Sauna Etiquette: What You Should and Shouldn’t Wear

Matt Justice

Whether you’ve just had an intense workout or want to brush off the soreness of a long day, a sauna session can feel like a slice of heaven!

What may not feel so much like a slice of heaven for some of us, though, is being greeted, as you enter the sauna, by a fellow sauna user’s, er, privates—unfortunately, some people just don’t get that these parts are termed ‘privates’ for a reason.

While the rules are your own when using a private sauna, using a public steam room demands some etiquette, even if and especially if there are no rule policies in place.

So what does sauna etiquette demand? Here’s a guide to what should and shouldn’t be worn in a steam room.

Let’s Talk about Sauna Etiquette

There are a few rules to keep in mind when using a public steam room. Generally, gyms will have a dress and usage code in place for their sauna room, but if not, the following pointers will help:

  • Be mindful of the fact that you’re sharing the space with others and treat them with the same respect and consideration that you would like accorded to you in the sauna room.
  • Don’t use a public steam room in the nude, even if it’s a single-sex steam room, as it can make people uncomfortable. Even if you don’t want to wear trunks or other restrictive clothing, use a towel to cover your nether regions.
  • Always wear comfortable, light, and clean clothing for your sauna session—swimwear, loose cotton T-shirts and shorts, or sauna suits, if you’d like.
  • Always carry extra towels to sit on and to dry yourself with. Sitting on a towel is a hygienic practice, as it will limit the transfer of sweat to the wooden bench, while also protecting you from any soaked sweat.
  • It is a must to shower before you enter the sauna, to get rid of any dirt or bacteria that are clinging to you and that could dirty the sauna. It is essential to keep the sauna clean for other users, too.
  • Always tie your hair up if you have long hair. Even if you have the strongest, silkiest mane on the planet, the sauna is not the place to show it off.
  • Tying your hair up will reduce any possible shedding—while that’s great for you, it’s even better for future sauna users who don’t have to find strands of hair all over the place.
  • Don’t be a sauna hog—don’t invade other people’s space in the sauna, and don’t push sessions beyond 20 minutes (anything longer is unhealthy, anyway).
  • Heat escapes every time the sauna door is open and shut, so always enter and exit quickly.
  • Don’t eat before or during your sauna session. No one wants to smell what you had for lunch, or what you’re having for lunch, when all they want to do is relax.
  • Just as food is avoided for odor issues, so are perfumes and body sprays. While that Dior smells great to you, your neighbor might find it undesirable.

Apart from this, don’t do obviously disruptive things such as shaving or grooming in the sauna, talking loudly, carrying your gadgets inside and using them, working out in the sauna, throwing water (and other liquids) on the rocks just because the sizzling sound is pretty, and using the sauna as a dryer for your clothes!

So What Can I Wear for My Sauna Sesh?

There are several things that you can wear to a sauna that won’t take away anything from your relaxation and enjoyment of the session.

As mentioned earlier, you can wear clean, loose, flowy cotton T-shirts and shorts/clothes. Many folks also choose to wear swimsuits; this is perfectly acceptable, but ensure that the suit isn’t a tight fit.

As a rule, don’t wear clothing that’ll choke your skin and restrict breathability. Tight clothing will also make you feel hotter, doing more harm than good. Feeling the heat on your skin is what makes your sauna experience a great one, so a loose cotton towel to cover up is the best option.

Make sure that your clothes don’t have any metal attachments, buttons, zippers, or even synthetic content, as all these heat up really fast and could end up burning you.

What about Gym Clothes?

If you’re using the sauna after a workout, it may be tempting to enter in the same clothes you’ve been wearing—they’re already sweaty anyway, right?

Wrong. Though your clothes may be soaked already, they’re soaked in your sweat, and as we all know, sweat emits odor! Doesn’t help that there’s a ton of bacteria in sweat, either.

Therefore, get rid of the sweaty clothes, have a quick shower, wrap yourself in a clean towel that covers you as necessary, and then hit the sauna!

What about Footwear?

You can wear flip-flops and sandals to the sauna (use an exclusive pair solely for the sauna and do not use your street footwear), but once inside, it’s advisable to take them off.

However, some folks may be uncomfortable with barefootedness in a communal room, whether it’s for themselves or seeing it around them, due to the worry of germs and bacteria that could have collected while walking to the sauna. The moist warmth of the sauna doesn’t help either—it’s the perfect setting for one large bacterial party!

Don’t wear shoes in the sauna room, though this should really go without saying! Your shoes could be housing a ton of bacteria, along with some not-so-pleasant odors, so for the sake of politeness and not looking weird, shoes are a complete no-no!

Is There Anything Else I Should or Shouldn’t Carry Inside?

What you should carry is your towels and the consideration to make your sauna session not only good for you but your steam-room neighbors too.

What you shouldn’t carry is anything else! No electronics, no gadgets, no accessories, no jewelry (especially metal), or anything that could hamper the session for both you and your fellow sauna users.

The Bottom Line

The aim of this article isn’t to judge those who like sauna-bathing in the buff; it’s a reminder that while you may enjoy it, the others who are sharing the space with you may not, despite all arguments of this being the ‘conventional’ way to do it.

Sure, you have your own preferences to keep in mind too, but in a communal space, it is important to take everyone’s preferences into account—even if this means compromising on your preferences just a tiny bit.

A towel to cover yourself, not wearing sweaty gym clothes, and not using shoes don’t hinder your sauna bathing in any way, but the lack of these could hinder your neighbor’s.

So don’t be “that” person. Instead, be mindful and remember these pointers, and sauna sessions will go a whole lot better for you and everyone else too!

About Matt Justice

Read Matt Justice sauna reviews, health story, and more here on - You can find the recommended sauna detox binders here on Amazon and here on YouTube.

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