How to Clean Your Sauna

Owning a sauna can be an incredibly relaxing and healthful experience. Proper maintenance is essential to enjoy the longevity and potential benefits of a sauna. Neglecting your sauna cleaning and care can lead to mold, mildew, damage to wood and heating elements, unpleasant odors, and even safety issues from things like faulty wiring or heaters.

Keeping your sauna well-maintained doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. By understanding what type of sauna you have and implementing a simple but consistent cleaning routine, you can keep your sauna running safely and optimally for years to come. 

This article will provide sauna owners with a complete guide on how to clean a sauna, including daily and weekly cleaning tasks, and quarterly deep cleaning tips. You will also learn how to tackle common issues like mold and odors, electrical safety checks, and more. 


Why Regular Sauna Maintenance is Essential

how to clean your sauna

Maintaining your sauna is crucial for ensuring its longevity, safety, and optimal performance. It plays a pivotal role in several aspects:

Prolonging Sauna Life: Proper care prevents wear and tear on components like heaters, wooden benches, and electrical systems, thereby extending the sauna's lifespan.

Preventing Health Hazards: Saunas are warm and humid environments, ideal for bacteria and mold growth. Regular cleaning and sanitization prevent these health hazards, ensuring a safe environment for users.

Efficiency and Performance: Regular maintenance ensures that all parts of the sauna are functioning efficiently. This includes checking heating elements and thermostats and ensuring that doors seal properly.

Aesthetic Maintenance: A well-maintained sauna retains its visual appeal, which is important both for personal enjoyment and for maintaining property value in cases where the sauna is part of a commercial establishment or a home.

Odor Control: Regular light cleaning helps control and eliminate odors, which can otherwise become entrenched in wood surfaces and create an unpleasant sauna experience.


Understanding Your Sauna

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To implement the right maintenance regime, you need to understand the type of sauna you have, as each has unique requirements due to their differing heating mechanisms.

Traditional Steam Saunas

Traditional steam saunas, also known as Finnish saunas, work by heating the air inside the room. They typically have a heater, often electric or wood-burning, that heats a collection of rocks. Users pour water over these hot rocks to produce steam, rapidly increasing the room's humidity and temperature. Due to the high humidity, proper ventilation is crucial to prevent moisture damage and mold growth. The interior often features wood surfaces and wood penetrating oil, which absorb heat and humidity, requiring regular treatment and cleaning to prevent damage.

Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas represent a newer technology, offering a different experience. These saunas use infrared lamps that emit light waves directly absorbed by the skin, heating the body without significantly increasing the air temperature. They operate at lower temperatures than traditional saunas, typically between 120°F and 140°F. Infrared saunas have lower humidity levels, which affects the type of general maintenance needed. The reduced moisture means less risk of mold and mildew, but the heaters and other electrical components still require regular checks. The materials used in infrared saunas, often different types of wood or even synthetic materials, may have specific cleaning requirements to avoid damage from cleaners or excessive heat.


Related: Are Infrared Saunas Safe


Daily and Weekly Cleaning Routine of Your Sauna

how to clean your sauna at home

Maintaining the hygiene and longevity of your sauna requires a consistent cleaning routine. This section details the daily and weekly tasks that should be performed to keep your sauna in optimal condition.

Daily Tasks: Ventilation and Surface


  • Purpose: Proper ventilation is crucial to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to mold and wood rot.
  • How to Ventilate: After each use, leave the sauna door open for at least 30 minutes. If your sauna has vents, ensure they are open and unobstructed.
  • Additional Tip: Consider using a small fan to circulate air and expedite the drying process.

Surface Wiping

  • Materials Needed: Use a clean, dry microfiber towel for best results.
  • Technique: Wipe down benches, backrests, and other surfaces where sweat and moisture are likely to accumulate. Pay special attention to areas around the heater and door where moisture can be more prevalent.
  • Frequency: Perform this task after every sauna session, once the surfaces are cool enough to touch.

Weekly Tasks:  Sweep or Vacuum

Equipment: Use a soft-bristle broom or a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to avoid scratching the wood.

Process: Gently sweep or vacuum the sauna floor, focusing on areas beneath the benches and around the heater where dust and hair tend to accumulate.

Additional Care: If your sauna has a removable floor mat, take it out for cleaning. Shake it outside and wash it according to the manufacturer's instructions if it's washable.

Check for Damage

Inspection Areas: Look for signs of wear or damage on wooden surfaces, heater elements, stones, and door hinges.

Wood Surfaces: Check for splinters, cracks, or discoloration in the wood. This can indicate moisture problems or the need for sanding and resealing.

Heater and Stones: Inspect the sauna heater for any signs of rust or corrosion. Check the stones for cracks or breakage and replace them if necessary.

Door Hinges and Seals: Ensure the door closes properly and the seals are intact. Loose hinges should be tightened, and damaged seals should be replaced to maintain heat efficiency.

Deep Cleaning Your Sauna

Deep cleaning of your sauna is vital and should be conducted every three to six months, depending on its usage frequency. This process is crucial for eliminating bacteria and ensuring the longevity of your sauna's wood and heating elements.

Materials Needed

  • Mild, Non-abrasive Wood Cleaner: Use a mild cleaner specifically designed for most saunas. Do not use harsh chemical cleaners.
  • Soft-Bristle Hand Brush or Non-abrasive Sponge: To avoid scratching the wood surface. If your sauna is located outside, you can use a pressure washer to clean the exterior wood.
  • Microfiber Towels: For effective and scratch-free cleaning.
  • Bucket of Lukewarm Water: Hot water can warp wood over time.
  • White Vinegar (Optional): For natural disinfection and maintaining your sauna clean.

Step-by-Step Cleaning Guide

  1. Cool Down: Wait until the sauna is completely cooled to avoid heat damage while cleaning.
  2. Surface Preparation: Remove all accessories for thorough cleaning.
  3. Damp Wipe: Use a damp cloth with a mild wood cleaner to gently clean wooden surfaces. Avoid over-saturating the natural wood or cedar wood.
  4. Spot Cleaning: For tough stains, use a soft-bristle brush dipped in a cleaning solution or bleach solution, scrubbing gently in the direction of the wood grain.
  5. Rinsing: Use a separate damp cloth to remove any soap residue. Excessive water can damage the wood, so ensure the clean cloth is only slightly damp.
  6. Drying: Allow the sauna to air dry, or use microfiber towels for quicker drying. Proper drying prevents moisture damage.


Related: How to Set Up a Sauna at Home


Tackling Common Sauna Problems: Preventing and Removing Mold

Ventilation: Post-use ventilation is crucial. Consider installing a ventilation fan if your sauna lacks adequate natural airflow.

Mold Removal Solution: Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Apply to affected areas, let it sit for 10 minutes, and gently scrub off with a soft-bristle brush.

Preventive Measures: Regularly check corners and hidden spots for early signs of mold as a preventive measure.

Eliminating Odors

Natural Aromatherapy: Introduce natural aromatics like eucalyptus, lavender, or cedarwood chips. They provide a pleasant smell and have natural antibacterial properties.

Odor Absorption: Place a small container of baking soda in the sauna when not in use to absorb odors and sweat stains. You can also use a deodorizing cleaner.

Maintaining Your Sauna Accessories and Sauna Clean

  • Buckets and Ladles: Use a mild detergent and warm water. Rinse thoroughly to avoid detergent residue. Dry completely to prevent mildew.
  • Benches and Backrests: Wipe your sauna bench with a mild wood cleaner. For deep cleaning, use a soft-bristle brush gently.
  • Thermometers and Hygrometers: Regularly dust off. Check for accurate readings and replace batteries if necessary.

Regular Sauna Inspection

  • Safety Check: Regularly inspect benches and accessories for splinters or loose fittings.
  • Material Care: If your sauna accessories are wood, consider using fine sand paper and resealing with a sauna-safe sealant annually to maintain their condition.

Sauna Safety Tips

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Ensuring safety in your sauna is as crucial as its regular maintenance. A safe sauna guarantees a relaxing experience and prevents potential hazards.

Here are some detailed safety tips and regular checks you should perform:

Inspect Heaters For Traditional Steam Saunas:

  • Check the Condition of the Stones: Over time, sauna stones can degrade and crumble. Inspect them at least once every three months for signs of wear. If they are cracking or crumbling, replace them immediately.
  • Examine the Heater for Corrosion or Damage: Look for any signs of rust or damage to the heater elements. Rust can be an indicator of excessive moisture or poor ventilation.
  • Ensure Proper Clearance: There should be adequate clearance between the heater and any wooden surfaces or sauna benches to prevent scorching or fire hazards.

Inspect Heaters For Infrared Saunas:

  • Inspect Infrared Panels: Check for any visible damage or discoloration on the infrared panels. Damaged panels may not emit heat evenly and could be less effective or potentially unsafe.
  • Test the Heat Emission: Turn on the sauna and monitor if the panels are heating up consistently and evenly. Inconsistent heating can indicate a malfunctioning element.

Check Electrical Components

Inspect Wiring and Connections: Regularly examine all visible wiring and electrical connections for any signs of wear, fraying, or corrosion. Sauna environments are high in humidity and heat, which can accelerate wear on electrical components.

Test Safety Features: Many modern saunas come with safety features like automatic shut-off timers or overheat protection. Test these features to ensure they are working correctly.

Look for GFCI Protection: Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets should be used for all electrical connections in the sauna area. These outlets will automatically shut off power if they detect a ground fault, significantly reducing the risk of electrical shock.

Regular Professional Inspection: It's advisable to have a certified electrician inspect your sauna's electrical system annually. This can help identify potential issues that might not be apparent during a visual inspection.

Sauna Fire Safety

Keep Flammable Materials Away: Ensure that towels, robes, and other flammable materials are kept at a safe distance from the sauna heater.

No Modifications or Unauthorized Repairs: Never attempt to modify your sauna's heater or electrical components yourself. Always use a qualified professional for repairs or modifications.

Sauna Ventilation

Ensure Adequate Ventilation: Proper ventilation is crucial for both air quality and heat distribution. Make sure the sauna's ventilation system is unobstructed and functioning correctly. This not only helps with air circulation but also reduces the risk of overheating and moisture damage.

Sauna User Safety

Provide Safety Instructions: If the sauna is in a commercial setting or used by guests, provide clear safety instructions regarding its use. This should include guidelines on the duration of sauna use, temperature settings, and emergency procedures.

how to clean you home sauna

Related: How To Use a Sauna

In Summary

By consistently following this sauna maintenance routine—from daily and slightly more thorough cleaning to deep quarterly cleaning—you can prolong the lifespan of your sauna and ensure it provides you with maximum enjoyment and safety for years to come.

While it does require some time investment, proper sauna care pays dividends through improved hygiene, efficiency, safety, and longevity. Your sauna can be an invaluable investment in your health and relaxation—so be sure to give it the care, maintenance, and attention it deserves. 



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