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What Are the Differences Between Saunas and Steam Rooms?

While best experienced, we explain the differences between a steam room and other saunas below

All saunas and steamrooms share a number of health benefits in different proportions depending on the heat source and level of humidity (water in the air), length of exposure and your overall health and fitness, such as:

  • Remove Toxins – Detoxification, removes heavy metals and harmful toxins stored in the body.
  • Reduce Stress – Promotes better sleep, relaxes, melts away tension.
  • Improve Skin – Helps clear cellulite, tones and hydrates cells and pores.
  • Burn Calories and Control Weight – Burn as much as 600 calories or more in 30 minute session through profuse sweating.
  • Give Pain Relief – Arthritis, muscle spasms, joint stiffness, sprains.
  • Strengthens Cardiovascular System – Heart rate, cardiac output and metabolic rate increase, helps stabilizes blood pressure.

Traditional Dry Saunas

Traditionally, saunas are used to provide a dry hot heat with low humidity in a wooden room, usually cedar, aspen or spruce.

Temperatures range between 78-90°C (180-195°F), though many are content to get in their sauna at 140°F while it gets hotter. Sauna bathers like set-off a blast of moist heat by  pouring water over hot rocks creating steam. This results in a temperature of 160 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity of 5 to 20%. The most traditional heaters are wood-burning, but the convenience of electrical and gas heaters are wonderful and bring a new meaning to "firing up the sauna".

Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas deliver a milder environment and experience compared to dry saunas with no added humidity

Infrared sauna rays heat up in about 5-10 seconds and heat the body directly as well as the air. For those who enjoy a penetrating heat blast experience, but cannot take or do not enjoy the intense heat of a traditional saunas, infrared is an excellent alternative.

Many people who have experienced and enjoyed traditional saunas inquire about infrared saunas thinking it will be the same. And not helped by the many sauna dealers (especially those reselling saunas imported from China) keep touting how infrared saunas are nearly the same. It is IMPORTANT to KNOW the infrared experience is not the same. Infrared saunas do provide a very good sauna experience especially if you do not like high heat, but infrared saunas are very different from a traditional sauna.

Steam Rooms

Steam rooms are quite different. A steam room differs from a sauna in two ways: humidity and lower ambient heat. The lower temperature of the steam room may be more tolerable to some people who may not enjoy the sauna.

They are not as hot with temperatures of 110 to 114 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity at or near 100%, with water dripping down the walls. Because of the high humidity, they must be constructed of tile, marble or acrylic, and all the fixtures must be made of stainless steel, brass, plastic or other rustproof material. The ceiling and benches should be sloped, so the water will run off, and there must be a drain in the room, which must not leak steam or water into the outside area. The steam generator is located outside the steam room, nearby, and requires plumbing from the water supply (preferably hot water) and from the generator to the steam room, as well as electrical wiring to the generator.

The combination of steam and heat opens pores, temporarily increases metabolism, and may eliminate toxins through perspiration. And, of course, the warmth loosens sore muscles and joints.

One misconception about the detoxifying effects of steam is that it will cure a hangover. During a hangover, the body is dehydrated - and the heat may intensify symptoms of dehydration such as thirst, headaches, nausea and dizziness. If the steam room is your therapy of choice on the morning after, proceed cautiously. More likely than not, it's the shower after steaming that produces relief.

Before steaming, the bather should take a warm shower to acclimate the skin to the temperature of the steam room. The bather should not sit in the steam room for longer than 15 minutes at a time, and after steaming take a cool shower or cold water dip. After showering, the skin should feel tingly and fresh. Contrary to what you might think, the cooling effect of showering after a hot steam bath may actually be the perfect antidote to the summer humidity!

Can I get a little of both … A Traditional Dry Sauna with Some Steam in a Heater?

Tylo and Polar both manufacture a sauna heater: the "Tylo Combi-U or Polar Steamy" which combine features of the sauna and steam room. Since it is used in a wooden room, the humidity is still not as high as a steam room, but it does provide more steam than one can get by pouring water over rocks. It requires a 240V elelctrical circuit with 30-40 amps. There are reserviors for water that are filled manually or automatically.


Cedarbrook Sauna + Steam

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