 

Can you wear workout clothes in the sauna after a workout?

If you’ve had a good, hard workout you might be looking forward to spending some time relaxing in the sauna. After all, the heat is soothing and can be therapeutic for sore muscles, but you also want to keep sanitation issues in mind.

If you take a sauna after a workout, shower first and wear completely clean clothing. This is more sanitary for others who will use the sauna with (or after) you.  Sweat may be full of bacteria, and despite the most attentive staff members, sometimes gym surfaces accumulate the sweat of multiple gym members on handles, buttons, doorknobs… and sauna benches.

In most public saunas, particularly those found in gyms, any restrictions specific to what you can wear in the pools or spas and saunas are typically specified in membership rules, which are often clearly posted. It’s always best to verify before you go with the gym staff to be sure you’re not violating their membership rules.

What to wear in a sauna at the gym

Most gyms have clearly posted rules to tell you clearly what it’s appropriate to wear in their facilities. Keep in mind that there may be different expectations for what you can wear to use the regular workout equipment, pools, and spas or steam rooms, and the sauna.

You should wrap up in a dry, fluffy cotton towel to go into a sauna at a gym. Taking a shower beforehand is good etiquette if you’ve worked out first, or if you’ve been in the pool, to remove the odor of chlorine (remember to dry yourself off completely after your shower before you enter the sauna, to get the full benefit of the sauna’s dry heat). Some facilities may require you to wear a bathing suit.

If you have questions, consult the gym staff. We also included a few of the larger workout facilities and the expectations they post for their members’ use of the sauna below.

What should you wear in the sauna at the YMCA?

Specific locations may differ in rules, so again, if you have questions, contact the staff at the location you’ll be attending.

The YMCA generally provides members with a printed copy of membership expectations. Since it’s a family-oriented facility, family-appropriate clothing is usually required. Bathing suits are frequently required in different locations to use the pools, spas, and saunas.

What should you wear in the sauna at 24-hour Fitness?

As with the YMCA, 24-Hour Fitness has membership regulations that may be different from location to location.

Posted local membership information for 24-Hour Fitness states that “acceptable attire for the Sauna/Steam Room includes swim attire and/or proper gym attire.”

While “proper attire” can appear to be open to interpretation, opt for consideration of others and general cleanliness in making your choices.

What should you wear in the sauna at LA Fitness?

Specific information on the dress code for LA Fitness was unavailable, as it appears that not all locations have a sauna available. 

In general, basic courtesy goes a long way. For a public sauna, that means modesty and cleanliness, with some awareness of other people (for example, if there are kids around).

No matter where you might be the next time you take a sauna among strangers, it’s universally good practice to shower beforehand, keep your sessions short, and remember to be quick closing the door so you don’t let out too much heat.