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What to Wear in the Sauna: A Guide to Sauna Attire

Sauna attire is all about comfort, safety, and etiquette. From towels and swimsuits to headwear, footwear, and more, you can choose between a variety of clothing options to sweat in. Stick around to learn all about what to wear in the sauna, the wide variety of sauna attire across different cultures, and sauna attire etiquette. 

The Many Benefits of Sauna Attire

Sauna attire plays a major role in ensuring a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable experience. Here are a few benefits of wearing proper sauna attire:

  • Even Distribution of Heat: Sauna clothing helps in evenly distributing heat across your body, allowing you to stay in the sauna for longer without feeling overheated.
  • Sweat Absorption: Proper sauna attire, such as towels or wraps, can absorb sweat and moisture, allowing you to maintain a clean and sanitary environment.
  • Preventing Contamination: Wearing clothes helps reduce the risk of transferring germs, bacteria, or bodily fluids to the sauna benches or surfaces.
  • Protection from Hot Surfaces: A sauna’s benches and walls can become excessively hot. Wearing the correct attire protects you from burns or discomfort when in contact with these surfaces.
  • Slip Resistance: Sauna clothing, like non-slip sauna shoes, can provide better traction and prevent accidents on the potentially wet and slippery sauna floor.

Top Sauna Attire Choices

Traditional sauna attire has evolved over centuries and varies across diverse cultures and regions. These clothing options are designed to provide modesty, comfort, and functionality within the sauna environment. 


A towel is an essential part of your sauna attire. It saves you from PVC fabrics sticking to your skin and maintains hygiene.

Even if you're in a swimsuit, place a towel on the bench to avoid sweat contamination. The Finns love wearing a towel around the waist to balance privacy and practicality. Opt for a cotton towel since it's the best for sweat-soaking.


Swimsuits are another top choice among sauna enthusiasts since they expose the most amount of skin while still maintaining comfort.

Opt for loose-fitting swimsuits made from natural fibers, for a safer and more relaxing sauna experience. These materials allow better ventilation.

Tight swimsuits can hinder blood flow, and cause overheating, discomfort, skin irritation, and even burns in a sauna.

You can choose swimwear made of breathable materials like cotton, linen, or bamboo, ensuring heat flows through the fabric. Avoid suits with metal parts to prevent burns. 

Despite all the benefits of wearing a swimsuit in the sauna, it still comes with some health risks. PVC swimsuits can restrict your skin from breathing and may even release toxic chemicals at high temperatures, Plus, they trap heat, making you uncomfortable over time.

Natural Fabrics

Choosing comfortable cotton attire in the sauna is a smart move. Think roomy T-shirts with loose-fitting wraps or shorts.

These fabrics soak up extra heat and let your skin breathe freely. Ensure that they're clean and put them on just before stepping into the sauna.

You’ll still need a towel while wearing natural fabrics. Even if you don't use it as a cover, it's essential to place it on the bench for hygiene.

Avoid tight underwear, especially bras. Constricting clothes can get uncomfortable in high heat and humidity.

You’ll also want to steer clear of synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester. They trap heat and moisture, leading to overheating and dehydration. Stick to breathable natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and wool.


When it comes to footwear in the sauna, remember this golden rule: no outdoor shoes are allowed. They can bring in dirt and germs that nobody wants in this clean, calming haven.

You've got two simple choices for your feet: bare or wear shower sandals. In public saunas, check the rules. Some places may encourage footwear for hygiene reasons, while others prefer barefoot.

At home, it's your call. Some people love the freedom of bare feet, while others prefer lightweight shower sandals, sliders, or flip-flops. These are comfy and protect your feet from lurking bacteria on the floor or tiles.


You don't want to overlook your hair in the sauna. Dry heat can temporarily damage it, leading to frizz and unruliness.

Before you step in, consider covering your hair with a sauna cap, hat, or a moist towel. You can soak the towel in cool or cold water. It'll help maintain your hair's moisture. 

A hair tie is a handy tool to keep your locks off your neck as you start to sweat.

Sauna Attire From Different Cultures

Sauna attire varies across cultures, reflecting unique traditions and beliefs. Here are a few examples:

Turkish Hammams

Turkish hammams feature the pestemal, a cotton, linen, or bamboo towel in vibrant colors and patterns.

Men usually wear it around the waist, sometimes opting for nothing underneath. Women wear it higher, covering from chest to hips, often with underwear, a swimsuit, or a bikini bottom.

Scandinavian Saunas

For the most authentic experience, Finns often go naked or wrap themselves in a towel. This practice promotes purity and embraces the essence of the sauna, removing any social barriers.

Japanese Sentos

In Japan's sentos, nudity is the norm. Swimsuits and underwear are prohibited, but a small towel is essential for covering intimate areas while outside the water.

It's worth noting that visible tattoos are generally not allowed due to their association with the Yakuza, Japan's organized crime syndicate.

Sauna Attire Etiquette

Respecting the unwritten rules of sauna etiquette is critical for a harmonious experience for everyone.

  • Nudity Rules: Check the sauna's clothing policy. Some prefer nudity for authenticity; others encourage swimwear for modesty. 
  • Ensure Cleanliness: Always shower before entering. Saunas thrive in a clean environment. Keep it germ-free.
  • Mind the Bench: Lay a towel on the bench before sitting; it's a courtesy to the next user and keeps things hygienic.
  • Clean Up After: Dispose of any used towels and empty bottles in designated areas.

Final Thoughts

Whether it's the cozy embrace of a towel, the practicality of a swimsuit, or the breathable comfort of natural fabrics, your choice of sauna attire matters.


Saunas offer tranquility, detoxification, and rejuvenation, and your attire can enhance or detract from these benefits. So, dress wisely, respect sauna etiquette, and step into the sauna room with confidence.