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Sauna, Steambath, Jacuzzi? Cleaning Up Confusion.

What Joe calls "sauna"Josephine may call "steam bath" and Jocelyn may call "Turkish bath". Is there a difference?.

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Now, you must first be aware that despite all the interest in recent decasdes, saunas have existed for thousands of years. For many people, however, they are a new phenomenon.

Over the last few years, the desire for a sauna experience has overtaken the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. As a result, millions of people have discovered the real, and claimed, health and social benefits of regular sauna baths. People may be forgiven if they get confused, for what Joe calls 'sauna', Josephine may call 'steam bath', and Jocelyn may call 'Turkish bath'. Is there really a difference?

This web page will explore the meaning of the various terms associated with this relaxing and beneficial form of bathing.


The sauna is an integral part of Finnish and Swedish culture. I guess that means it is not a Turkish bath...maybe.

In Finland and Sweden, most homes have a sauna and most people like to use their sauna several times a week. These saunas will commonly generate a dry heat between 70 and 100 degrees Celsius. From time to time, during the course of one of these 'steam baths' cold water is thrown on heated stones to produce a thick cloud of steam that makes the sauna feel even hotter. After spending anywhere from about 10 to 30 minutes in the sauna, most people take a cold shower or swim in the lake. During winter, some people even roll in the snow...but this is not obligatory, thank heavens!

Finnish and Swedish saunas are not just opportunities to get clean, get rid of toxins (i.e. perform a form of body detox), or just sweat. They are also considered social affairs and may include family members, friends or business associates. They are always done in the nude, but, whether or not members of the opposite sex take a sauna together depends on their relationships, and, to some extent, their age.

Public saunas, however, are usually single-sex affairs.

Swedish saunas have become popular in North America and often are part of the facilities of many public swimming pools. Each pool sets its own policies on nudity. Some pools have certain periods for single-sex use when nude swimming and nude saunas are the norm. At other times bathing suits may be required in the sauna.

New technologies have created what is known as an FIR sauna, or Far infrared sauna. The "FAR" refers to a portion of the infrafred spectrum which generates heat but not really much, if any, light. Many enjoy this type of sauna as it is much easier to create a portable infrared sauna for home use than to install a full scale Finnish or Swedish type sauna.

Turkish Bath

The Turkish bath is also known as hamam

It is also a type of steam bath but the heat is much lower than in Finnish or Swedish sauna. The steam would scald the skin if it was too hot, so steam baths are kept at around 40 degrees Celsius.

Traditional Turkish baths are actually large buildings which serve as social gathering venues as much as places to get clean.  There generally are separate rooms for men and women, and the bath building is divided into three areas – hot, warm, and cool.

Steam Bath

Steam baths have a constant humidity level around 100%.  They, like the Turkish bath, are kept about 40 degrees Celsius.  Many people prefer steam baths over saunas because the high humidity is easier to breathe and is felt to have more beneficial effects on the respiratory system.

Hot Tub

There are 3 types of hot tubs:
  • wooden barrels
  • fiberglass whirlpools
  • bathtub spas
The first type, as the name implies, is made from wooden slats and has a water pump and filtering system to circulate and clean the water.  It is commonly installed outdoors and has benches around the inside perimeter of the tub so that people can soak comfortably with their heads just above water level.

The second type has high pressure 'jets' that create a whirlpool effect. The jets are useful for water massage or hydrotherapy.  In addtiion to bathrooms in private homes, they are often installed at public swimming pools or health clubs.  These are know as 'Jacuzzis' after the company that popularized them.

The third type is often installed in private homes as a replacement for the regular family bathtub.  It is similar in size to a traditional bathtub but has additional jets for circulating the water.

The terms 'spa', 'hot tub' and 'Jacuzzi' are often used interchangeably and can often refer to the same thing - a tub of water for 1 or more people that contains circulating water and/or water jets. 

Just to confuse what should be a relaxing topic, a spa can also be a resort where you receive body treatments such as massage and hydrotherapy.  Many of THESE spas may have their own 'spas' - sauna facilities including steam baths, hot tubs and Jacuzzis.

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Page Updated 3:28 PM Wednesday 24 January 2018
Web Page Copyright 2018 by Donovan Baldwin