Wet Saunas vs. Dry Saunas: What is the Best Choice for You?

wet sauna vs dry sauna

Saunas have been cherished for centuries for their relaxing and health-improving qualities. When starting your sauna journey, choosing between a wet and a dry sauna can be perplexing. This article aims to demystify the differences, advantages, and considerations for each type, helping you make an informed choice for your health and relaxation needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Dry Saunas: Ideal for intense heat lovers, offering muscle relaxation, skin, and cognitive benefits.
  • Wet Saunas: Best for respiratory benefits and a gentler, moisturizing heat experience.

Understanding Wet and Dry Saunas

What is a Dry Sauna?

A dry sauna, often synonymous with a Finnish sauna, operates in a low-humidity environment, typically heated between 70-90°C. It uses heated rocks or electric stoves to warm the air, inducing a deep, detoxifying sweat. It’s akin to a rejuvenating workout for your skin and overall wellness.

What is a Wet Sauna?

A wet sauna, also known as a steam room, creates a high humidity level of nearly 100% by pumping steam into a sealed room. Though not as hot as dry saunas, typically around 38-50°C, the moisture-laden air offers a unique, spa-like experience beneficial for the skin and respiratory system.

Can I Use My Sauna as a Wet or Dry Sauna?

Yes, you can use your sauna as either a wet or dry sauna, depending on how you manipulate the temperature and humidity inside. The flexibility to switch between a dry and wet sauna experience typically depends on the sauna’s heating system and your approach to humidity control.

Typically, you can transform a wood-fired or an electric heated dry sauna into a wet sauna by pouring water over the hot rocks. This process is quite simple yet highly effective in altering the sauna’s atmosphere:

  • Heating the Rocks: First, the sauna is heated in the usual way, whether it’s with a wood-fired stove or an electric heater. The rocks placed in or near the heater absorb and retain this heat.
  • Adding Water: Once the rocks are sufficiently hot, water is gently poured onto them. This can be done using a ladle and a water bucket, which are often part of a traditional sauna setup.
  • Creating Steam: The water instantly evaporates upon contact with the hot rocks, turning into steam. This steam increases the humidity inside the sauna, transforming the environment from a dry to a wet sauna.
  • Adjusting to Preference: The amount of water added can be varied depending on the desired level of humidity. More water results in more steam, creating a more intense wet sauna experience.
  • Measuring Temperature and Humidity: Want more accuracy? Have with you a thermometer and hygrometer installed in the sauna to accurately measure your temperature and humidity.  

Wet vs Dry Sauna Comparison

FeatureDry SaunaWet Sauna (Steam Room)
TemperatureHigher (70-90°C)Lower (38-50°C)
HumidityLow (5-30%)High (Up to 100%)
Heating MethodHot stones, electric stoves, or infraredSteam generator or water poured over heated rocks
EnvironmentDry heatMoist, steam-filled air
Respiratory ReliefBeneficial, but less moistExcellent for congestion, asthma, allergies
Skin BenefitsGood for dry skin, psoriasisMoisturizes, opens pores, good for eczema
Muscle RelaxationEffective, especially post-exerciseSoothing, with steam enhancing muscle relaxation
Health BenefitsImproved circulation, cardiovascular health, cognitive benefitsRespiratory benefits, detoxification, skin health
Preferred UseAthletes, those seeking intense heat and detoxificationIndividuals with respiratory issues, seeking gentle warmth
MaintenanceRegular cleaning, less concern for moldRequires more frequent cleaning due to humidity

Choosing Between Dry vs. Wet Sauna

Source: Unsplash

When deciding between having a dry and a wet sauna, several factors come into play. Understanding these will help you make a choice that aligns with your health needs, personal preferences, and practical considerations for space and maintenance.

Health Needs

Why Dry Sauna

  • Suitable for Dry Skin: Dry saunas are beneficial for people with dry skin conditions. The low humidity environment does not exacerbate dryness, and the heat can help to open pores and remove impurities from the skin.
  • Respiratory Conditions: While high humidity environments can be challenging for some respiratory conditions, a dry sauna’s lower humidity is often more tolerable. It can still offer respiratory relief, particularly for those who are sensitive to moist air.
  • Heat Tolerance: If you can tolerate high temperatures, the dry sauna’s intense heat provides a deep sweating experience, which is beneficial for detoxification and muscle relaxation.

Why Wet Sauna

  • Respiratory Relief: Wet saunas, with their high humidity, are particularly effective for people with respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, or sinusitis. The steam helps in loosening congestion and clearing airways.
  • Milder Heat: The lower temperature in wet saunas, combined with the moisture in the air, can create a more bearable and comfortable environment for those who find the intense heat of dry saunas overwhelming.
  • Skin Hydration: The moist environment of a wet sauna is excellent for hydrating the skin. It’s particularly beneficial for those with conditions like eczema or for anyone wanting to maintain supple, moisturized skin.

Personal Preferences

Why Dry Sauna

  • Intense Experience: Dry saunas offer a more traditional sauna experience with higher temperatures. This intense heat is often preferred by sauna purists and enthusiasts who seek a more vigorous and detoxifying sweat session.
  • Quick Heating: The dry air heats up quickly, providing an immediate and powerful heating effect that many find invigorating and deeply relaxing.

Why Wet Sauna

  • Gentle and Soothing: The steam-filled environment of a wet sauna offers a gentler, more nurturing heat. It’s akin to a tropical retreat, enveloping you in warm, moist air that soothes the skin and respiratory system.
  • Therapeutic Atmosphere: The high humidity and steam create a spa-like atmosphere, often perceived as more relaxing and less intense than the dry sauna.

Space and Maintenance

Why Dry Sauna

  • Ventilation Needs: Dry saunas require proper ventilation to manage the high temperatures and ensure air quality. This need for ventilation should be considered when planning where to install a sauna.
  • Heating Elements: Space for the heaters or stoves, which are larger in dry saunas, must be accounted for in the design and placement.

Why Wet Saunas

  • Airtight Construction: To maintain high humidity levels, wet saunas need to be nearly airtight. This requirement can influence the materials used and the construction methods.
  • Regular Cleaning: Due to the moist environment, wet saunas require more frequent cleaning and maintenance to prevent mold and bacteria growth.


Which is better for skin health, a dry or wet sauna?

Wet saunas are generally better for hydrating the skin, while dry saunas can help with skin conditions like psoriasis.

Can sauna use aid in weight loss?

While saunas can temporarily aid in water weight loss due to sweating, they should not be relied upon for significant weight loss.

How long should one stay in a sauna?

Generally, 15-20 minutes is recommended, but always listen to your body and exit if you feel dizzy or uncomfortable.

Are saunas safe for everyone?

People with certain medical conditions, pregnant women, and those on specific medications should consult a doctor before sauna use.

Wrapping Up

Whether you choose a wet or dry sauna, the benefits are profound and varied. It boils down to personal health needs, preferences, and the kind of experience you’re seeking. Both provide a pathway to relaxation, better health, and a moment of tranquility in your busy life.

Discover a range of adaptable barrel saunas at Shym Saunas, where our models are compatible with either wood-fired and electric heaters. This offers you the flexibility to enjoy either a wet or dry sauna experience, easily! Explore your options today and find the perfect sauna to meet your relaxation and health needs.

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