Smoke Sauna: Traditional Sauna Explained

Smoke Sauna: Traditional Sauna Explained

Smoke Sauna: Traditional Sauna Explained

The smoke sauna, also known as a savusauna in Finnish, is a unique and ancient form of the traditional sauna that has been cherished by generations for its deeply relaxing and purifying effects. This traditional sauna is a cornerstone of Finnish culture, representing a sacred space for relaxation, purification, and socialization.

Unlike modern saunas, which often use electric or gas heaters, the smoke sauna is heated by burning wood in a large stove without a chimney. The smoke from the burning wood fills the room, heating the stones and walls to the desired temperature. Once the sauna is adequately heated, the smoke is allowed to escape through a small hole or door before the sauna is used.

History of the Smoke Sauna

The smoke sauna has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. It is believed to have originated in Finland, where it was not only a place for bathing but also for healing and spiritual rituals. The smoke sauna was often the cleanest place in the household, and as such, it was used for various purposes such as childbirth and treating the sick.

The tradition of the smoke sauna has been passed down through generations, and despite the advent of modern heating methods, it continues to be a beloved tradition in Finland and other parts of the world. The smoke sauna is often seen as a luxury, due to the time and effort required to heat it, making it a special treat for many sauna enthusiasts.

Smoke Sauna in Ancient Times

In ancient times, the smoke sauna was more than just a place for bathing. It was a sacred space where people could connect with nature and the divine. The smoke was believed to have purifying properties, and the heat from the sauna was thought to promote health and well-being.

The smoke sauna was also a place for socialization. Families and communities would gather in the sauna to relax, share stories, and bond. This social aspect of the sauna is still prevalent today, with many people viewing the sauna as a place to unwind and connect with others.

Smoke Sauna in Modern Times

Today, the smoke sauna is appreciated for its unique and soothing heat. The smoke imparts a distinctive aroma to the sauna, which many find to be calming and therapeutic. Modern smoke saunas often incorporate elements of traditional design with modern conveniences for a unique sauna experience.

Despite the availability of modern saunas, many people still prefer the smoke sauna for its rich history and unique qualities. The process of heating the sauna is often seen as a labor of love, adding to the overall experience. The smoke sauna remains a cherished tradition, with many sauna enthusiasts considering it to be the ultimate sauna experience.

Construction of a Smoke Sauna

The construction of a smoke sauna requires careful planning and craftsmanship. The sauna is typically built from logs, which are carefully selected for their heat resistance and insulating properties. The logs are then cut and assembled by hand to create a sturdy and heat-efficient structure.

The most important part of the smoke sauna is the stove, also known as the kiuas. This is where the wood is burned to create the smoke and heat the sauna. The stove is typically made from a large pile of stones, which absorb the heat from the fire and radiate it into the sauna room.

Materials Used

The materials used in the construction of a smoke sauna are crucial to its function and efficiency. The most common material used is wood, specifically logs, due to their natural insulating properties. The type of wood used can also affect the aroma of the smoke, adding another layer to the sauna experience.

The stones used in the stove are also of great importance. They must be able to withstand high temperatures without cracking or exploding. The stones are typically large and dense, allowing them to retain and radiate heat effectively. Some popular choices for sauna stones include olivine diabase and peridotite.

Design and Layout

The design and layout of a smoke sauna can vary greatly depending on personal preferences and available space. However, most smoke saunas consist of a changing room and a steam room. The changing room is where users undress and prepare for the sauna, while the steam room is where the stove is located and where the sauna bath takes place.

The steam room is usually kept dark to enhance the relaxing and meditative atmosphere. The room is typically lined with wooden benches, which are arranged in tiers. The higher benches are hotter, while the lower benches are cooler, allowing users to choose their preferred temperature.

Heating Process of a Smoke Sauna

The heating process of a smoke sauna is a labor-intensive process that can take several hours. The process begins by lighting a fire in the stove, which is filled with wood. The smoke from the fire fills the room, heating the stones and walls of the sauna.

Once the sauna has reached the desired temperature, the fire is allowed to die down and the smoke is vented out of the room. The sauna is then ready to be used. The residual heat from the stones and walls will keep the sauna hot for several hours.

Choosing the Right Wood

The type of wood used in the stove can greatly affect the quality of the heat and the aroma of the smoke. Hardwoods such as oak, ash, and birch are often preferred for their high heat output and long burn time. These woods also produce a pleasant aroma when burned.

It's important to use dry wood in the stove, as wet or green wood can produce a lot of smoke and not enough heat. The wood should be split into small pieces to allow for better airflow and a more efficient burn.

Temperature Control

Controlling the temperature in a smoke sauna can be a bit of a challenge, as it requires a good understanding of how the stove works. The temperature can be adjusted by adding more or less wood to the fire, and by controlling the airflow in the stove.

The temperature in the sauna can also be adjusted by pouring water onto the hot stones. The water turns into steam, which increases the humidity and perceived heat in the sauna. This is a common practice in Finnish saunas, known as löyly.

Benefits of a Smoke Sauna

The smoke sauna offers a variety of health and wellness benefits. The heat from the sauna helps to open up the pores and cleanse the skin, while the smoke has antibacterial properties that can help to purify the air. The heat and steam can also help to relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation.

Many people also find the process of heating the sauna to be a therapeutic activity in itself. The act of tending to the fire and preparing the sauna can be a mindful and meditative experience, providing a sense of connection to nature and tradition.

Physical Benefits

The heat from the smoke sauna can help to improve circulation and boost the immune system. The high temperatures cause the heart rate to increase, similar to the effects of moderate exercise. This can help to improve cardiovascular health and promote overall fitness.

The heat and steam can also help to relieve muscle tension and soothe aches and pains. Many athletes use saunas for recovery after intense workouts. The heat can also help to improve flexibility and range of motion, making it a beneficial practice for those with joint and muscle conditions.

Mental Benefits

The smoke sauna can also provide a number of mental health benefits. The heat and steam can help to promote relaxation and reduce stress, making it a great place to unwind and decompress. The quiet and meditative atmosphere of the sauna can also provide a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Many people also find the social aspect of the sauna to be beneficial. Sharing the sauna experience with others can help to foster a sense of community and belonging, which can contribute to overall mental well-being.

Smoke Sauna Etiquette

Like any cultural practice, there are certain etiquette rules that should be followed when using a smoke sauna. These rules are designed to ensure that everyone has a pleasant and respectful sauna experience.

One of the most important rules is to always ask the owner's permission before entering a smoke sauna. This is a sign of respect for the owner and the sauna itself. It's also important to remember that the sauna is a shared space, and everyone should be mindful of others' comfort and privacy.


Hygiene is a top priority in the smoke sauna. Before entering the sauna, it's customary to take a shower or rinse off to remove any dirt or sweat. This helps to keep the sauna clean and ensures that everyone has a pleasant sauna experience.

It's also important to sit on a towel or wear a sauna hat while in the sauna. This not only helps to maintain cleanliness, but also protects the skin from the hot surfaces in the sauna.

Respect for the Sauna

The smoke sauna is a sacred space, and it should be treated with respect. This means not using the sauna for inappropriate activities, and not causing damage to the sauna or its surroundings. It's also important to leave the sauna in the same condition as it was found, or better.

Respect for the sauna also extends to the heating process. The fire should be tended to carefully, and the smoke should be vented out properly to ensure a safe and enjoyable sauna experience.


The smoke sauna is a unique and cherished tradition that offers a deeply relaxing and purifying experience. From its rich history and meticulous construction, to its therapeutic heat and communal atmosphere, the smoke sauna is a testament to the enduring appeal of this ancient practice.

Whether you're a seasoned sauna enthusiast or a curious newcomer, the smoke sauna offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature, tradition, and community. So the next time you have the chance, why not step into a smoke sauna and experience the warmth and tranquility of this timeless tradition?

Back to blog