sauna recovery after workout

What’s the difference between a Sauna vs Hot Tub? Sauna and hot tub are two different types of equipment enjoyed around the world for their relaxation and therapeutic effects. The main difference between the two is the way they heat the body and the overall experience they offer.

Below we run through everything you need to know about the difference between a sauna and a hot tub. We cover the key benefits of each, how the health benefits stack up, and factors you should consider when deciding which one to buy.


What’s better – a sauna or a hot tub? Saunas and hot tubs are similar in many ways. They both generate heat that warms the body, relax the mind, and have excellent health benefits. But, which should you buy? What are the key differences? And, which one meets your individual needs better?

man relaxing in a white hot tub


A sauna is a small cabin with four walls and a ceiling or roof. They are usually made from wood paneling and can be placed outdoors or indoors. The most popular types of sauna are traditional and infrared saunas. Saunas use a heater to raise the temperature inside the cabin to a very high level.

lady standing at door of a sauna

Traditional saunas typically run at 158°F to 212°F (70°C to 100°C) while infrared saunas are a little cooler at 110-130°F (45°C to 55°C). This intense heat has a therapeutic effect on the body and many people find the experience deeply relaxing. Saunas typically accommodate 1-6 people depending on cabin size. They can be enjoyed solo or in the company of friends.


woman sitting in a hot tub and watching the sun set

A hot tub is a large tub that looks a bit like a bath. The tub is filled with warm water with a temperature of 98°F to 104°F (37°C to 40°C). Water jets are used to create streams of water that massage the body while you relax in the warm water. Hot tubs can be placed indoors or outdoors but are usually used outdoors.


lady smiling and gesturing happily

Let’s take a closer look at the key differences of a hot tub vs sauna.


The main difference between a hot tub and a sauna is the type of heat used. A sauna uses a dry intense heat to warm the body and trigger an intense sweat. A hot tub uses wet heat. Warm water at a much lower temperature is used for heating effect.


Hot tubs massage the body using powerful water jets. These water streams knead the body and help soothe sore muscles and relieve tension. Saunas do not have a massage capability. Unless you get a friend to rub you down while you bask in the intense heat.


woman in a sauna in a bathing suit

Saunas generate intense heat. Traditional saunas run at temperatures in the region of 158°F to 212°F and trigger a profound sweat. This has a cleansing effect on the skin and helps detox the body by flushing out toxins. Hot tubs run at a much lower 98°F to 104°F.


Saunas and hot tubs are both great for sharing a social experience. Sharing a sauna or hot tub with friends or family is a great way to unwind, bond, and spend time together. Saunas have been used for centuries to bring communities together and promote physical and mental wellness.


While both a sauna and hot tub require ongoing TLC, the maintenance requirements of a hot tub are much greater compared to a sauna. An outdoor sauna will require occasional inspection and wood treatment to ensure it stands up to the elements. They’re very easy to care for.  Hot tubs on the other hand require frequent monitoring and cleaning.

The water should be periodically changed and the tub scrubbed down according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Additionally, the water must be monitored for cleanliness, the water filters checked, cleaned, and replaced according to guidelines, and the tub should be covered when not in use.


plumbing tools

What about installation? Saunas and hot tubs come with some basic installation considerations that need to be taken care of. Most saunas require an electrical connection. However, if you plan to use a wood-burning stove instead of an electrical heater – then you can forget about an electrical connection.

Hot tubs on the other hand require both an electrical and plumbing connection. Hot tubs are electrically powered and require water to operate. While some argue that you can use a hose pipe to fill a hot tub, it’s a lot easier if you get the device properly plugged into your home water system. Not only is it a breeze to fill it but you can drain it without any complications when it comes time to change the water.



When comes to enjoying some party time, a hot tub edges it over a sauna. If you’re enjoying a party with some friends and suggest everyone jumps in the hot tub you’re going to get high fives all around. If you suggest everyone jumps in the sauna for a quick sweat session you’re going to get some funny looks. Although they are both great for a shared social experience, a hot tub is a clear winner as party entertainment.


Both sauna and hot tubs are excellent devices for relaxation. There’s very little to separate them in terms of relaxation. They are both incredibly effective at relieving stress and relaxing the mind. In fact, they are effective ways of relaxing both the mind AND body. Which is better? It comes down to personal preference. Do you prefer relaxing in a dry, hot environment, on a wooden bench? Or, in a tub surrounded by warm gushing water?


There’s very little difference in price between a sauna and a hot tub. Both devices are available in a range of sizes and price points. A small, budget sauna will be much cheaper than a large deluxe hot tub and vice versa. There’s a sauna and hot tub out there to meet all budgets.


The health benefits of sauna and hot tub largely overlap. They both heat the body and relax the mind. This has a therapeutic effect on the body and leads to several potential health benefits.  Below we cover the key health benefits of sauna vs hot tub.

Health Benefits of Sauna

woman relaxing on bench in a sauna

  • Deep Relaxation

Many people find the effects of the intense heat of a sauna deeply relaxing. This can boost mood and promote better sleep.

  • System Detox

The intense heat of a sauna triggers a profound sweat that may help flush toxins and pollutants out of the body.

  • Skin Cleansing

The intense sweating experienced performs a deep cleaning of the skin as dirt and debris is removed from the pores.

  • Cardiovascular Activity

Saunas stimulate cardiovascular activity. Heart rate increases and blood flow is boosted throughout the cardiovascular system.

Health Benefits of Hot Tub

three women relaxing in a hot tub

  • Relaxation

Like a sauna, spending time in a hot tub is deeply relaxing. This is the single greatest health benefit for most people. Chilling out in a hot tub is a great way to unwind after a long stressful day. Even better, the experience can be shared with others.

  • Boost Mental Health

Many people find spending time in a hot tub can help boost their mental health. The combined effects of relaxation and some quality ‘me time’ can really help improve mood and even lead to a better night’s sleep.

  • Soothes Sore Muscles

Hot tubs are often used to massage and warm sore muscles. This may have the effect of reducing pain and loosening tight muscles.

  • Relieves Joint Pain

Another potential health benefit of a hot tub is its ability to temporarily relieve joint pain. The combined effects of warm water and gushing jets may help reduce pain and inflammation.



What are the advantages of a sauna vs hot tub?  If you’re still in two minds and can’t decide which is better for you – we’ve summed up the advantages of a sauna below.

panoramic sauna

Dry Heat

Saunas heat the body using dry heat. If you want a device with low humidity and don’t want to get wet – a sauna could be just what you’re looking for.

Greater Heat

Saunas get much hotter than hot tubs – especially traditional saunas. A traditional sauna runs at 158°F to 212°F while the water in a hot tub is heated to just 98°F to 104°F.

Intense Sweat

If it’s an intense sweat session you’re after, a sauna is what you need. A sauna will trigger a much more intense sweat thanks to the high-temperature environment.

Easy Maintenance

A sauna is easier to maintain. All you have to look after is the timber frame and the heating unit. In most cases, an annual check-up will be all the unit needs. On the other hand, a hot tub demands regular monitoring of the water, cleaning and replacing of filters, and periodic water changes.

Energy Efficiency

Saunas are more energy efficient than hot tubs – especially infrared saunas. Hot tubs consume more electricity to heat a large tub of water and keep it warm.

Year Round Use

Saunas can be used all year round and in all weather conditions – they have four walls and a roof. Hot tubs are weather dependent and can only be enjoyed during good weather.


A sauna offers excellent versatility above and beyond a hot tub. While both can be sat in and used to relax and unwind – a sauna allows you to stand up, perform stretches, and even do yoga if the mood takes you.


What are the advantages of a hot tub over a sauna? Need some more information? Below we run through the key benefits of a hot tub.

hot tub with a womans legs on the side of the tub

Warm Water

Hot tubs allow you to soak and unwind in a big bathtub. If you’re a fan of water and enjoy nothing better than relaxing in a wet humid environment – then a hot tub is a clear winner over the dry heat of a sauna.


Most hot tubs are equipped with water jets that create powerful streams that massage the body. This feels great on tired or sore muscles and takes your soak session to a whole other level. Saunas have nothing to offer in terms of massage – unless you bring a friend.

Moderate Heat

Hot tubs run at a much gentler level of heat compared to a sauna. If you are heat sensitive and dislike the oppressive heat of a sauna, then a hot tub may be just what you’re looking for. With a water temperature of just 98°F to 104° you can relax and unwind in a gentle comforting warmth.

Party Entertainment

Hot tubs are great for parties. ‘Hey, let’s jump in the hot tub’ sounds a lot better than ‘Hey, why don’t we all move into the sauna’. If you’re planning on having some friends over – the chances are they’re more likely to jump into a hot tub than a sauna.


About the Author


• Sauna Specialist

Meet Jake, a man with a passion for sauna therapy. Jake’s background is in science and his passion is wellness and basketball. Growing up in Orlando Florida, Jake enrolled in Florida International University where he graduated with a BS in Biological Sciences.

As a young man, he worked in the spa and wellness center at the renowned Breakers Palm Beach luxury hotel. Here he developed his skills and understanding of client-centered wellness delivery. Upon graduating from Florida International University he took up a research position focusing on the application and practical effects of steam therapy.

His research has contributed to advancing the understanding of steam sauna therapy and how it can be applied in the occupational health environment. His work in this area has been officially recognized for its impact on the field.

Jake is a devoted fan of the Orlando Magic basketball team. When not working and advancing his research he enjoys attending games at the Kia Center in downtown Orlando. He also likes to remain active in his local sports community and volunteers as a basketball coach for his local youth team.

With his background in scientific research and passion for wellness, Jake is a valuable addition to the Home Sauna Heaven writer’s team where he shares his knowledge and understanding of sauna therapy, steam sauna therapy, and how they can be used for best effect.

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