Should You Wear a Shirt in a Sauna?

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Visiting a public sauna or your own at-home sauna is a great experience. For those preparing for their first sauna experience, they may be thinking a white cotton towel is what everyone wears in a sauna. That’s the way it’s shown in movies and television, after all. However, what about just wearing normal clothes?

Wearing a cotton shirt in the sauna is a great way to catch sweat and keep the sauna clean. The traditional way to use a sauna is in the nude, so there’s nothing restricting your pores from sweating. A simple cotton towel or T-shirt OK to wear (though tight-fitting clothes and jewelry should be avoided).

When you go into a sauna, you should never be wearing your street clothes. You will rack up a lot of sweat and probably don’t want to soil those nice clothes so much. This is why it is best to bring a change of clothes, like loose-fitting cotton, a cotton towel, or even a cotton robe. Tight-fitting clothing and synthetic materials should be avoided as they can inhibit sweat production and may not allow your body to cool itself off properly. 

Does What You Wear in the Sauna Matter?

What you wear into a sauna does matter. It’s not only about your physical comfort but also about keeping the sauna clean. That is the reason you should take off your dirty clothes and shoes that you wore during your workout or throughout your typical day.

You should also take a shower to rinse off before you enter a sauna. You don’t want to spread germs or bacteria, so do your part and take a shower and keep the sauna clean. This is especially important because, as we explained in a separate article on germs and saunas, the sauna environment’s high heat and relative humidity are conditions under which bacteria thrive.

Wearing clothes in a sauna traps in heat, which can make you feel uncomfortable and prevent the positive effects of the sauna on the covered parts of your body. If you decide to wear something, make sure it is not constricting, not synthetic materials, and does not contain metal components like zippers which can hold more heat and get hot enough to burn you. Saunas heat your body, and you should wear minimal clothing to allow the heat to penetrate all areas and allow your skin to sweat and breathe. 

Should You Wear a Shirt in a Sauna?

Hanes Men's Essentials Short Sleeve T-Shirt Value Pack (4-Pack), Charcoal Heather, Large

Wearing a shirt in a sauna is perfectly fine. However, if you choose to wear a shirt, you should opt for a loose-fitting cotton one. Keep it simple, and consider picking up some cheap cotton shirts you use only for the sauna, like this 4 pack of Hanes 100% Cotton shirts (on Amazon). Avoid wearing dirty, tight-fitting clothes, synthetic workout clothes (they could restrict your body’s ability to sweat and remove heat properly), and jewelry (which can burn you).

You can also consider specialized attire specifically designed for sauna use, like this LAZAWG’s sauna suit (on Amazon). But remember people have been using saunas for thousands of years without any tech like this.

Wearing extra, unnecessary clothing can prevent your pores from sweating and will not allow your skin to breathe freely. To get the full benefits of a sauna session, you should wear as little clothing as possible. Wearing a shirt in a sauna is not different from wearing a towel or robe, so if you want to wear something into a sauna, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a shirt. Any loose-fitting clothing will work.  

What You Should Wear in a Sauna

Ideally, the best clothing to wear in a sauna is your birthday suit. Yes, visiting a sauna in the nude can be seen as unconventional or even embarrassing to some (especially in the west where this is more of a cultural taboo). It’s actually not that uncommon for people to be naked in the sauna considering it’s considered more “normal” to do so. This is the traditional way to experience a sauna.

One benefit of going naked is that if you go into a sauna the same way you came into the world (nude), you don’t even have to worry about what you’ll wear! It’s arguably the most hygienic way to use a sauna as well (assuming you follow basic hygiene practices and also bring a towel to sit on). Going into a sauna bare is not for everyone, however, so if you choose to wear clothing, stick with loose-fitting cotton clothing or just wear a cotton towel. 

What you Should NOT Wear in a Sauna

If you’re questioning whether or not you should wear something in a sauna, the answer is probably no. When in doubt, don’t wear it. Some things you shouldn’t wear in a sauna are more obvious than others especially nowadays when everyone has technology with them everywhere they go. Here are some things you shouldn’t wear in a sauna unless you’re willing to take a risk:

  • Headphones & earphones – we have a separate article discussing the various ways a sauna can kill your smartphone, but the long story short is to avoid taking this kind of tech into the sauna with you. 
  • Smartwatches – smartwatches can stand a lot nowadays, but just like the conversation around smartphones, we’ve looked into whether or not you can take your smartwatch into the sauna, and unfortunately the answer is no (not unless you want to risk breaking it!) 
  • Workout clothes – Synthetic materials that compress muscles in order to enhance workout or weight lifting performance also inhibit the body’s ability to sweat and cool itself off. 
  • Jewelry – The metals in jewelry can get hot enough to burn you. 
  • Lotions – Lotions can block pores and prevent you from sweating. 
  • Dirty clothes – never jump in a sauna with dirty clothes, because some of that dirt will typically stay behind! Be hygienic. 
  • Shoes – don’t wear your gym shoes or outdoor shoes into the sauna; go barefoot!

A good rule of thumb is to stick with as little clothing as possible. Shower beforehand, and go nude if possible. It may take a little while to get used to it, but most people really don’t care if you go into the sauna nude.    

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