The traditional Finnish sauna

The traditional Finnish sauna


The sauna is an essential part of Finnish culture and way of life. It is not only a place to relax and wash, but also a social event and a tradition that brings people of all ages and backgrounds together. Could the sauna be one of the reasons why Finland is voted the happiest country in the world year after year? 


Monilla suomalaisilla on sauna sekä kotona että kesämökillä
Find out more about the sauna as part of Finnish culture


The fact that there are about three million saunas in Finland, a country with a population of 5.5 million, says a lot about the role of the sauna in this country. Many Finns have a sauna both at home and at their summer cottage, and almost every housing association has a communal sauna that residents can reserve. Companies have their own saunas, and many companies offer a wide range of sauna services, from the traditional smoke sauna to very modern interpretations of sauna bathing. Not forgetting saunas in swimming pools, fitness centres and spas. Municipal public saunas have become enormously popular in recent years. In addition to regular customers, many foreign visitors also come here to experience the Finnish sauna culture. The sauna is a place where cultures can meet in harmony and everyone will relax together. 


How do people take a sauna in Finland?

In Finland, it is common to take a sauna as a family, with adults and children going together. The very youngest babies, under six months old, are not yet taken into the sauna, but all Finns will remember how they first got used to the heat in a children's bathtub on the floor of the sauna and then tried sitting on the lower benches. How great it felt to finally sit on the upper bench with the adults. Finnish children get used to a holistic bathing culture from an early age. The basic rule of sauna bathing is that anyone of any age can go to the sauna as long as it feels good.


Miten Suomessa saunotaan?
A relaxing sauna session also reduces stress and can improve sleep quality. 


Of course, you don't just go to the sauna with your family, but also with friends, at company parties or in public saunas, swimming pools and fitness centres where you may not even know other people. Here it is important that you know the sauna etiquette. Men and women usually go to the sauna separately when they are not together as a family, but mixed saunas are not uncommon either. It is up to you to decide how you want to take your sauna, as long as common rules have been agreed and are known to everyone involved.


How to behave in the sauna and sauna accessories

Always take a shower before going to the sauna, as hygiene before and after is of the utmost importance. You can step into the sauna either naked or wrapped in a towel. Swimming trunks or swimsuits, not to mention swimming shorts, are not recommended due to the possible spread of bacteria. However, for understandable reasons, swimsuits are used in photo shoots for advertising and marketing.


Ennen saunomista käydään aina suihkussa
Always take a shower before going to the sauna.


You can sit on a towel, on a special bench towel or on a sauna bench cover. These can be separate for each person or serve as a longer, shared seat cover. The covers are always washed after the sauna, but in some public saunas, disposable paper bench covers can also be used as covers. If you wish, you can cover your hair with a sauna hat or a towel wrapped into a turban. They protect your head, hair and ears from the heat and help to keep your body temperature even. Snuggle up in a clean, soft bathrobe after the sauna.


Kiramin kylpytakit
Snuggle up in a clean, soft bathrobe after the sauna.


The right sauna temperature depends entirely on you. You will find out which temperature is most comfortable for you by practising. When looking for the right temperature, you should bear in mind that the sauna temperature temporarily rises when you make infusions.

The time spent in the sauna can also be adjusted according to personal preferences. However, the sauna is not intended to be a place where you sit for long periods at a time, but instead the experience consists of several short sauna sessions. Here too, the most important rule is that the sauna should feel good.


Cool down in the air or take a dip in the hot tub


Pulahda paljuun
Warm hot tub moments together with loved ones.


Breaks to cool down are an essential part of the sauna experience, which consists of sauna sessions and cooling down in between. After the breaks, you return to the sauna. The methods of cooling down vary a lot, depending on the location of the sauna and the options available. For many people, sitting on the sauna terrace is enough, but if the sauna is by the water, it is a good idea to go for a swim. In winter, ice bathing is a popular way to cool off. If there is no ice hole nearby, you can also roll around in the snow.


Vilvoittelutauot ovat olennainen osa saunomista
Breaks to cool down are an essential part of the sauna experience


Taking a dip in a hot tub after having a shower is also a good way to relax between sauna sessions. Kirami's product range includes the Twinny tubs, each with a basin for cold and hot water. With the increasing number of bathing options, the importance of the sauna will only continue to grow.


Kuuma-kylmä-kylvyt näppärästi samassa paljussa
Hot and cold baths conveniently in the same hot tub


A cool-down break is also a good time to hydrate. The best drink during the sauna is fresh water. Recovery continues even after the sauna. Then people often have a barbecue or enjoy snacks and good drinks.

Here you will find tips for having a barbecue after the sauna

Taking a sauna is healthy self-pampering

Long before there was any kind of research on sauna bathing, the Finns knew intuitively that it was good for body and soul. After the sauna, you feel relaxed and your mind calms down. When scientific research began, studies confirmed these observations.

The gentle heat of the sauna improves blood circulation, increases resistance and relieves pain. Regular sauna bathing has been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Taking a sauna once a week can reduce the risk by more than 20 %, and by up to 65 % the more often you take a sauna. A relaxing sauna session also reduces stress and can improve sleep quality. 

You can read more about the health benefits of sauna bathing on the Harvia website.


Saunayogaa Kiramin saunassa
Sauna yoga combines the meditative atmosphere of the sauna with yoga poses that are good for the body.


The heat also creates an excellent setting for a wide range of spa treatments and self-pampering, such as foot care, various face masks and peeling products as well as hair care. Sauna yoga combines the meditative atmosphere of the sauna with yoga poses that are good for the body. Among the more traditional treatments, there is of course cupping, which has always been practised in the sauna.


How do I use the sauna?


Sähkökiukaan kytkeminen päälle on varsin helppoa
Switching on the electric heater is very easy.


In order to enjoy all the comforts and benefits of a sauna, you first need to heat it up. Switching on the electric heater is very easy. You simply select the desired heat output and the length of time you want the heater to remain switched on. You can also time the start of the heating process. A wood-fired sauna heater, on the other hand, requires a little more effort, but it is said to provide softer infusions than an electric heater.


Pehmeät ja pitkät löylyt Harvian puukiukailla
Soft and long "löyly" moments with Harvia wood-fired heater


At the very beginning, before heating up a wood-fired heater, you must open the damper. This is very important for safety reasons. Dry wood of the correct length is then placed loosely in the firebox of the heater and lit from above. The most convenient way to do this is with fire starter bricks or fire starter bags. You can make it easier to light the wood by keeping the door of the sauna open and leaving the ash box ajar during the lighting process. When the wood is properly lit, close the sauna door and leave the ash box slightly ajar. The sauna is fully heated when the temperature in the sauna cabin has reached 70-80 °C or your desired temperature. When you start using the sauna, the exhaust flap should be open.

When starting your sauna sessions, remember that you just have to follow your own personal preferences, but the most important thing, especially during infusions, is to be considerate of others. Taking a sauna is not a competition in which the person who can withstand the most heat wins. Decide together with the other sauna users what the right temperature is and how often infusions should be made.


Saunan välttämättömimpiin varusteisiin kuuluvat astia löylyvedelle eli kiulu, löylykauha sekä lämpömittari.
The most important equipment for a sauna is a bucket for the infusion water, a ladle and a thermometer.


The most important equipment for a sauna is a bucket for the infusion water, a ladle and a thermometer. The other utensils are optional accessories that you can use to make your sauna experience more pleasant, e.g. sauna fragrances and neck cushions. There are different opinions about listening to music in the sauna, but for those who want to, there are also moisture-resistant speakers. 

A common thing for Finns, but an exotic phenomenon for others, is the vihta - or vasta, depending on which dialect region you are in. Usually a bundle tied from the branches of a young silver birch is placed in a bucket filled with water, where its scent creates a real sauna atmosphere. The actual whipping with the birch branches is a pleasant way to stimulate blood circulation and is an integral part of Finnish sauna culture.


Suomalaisille arkipäiväinen, mutta etenkin ulkomaalaisille eksoottinen saunavaruste on vihta
A common thing for Finns, but an exotic phenomenon for others, is the vihta


A few words on sauna safety and maintenance

Saunan turvallinen käyttö
Safe use of the sauna

One of the most important aspects of safe sauna use is keeping a safety distance from the heater. All movement in the sauna should be done in such a way that nobody accidentally touches the heater. With this in mind, a sturdy railing should be fitted to the benches near the heater.

Fire safety also includes a protective plate on the floor under the wood-fired heater. If the sauna has glass doors and/or windows, these should be made of high-quality safety glass. Locking the doors is also an important aspect. The sauna door must never be locked while the sauna is in use, but it must be possible to lock it when the sauna is not in use. A lock prevents the door from opening in the event of bad weather and ensures that children cannot enter the sauna without the presence of adults.

After sauna bathing, the sauna should be cleaned, rinsed and dried. The sauna door should remain open for a while after sauna bathing so that the sauna can dry and be well ventilated. Drying is important so that the moisture can disappear and the air in the sauna remains fresh. The stones in the sauna heater wear out over time and need to be replaced from time to time. Other parts that wear out during use are the resistance of the electric heater or the grate of the wood-burning heater, both of which can easily be replaced with new ones.

Watch the video about preparing for the sauna and read the article ‘Hygiene is the starting point for high-quality sauna experience’ on the Sauna from Finland website



The sauna is a place where you can clear your head and relax your body. Step into the warmth of the infusions and enjoy the Finnish sauna to the full!


Grillailua ja chillailua saunomisen jälkeen
Grilling and chilling after sauna