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Sauna room
Sauna log cabin in Finland
Sauna in Estonia, built in 1896

A sauna ( plural saunas / saunas ; Finnish sauna ; also known as a sweat room or Finnish bath ) is a room that is heated to 80 to 105 degrees Celsius using a sauna heater. The sweat bath in the sauna promotes health and serves to relax . Public saunas are often connected to a public swimming pool or fitness studio and can be combined with other facilities such as steam baths or a warm air bath.

Since December 17, 2020, Finnish sauna culture has been recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO .

General information

Electrically heated sauna heater with stones that give off heat evenly

The sauna room, which is usually lined with wood on the inside , is heated to a temperature between 80 ° C and 100 ° C, more rarely up to 130 ° C , with a sauna heater . Instead of wood and oil stoves, electric stoves are mostly installed nowadays because they are easier and more problem-free to operate.

The benches are arranged in two to three steps at a height of 0.5 m to 1.5 m, with the temperature increasing significantly towards the top. Air circulation is important in a sauna, so fresh air is continuously supplied, which is immediately heated by the stove so that the temperature in the room remains constant. The original purpose of the sauna was to thoroughly cleanse the body, as they say in Finland: "Women are most beautiful after the sauna". However, taking a sauna also has a positive effect on the vegetative nervous system and general well-being and has a strengthening effect on the immune system, so it serves in particular to toughen up against colds. The complexion can also be improved by going to the sauna.

In order to increase the humidity and thus the perceived temperature in the sauna, water is poured onto the hot stones lying on the sauna heater: this is known as an infusion . This creates the löyly [spoken: löülü] ( löyly is a Finnish word that describes the water vapor produced by the infusion in the sauna). The addition of essential oils to the infusion and the distribution of the steam by blowing air with a towel are widespread in German-speaking countries and in Russia, but rarely in Finland, and sometimes frowned upon.


Construction methods

In addition to frequently used saunas for installation indoors and sauna huts for installation outdoors, there are also less used sweat tents, infrared saunas and mobile saunas.

  • Solid saunas are put together from solid wooden planks layer by layer and pressed together to form a heat-proof wall structure. Millings (such as tongue and groove) ensure stable interlocking, but the planks can move in a controlled manner. The natural material wood absorbs the moisture from the sauna interior and releases it again. This avoids any kind of mold formation that occurs with completely airtight insulation. You have hygienic and climatic advantages, especially when using the so-called logs.
  • Element saunas are built up in several layers. Layer 1: Inside a wooden formwork with a thickness of approx. 2 cm to 4 cm. Layer 2: a heat-resistant vapor barrier (mostly made of pure aluminum). Layer 3: a space made of heat-resistant and outgassing-free insulating material (mostly rock or glass wool). Layer 4: an outer layer made of wood. The element sauna is composed of prefabricated elements. It is easy to assemble and dismantle (e.g. when moving). It is made by craftsmen or self-made in cellars, roof trusses or gardens and built into existing rooms.
  • Mobile saunas are often installed or placed on car trailers or other vehicles. They are used by the operators to drive their saunas to locations (e.g. at a lake).
  • Sweat tents. In ancient cultures, tents pitched over fireplaces served as sweat rooms.

In wooden saunas, different types of wood are often used for the benches and the leaning area than for the walls and ceiling. Woods that are poor in resin or types of wood with low thermal conductivity such as abachi or Douglas fir are preferred .

Heat sources

Basically, heat from a sauna heater is given off by heat radiation (a certain wavelength depending on the temperature, according to Planck's law of radiation ) and heat release to the air passing by and by binding as latent heat in the water vapor. The heat radiation warms up all the bodies it hits, especially the walls and benches of the sauna, which in turn emit "gentler" heat radiation with a lower radiation intensity (with a higher wavelength due to the lower temperature than the stove).

The following heat sources are possible for a sauna:

  • Electric oven: Heat is generated by means of electric heating rods and given off to the room air and / or stones. When connecting electrical systems in saunas, it is important to use heat-resistant cables (e.g. silicone cables)
  • Wood stove: A wood fire is operated in a closed combustion chamber, which draws its combustion air from outside. In Germany, their operation is subject to the ordinance on small and medium-sized combustion systems (1st BImSchV) and the respective fireplace ordinance of the federal states.
  • Wood fires: In traditional cultures, fires were lit directly in saunas to heat stones. These served as a heat source after the fire went out.
  • Infrared lights: Infrared lamps heat the sauna using radiant heat. The radiant heat should directly heat the body surface of the sauna user.
  • Gas stove: The heat is distributed in the cabin using the sauna stones. To do this, the air that the gas stove draws through an opening in the floor is heated and transferred to the stones. A fireproof base or a fireproof back wall is important for gas stoves.

Sauna stones

The infusion stones for the sauna heater are usually weather-resistant rocks such as granite or diabase , which have few fissures or cracks, or pore-rich volcanic rocks.

Sauna culture

Visiting a sauna is a sauna or saunas called. It is used for physical edification, health , body cleansing and the improvement of wellbeing . Taking a sauna or visiting a sauna can also be a social event; they meet in the sauna. So today's sauna bathing can contribute to general well-being.

There are considerable national differences with regard to gender segregation and clothing in the sauna (see sauna in other countries ). In German-speaking countries, Scandinavia , the Baltic countries , the Benelux countries , northern Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Russia, saunas are usually entered naked; The so-called textile saunas are an exception . In many other countries, especially in the Romance-speaking countries, a naked sauna is unusual or even prohibited.

In most countries there is a gender segregation, especially where there is a nude sauna. In the German-speaking countries, on the other hand, the majority of public saunas are mixed-sex, some exist for women, less often for men, separate zones or days.

In cases in which the operators of the sauna specifically want to have people as customers for sexual motivation, one speaks of a contact sauna or a sauna club. In most saunas, however, overly open sexual behavior is undesirable both by the operators and by the majority of sauna guests and can lead to a house ban .

In the Scandinavian countries, as well as in the Russian area - called banja there - the sauna is extremely important in maintaining social contacts. It is common for business people to meet in the sauna and make business decisions there. Viewed across Scandinavia as a whole, however, the importance of the sauna decreases sharply towards the south-west and is no longer of any higher significance in southern Norway than, for example, in Germany.

Tied together birch branches (Finnish Vasta or vihta or Russian Wenik ) serve as a "whip" for skin massage in the sauna.

In the sauna as well as in the Russian banya, it is popular to take tufts, mostly made of birch twigs (Finnish: vihta or vasta , Russian: wenik ), with which the entire body is "knocked off" in order to stimulate blood circulation. In contrast to birch branches, these branches are not defoliated and therefore do not cause pain. Fresh twigs are often used in summer, whereas in winter either twigs that were dried in early summer or frozen tufts that can be bought in Finnish supermarkets. Dried twigs are soaked in hot water before use. The resulting water is suitable as a flavored infusion.

Medicinal effects

The sauna should primarily serve to toughen up against colds and can also be used as a therapeutic application for some illnesses, for example for disorders of the autonomic nervous system . Symptom relief can also occur with osteoarthritis or chronic back pain .

The increase in body temperature up to 39 ° C during the sweating phase (artificial fever) caused within the body of the same, which is also a real fever effects, namely an increase in heat shock proteins and also increased activity of immune cells such as neutrophil granulocytes , macrophages and lymphocytes , which are important for defense against infection.

The sequence of heat followed by a cold bath relaxes the muscles and, in addition to some physiological effects such as a short-term strong increase in blood pressure , stimulation of the circulation , metabolism , the immune system and breathing, above all also has a beneficial effect on subjective well-being.

Sauna bathing is also used for skin care and slows down skin aging ; Immediately after entering the sauna room, the skin reacts, the blood vessels dilate, the blood flow increases and the surface temperature rises to 40–42 ° C after about 15 minutes; In the cooling phase, the blood vessels then constrict again through cold water applications (vascular training) .

The sweating as well as the repeated water applications also cause a very thorough but gentle body cleansing; the uppermost horny layer of the skin swells, keratinized skin cells loosen and can be easily rinsed off. With very dry skin, the structure is improved by activating the sweat glands and water retention in the horny layer.

People with inflammation , with acute infectious diseases , with cardiovascular diseases , with venous thromboses or varicose veins are generally not advised to visit a sauna, hammam , banya or steam bath. If necessary, older people should ask their family doctor.

It is possible to take a sauna during pregnancy.

Sauna for athletes

The effects described above are more pronounced in athletes than in non-athletes. However, the question remains whether this is due to the increase in body temperature, the cooling down afterwards or this form of alternating bath .

Sauna variants

The steam bath

Room of a steam room

(also fog bath ) is a variant of the sauna with lower temperature and higher humidity. Some operators add a scent to the steam, e.g. B. Eukaylpus. Steam sweat baths were invented in antiquity ( sudatorium ).

Steam baths come in different forms:

  • Caldarium (Roman steam bath)
  • Hamam (Turkish steam bath)
  • Banja (Russian steam bath)
  • Sentō (Japanese steam bath)
  • Mexican temazcal
  • North American sweat lodge (Inipi)
  • Irish steam bath
  • modern steam baths
  • Soft steam baths
  • Tylarium (combination of a traditional sauna and a mild steam bath)
  • Bio steam bath

Sauna types

Larger sauna room
  • Finnish log cabin sauna
  • Integrated sauna (bathroom)
  • Finnish smoke sauna
  • Finnish kelo wood sauna
  • Further variants that differ from the “classic” sauna solely because of their design, their location or their “motto” (such as “earth sauna”, “cave sauna”, “tunnel sauna”, the “ sweat lodge ” , which is based on Indian traditions, or the “ salt sauna ” ")
  • For apartments or buildings with little space there are sauna models that are heated with infrared heaters. Here, however, the temperature usually does not exceed 60 ° C. Such models are also called thermal cabins .

Moist warm air bath

In the humid warm air bath , also known as the bio sauna , the temperatures are lower than in the classic (Finnish) sauna, usually around 45–60 ° C with a humidity of around 40–55 percent. It is considered to be more gentle on the circulation and is often combined with the addition of essential oils or special lighting ( light therapy ). The length of stay is longer than in a normal sauna, approx. 15-30 minutes, otherwise the process is the same.

Textile sauna

The term textile sauna refers to the dress code in the sauna and does not initially say anything about the type of sauna itself. Swimwear is worn in textile saunas. Textile saunas are preferably found in swimming pools , often they are steam saunas. Textile saunas have the advantage that they can be easily integrated into normal bathing operations without additional changing rooms. In the USA and Asia, the textile sauna is the common type of sauna. In southern Europe and France, nude saunas are only common if they are gender-separated. The textile sauna is also widespread in western Switzerland and Ticino .

The topic of textile or nude saunas is often discussed controversially and emotionally among sauna-goers in Germany, also because there is a lack of well-founded scientific and medical studies.

Main arguments of nude sauna proponents:

  • Traditional customs in German-speaking and Northern European countries
  • Hygienic and physiological reasons due to obstructed heat circulation due to wearing swimwear
  • Chlorine pollution from swimming pool water carried in swimwear

Main arguments of textile sauna proponents:

  • Mental discomfort due to unwanted nudity and compulsory nudity
  • Hygienic and physiological reasons due to obstructed heat circulation due to large areas of shame wrapped around and worn bath towels

Procedure of a sauna visit

The behavior in a sauna can vary greatly from country to country. The question of whether the sauna takes place in a public or in a private sauna also plays a role. For example, while body cleansing in a Finnish private sauna can take place in the sauna room itself, in a public sauna this process is moved to the shower for hygienic reasons.

Customs in the public sauna in German-speaking countries

A visit to a sauna begins with a shower and thorough drying; Before the first sauna session, the surface of the skin should be dry again, otherwise sweating will be delayed. The sauna users sit or lie in the sauna room largely or completely unclothed. To prevent contamination, a towel is placed under the body to catch the sweat . In the home country of the sauna, Finland, linen towels, disposable pads or often no pads at all are also used, as half-warm, moist towels are often perceived as unhygienic. To protect the head from overheating, hats , mostly made of felt , are occasionally worn (including sauna hats called).

In the infusion sauna there is a relatively low humidity , so at 100 ° C on the ceiling only about 2–5% relative humidity. Essential oils are often added to the water for the infusion . In German-speaking countries, the water vapor is often distributed with a so-called quail cloth . This custom is unknown in Finland; this way the air is stratified there so that the air on the lower benches is more suitable for children and the untrained. In addition to the infusion sauna, larger sauna facilities also offer a dry sauna (also known as a Sahara sauna ) with lower humidity and without infusion.

A total of 8 to 15 minutes in the sauna cabin is followed by a short cooling phase in the fresh air, during which the lungs can absorb oxygen particularly well and the airways cool down more quickly; this air bath should be taken before a cold shower. This is followed by a cold shower of sweat. The surge cast, a cold bath or a cast followed with cold water (cold showers): either in a shower or waterfall shower, a plunge pool ( Kneipp basin), a river, lake or - if available - by rolling in the snow or dusting with crushed ice . Then you look for a relaxation room or to relaxTepidarium on; This can result in post-sweating that varies from person to person. From a medical point of view, warm foot baths are useful in the cooling phase , also to counteract post-sweating.

Plunge pool to cool off after the sauna

As a rule, the entire procedure is repeated two to three times with at least 15 minutes' break; More than three sauna sessions usually do not result in any greater benefit, but can lead to severe symptoms of fatigue. In public sauna baths, infusions are usually carried out at regular intervals with the addition of scented oils . A recommended division of the sauna visit is included

  • about 8-15 minutes sweating phase,
  • about 15 minutes cooling phase and
  • about 15 minutes of rest.

However, this information can only serve as a first orientation, every sauna visitor has to find his own rhythm. Every day is a different one, the top priority is your own feelings. Inexperienced sauna-goers should contact a company with a sauna master .

Sauna in Finland

A Latvian sauna house ( pirts )

The sauna is an integral part of Finnish culture. The private sauna available in almost every house (including rental and holiday homes) is used for relaxation and body cleansing. In the traditional form the sauna replaces the bathroom, i. H. the entire body cleansing takes place there; in modern residential buildings, bathrooms and saunas are partially merged. When a new house was built in the past, the sauna building was built first. The sauna was the only room with hot water and the cleanest and most sterile, which is why children were born there. Babies are taken to the sauna early on, which is medically harmless if exercised in moderation.

In freestanding houses, the sauna is sometimes located in the basement, in older houses in a separate building, which usually also includes a relaxation room, a shed and possibly an outside toilet. In apartment buildings, there is often a communal sauna that tenants share according to a sauna plan. In the 1990s there was an increasing trend towards installing a small sauna in the bathroom, even in small apartments. In apartment buildings, the sauna is usually heated electrically. However, the Finns still swear by traditional wood heating.

Inside a Finnish smoke sauna at Uusikaupunki

The traditional or original form of the Finnish sauna is the smoke sauna (Finnish: savusauna). Here, a large pile of stones is heated with large logs for several hours, mostly all day long, with the smoke spreading in the sauna room itself. The bottom and top stone layers consist of thin, flat stones to support the logs. Alternatively, old oil drums or iron bars were used in the past. When the fire is out, the ashes are cleared away, the smoke is drawn off through an opening in the ceiling or closable flue pipes, and sometimes the soot is wiped off the benches. Now there is a strong first infusion, through which the remaining smoke is "driven" out of the sauna. Now the sauna can be used for several hours. The pile of stones and the heat stored in it serve as the sauna heater ( kiuas). The infusion steam spreads very "softly" into the room through the large stone volume.

VW bus converted into a mobile sauna in Helsinki

In Finland there are no fixed lengths of time for the length of a sauna session or breaks. It ranges from a quick five-minute sauna session in between to an hour-long “sauna marathon”. In addition, the sauna sessions and the breaks depend on the temperature in and outside the sauna as well as on the social events around the sauna. In principle, a lifeguard is unknown in the Finnish sauna, in public saunas only to switch it on and off or to add firewood. Because only those who take a sauna know the right amount for an infusion. The infusion is usually done by the person sitting next to the infusion bucket, often on the top bench, where the temperature can best be assessed. As a rule, the unwritten law "sillä puheet kenellä kuuppa" is followed, which freely translated means something like "who has the ladle, has the floor ". Water is poured every few minutes, so that sufficient steam and heat is generated, which makes waving a towel superfluous. Incidentally, it is considered polite in Finland if someone who has just entered the sauna room throws a ladle of water over the stones in order to compensate for the loss of heat caused by opening the door. In general, the Finns practice gender segregation in public and with larger families. At larger family celebrations, it can happen that you take a sauna once or several times a day. The Christmas sauna on Christmas Eve, in which you clean yourself for the following celebrations, is also traditional. which makes waving a towel superfluous. Incidentally, it is considered polite in Finland if someone who has just entered the sauna room throws a ladle of water over the stones in order to compensate for the loss of heat caused by opening the door. In general, the Finns practice gender segregation in public and with larger families. At larger family celebrations, it can happen that you take a sauna once or several times a day. The Christmas sauna on Christmas Eve, in which you clean yourself for the following celebrations, is also traditional. which makes waving a towel superfluous. Incidentally, it is considered polite in Finland if someone who has just entered the sauna room throws a ladle of water over the stones in order to compensate for the loss of heat caused by opening the door. In general, the Finns practice gender segregation in public and with larger families. At larger family celebrations, it can happen that you take a sauna once or several times a day. The Christmas sauna on Christmas Eve, in which you clean yourself for the following celebrations, is also traditional. In general, the Finns practice gender segregation in public and with larger families. At larger family celebrations, it can happen that you take a sauna once or several times a day. The Christmas sauna on Christmas Eve, in which you clean yourself for the following celebrations, is also traditional. In general, the Finns practice gender segregation in public and with larger families. At larger family celebrations, it can happen that you take a sauna once or several times a day. The Christmas sauna on Christmas Eve, in which you clean yourself for the following celebrations, is also traditional.

Ice hole at a sauna near Vuokatti

Adding fragrance oils for infusion water varies regionally widespread in some places frowned upon and do not belong to the Finnish sauna. It is more common to add scented oils directly into the ladle for a throw of water and to take birch twigs and beer with you into the sauna. A popular scent is that of tar , so that after the infusion it looks like the inside of an old sail schoonersmells. The light 'whipping' of the skin with birch twigs, which is also widespread in Russian saunas, has a stimulating effect similar to a massage, and it also spreads a pleasant birch scent. When whipped, the birch leaves give off a substance that has a mild soap-like effect. In western Finland the birch tufts are called vihta and in eastern Finland vasta , whereby the respective population group jokingly and doggedly maintains the conviction that “their” name alone is the only correct one. The tufts become after midsummercollected (twigs that are too young are sticky) and stored in a dry place or fresh frozen tufts from the supermarket are used. Sometimes they are also dried and made ready for use in the sauna in hot water. In Estonia, juniper branches are often used for the same purpose , the needles of which tingle and can be perceived as slightly painful.

After each sauna session, you can cool down in the fresh air or in the shower. If possible, people like to take a bath in the lake or roll around in the snow. The cooling phase lasts until you feel ready for the next sauna session. Drinking between sauna sessions is common; Beer, juice, or lemonade are preferred. After the last sauna session, the body is cleaned, either in the sauna itself or in an adjacent shower . The duration of a complete sauna visit is very individual and is often between one and three hours.

Jean-Baptiste Le Prince : Public bath in Russia (around 1765)

Sauna in the Russian area

The variant of the sauna, the banya, is of great importance in Russia . There, too, it is popular with business people and politicians to consult and make decisions here. Outside of Russia, for example, Russians can often be found in the public sauna facilities, where they maintain contact with one another in the diaspora . It is true that the Russians in general, apart from such business or friendly sauna visits, prefer separate saunas.

Sauna in other countries

Anders Zorn : Women from Dalarna bathing in the sauna (1906; Swedish National Museum , Stockholm)

In many countries outside of Scandinavia and the German-speaking area, textile-free saunas are not permitted, especially in mixed saunas, which often causes confusion when visiting a sauna abroad. Saunas with a mandatory textile-free visit can be found in Finland , Estonia , Latvia , Lithuania , Russia , Denmark , Sweden and Norway (the latter two mostly gender-separated), Belgium , the Netherlands , Luxembourg , Germany , Austria , theGerman-speaking Switzerland , north-eastern Italy (Friuli and South Tyrol), Slovenia and Croatia . However, there are often fixed times in mixed-use saunas (usually half a day per week) that are reserved for women alone.

In the UK , France and southern European countries, swimwear is often worn when going to the sauna. Mixed saunas are rare, and textile-free saunas are increasingly being tolerated in the usual single-sex facilities.

In Spain, saunas are still not widely used. Strict gender segregation is practiced; you do not enter the sauna naked, but in swimwear. The temperature in the sauna is much lower than usual in Central and Northern Europe.

In Brazil it is compulsory to wear swimwear in the sauna. In Africa saunas are often far less hot than in Europe. In Central America, there is an indigenous form of sauna in southern Mexico and Guatemala, but these temazcal are intended for individuals.

In the United States , manners differ greatly between states, with a large Finnish population in northern Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa who cultivate the sauna culture. In other states, the sauna has no tradition and is essentially used as an add-on to fitness clubs and wellness facilitiesused. Since they are usually linked to the changing rooms here, they are separated according to sex, and there are generally no rules on the use of textiles, the use of towels or manners. Swimming clothes are compulsory for the rarer mixed saunas. For reasons of increased liability in the United States, most saunas have an upper temperature limit and do not allow infusions.

In Australia , for example, there are saunas and / or steam rooms in public swimming pools, hotels and motels. These are used in swimwear, infusions are rather uncommon.

In Korea , an independent public culture of the hot steam bath has developed, for which the Konglish term 사우나 , a transcription of the Western word “sauna”, is used. As in the case of the Japanese Sentō , the visit is textile-free. Mixed bathhouses are practically non-existent.

Sauna rules of conduct

There are a few things to keep in mind in public saunas:

  • In the German-speaking world, an extensive shower is expected before going to the sauna.
  • You should bring a large towel to sit on or lie on (“don't sweat on wood”); a second, smaller one is recommended for drying off.
  • A greeting when entering a sauna is good form.
  • In contrast to Scandinavian saunas, little is said in the German-speaking area during the infusion.

The infusion

The infusion is the dousing of the hot stones in the stove with cold or hot water in the sauna.


The water evaporates into water vapor on the stones, which are up to 500 ° C, and thus briefly increases the humidity and the air temperature in the sauna. The stones are prevented from bursting through the use of pore-rich lava stones , and heated water also helps. The burst of steam, also called “embers” or after the Finnish word Löyly , rises through the buoyancy (lower density of the hot air) first up to the ceiling of the sauna room and warms up through heat convectionthe sauna room. By swirling the air with a towel (not used as a seat towel), it can be evenly distributed in the sauna room. The fiddling also causes the layer of air on the surface of the skin, which acts as a thermal insulation layer, to swirl with warm air and thereby further heat the body. The infusion increases the heat experience of the sauna.

If a cold body is in water vapor-saturated air, it acts as a heat sink, on the surface of which the dew point is fallen below and condensation water is deposited there (wetting or water droplets on the skin). If the air is not yet saturated with water vapor, sweat can evaporate, which cools the body (the heat of evaporation can also come from the room air or from the heat radiation in the room, then only the heat capacity of the sweat secretion is removed from the body). The cooling evaporation effect will therefore be stronger, the "drier" the air is. In the sauna, perspiration and blood circulation are increasedbecause the body temperature is regulated via the bloodstream (see thermoregulation ). With an infusion, the sweat in the oversaturated air can no longer have a cooling effect, the body overheats, the pulse rises and the sauna guests immediately flee outside to cool off (quickly).

From the medical side, there are different views on the health aspects and possible risks associated with the infusion (in the form currently practiced).

In a very hot sauna, the Löyly on the upper benches can be at the limit of tolerable pain. Sensitive and inexperienced sauna visitors are therefore advised to sit on one of the lower benches during the infusion, where the air remains less hot.

Infusion ceremony

In general, the infusion is usually seen as the highlight of sauna bathing. Since it has a "central" role in the sauna bath, it has developed into a more or less sophisticated ceremony . The infusion ceremony is celebrated very differently in different countries. In the following, the form of the infusion prevalent in German-speaking countries today (2009) is described.

For the infusion, a wooden infusion bucket is filled with about five liters of fresh water and a few drops of an infusion concentrate of your choice are added. "Classic" scents are coniferous woods such as spruce , eucalyptus , mountain pine , citrus scents , menthol or mint . Essential oils either have a stimulating or calming effect on the body.

In public saunas, the infusion is usually carried out by a sauna master or is automated. It is unusual or even forbidden for visitors to make an infusion themselves. The infusions usually follow the same scheme, only the aroma is varied.

Initially, the sauna is heated up "dry", the air is heated by heat radiation from the stones, heat flow through air convection and heat reflection from the walls. To improve air convection, there is an opening under the sauna heater for supplying fresh air and another one for exhausting air (which can sometimes be closed) on the opposite wall (see there for fresh air requirements in small rooms ). Cold fresh air from outside passes through the stone sizing of the sauna heater, due to the chimney effect and the lower density of the hot air, it rises to the ceiling and pushes the colder air cushion down and out through the exhaust air opening.

Meanwhile, the sauna bathers take a seat in the sauna and sweat for a few minutes in the hot "dry" air before the infusion begins. It is not uncommon for ice cubes to be served to cool certain parts of the body or chilled fruit slices (e.g. lemons or apples or cucumber slices).

Immediately before the infusion, fresh air is often also let into the sauna room by opening the sauna door wide for a short time (not because of a lack of oxygen , but because of increased carbon dioxide concentration and other body exhalations).

The sauna is not left during the infusion ceremony, as opening the door would release hot steam and allow cool air to flow in, thus disrupting the infusion effect. Visitors who get too hot are advised to sit deeper. If you really need it or if you have health problems (circulation), you can of course leave the sauna room.

The infusion water is poured onto the hot stones of the sauna heater in portions with a wooden sauna spoon (also called Löylykelle or Aufgusskelle), where it evaporates . After about a third of the water has been poured on, the sauna master swirls the water vapor in the sauna room with an extra towel . There are special towel techniques: the most common are swirling the lengthwise folded towel around quickly like a propeller and "knocking" the glow of embers from the sauna ceiling onto the sauna guests. Alternatively, a large fan can be used instead of the towel , which enables the air to be swirled with little effort.

The infusion and waving is usually repeated three times (after the stones have heated up again). After the last portion of the infusion and waving, the infusion is over. For a well-made infusion, there are usually words of praise and / or a little applause at the end . If possible, sweat for a minute or two after the last swirl before the sauna bathers leave the sauna room to cool off with fresh air and cold water applications.

In the case of private saunas, the infusion can in principle be carried out in the same way, but by one of the sauna bathers. Since private saunas are usually a bit smaller, less infusion water is necessary and the waving of towels can not be quite as expansive due to the smaller room. If only a few ladles of infusion are required in small saunas, the essential oil can also be poured drop by drop onto the water-filled sauna spoon. Under no circumstances should the oil get onto the stones without water, otherwise it would catch fire.

Special types of infusion

Flavored infusion

In Central Europe it is common to add a few drops of essential oils to the infusion water, called infusion concentrates or sauna fragrances in specialist shops . After the infusion, the aromas unfold as a fragrant scent, and sweat is accompanied by a scented experience. The substances are inhaled but also absorbed through the skin. Commercially available perfume oils smell similar to essential oils , usually do not evaporate without leaving any residue and are unsuitable for the sauna. "Scented oils" offered can contain essential oils or just perfume oils . Since most essential oils are highly flammable substances (Terpenes etc.), they must not be dripped directly onto hot sauna stones or parts of the oven (explosion mechanism similar to a fat explosion ). Concentrated essential oils are irritating to the skin, and not every essential oil is suitable for inhalation during a sauna session.

Ice and snow infusion

The infusion water is mixed with ice cubes or crushed ice. The ice melts and evaporates evenly, without running through the stones, partially unused. This creates a stronger effect, which could only be achieved by pouring on it evenly over a longer period of time. Any essential oil can be used. The same effect can be obtained by placing snowballs on the stove.

In addition, even with normal infusions, ice cubes or crushed ice are often distributed to rub in and suck on, which is also sometimes called "ice infusion".

Experience infusion

In the experience infusion, the focus is on fun, which is why you can also talk during the infusion. Often jokes are told or the guests and the sauna master throw warm, malicious comments to each other. The experience infusion can also be combined with music, fruit or drinks, the sauna master's disguise and a little story.

Watering can

With a watering can and watering shower, the water is distributed evenly over the stones. In this way, the surface of the stones is better used, all the water evaporates in bursts earlier and thus increases the sensation of heat.

Honey infusion

With honey infusion, sauna bathers rub honey all over their body after sweating or the first infusion . The heat makes the honey very liquid, has a good smell and is absorbed into the skin, where it cleanses and nourishes the skin. As an infusion oil, fruity fragrances are popular for honey infusion.

Specialist shops now also have special honey pastes that you can rub in that contain other additives.

Salt infusion

To do this, the guests temporarily leave the sauna cabin after sweating with two or three infusions in order to rub the body with salt enriched with essential oils in an easy-to-clean area nearby. Either coarse-grained mineral salt or common table salt is used for this purpose (avoiding the face, genital area and open wounds). After "salting" you sit down in the sauna again and another two to three infusions follow. The salt has a sweat-inducing and disinfectant effect, and the skin is peeled by rubbing it off (salt peeling).

Since something always trickles down from the layer of salt on the body and the salt in combination with moisture strongly attacks the wood of the benches, the use of salt is more often offered in steam baths and hammams , where the seats are tiled due to the high humidity . Or the salt infusions are always limited to the same sauna cabin, in which the wooden benches have to be replaced relatively often.

In another variant of the salt infusion, salt water is poured on, whereby the air is to be enriched with salt. Similar to sea air, this should have a positive effect on pollen allergy sufferers and asthmatics, for example .

Fruit infusion

During the infusion, fruit that is cut into small pieces, and in some saunas even frozen, is distributed to visitors. The fruits are eaten as a welcome and delicious refreshment and strengthen the bathers for the second part of the infusion.

Beer infusion

Here a small amount of beer (about half a deciliter) is mixed with water in the infusion bucket (fi. Kiulu). This mixture is distributed evenly over the stones. The sauna is immediately filled with a pleasant aroma of freshly baked bread and roasted grain. The rest of the beer can be drunk by the visitors to refresh themselves during the sauna session. High-proof alcoholic beverages should not be consumed in the sauna or during breaks due to their effects on the circulatory system. In addition, this would considerably increase the risk of accidents.

Wenik infusion (birch infusion)

In the Finnish sauna and Russian banya essential oil additives are not usual. Here, water is either poured on or with birch water , in which the birch tufts (in Finland Vihta or Vasta , in Russia called Wenik ), which are used to knock off the skin (" Quästen "), have been soaked. There are seldom sauna masters in public saunas / banjas, but it is common for the sauna bathers to do the infusion themselves. There is hardly any sauna visit without an infusion, and a lot of infusion water is usually used.

During the Wenik infusion, the sauna bathers knock off their bodies themselves or each other with the Weniks, which has a pleasantly refreshing effect and stimulates the blood circulation. In addition, the layer of air on the surface of the skin is swirled around, thereby increasing sweat production.

In Central Europe, some birch aroma is added to the infusion water for Wenik infusions in order to intensify the birch scent.

Decomposition products

The surface temperature of the stones that are poured with infusion is usually between 100 ° C and 250 ° C. Stones lying deeper can have surface temperatures of up to 450 ° C. From a temperature of around 200 ° C, the organic components contained in the infusion water can decompose. Under unfavorable conditions, this can lead to an increased concentration of formaldehyde in particular .

Sauna championships

In principle there are two different types of sauna championships: on the one hand, championships in sauna, on the other hand, championships for sauna infusions.

Between 1999 and 2010, Sauna World Championships were held annually in Heinola, Finland . After a Russian finalist collapsed in the sauna and died in 2010, the organizers decided not to hold any further events. An "Open German Championship" has been held in Germany every year since 2005.

The world championship for sauna infusions has been held since 2009. The winner in the competition for the “Experience Infusion” is considered the world champion. In addition to the world championships, there are state, state and European championships for sauna infusions. The 2013 World Championship (Sauna World Cup 2013) was won by Dirk van Offel from Belgium. He prevailed against 35 participants from 23 nations. Since 2016, the Aufguss World Cup has been held in Wendisch Rietz ( Brandenburg ) in one of the world's largest show saunas, the Satama Sauna Park, which can hold 200 spectators. From 17th to 23rd In September 2018, 82 Aufguss masters from almost 20 nations and a total of around 2,500 guests were expected there.


Home saunas can be bought in hardware stores, mail order houses, on the Internet or in stores that sell and / or install baths. A three-phase alternating current connection is usually required , as is also required for an electric stove. This is moved from the fuse box to the location of the sauna. A sauna heater often has an output of 10 kW. A sauna usually has a heating time of around 70–80 ° C after 20–30 minutes.

In 2000, the German Federal Association of Swimming Pool Technology e. V. (BFST) and the Federal Association of Swimming Pool, Sauna and Water Technology e. V. (BSSW) the Federal Association of Swimming Pools & Wellness e. V. (bsw). There is also the Federal Association of Saunabau, Infrared- and Steam Baths. V.

The "Aquanale" trade fair, which takes place every two years in Cologne, is the leading European and international trade fair for the industry.

In Germany there are (as of 2005) 2,400 public saunas, of which slightly more than 500 are privately run. According to the German Saunabund, these should be supplemented with around 5,100 sauna facilities in hotels and guest houses and around 3,800 saunas in sports facilities and fitness studios. The total number of public sauna facilities available to the German population can therefore be given as around 10,000, which is the highest number in the world according to the German Sauna Association.


  • , database for scientific specialist literature on the sauna bath (German Sauna Association)

Web links

Wiktionary: Sauna  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Saunas  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

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  28. René Kowatsch: What can you experience at the Aufguss World Cup? in Märkische Oderzeitung on September 14, 2018, p. 13
  29. Website of the Federal Association of Swimming Pools & Wellness eV ( Memento of the original from October 26, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@2Vorlage:Webachiv/IABot/
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