Sauna vs steam room. What is the difference?

difference between a sauna and steam room
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Updated: 02/07/18

How do you decide between a sauna and steamroom?

Sauna and steam room. These words are often used interchangeably. 

But are they really the same? 

They are both (very) hot. 

And they both make you sweat. Lots. 

But how they go about doing this is pretty different.

Before you decide which whether your love lies with a sauna or steam room, you’ll probably want to know the differences. 

This table will help you understand the differences at a quick glance. So, if you don’t want to hang around too long then take a quick look at that. But I really think you should stay, because I’m needy you’ll find it really helpful.

What's the difference in.. Sauna Steam room
Materials Wood (Usually Spruce, Aspen or Cedar) Non-porous ie. Acrylic or Tile
Temperature/humidity 80-100 degrees C. 5-10% humidity 40-70 degrees C. 100% humidity
Benefits Improved heart health, faster muscle recovery, better immune system, improved sleep, skin detox Improved heart health, faster muscle recovery, better immune system, improved sleep, skin detox, improved breathing
Maintenance Very little. Wood cleaner 1 x month (approx.) Very little. Clean tiles/acrylic during normal clean.
Building/installation cost Kit: £900-£17,500. Custom: £7500-£12,000 £400 - £40,000
Running costs £10-£30/month £10-£30/month

What is the difference between a sauna and a steam room?

Saunas and steam rooms are different. The are made of different materials. And they work in different ways. Although they do have the same result ie. they make you hot and sweaty.

What are saunas and steam rooms made of?

custom built saunaSaunas are made entirely of wood. The wood in the walls and the benching act as a natural insulator to keep the heat in.  Saunas are heated using an electric stove (or sometimes a wood-burning stove), which sits in the sauna itself. 


Steam rooms, are finished with a non-porous substance. We use mosaic tiles. But, it’s also common to use acrylic. Whether tile or acrylic, it is backed with insulated board to keep the heat in. The steam is created by a steam generator, which is like a giant kettle. This sits out with the steam room and the steam is fed into the room through copper pipes and a small steam inlet. 

What is the difference in steam and sauna temperature?

Is getting your sweat on your number one priority? 


Both saunas and a steam rooms will make you feel really hot. But how they go about this is a bit different. 


Saunas will reach between 80 and 100 degrees Celsius. They have very little or no humidity. It’s a very dry heat. 


Steam rooms are still hot, but they only reach around 40-70 degrees Celsius. However, unlike the sauna, the steam room has almost 100% humidity. This keeps your sweat from evaporating off your body. So it can feel much hotter than it actually is. Think about when it feels muggy or humid outside. Even if the temperature isn’t that high, it can feel a lot hotter than it is. 


So, although the temperature difference between a sauna and steam room is quite significant. Both make you feel as warm as each other. 



What's the difference in sauna and steam room health benefits?

Both saunas and steam rooms have a tonne of health benefits. Just some of them are:


1. Improved heart health

2. Faster recovery from your workouts

3. Booted immune system

4. Improved sleep

5. Skin detox 

Steamrooms are sometimes preferred by people with asthma or other breathing conditions. However, both saunas and steam rooms open the airways and help improve breathing. 

As steam rooms are a cooler temperature, it might be physically possible to sit in them for longer. But, we don’t recommend this. As both with cause you to sweat, dehydration can be a danger and you should spend a maximum of 20 minutes in either a sauna or steam room. 

If you have any health conditions we urge you to speak to your doctor before using a sauna or steam room.


How much maintenance do saunas and steam rooms need?

Both saunas and steam rooms need very little maintenance. Hoo-ray. Less chores for you.


Saunas are very hot and dry. At most we would recommend a wood cleaner to keep the benching in great condition. 


As steam rooms have a lot of moisture, you will need to clean the acrylic or tiles as you would clean them in a bathroom. Otherwise the moisture plus warm temperatures can be a haven for bacteria. 


Beyond the cleaning there is very little maintenance. The only other issues relate to the sauna stove and steam generator. But these can be avoided by purchasing good quality unit and getting regular servicing.


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What is the difference in installation cost between saunas and steam rooms?

Steam rooms are more expensive. The materials used to build it cost more. The steam generators is more expensive than a stove. And the time taken to construct a steam room is longer than a sauna. 


Plus you need to consider that for a sauna you only need an electrical supply. Whereas for a steam room you need both water and electrics, plus a drainage system. 


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How much does it cost to run a sauna and steam room per month?

Running costs are equally as important as the installation costs. You don’t want to spend all that money installing a sauna or a steam room. Only to find out you can’t afford to run it. 

The good new is that saunas and steam rooms have low maintenance and low running costs. 

The exact running cost will depend on four things:

1.  The kW size of the stove/generator (will depend on the size of the sauna or steam room)

2. Unit price of electricity that you pay

3. How often you use the sauna or steam room (eg. 3 times per week).

4. How long you use the sauna or steam room for per use. 

Once you know all this you can use the following formula to work out an approximate running cost.


Stove/generator kW x unit price x no. of days used x duration

= approx. steam/sauna running cost

Most saunas and steam rooms will cost you approx. £10-£30/month to run.

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Which one do we prefer?

Well, this is a tough question. Because we love the idea of having both.


Indulgent? Yes.

But, both have amazing physical and mental health benefits. And having both means you can switch between them. Or make everyone in the family happy if you have different preferences.

Ultimately, it’s personal preference. We would always recommend trying both out before you buy. So you know which one you love.

Let us know which one is your favorite in the comments. 

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Debbie Ekins
Debbie Ekins
Eagle Leisure - Sales & Marketing Manager Mission = to arm you with the knowledge you need to make the best buying decisions. Fuelled by coffee (and naps). Explorer of Scotland and the world.
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