What to wear (and NOT wear) in a sauna

Hey thanks for stopping by Sauna Squad. We’re here to enhance your sauna experience, by answering your burning questions. Questions like what should you wear in a sauna? Does infrared sauna penetrate clothing? Is clothing even necessary? Especially in traditional dry saunas that get extremely hot.

These might seem like simple questions to answer, but what most people don’t consider is that you’re probably going to sweat. A lot. And if you intend on wearing a shirt, shorts or even leggings (yikes!), you’ll need the jaws of life to peel them off your body.

Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve had the genius idea to hop off the treadmill after a run and straight into the sauna. It’s like hopping in the ocean with a shirt on… good luck getting it off afterward.

Don’t be like me. Make sensible decisions when you’re getting in the sauna. So what should you actually wear?

This guide is for anyone who’s ever pondered what to wear in a sauna or steam room. Whether you’re searching for the ideal sauna outfit or want to fit in with the sauna crowd, we have the insights you need.

NOTE: We’re reader supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commissionwhich helps us continue to provide high-quality content for the Squad.

What to Wear in a Sauna: 20 Comfortable Choices for the Heat

The best thing you can wear in the sauna is… well… nothing. Wrap yourself in a towel and you’re good to go. Sauna purists will tell you El Naturale is the only way to go. I consider myself one of these people.

However, if nudity is not your thing then you need to consider the material of the clothing. Natural fibers such as cotton and linen are best, as they allow your skin to breathe and hydrate your skin through sweat. Avoid synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon, which can trap heat and make you feel uncomfortable.

Choosing the right attire for sauna sessions is crucial. It’s not only about following sauna etiquette. It’s also about regulating your body temperature and letting your skin breathe. Plus, you want to keep the sauna clean by not wearing dirty clothes. Below is a list of suitable sauna wear. 

1. Cotton Towel


A cotton towel is indispensable in any sauna, serving multiple purposes, from personal hygiene to comfort. It’s the perfect barrier between you and the sauna bench, keeping the space sauna clean. Opt for a high-quality, thick cotton towel that provides ample coverage and absorption without being too bulky.

Need suggestions for the best towels? We have an article just for you. We break down the 5 best sauna towels here.

2. Breathable Swimwear

Choosing Breathable Swimwear for your sauna visit ensures comfort without compromising Sauna Etiquette. Fabrics like cotton and bamboo are ideal, as they allow your skin to breathe and manage Body Temperature effectively. Avoid swimwear with metal details that can heat up and cause discomfort.

3. Loose Cotton Shorts

Loose Cotton Shorts are a great choice for a relaxed sauna experience, allowing free movement and air circulation. Unlike Tight Clothes or Workout Clothes, they’re also less likely to retain sweat and become uncomfortable. Ensure your shorts are drawstring-free to prevent any heat-related discomfort.

4. Linen Wrap

Woman in towel laying in sauna resting her head on sauna pillow

A Linen Wrap is a stylish accessory and highly functional due to linen’s natural absorbency and breathability. It’s a sophisticated alternative to a towel and can be easily adjusted for personal comfort. Select a wrap in a light color to minimize heat absorption from the sauna’s Dry Heat.

5. Sauna Skirt

Embracing Scandinavian traditions, the Sauna Skirt provides comfort and modesty in the sauna’s extreme heat. These skirts are specifically designed for high temperatures and pair well with a sauna hat for a culturally authentic and comfortable outfit.

6. Cotton T-Shirt

Choose a simple cotton t-shirt for a classic sauna experience. Its natural breathability is perfect for managing sweat during your session. A loose fit is key for comfort and ease of removal once you start to sweat.

7. Bamboo Fiber Clothing

Bamboo Fiber Clothing is a sustainable and comfortable option for sauna-goers, offering superior moisture-wicking properties compared to synthetic alternatives. It’s soft, lightweight, and less likely to irritate the skin. Bamboo also has natural anti-odor properties, keeping you feeling fresh.

8. Sarong

Consider the multifunctional sarong for a practical sauna attire option. Its quick-drying nature and adjustable fit make it ideal for public sauna settings. Go for a microfiber blend to ensure the fastest drying after your sweat session.

9. Spa Robe


Transition smoothly from the locker room to the sauna with a light cotton spa or sauna robe. This convenient cover-up is perfect for communal spaces, offering modesty without sacrificing comfort. Make sure it’s a safe length to avoid any slips or trips.

10. Sauna Hat

Incorporate a Sauna hat into your sauna routine to keep your head cool and comfortable. This traditional accessory helps to evenly distribute heat, allowing for a longer, more enjoyable sauna experience. For added cooling, dampen the hat before use.

11. Flip-Flops

Flip-flops are essential in a sauna to protect your feet from the hot floor and communal areas. They are easy to clean and help maintain personal hygiene. Choose flip-flops with a non-slip sole to prevent accidents on wet surfaces.

12. Rash Guard

Select a Rash Guard for full-body comfort without compromising on breathability. Ideal for those who prefer more coverage, these garments are made from a lightweight fabric that supports skin breathability. If your sauna has windows, UV-protective material is a smart choice.

13. Cotton Bandana

A cotton bandana is a stylish way to keep sweat out of your eyes and off your face. It’s light, easy to adjust, and a colorful addition to your sauna attire. Dip the bandana in cold water before entering the sauna for a refreshing feel.

14. Linen Shirt

Wearing a Linen Shirt to the sauna combines chic style with practicality. Linen’s superior absorbency and breathability make it ideal for staying cool and comfortable.

15. Sauna Seat Cover

Bringing along a sauna seat cover is a smart move for personal hygiene. It provides a clean barrier between you and the sauna bench, enhancing your comfort and peace of mind during the experience. Choose a seat cover with a unique design or color to identify your spot in a public sauna easily.

16. Cotton Leg Wraps

Cotton leg wraps offer a comfortable alternative to shorts or pants, providing coverage without the restrictive feel of tight garments. They’re ideal for those who prefer their legs covered but still want to enjoy the benefits of a sauna. Choose cotton wraps with a secure but adjustable closure to accommodate any size comfortably.

17. Muslin Fabric

The clothing made from Muslin Fabric is perfect for the sauna because its lightweight and breathable. This loosely woven cotton clothing allows for excellent airflow, keeping you cool and comfortable. Muslin is also gentle on the skin, making it an excellent choice for sensitive skin.

18. Microfiber Towel

A middle age man and woman with towels around necks enjoying a sauna with wood panelling

A microfiber towel is a modern sauna accessory that’s compact, quick-drying, and highly absorbent. It’s perfect for wrapping around your body or sitting in the sauna. Microfiber is also lint-free, meaning it won’t leave any residue on your skin or the sauna.

Need towel suggestions? We break down the 5 best sauna towels here.

19. Cotton Boxers or Briefs

Cotton boxers or briefs are the best choice for those who prefer to wear underwear in the sauna. They provide coverage while allowing your skin to breathe and are less likely to irritate. Ensure they are 100% cotton to avoid trapping moisture and heat.

20. Cotton or Linen Socks

Cotton or linen socks can be worn in the sauna if you get cold feet. They will absorb sweat while keeping your feet warm without overheating. Ensure they’re not too thick to prevent your feet from sweating excessively.

My go-to sauna outfit

Shirtless man with brown hair and blue shorts sitting on wood bench in infrared sauna

Full disclosure, I typically sauna nude with a towel wrapped around my waist. If I choose to wear clothes, my go-to outfit in my infrared sauna is just a pair of lightweight cotton shorts without a shirt. The key word here is infrared though. Traditional dry saunas can get steamy from the löyly and steam saunas are obviously made for steam. In the latter two scenarios, a simple towel wrap is best.

However, I do understand that in certain circumstances a shirt may be necessary. So consider wearing a cotton tank top or even a bathing suit if you must.

Sauna Outfit Mistakes: 16 Garments / Accessories to Avoid

Choosing the wrong sauna outfit can spoil a good sauna session. Some clothes can hold too much heat, limit movement, or even be unsafe in the sauna’s heat. It’s important to know what not to wear to keep your sauna visit pleasant and good for you. Below are 16 things to leave out of your sauna bag, with reasons why they don’t work well.

1. Synthetic Leggings

Synthetic leggings might seem like a comfortable choice, but they’re a misstep in the sauna. These leggings can trap heat and moisture, creating an uncomfortably hot and sticky situation. Instead, choose leggings made from natural fibers that allow your body to breathe and sweat freely, enhancing the detoxifying benefits of your sauna session.

2. Plastic-based Sweat Suits

Plastic-based Sweat Suits are designed to increase sweating, but they can lead to overheating in a sauna. They do not allow the skin to breathe, which can disrupt your body’s natural cooling process. Your body needs to regulate its temperature through sweat, so choose materials that aid this process, not hinder it.

3. Heavy Cotton Hoodies

A heavy cotton hoodie might sound cozy, but it can become a heat trap in a sauna. The thick fabric can absorb too much sweat and become heavy, making it uncomfortable and overly warm. Opt for a lightweight cotton towel or robe if you need something to cover up.

4. Insulated Jackets

Insulated Jackets are the opposite of what you want in a sauna. They’re designed to keep the cold out and the heat in, which is counterproductive in the already warm sauna environment. Leave the jacket in the locker room and let your body benefit from the sauna’s direct heat.

5. Tight Compression Wear

Tight Compression Wear may support muscles during exercise, but in a sauna, it can restrict blood flow and become uncomfortable. The sauna’s heat requires loose clothing to allow for expansion as your blood vessels dilate. Choose loose-fitting clothes to promote better circulation and a more comfortable experience.

6. Metal Jewelry

Wearing metal jewelry in a sauna can quickly go from fashionable to hazardous. Metal heats up rapidly and can lead to unexpected burns. Remove all jewelry before entering the sauna to avoid any risk of burns or discomfort.

7. Wired Bras

Wired bras can become your worst enemy in a sauna. The metal underwires can heat up and cause significant discomfort. Opt for a soft, wire-free sports bra or swim top if you prefer support without the risk.

8. Thick Wool Socks

Thick wool socks are excellent for cold weather but too insulating for a sauna. They can cause your feet to overheat and may lead to excessive itching as you start to sweat. Go barefoot or wear thin, cotton socks if you’re uncomfortable without foot coverage. This one should be a no-brainer.

9. Running Shoes

Running shoes are generally made with synthetic materials not designed to withstand the sauna’s heat. They can release toxins as they off-gas or even melt, damaging the shoes and the sauna. Protect your feet with heat-resistant flip-flops or go barefoot. For the love of Thor, don’t wear running shoes in the sauna!

10. Rubber Sandals

Rubber sandals are a good idea for foot protection. Still, they can release unpleasant odors when heated and may not be designed to withstand high temperatures. Choose sandals made specifically for high-heat environments to ensure safety and comfort.

11. Contact Lenses

Wearing contact lenses in a sauna can cause discomfort due to the heat and steam. The lenses may dry out or stick to your eyes, leading to potential eye irritation or damage. It’s safer to remove them before entering the sauna.

This is an underrated thing to consider, given that lots of people wear contact lenses on a day to day basis.

12. Nylon Clothes

Nylon clothes are a definite sauna faux pas. This material can melt or become extremely uncomfortable when exposed to high heat. Stick to natural fibers like cotton or linen that are heat-resistant and comfortable.

13. Leather Accessories

Leather accessories can warp or become irreparably damaged in the sauna’s humid, hot conditions. Leave your leather goods in the locker to preserve their shape and quality.

14. Silk Garments

Silk garments may feel luxurious, but they must be suitable for the sauna. Sweat and high heat can damage the delicate fabric. Save the silk for cooler occasions and choose a material that can handle the heat and moisture.

15. Denim Jeans

Denim jeans are a definite no in the sauna. Their heavy and dense fabric is not breathable and can become extremely uncomfortable as they absorb sweat and heat. Saunas are a place to relax and not to feel constricted, so it’s best to leave the denim at home.

Clothing with Plastic Zippers or Buttons

Wearing clothing with plastic zippers or buttons into a sauna can lead to discomfort or even minor burns as these materials heat up. Choose sauna wear without any plastic parts to avoid any heat-related mishaps.

What To Wear in a Sauna To Lose Weight

When aiming to shed pounds in a sauna, it’s essential to dress to support heat-induced sweat without risking dehydration. Sauna sessions can increase perspiration, possibly contributing to temporary weight loss, primarily from water.

Man in blue shirt sweating and wincing in sauna

Long-Sleeved Cotton Shirt and Pants

Full coverage with a long-sleeved cotton shirt and cotton pants can help absorb sweat and may assist in promoting a slight increase in calorie burn due to the body’s cooling efforts.

Cotton Robe

A cotton robe balances coverage and comfort, allowing for heat retention, which could aid in maximizing sweat production.

Sauna Suit

Consider a sauna suit to elevate perspiration levels potentially. These garments are crafted to trap heat, which can be instrumental in temporarily reducing water weight.

Breathable Cotton Wraps

Cotton wraps are another suitable option, providing a lightweight, breathable layer to help maintain body warmth while allowing for air circulation and sweat absorption.

Why Sauna Naked Is Best in Some Cultures?

Woman and man sitting with eyes closed in sauna practicing mindfulness meditation

In some cultures, the practice of enjoying a sauna session in the nude is considered the norm. This tradition stems from the belief that being naked in a sauna is natural and offers the most health benefits.

Without the barrier of clothes, the skin can freely sweat, allowing the body to detoxify more effectively. In communal saunas, especially in places like Finland or Sweden, sauna etiquette often leans towards going without sauna wear, fostering a sense of equality and community.

However, the decision to wear or not wear clothing in a sauna can depend on the type of sauna and personal preference. For instance, in an infrared sauna, what to wear can affect how the rays penetrate the skin.

10 Items to Leave Out Before Entering a Sauna

When preparing for a sauna session, it’s not just about choosing the right sauna wear or deciding what to wear in a sauna; it’s also crucial to be aware of what not to bring into the high-heat environment for safety and health reasons. Here are ten items to avoid:

  1. Jewelry: Metal objects like rings, bracelets, and necklaces can heat up quickly and potentially cause skin burns.
  2. Creams and Lotions: Many skincare products can clog pores when heated, hindering the body’s ability to sweat and detoxify.
  3. Electronic Devices: Not only can the intense heat damage your gadgets, but they also detract from the relaxation experience.
  4. Makeup: Wearing makeup in a sauna can lead to clogged pores and prevent natural detoxification.
  5. Perfumes or Colognes: The heat can intensify scents, potentially causing discomfort to you or others.
  6. Contact Lenses: The dry heat can cause lenses to irritate the eyes, and in some cases, they may even warp.
  7. Hair Products: Similar to skin products, hair gels and sprays can melt or drip, and the chemicals can be harmful when inhaled in a hot environment.
  8. Watches: Like jewelry, the metal components heat up, and the leather or synthetic straps can become uncomfortable.
  9. Glasses: High temperatures can damage the frames or lenses, and they can also become a nuisance with fogging.
  10. Food Items: Eating in a sauna is not advisable as it can affect your digestion and be a hygiene concern.

7 Steps to Prepare for Your Sauna Experience

Preparing for a sauna session involves more than just deciding what to wear in a sauna. It’s about ensuring your body and mind are ready to embrace the heat for a rejuvenating experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you sauna-ready:

  1. Stay Hydrated: Begin with ample water intake. Proper hydration is crucial for a safe and satisfying sauna session.
  2. Cleansing Shower: Try to shower with lukewarm water to purify your skin. This step is not just about hygiene; it preps your pores for the sauna’s dry heat.
  3. Thorough Drying: Post-shower, ensure you’re thoroughly dry. A dry start helps your body engage in effective perspiration.
  4. Appropriate Sauna Wear: Choose comfortable and functional attire, like a cotton towel or specialized sauna clothes, to absorb moisture while allowing your skin to breathe freely. Plus, you can bring a water bottle as the heat in the sauna can dehydrate you quickly.
  5. Accessories Aside: Set aside all metal jewelry and contact lenses to prevent heat-induced discomfort or injury.
  6. Time It Right: Especially for novices, begin with shorter sauna sessions, increasing the duration as your tolerance to the heat builds.
  7. Mindful Relaxation: Inside the sauna, focus on deep, even breaths. Embrace the calm, a core tenet of sauna etiquette.

Remember, sauna preparation is about creating a seamless transition into relaxation and detoxification. Following these steps allows you to set yourself up for a beneficial and enjoyable sauna session.

Woman in towel sitting in a wood panel infrared sauna. Woman is smiling with hands behind head.


As we wrap up, remember that sauna etiquette is more than tradition; it’s about comfort, safety, and respect for a practice that brings people together. Whether you’re stepping into the steam in a Finnish sauna or at your gym, these principles are key.

Choosing your sauna bath attire or dry sauna attire isn’t trivial—it’s about preparing for a space that offers rest, reflection, and connection. It’s not just about sweat; it’s about feeling refreshed and clear-headed, having respected a beloved ritual.

The essence of the sauna experience lies in its simplicity and the community it builds. It’s about finding comfort in the heat, being clad in the right attire, and respecting our shared space.

So, as you select what to wear, prioritize your comfort and the well-being of others. The right choice enhances your experience and safeguards the integrity of the sauna tradition. Remember, neglecting these aspects can risk discomfort or harm, detracting from the sauna’s many benefits.

Let’s keep it simple, safe, and enjoyable for everyone. After all, the sauna is where we can all unwind and be our most authentic selves.

A message from Sauna Squad

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