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Relaxing in a sauna is one of the most blissful experiences around. If you’re trying to choose between an infrared sauna or steam room, then you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to put the two types of sauna head to head and let you know which one is the absolute best.
Before we get started, let’s take a quick look at how infrared saunas and traditional steam saunas work.
After you finish reading, be sure to check out our super thorough buying guides. We’d love to help you find the right sauna for you, especially if you want one you can take with you on the road.
In an infrared vs steam sauna showdown, it’s basically a tie! You just need to decide when your priorities are. The health benefits are nearly the same, but steam saunas will get hotter and have more humidity which is great for clearing out your system! Infrared saunas are much cheaper long-term since they use less electricity.
How does an Infrared Sauna Work?
In simple terms, an infrared sauna produces heat using light waves. Infrared is a type of light wave that carries heat, and when infrared waves are shone onto a person or object, that heat is absorbed into the surface.
This makes infrared rooms quite different from other types of saunas since it’s the user’s body being directly heated rather than the air around them. This direct heating presents several unique health benefits, which we’ll delve deeper into later on.
The infrared waves are produced via “infrared heaters,” which are basically just big lamps facing the sauna. When they are turned on, they provide almost instant heat to anyone inside. This rapid heat-up time is one of the main reasons why people say that infrared saunas are superior.
You might also see these saunas described as FAR infrared saunas. FAR infrared is a particular type of infrared light wave that is considered to have the most health benefits and is widely used in infrared sauna therapy.
How does a Steam Room Work?
A steam room could be described as a more traditional sauna. A steam sauna provides heat to the user by first filling the room with hot steam, which is then transferred to them as they sit in the room. Where the warmth produced in an infrared sauna can be a very “dry heat,” steam provides a much more humid experience.
There are a few different ways that a sauna can generate steam, but the most common method is to use hot rocks. Traditional saunas will usually have a heater in the corner of the room, which has a pile of piping rocks on top of it. Users then pour over cold water from a nearby bucket, and the rocks immediately turn the water into steam.
The key to a great steam experience is to trap as much steam in the room as possible. The less you open the door and let the heat leak out, the more you’ll be able to absorb the steam and access some of the incredible health effects that it can offer.
Infrared vs Steam Sauna: Head-to-Head Showdown
Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer regarding which type of sauna is the best. In reality, everyone has different requirements for their sauna, and the perfect option for one person might not be the best for another.
If you are trying to decide between a steam room and an infrared sauna, then hopefully, this head-to-head section will help you out. We’ve gone through each of the key categories and features and explained how both sauna types perform in each.
Both infrared and traditional saunas advertise themselves as offering great health benefits to their users. It’s definitely true that regular sauna use can have some amazing impacts on your health, but which sauna type will provide the most impressive benefits?
Studies have shown that infrared saunas can relieve muscle pain and improve blood circulation around the body. As a result, many athletes use infrared saunas during recovery periods to improve their future performance.
Additionally, infrared waves are thought to encourage weight loss, thanks to the hot, dry environment. Combining infrared sessions with regular exercise is a surefire way to safely lose weight whilst still being an enjoyable experience!
Since steam saunas heat the body in a completely different way from infrared rooms, it makes sense that they’ll bring slightly different health benefits. The high humidity inside a steam room offers an incredible detoxification effect, cleansing the body of impurities and potentially harmful toxins.
Furthermore, users of steam saunas can expect to feel less congested and see an improvement in their respiratory systems. This is ideal if you’re suffering from a cold or infection since the hot steam will be able to break down any mucous in the throat and nose. Like infrared saunas, steam rooms also improve blood flow and circulation.
This might sound like a cop-out, but there really is nothing to separate the two sauna types regarding health benefits. It all comes down to what you’re looking for from your sauna experience.
The next important category to consider is temperature. When you think of a sauna, heat is probably the first thing that springs to mind. If a sauna can’t get up to a decent temperature, it will not offer a relaxing experience or provide many health benefits.
It can be difficult to compare the temperatures of traditional and infrared saunas since the way they produce heat is very different. As a result, even if the two saunas are at the same temperature, one can feel much hotter than the other.
In general, steam saunas feel like they reach much higher temperatures than their infrared counterparts. When you step into a steam sauna, the heat levels can be overwhelming, and you’ll immediately start to perspire and absorb that steamy goodness.
With an infrared sauna, the heat doesn’t hit you quite so immediately, and the warmth will be transferred more slowly to your skin. In reality, an infrared sauna usually operates at a higher temperature than a steam room, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Some people do prefer this experience, but infrared saunas definitely don’t offer that classic “stepping into a sauna” feeling.
Although it really comes down to preference in this category, if you’re looking for a traditional “hot” sauna experience, then a steam room is the way to go. The warm steam and humid environment combine to give users a powerful blast of warmth that isn’t fully replicated in an infrared sauna.
It’s not really fair to compare the two sauna types in this category. Of course, the humidity of a steam sauna is one of its biggest selling points, whereas a FAR infrared sauna relies on “dry heat” to warm the sauna room.
A steam room’s humidity provides a range of health benefits, such as detoxification and improved blood circulation. Spending time in a steam room feels extremely cleansing, and this experience is mainly down to the humid air.
However, infrared rays still offer plenty of positive health effects, even without the humidity. For example, infrared saunas provide pain relief, remove toxins, and improve circulation, but go about it differently.
Just like with the temperature category, when it comes to humidity, it’s all about how you want your sauna to feel. You won’t be missing out on any big health benefits by choosing a FAR infrared sauna, and many people will prefer the dry heat experience that they offer.
Again, you can’t really compare the humidity of steam and infrared saunas. However, for the purposes of this guide, we’ll give the points to the steam room.
Many people might not realize this, but you can actually buy portable saunas. Infrared and steam versions are both available, allowing users to kick back in a sauna at home. Picking up a portable sauna is a great option if you don’t fancy traveling out to your nearest health club.
Most portable saunas have a tent-style design, which you sit inside to experience. A portable steam room typically features an external steam generator that fills the tent with steam. On the other hand, a portable FAR infrared sauna will have heaters built into the tent’s interior.
Whether you’re looking for a portable infrared sauna or steam room, there are a couple of considerations you should be making. Firstly, the size. Portable saunas come in all different shapes and sizes, so it’s important to measure up your house to check if you’ve got the space.
Additionally, you should be looking for a portable sauna that reaches the same temperatures as a traditional one. This will give you all the amazing health effects that steam and infrared saunas are known for.
If you compare portable infrared vs steam saunas, they are basically just as good as each other. They both work surprisingly well and are a fantastic way to enjoy a heat treatment at home—a great and affordable alternative to full infrared or traditional steam saunas.
If you’re reading this guide with the idea of buying your own sauna, then it’s likely that the costs will be one of your biggest concerns. Both types of saunas can range in price quite dramatically, so it’s hard to say which one is cheaper. That said, there’s a clearer picture with regards to the running costs.
Infrared saunas are considered to be more energy-efficient and cheaper to run than steam rooms. In fact, powering a FAR infrared sauna can be as low as 25% of the cost of a steam room. This is because it takes a lot of energy to create steam and to maintain a humid environment. Infrared saunas also get up to temperature much quicker than a steam room, which cuts their energy usage down dramatically.
The bottom line is that if you’re only interested in the cheapest option, then an infrared sauna is the way to go. Steam rooms consume too much energy to compete with an infrared sauna’s efficiency.
Both infrared and steam rooms offer some incredible health effects that users would struggle to find anywhere else. We wouldn’t say one type is “healthier” than the other; each one does have some unique benefits.
Steam rooms are excellent detoxifiers, able to cleanse the body of harmful toxins and impurities extremely quickly. They can also improve blood circulation and can lower the blood pressure of users.
FAR infrared saunas are probably best known for their amazing pain relief capabilities. Many athletes make use of infrared saunas as part of their training and recovery for this reason.
These are just a couple of the excellent health benefits on offer from saunas.
A common misconception is that traditional saunas are much hotter than infrared rooms. This is not the case, though, and oftentimes the opposite is actually true. However, the humidity inside a steam room makes it feel much hotter than it really is.
Infrared saunas do not heat the air around the user; and instead, the infrared waves hit the user directly. This is another big contributor to the perceived lower temperature inside a dry sauna.
In summary, there’s no need to worry about an infrared sauna not being hot enough. Even if it feels cooler, you’ll still be able to achieve that deep relaxation and those positive health effects that you’re searching for.
In our opinion, picking up a sauna for your home is one of the best things you can do for your health. Everyone deserves a bit of luxury in their lives, and having your very own sauna to kick back in whenever you feel like it really is a privilege.
If you’d like to save some cash, then we’d recommend looking into portable saunas. There are portable infrared and traditional saunas available that provide a very similar experience to the real thing.
In summary, it’s not obvious which sauna is the best overall. In many cases, it will just come down to personal preference. Having said that, we do believe that the two sauna types are suited to different situations.
For example, if you’re looking to purchase a portable sauna for your home, then the low running costs of an infrared sauna are going to be very appealing. If you’re installing something more permanent, then the nice benefits offered by a steam sauna’s “wet heat” might be of interest.
When deciding between the two, make sure to think about what you want to get out of your sauna and when you will be using it. This way, you can guarantee that your sauna will be used and loved for a long time into the future.
In an infrared vs steam sauna showdown, it’s basically a tie! You just need to decide when your priorities are.
If you end up putting together your own DIY sauna, here are the best sauna heaters you can find!