Sauna Mold: Should You Be Worried?

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Saunas are warm, inviting, and a great way to relieve stress. That welcoming environment isn’t just great for us; it’s also a perfect habitat for nasty molds and fungi. But when mold pops up, how worried should you be? While it might not seem like a troubling issue, the reality of living with mold might surprise you.

Without proper cleaning, saunas produce an environment in which mold can thrive. Mold in a sauna can cause foul odors and become a very serious health concern. Wiping down a sauna after every session, and cleaning it periodically with a mild soap solution, can prevent mold growth.

Whether it’s black or green, tan or white, mold needs to be taken care of. But before waiting for issues to get worse, think about what is causing the mold in the first place. A good cleaning strategy is a part of keeping molds at bay. If you are interested in learning more about saunas and mold, read on!

Can Saunas Cause Mold?

Mold in the room

Mold is everywhere. Located in high density in the ambient air are millions of spores waiting for the right environment to grow on. But what is mold? And more importantly, what causes it to pop up in your sauna? Let’s start with what mold is. Mold is a term that scientists use to describe fungi growing in multicellular thread-like structures.

We call these structures hyphae. They are a defining factor in identifying molds. Another important thing to understand about mold is how they grow. Molds reproduce through tiny little things called spores. These spores are so tiny that they are invisible to the naked eye. They can float through the air and are constantly landing on surfaces. 

There are many different molds, and all molds will require some kind of moisture to exist. They also need a food source, something they can break down for energy—the last elements are temperature and environment. What makes for a prime location for molds will differ, but most will need a nice warm, but not too hot, temperature.

Now, imagine your sauna. Think about what makes a suitable environment for mold growth. Is the space warm? Yes, saunas are constantly being warmed up through use. What about moisture? Absolutely. Even if you have a dry sauna, moisture will still form. Lastly, consider the food source.

Molds aren’t like you and me; they don’t need cheeseburgers to multiply. In most cases, wood or any organic material will suffice for many types of mold with minor variations depending on the wood type you’ve chosen (our guide on this). So to answer the question, do saunas mold? Saunas are the perfect environment for mold to grow because they’re hot and moist.

Why Does a Sauna Smell?

If you’ve got a mold issue, most times, there’s more than just a visual signal. If you enter your sauna and there is a distinct wet dog kind of smell, then mold might be the culprit. It’s good to make a note of what your sauna smells like when everything is clean.

If you are just smelling the wet wood smell or your sauna cleaner, you probably are fine. But, if there is a definite funk to the room, you can gauge that there is a problem. Because we are talking about molds and bacteria, there can be a few different smells to your sauna.

Some bacteria produce a buttery smell, while others give off a distinct yeasty smell. While a wet dog is often the most common off smell, there can be quite a few. This is why having a good idea of what a clean sauna smells like is crucial.

How do you Prevent Mold in a Sauna?

AromaMist Sauna Room/Wood Cleaner, Concentrated, 1-Gallon Container

Mold is a battle you will constantly be fighting. As we learned earlier, a sauna is a perfect environment for plenty of mold types. Add bacteria, and you’ve got a huge army to tend with. But, never fret. There are some steps you can take to prevent mold.

The first thing to understand is the role moisture plays in mold growth. Your sauna is getting moist by your sweat and steam if you use a wet-style sauna. Wherever this moisture starts collecting is a breeding ground for bacteria and molds. Proper ventilation is your first defense against mold growth.

With an adequately vented sauna, the moisture has somewhere to go after the session is finished. You should have enough ventilation to create a cross draft that will carry through your sauna. This will ensure that airflow is sufficient enough to tackle the high humidity of your sauna.

The next preventative measure is making sure you have a floor drain installed. While most quality sauna builds will have a floor drain, it can be a significant factor in mold growth if you don’t. Not only does a drain make cleaning easier, but it also means no standing water can collect on the ground.

At the very least, you should be using a towel to dry your sauna seats and floor after sessions. Lastly, you’ll want to incorporate a sauna cleaner (on Amazon) into your cleaning schedule. This will help kill off any stubborn mold spores that could be hiding away on surfaces.

How Often Should You Clean your Sauna?

As we’ve explained before in our guide all about cleaning saunas when determining how often you should clean your sauna, think about how much you use your unit. Do you like to take weekly sessions? Daily? Well, this will help you gauge how often you need to clean your space.

One thing to remember is that mold growth can happen pretty rapidly. If you’ve ever left something out on the counter overnight, you already know, things get gross quickly. This means your sauna can get nasty with just one session.

Generally speaking, you should be cleaning up after yourself after every session. This means making sure everything is fairly dry, and you clean things like sweat stains regularly. Every week you should be getting into your sauna and cleaning things off with more detail.

You should mop the floor and wipe off surfaces with a cleaner. If you have a sauna detergent or sanitizer, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Usually, they will require monthly use for optimum cleaning power.

Should you Wipe Up the Sweat from a Sauna?

You should absolutely wipe up the sweat from a sauna because it contains moisture and a whole host of other compounds, including mold spores on your body. Making sure all the sweat produced in the sauna is clean is part of proper maintenance. When wiping, make sure to wipe the walls, seats, and the floor.

Consider keeping a dedicated towel underneath each person in the sauna to catch sweat. Additionally, you may want to keep a dry brush and clean water to rinse things off. This rinse can help eliminate the bacteria and mold spores that land on surfaces during your session.

How Do You Remove or Clean Mold in a Sauna

If you’ve got mold spots popping up, don’t panic. There are some quick remedies you can use to tackle those stubborn stains quickly and effectively. One important thing to note here is the surfaces you are dealing with.

If you have a softwood interior to your sauna, that means it will absorb what you put on it. For this reason, you want to avoid using harsh chemicals like bleach when cleaning your sauna. While they are effective at tackling molds, chemicals can absorb into the wood.

We recommend that you mix tea tree oil with water using a spray bottle. You can use this mixture as often as you’d like, but make sure to hit the spore stains with them in particular. Use a soft brush to scrub them off.

If that doesn’t work, you might try a vinegar-water solution. If all else fails, consider consulting a professional to take care of the issue. Molds can be hard to handle sometimes. They can be stubborn and, even after cleaning, come back with a vengeance. Additionally, some molds are dangerous, so you want to be careful.

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