Your Complete Guide to Saunas

The many health benefits, and a complete guide to what to look for when buying a sauna.


What’s all this I hear about EMF and VOC’s?

EMF (electromagnetic radiation)

In past few years there has been a growing public concern that long term exposure to high and low-level of EMF’s / electromagnetic radiation (i.e. cell phones, computer monitor screens, WiFi signals, household appliances, electrical power lines), can be directly linked to a variety of cancers, heart disease and other health ailments. Because of all the wiring in far infrared saunas, they can have particularly high EMF if they’re not properly shielded. Several of the better quality sauna brand names offer low EMF carbon panel heat emitters or ‘Zero Rated EMF’ ratings for their carbon panel infrared emitters.

Having low or zero rated EMF heating / infrared panels is not adequate to guarantee your total safety and protection while you are enjoying your sauna sessions. Infrared saunas have a substantial amount of wiring throughout the wall panels and the roof cap of their saunas. Many of the sauna manufacturers that offer low or zero EMF panels have neglected to properly shield all the wiring in their saunas. Look for a manufacturer who provides proper EMF shielded wiring throughout the sauna, not just in the panels.

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, “many experts and public officials, as well as the few governments that have made an effort to offer public protection, have adopted the 3 mG (milli-Gauss) cutoff point. The EPA has proposed a safety standard of 1 mG. Sweden has set a maximum safety limit of 1 mG.”

Your Complete Guide to Saunas

VOC’s (toxins in the air)

Unfortunately, the majority of home saunas sold in the USA are either made or assembled in China with toxic glue, and have wood that off-gases. So even if detoxing in a sauna via sweat, one may actually be re-toxifying by breathing in and absorbing different chemicals and toxins.

These saunas are made using thin panels of wood glued together, to save on cost. Don’t be fooled: there is no “non-toxic” or safe glue. It simply doesn’t exist. All glues (even “water-based”) produce carcinogenic and otherwise highly toxic particles into the air, especially when heated. Look for a sauna that does not have any glue used in the wood or its construction.

Very cheap Chinese saunas sometimes try to scam consumers by using plastic covered in a thin spray-on carbon, instead of real carbon heaters. The plastic produces particles that are highly toxic when inhaled. Make sure your sauna isn’t like this.

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A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 38 Comments

  1. Rita Hajjar

    I live in a cold climate. I’m looking for an outdoor infared sauna. Does anyone own one of these in the upper states where we have brutal winters? I really want to know if they are usable in the winter months. Any advice is appreciated!! Rita

  2. We have an extra room at home and it’s just where we keep random stuff. I’m thinking of turning it into an at home spa.

  3. Cristina Bernal

    Thanks for making this very detailed guide about saunas. My only question is, I can’t really buy my own so I usually just result to going in saunas that are in my city. How do I know if the saunas they have are safe just like what you said in this article? Is it proper to ask them? It’s not like they will tell the truth anyway. Most concierge employees wouldn’t even disclose such matters to the public or they don’t really know anything about the equipment there.

  4. Can my grandparents use saunas too? My only concern is that it might be too hot for them and instead of reducing the risk for Alzheimers, I might end up making them sick.?

  5. Even in the old times, people really benefit from traditional hot saunas. No wonder!

  6. NIR therapy seems the best fit for me. I want to age gracefully and I could use elastin and collagen boost in my body. I want younger looking skin that won’t look tired despite stress. I bet a lot of women would agree to that because it’s a luxury to have great glowing skin nowadays, becase of environmental factors such as pollution and intense UV rays. Saunas could revive our skin with continued use. It would be really worth it to spend a lot from this tech.

    • Rosalie Wade

      I’m one of those ladies who need it too.

  7. Jessi

    Those are very solid claims. I just think that saunas aren’t for everyone. Personally, I don’t like heat because I feel dizzy and claustrophobic.

  8. I’m just going to go on a spa and sauna place. I don’t really plan on purchasing my own sauna and add up to my electricity bill.

  9. Are hot baths the same? I know it’s not as hot or as effective as saunas, but the natural steam that comes out of warm baths make our bodies feel good.

  10. Just wanted to remind everyone that you shouldn’t overuse saunas no matter how great the effects are. I even do a certain diet whenever I would use my sauna. I would snack on electrolyte rich foods/snacks and hydrate properly. Or else, your body will feel worse instead of better.

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