Sunday, March 3, 2024

Steam Sauna Rooms: A Comprehensive Guide

Steam sauna rooms have become increasingly popular in recent years as more people discover the many health and relaxation benefits of saunas. Unlike traditional dry saunas, steam saunas use water to create humid heat that is gentle on the body. The steam helps open your pores and flush toxins from your body. It also moisturizes your skin, improves circulation, relieves stress, and provides an overall tranquil experience. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about steam sauna rooms.

What is a Steam Sauna?

A steam sauna, sometimes called a wet sauna, uses a steam generator to heat water and transform it into hot, humid steam that fills the sauna room. The steam raises the temperature in the sauna while also increasing the humidity level. This combination of heat and moisture has a multitude of benefits for your mind and body. Unlike a dry sauna which uses dry heat, the steam allows you to comfortably sit at lower temperatures ranging from around 110°F to 140°F. The moist heat feels gentler on your body.

Benefits of Using a Steam Sauna

There are many excellent reasons to use a steam sauna on a regular basis. Some of the top benefits include:

  • Detoxification - Sweating profusely helps eliminate toxins, heavy metals, and other waste products from your body. The steam causes you to sweat more than a dry sauna session.
  • Relaxation - The humid warmth induces a deep state of relaxation. The steam soothes sore muscles and joints.
  • Stress relief - Sitting in a steam sauna lowers cortisol levels and relieves mental and physical stress.
  • Skin cleansing - The steam helps open your pores to deeply cleanse your skin, remove impurities, and improve complexion.
  • Improved circulation - The heat from the steam dilates your blood vessels, boosting blood flow and circulation.
  • Pain relief - The warmth temporarily relieves muscle aches, joint pain, and arthritis. Endorphins are also released.
  • Immune system boost - Moderate sauna use can help strengthen your immune system function.
  • Congestion relief - The steam helps clear congestion from colds, allergies, or sinuses.
  • Mood enhancement - Many people report an elevated mood and sense of relaxation after using a steam sauna.
  • Weight loss - Using a steam sauna helps you burn calories through sweating.
  • Cardiovascular health - Saunas have been shown to improve heart health, blood pressure levels, and circulation.

Steam Sauna vs. Infrared Sauna

Infrared saunas have emerged in recent years as another option for sauna therapy. What’s the difference between traditional steam saunas and infrared saunas? Here’s a quick comparison:

  • Temperature - Steam saunas are usually set between 110°F to 140°F. Infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures of 100°F to 120°F.
  • Humidity - Steam saunas have a humidity level of around 100%. Infrared saunas only reach up to 40% humidity.
  • Heating method - Steam saunas use hot steam vapor to heat the room. Infrared saunas use infrared lamps that directly heat your body without warming the air.
  • Sweating - You sweat more intensely in a steam sauna compared to an infrared sauna.
  • Safety - Infrared saunas are generally considered safe for more people. Steam saunas can pose risks for those with health conditions.
  • Cost - Infrared saunas tend to be cheaper to install since they only require infrared emitters. Steam saunas require a steam generator.

Both types provide health benefits like detoxification. Choose based on your preferences for a hotter or more humid experience.

Choosing a Residential Steam Sauna

If you’re considering installing a steam sauna in your home, there are several options to choose from.

Sauna Room Kits

The easiest option is to purchase a steam room kit designed for residential use. These kits come with all the necessary parts including the steam generator, controls, seating, lighting, and hemlock boards to line the interior walls and ceiling. You simply provide the room space for the kit. Most manufacturers offer standard sizes or you can custom build one to your exact specifications.

Custom Built Saunas

For a more upscale, customized sauna, many companies offer full custom design and installation services. They can build the sauna room to fit your space with high-end features and finishes. Custom saunas allow you to select the seating styles, lighting, accessories, and therapies. This option costs more but lets you create a sauna tailored to your vision.

Pre-Fab Saunas

Pre-fabricated saunas come fully constructed and ready to install inside your home. This speeds up the installation process since the sauna is mostly plug and play. Pre-fab saunas are not as customized but provide an affordable and convenient option.

Do-It-Yourself Saunas

The most budget-friendly route is to build your own steam sauna if you have some construction skills. There are guides and plans available online for DIY sauna construction. You purchase the necessary heating equipment, lumber, and accessories separately.

When searching for a residential steam sauna, look for reputable brands known for quality manufacturing and safety. Carefully read reviews of any kit, pre-fab, or custom sauna company you’re considering.

Steam Sauna Size and Design

Steam saunas can be designed for one person or multiple people. Consider the following when deciding on your sauna size and layout:

  • Number of people - Will you be using it solo or with family/friends? Solo saunas only need space for one bench.
  • Size of space - Measure the room to ensure your planned sauna will fit. Leave buffer space around the walls and benches.
  • Benches - Typically tiered benches line the walls. Plan bench seating based on number of users.
  • Doors - Hinged or sliding glass doors. Sliding doors don’t swing out into room.
  • Flooring - Low maintenance ceramic tile or acrylic sheets work best. Avoid carpet or wood.
  • Lighting - Use waterproof lighting. Many saunas have mood lights on dimmers.
  • Accessories - Bucket and ladle for water, sand timer, thermometer/hygrometer.
  • Ventilation - Proper airflow is crucial. Have ventilation in place before using sauna.

For a 1-2 person sauna, a size around 60” x 60” is sufficient. A sauna for 3+ people may be 90” x 90” or larger. Have at least 12 inches between benches and walls. Talk to a professional about ventilation needs for your particular steam sauna design.

Setting Up Your Steam Room

Once your steam sauna kit or custom sauna arrives, you can get started setting it up:

  • Review all instructions for installation of the steam generator, controls, benches, walls/ceiling, door, and accessories.
  • Make sure power outlets and plumbing are in place before starting.
  • Install all provided screws, hardware, and pieces according to the steps outlined.
  • Seal joints between wall panels to keep steam in.
  • Run tests before use to ensure steam generator, lights, and controls work.
  • Let sauna run empty with door open to “season” the new wood before first use.

Take time to correctly install all components of your new steam room. Verify the temperature and humidity performance matches product descriptions so you can safely enjoy the benefits.

How to Use a Steam Sauna Safely

Using your home steam sauna safely is important, especially during first use:

  • Start with 10-15 minutes maximum to gauge comfort and temperature.
  • Keep hydrated by drinking water before and after sessions.
  • Allow body to air dry before dressing to prevent heat rash.
  • Never use alcohol, drugs, or medications before entering the sauna.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry in the intense heat and humidity.
  • Sit on a towel to absorb sweat and keep benches clean.
  • Leave immediately if feeling dizzy, nauseous, or unwell.
  • Check with doctor about any health conditions that may limit sauna use.
  • Keep a bucket of water and ladle inside to add water to the rocks as needed.
  • Set a timer so you don’t accidentally overheat by falling asleep inside.

Listen to your body and ease into steam sauna therapy, especially if new to the experience. Remember to stay hydrated!

Maintaining Your Steam Sauna

Like any equipment, steam sauna rooms require routine maintenance to remain in top condition:

  • ** Daily** - Wipe down benches, walls, floor with disinfectant after use. Remove towels, pails, etc.
  • **Weekly **- Clean thermometer, hygrometer, handles, and any exterior glass.
  • Monthly - Wash sauna walls, ceiling, floor with wood cleaner and re-seal when needed.
  • **Every 6 Months **- Descale steam generator to prevent mineral buildup. Wipe down heating elements.
  • Yearly - Hire an electrician to inspect generator, controls, and wiring for safety.
  • As Needed - Sand and re-finish benches or wall panels if condensation damage occurs.
  • ** After Prolonged Non-Use** - Run sauna empty for 30 minutes before using again to purge stagnant air.

Following the manufacturer’s care instructions for your particular steam sauna model is highly recommended. Proper cleaning and maintenance will keep it running for years.

Sauna Safety Tips

While extremely beneficial, steam saunas do come with some basic precautions:

  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water before, during and after use. Dehydration is a risk in overheating.
  • Never use a sauna if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They amplify the risk of heat exhaustion.
  • Check with your doctor before use if pregnant, elderly, or having medical conditions.
  • Start with only 10-15 minutes per session until you know how your body reacts.
  • Avoid pouring water directly on the heating elements as it can damage them.
  • Place a towel underneath you absorb perspiration off your body.
  • Be aware that while rare, overuse can potentially cause heat rash or heat exhaustion.
  • Do not allow children to use the sauna unattended due to risk of accidental injury.
  • Never sleep or lie down inside the sauna. Remain upright on the benches.
  • Install a timer or clock so you don’t lose track of time while inside.

Reputable sauna steam room installation companies follow building codes to safely transform spaces into relaxing sanctuaries with custom heating, ventilation, waterproofing, lighting, and accessories for therapeutic moist heat sessions.

Common FAQs about Steam Saunas

How is the temperature controlled in a steam sauna?

Steam saunas have a control panel, often on the exterior wall, to adjust the temperature and session timer. A thermostat senses the internal air and controls the steam generator to maintain the desired heat levels.

How humid does the air get in a steam room?

The air humidity inside a steam room typically reaches 100%. This compares to only 10-20% humidity in a normal environment. The combination of heat and moisture makes for an intensely therapeutic experience.

Can you use aromatherapy in a steam sauna?

Yes, adding essential oils to an aromatherapy reservoir on the steam generator will disperse soothing fragrances. Eucalyptus and menthol oils help open airways. Just avoid strong citrus oils that may cause skin irritation in steam.

How often should you take a steam bath?

For beginners, limit steam sessions to every 2-3 days for 10-15 minutes. As your body adapts, you can increase frequency and time spent in the sauna. Listen to your body and don’t overdo it.

Is a steam room good for cold and congestion relief?

Yes, the hot humid environment helps open nasal and sinus passages. The menthol vapors from eucalyptus oil can further help relieve congestion. Just be sure to stay hydrated.

Can you combine a steam sauna with an ice bath?

Yes, an ice bath before or after the sauna provides contrast therapy. The intense cold constricts blood vessels, while the sauna heat dilates them. Going back and forth enhances circulation.

Is it safe to pour water on the sauna heating elements?

No, pouring water directly on the heating units can damage them. Instead use the ladle to throw water on the hot rocks in a wood-burning sauna or on wall mounted water reservoirs.

How much does a steam shower or sauna cost for a home?

Basic residential steam sauna kits start around $2,000-4,000. More elaborate custom-built saunas with high-end features can range from $5,000 to $15,000 or more depending on the size and included amenities.


Hopefully this guide has provided you with a comprehensive overview of steam sauna benefits, safety tips, design considerations, and general usage recommendations. Steam saunas provide an incredibly healthy way to detox your body, relax your mind, and feel rejuvenated. When installed and used properly, a home steam room can provide years of soothing therapy. Just be sure to stay hydrated, listen to your body, and don’t overdo your sauna sessions.

Steam Sauna Rooms: A Comprehensive Guide

Steam sauna rooms have become increasingly popular in recent years as more people discover the many health and relaxation benefits of saunas...