How To Use A Sauna: Definitions of Saunas, Steambaths and Jacuzzis  

by Pool Builders on 03-13-2008 in Articles

Saunas have existed for thousands of years and are now being rediscovered the world over for their health and social benefits. The sauna craze has overtaken North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Saunas, steam baths, and Turkish baths are sometimes used interchangeably to describe this relaxing and beneficial form of bathing. Is there a difference? This article will define and describe each of the above mentioned baths and hot tubs.


The sauna is an integral part of Finnish and Swedish culture. They generate a dry heat between 70 and 100 degrees Celsius. From time to time water is thrown on heated stones, producing a thick cloud of steam and making the room feel hotter. After being in the sauna between ten and thirty minutes, most people take a swim or a cold shower. In winter months, some people even roll in the snow.

Most homes in Finland and Sweden have a sauna room. In those countries it is a social event and may include family members, friends or business associates. They are always taken in the nude. Whether or not men and women take one together depends on their age and relationship. Public saunas are usually single-sex.

Swedish saunas have become popular in North America and are often part of public swimming facilities. Each pool sets its own policies on nudity. Some pools have certain periods for single-sex use when nude swimming and nude saunas are allowed. At other times bathing suits may be required.

Steam Bath

Steam baths have a constant humidity level around 100%. They are kept at about 40 degrees Celsius, a much lower temperature than the Swedish tradition, and many people prefer the steam bath. The high humidity makes breathing easier and has beneficial effects on the respiratory system.

Turkish Bath

The Turkish bath is also known as hamam. It is very similar to a steam bath. Traditional Turkish baths are large buildings and serve as social gathering places as well as places to get clean. There are separate rooms for men and women, and the bath building is divided into hot, warm, and cool areas.

Hot Tub

Hot tubs refer to large tubs of hot water in which the person bathing is submerged. Hot tubs are unlike saunas, steam- and Turkish baths, which are steam only. The three different kinds of containers used for hot tubs are wooden barrels, fibreglass whirlpools, or large bathtubs.

The first type is made from wooden slats and has a water pump and filtering system to circulate and clean the water. It is usually installed outdoors with surrounding benches so that people can soak comfortably with only their heads above water level.

Fiberglass whirlpools have high pressure 'jets' that create a whirlpool effect. The jets are useful for water massage or hydrotherapy. Public swimming pools or health clubs often have fiberglass whirlpools. These are also known as 'Jacuzzis' after the company that popularized them.

The bathtub type of hot tub is sometimes called a Jacuzzi tub. They are often installed in houses as a replacement for a regular bathtub. They are slightly larger than traditional bathtubs and have features similar to fiberglass whirlpools.

Saunas, steam- and Turkish baths, and hot tubs are all sometimes referred to as spas or spa treatments. A spa can also be a resort that offers body treatments such as massage and hydrotherapy. Many spas have facilities with steam baths and hot tubs.

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