The Difference Between Saunas and Steam Rooms

While many people use the terms “sauna” and “steam room” interchangeably, they are actually two different types of enclosures with two completely different environments.

A steam room, sometimes called a steam shower, is not a sauna. A sauna is constructed from porous material (usually high grade cedar), while a steam room is constructed of something completely nonporous, such as plastic, tile or glass.

Steam rooms use steam generators, which directly heat the water, filling the enclosure with clouds of condensed water vapor. In an environment such as this, the humidity exceeds 100 percent, and the temperature is typically in the range of 115 to 120 F.

In contrast, a sauna heater heats the air in an enclosure, with humidity levels as low as 2 or 3 percent and temperatures as high as 190 F (at least within 6″ of the ceiling). These heaters also heat a compartment of sauna stones onto which water can be poured to create a “wet” sauna experience. Even in this type of environment, however, the humidity is still only at 10 to 15 percent.

The difference between a sauna and steam room is a matter of preference. Both are relaxing, and surprisingly enough, both have the very same well documented health benefits.