What To Wear in a Sauna (Proper Etiquette & Practical Advice)

With so many different types of sauna locations – ranging from gym saunas to hotel saunas to home saunas – it can be hard to keep track of the appropriate etiquette. What should you wear in the sauna?

You should wear a swimsuit, clean gym clothes, or a towel to a sauna. You can go nude in some specific public saunas as well as in a home sauna (as long as your neighbors can’t see you!). You should never wear dirty gym clothes, synthetic or tight-fitting material, or jewelry – and you should never go nude unless it’s specifically permitted.

Keep reading to learn all about proper sauna etiquette and what to wear in different situations!

What should you wear to a sauna session?

You want to get the most out of your sauna experience, but how?

The wrong outfit can negatively impact your sauna experience. If you’re wearing the wrong things, your sauna session can range from unpleasant to unsafe. You can also ruin someone else’s sauna session.

Here are the best clothing options for the sauna:

  • Swimsuits
  • Clean gym clothes
  • Towels

Keep reading to learn what makes these the best options for your sauna wear, plus a complete breakdown of why you shouldn’t wear other outfits.

Swimsuits

Swimsuits are one of the most obvious things to wear in a sauna because they allow you to sweat freely.

Swimsuits are excellent sauna attire because they are a minimal amount of clothing and let you sweat. Sweating in the sauna has many health benefits such as increased circulation, detoxification, and opening up the pores.

Sweating is one of the main health benefits of saunas. Sweating is beneficial for a number of reasons, such as: 

  • Heavy metal detox
  • BPA elimination
  • Bacterial cleansing
  • Increased circulation
  • Opening pores

Wearing a swimsuit lets you sweat with no inhibition and encourages all of these health benefits.

You just have to be careful that your swimsuit isn’t made of a synthetic material that will melt in the heat.

Clean gym clothes

Clean, loose-fitting gym clothes are a close second to swimsuits and are a good option for people who feel the need to cover up a bit more.

Clean, loose-fitting gym clothes are good to wear in the sauna because they don’t restrict sweating. They also let you cover up more than bathing suits do, so they can be your best friend if you’re more on the shy side.

When you wear clean gym clothes in the sauna, you will get all the health benefits of sweating without being as exposed as you would be if you wore a bathing suit.

In addition, cotton shirts will catch your sweat and help keep the sauna clean. Just make sure your shirt isn’t skin-tight.

Towels

Cotton towels have many benefits in the sauna.

Cotton towels can be worn in the sauna. They will protect you from the heat of the sauna bench, provide a soft cushion to sit on, and wick sweat away from your body. Many saunas provide towels for you to wear.

Wearing a towel is extra convenient if you’ve just come from a workout because you can hop in the shower, grab a towel, and head to the sauna.

Towels also protect you from any potential sweat that is on the sauna bench and simultaneously provide the courtesy of keeping your sweat off the bench.

Are you supposed to wear clothes in a sauna?

If sweating is so good for you, then why are you supposed to wear clothes in a sauna?

You are supposed to wear clothes in most public saunas. However, there are some clothing-optional saunas and spas in the United States, many of them being co-ed. 

Clothing-optional saunas in the United States are far and few between, so you may have to do some traveling if you specifically want to be naked in a public sauna.

Do you sweat more in a sauna with clothes on?

You would think that you would sweat more in a sauna with clothes on, but the answer is more complicated than that.

You sweat more in a sauna when you’re wearing clothes that aren’t restrictive. Restrictive clothes hinder sweat and can make you overheat.

It’s important to wear a bathing suit, loose-fitting gym clothes, or a towel in order to get the maximum amount of sweat. Wearing synthetic or restrictive clothing will make it harder to sweat and make you more likely to overheat.

What should you not wear in a sauna?

So now you know what you should wear in the sauna. But it’s just as important to know what you shouldn’t wear.

Here are the worst things to wear in a sauna:

  • Nothing
  • Dirty gym clothes
  • Synthetic or tight-fitting materials
  • Jewelry

Being naked

While being naked is common in a lot of European saunas, the etiquette is very different in the United States.

You should not be naked in a public sauna in the United States unless it is specifically a clothing-optional spa. You can be naked in your own private sauna as long as your neighbors can’t see you.

Nudity is generally against the law in public places in America. 

It is also illegal on private property if it is visible to others, meaning you can’t be naked in your personal outdoor sauna unless you’re positive that your neighbors can’t see you.

Dirty gym clothes

In order to keep the sauna relaxing and sanitary, it is important to change out of your dirty gym clothes and into something more appropriate before entering the sauna.

You should not wear dirty gym clothes in the sauna because the heat will release the dirt from your clothes and lessen the health benefits of the sauna for you and everyone sharing the sauna with you. The sauna will also intensify the smell of your sweaty clothes.

Saunas are great post-workout. They can increase proteins that repair damaged muscle and stimulate growth hormones. But don’t hop straight from the gym into the sauna. The bad smell of your clothes can ruin people’s relaxation. 

In addition, the dirt and dust released from your clothes can cause negative health effects.

Synthetic or tight-fitting materials

While you might think that tight-fitting materials will make you sweat more and increase the health benefits of saunas, the opposite is true.

Synthetic or tight-fitting materials should not be worn in saunas because they obstruct sweating. One of the main benefits of saunas is chemical detoxification via sweating, so wearing synthetic or tight-fitting materials would defeat the purpose.

Sweating is a great way to release toxic chemicals such as BPA and PCBs from your body. If you wear materials that inhibit sweating, you will be missing out on this health benefit.

In addition, wearing clothing that is too tight can cause dangerous heat exhaustion. Lastly, PVC, a common synthetic material, melts at high temperatures.

Jewelry 

It can be a pain to take off all your jewelry every time you go into a sauna, but it’s well worth it.

You should not wear metal jewelry or piercings in the sauna because they can get too hot and burn you. This would certainly ruin your sauna experience!

Saunas can get as high as 195°F, which is enough to heat up your metal jewelry. Even if your jewelry doesn’t burn you, hot jewelry can cause an unpleasant sauna session and you’ll definitely remember not to wear your jewelry the next time.

What to wear in a sauna to lose weight

You might think to wear tight clothing in order to lose weight in a sauna, but you’d be wrong!

You can wear a bathing suit, loose-fitting gym clothes, or a towel to lose weight in a sauna. Saunas naturally help you lose weight by losing water weight, increasing your metabolism, and increasing your ability to exercise. Don’t wear restrictive clothing as an attempt to get hotter and burn more calories.

Although losing water weight is temporary, it can help you if you have a weigh-in for sports or need to fit into something tight post-sauna. You lose water weight because you sweat a lot of your body’s hydration out. Once you rehydrate, some of the weight will come back.

High sauna heat can temporarily increase your metabolism by up to 33%. Your metabolism is what makes you burn calories, so you will have a boost in calorie-burning while in the sauna.

Saunas help loosen your muscles and increase the rate at which your muscles recover from exercise. They also have similar results to exercising on their own, which can help you lose weight.

What to wear in a sauna after a workout or in the gym

So you know not to wear your dirty gym clothes after a workout. But what should you wear instead?

After a workout or a session in the gym, the best thing to wear in the sauna is a towel after taking a shower. It’s necessary to take a shower after working out and before hopping in the sauna to keep the sauna sanitary and clean-smelling.

The polite thing to do after a workout is take a shower so that you don’t stink up the sauna. The easiest thing to do after that is wrap up in a clean towel and head to the sauna. Most gyms provide towels for this.

What to wear in a hotel sauna

You’re in a hotel that has a sauna. What a luxury! But what do you wear?

Many hotels provide towels or cotton robes for you to wear in a shared sauna. If you have an individual sauna in your room, you can wear anything from loose gym clothes to a bathing suit. You can also opt to go naked, as long as you sit on a towel. 

Saunas are typically only found in high-end hotels that also have spas. These hotels often have someone inside the shared sauna adjusting the steam and heat for you. Make sure to be polite to the staff and feel free to ask questions if you have any.

If you have an individual sauna in your room, follow standard sauna precautions. The hotel will have a sign telling you how long to stay in the sauna, and the sauna may even automatically shut off after your allotted time. Stay safe and follow these rules.

What to wear in a spa sauna

There are some important rules for spa saunas.

Each individual spa will have different rules for what to wear in the sauna. The attire will likely be provided to you and will probably be a cotton robe or towel.

Here are some rules for entering a spa sauna:

  • Do shower before you enter. If your sauna is before your appointment, shower at home. If it’s after your appointment, there will be a shower for you to clean off any leftover lotion or oil.
  • Do relax. The whole point of including a sauna session at the spa is to enhance your relaxation.
  • Don’t be loud. Allow others to relax too.
  • Don’t be late to your spa appointment that follows your sauna.

What to wear in a home sauna

Home saunas have the most leniency in terms of what you can wear since in many ways you can make your own rules.

You can wear a bathing suit, loose-fitting gym clothes, or a towel in a home sauna. If your neighbors can’t see you, you can go naked.

If you’re going nude in your home sauna, be sure to put a towel beneath you to keep your seat clean.

It’s easiest to lose track of time when you’re relaxing at home and don’t see other people leaving the sauna, so be sure to cap your session around 15-20 minutes to avoid dehydration.

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