Steam rooms and saunas are both high heat means to relax and ease muscle tension. While they both offer heat, there are differences in how the heat is generated, in the benefits of the heat and in the maintenance of the device.
Saunas are typically wood paneled rooms that provide dry heat, generated by hot rocks. Generally a very small amount of steam is created by pouring some water over the rocks. Saunas can heat to anywhere from 140 to 200 degrees F. Steam rooms provide moist, humid or vapor heat ranging from about 110 to 120 degrees F. Steam is periodically pumped into a steam room to keep a humidity level up to 100 percent.
According to Tube Rose, saunas are effective for weight loss because they can burn up to 600 calories in a sauna session. The main cause of weight loss from saunas is a loss of water weight from sweating.
Steam rooms can aid in relieving some respiratory ailments. The humidity and moisture of a steam room can soothe the symptoms of a sore throat and loosen mucus in the sinuses and lungs.
Steam rooms are generally more vulnerable to the spread and production of bacteria due to high humidity, according to Sauna & Steam Bathing. Regular maintenance with tile cleaners and all purpose disinfectants keep harmful bacteria from spreading. Saunas can be susceptible to mold. Cleaning the wood panels with a mild soap and water regularly will prevent this. Saunas should not be cleaned with harsh ammonia products because they damage the wood.
According to saunas.org, a sauna was a way of bathing in ancient Finland. Women also gave birth in saunas. Steam rooms, or baths as they were known in ancient Greece, were also a popular form of bathing. The relaxing benefits of both have kept both popular for generations.
Before taking a sauna or steam bath, it is important that the body is not already hot because you run the risk of overheating. If a sauna or steam bath is to be taken after a workout, cool down before you enter.