Finnish Sauna Rules – Quick Guide to Sauna Etiquette in Finland

lady entering a traditional Finnish sauna

What are the Rules of Finnish Sauna? Are you planning on using a traditional Finnish sauna but want to brush up on the rules and etiquette? You’re in the right place. Finnish Sauna has a specific set of rules and customs. And, if you want to fit in with the locals you need to understand the basics.

All you have to do is: pay attention to your personal hygiene, respect your fellow sauna users, and make sure you dress appropriately. And, then there’s the vihta sauna whip. Don’t worry, this article covers everything you need to know about Finnish Sauna Rules.

Finnish Sauna Rules

1: Take a Shower

First up take a shower. The number one rule of Finnish sauna is to make sure you’re fresh and clean before joining others in the sauna. For most, sauna is a shared experience. And, no one wants to be up close and personal with someone’s BO. If you want to enjoy your experience and avoid offending others, make sure you take a quick shower before jumping into the sauna cabin.

woman taking a shower

2: Dress Appropriately

Make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Did you know, nudity is the norm in traditional Finnish saunas? That’s right. You heard correctly. People in Finland prefer to sauna completely naked. However, this is often the case in private household saunas where families and close friends enjoy sauna-ing together.

If you’re using a public sauna make sure you check with management before stripping off. Most public saunas require individuals to wrap up in a towel to protect modesty and prevent embarrassment. And, don’t worry. If it’s a public nude sauna, you’ll find there are separate saunas for men and women. Nude Finnish sauna tends to be gender specific. And, remove all jewelry – or it will quickly become uncomfortably hot.

3: Gender Specific

Most public Finnish saunas are gender specific. Especially those that operate a nude policy. That means men in one sauna, women in another. If you’re visiting a public Finnish sauna, don’t just walk into the first sauna you see. Make sure you’re visiting the appropriate sauna for your gender. Or, there could be a majorly embarrassing incident.

woman in white towels practising the rules of Finnish Sauna

4: Bring a Towel

Using a towel is a great tip. Even if you’re visiting a nude sauna, take a towel. You can use it to sit on when inside. It provides a personal cushioned seat and protects your naked bottom from the hot wooden bench. You can also use the towel to wipe away excess sweat and avoid leaving a puddle behind you when you’re done.

5: Ask Before Adding Water to Hot Stones

When it comes to adding water to the stones, there’s no hard and fast rule. However, if you’re sharing the sauna with others, it’s good etiquette to ask first. Don’t just begin ladling water and generating clouds of intense steam. Check if it’s okay with your fellow sauna-ers first. And, if there’s a language barrier some nodding and gestures will get your message across pretty quickly.

man sitting on a bench in a sauna

6: Silence is King

Another unspoken rule of Finnish sauna is silence and relaxation. People are there to relax and unwind. So, avoid striking up loud conversations. And, if you are there with a friend it’s best to keep quiet and allow everyone some personal space and quiet. However, some people like to strike up a chat. So, read the room and use your common sense if necessary.

7: The Vihta Sauna Whisk

Have you heard of a vihta? Not so much a Finnish sauna rule, but more of a tradition. The vihta is a type of light whisk. It’s made from leafy birch twigs that are bound together and used to gently strike the skin to stimulate circulation. It’s sometimes referred to as a vasta or viht. So, if you see someone whip out a vihta and begin striking themselves, don’t worry. This is perfectly normal in Finnish sauna.

traditional sauna vihta whip

8: Good Sauna Etiquette

Another unspoken rule of Finnish sauna is good sauna etiquette. This means sharing the space in a respectful manner and ensuring your actions don’t wind anyone up the wrong way. While most of good sauna etiquette is common sense you should pay attention to cleanliness, hygiene, and how you use a public space. Top tips include asking before changing anything and always closing the door promptly behind you. For more, check out our full guide on Proper Sauna Etiquette.

9: Stay Hydrated

Make sure you stay safely hydrated. Finnish saunas are incredibly hot. You’re going to experience an intense sweat. And, this means you will lose considerable water. All this water needs to be replaced to prevent dehydration. You should regularly sip water to keep yourself topped up and replace lost fluids. Dehydration is a dangerous condition and can lead to serious health complications. For more, check out How Much Water Should I Drink in a Sauna?

10: Take Time to Cool Off

Once you’re done. You should take time to cool off. If you’re using a public sauna there will be a cold shower or plunge pool nearby. The cold water washes away sweat and provides an energizing jolt to the system. If you’re not accustomed to cold water plunging you should familiarize yourself with the dangers and safety advice before immersing in cold water – Cold Plunge Safety.

man stepping out of ice water

Many traditional Finnish saunas are located in outdoor settings and the locals often jump into a lake or river to cool down once their sauna session is complete. Either way, you should allow 10-15 minutes for your body to cool down and return to regular body temperature.

11: Rinse & Repeat

Then rinse and repeat. Traditional Finnish sauna follows a cyclical routine. It’s about embracing the natural rhythm of heating, cleansing, and then cooling off. The Finns can follow this cycle up to ten times in one session.  They have plenty of experience.

For a beginner, two or three cycles work best. Follow these tips and 11 Finnish sauna rules and you’ll get the most from your experience. Even better, you’ll avoid doing something wrong and upsetting the locals. In fact, you might just be mistaken for a long-time Finnish sauna enthusiast.


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1 thought on “Finnish Sauna Rules – Quick Guide to Sauna Etiquette in Finland

  1. Silence is King
    I like this rule. We go to the sauna to relax so please don’t keep talking and ruining it for everyone.



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