Did You Know?
Despite pouring water on the rocks, the humidity level in a Finnish sauna usually never exceeds 25 – 35%.
Although both saunas and hot tubs are used for bathing, de-stressing, unwinding, and as a means of therapy, there is nothing else in common between the two. Those looking for home building plans, and soon-to-be homeowners should know the difference between a sauna and hot tub, so as to decide which one they would prefer. This Buzzle article discusses the differences between the two.

What is a Sauna?

A sauna is in fact a traditional Finnish bath-house/room, where people sit to experience dry/moist heat at almost 70-100ºC in an enclosed wood-paneled environment. The heat is generated through a wooden or electric stove. In conventional saunas, rocks are heated in a wooden stove, which emit heat throughout the room. Secondly, wooden saunas are usually made of fragrant wood, which on coming in contact with heat, emit a pleasant fragrance and retain much of the heat within the enclosed room. Those considering to buy a home sauna can opt for a sauna with an infrared heater. The heat from a sauna helps relieve stress, body ache, and is believed to be good for alleviating chest and sinus congestion.

What is a Hot Tub?

On the other hand, a hot tub is a large bathtub that is filled with warm water. Although wooden hot tubs are still manufactured, these do not last very long because of leaks and algae formation. However, modern tubs/acrylic hot tubs last longer and come with jets that are meant for hydrotherapy.

The Key Differences

Use of Water
It is customary to have a shower before entering a sauna to remove any traces of soap, chlorine, cosmetics, etc., as the chemicals in these products can evaporate and interfere with the respiration of the sauna users. Therefore, the act of sauna bathing does not require the use of water or soap to cleanse the body. On the other hand, a hot tub is meant for bathing and requires that its users soak in the water and use soap or bubble bath to cleanse themselves.

Unlike saunas, hot tubs are not enclosed. They are usually placed in the open such as the back porch or in a well-ventilated bathroom, so as to prevent heat, steam, and vapor from overheating the user. Even saunas prevent the user from overheating, by controlling the level of humidity while preventing heat from escaping the room.

Variation in Temperatures
There is a huge difference in the permissible temperature that is considered safe. For example, while saunas allow users to sit comfortably in temperatures ranging between 70-100ºC and sometimes even more, the standard maximum temperature in case of tubs ranges between 37-40°C, exceeding which can lead to scalding and other health concerns.

Saunas produce dry heat, and the only water used is meant for sprinkling on the hot rocks for producing steam and increasing the heat in the room. However, unlike saunas, hot tubs hold large quantities of water, which needs to be drained after every few weeks. Secondly, apart from keeping the floor and seats clean, a sauna does not require much maintenance. Infrared-operated saunas may need their heaters checked every few months, just to ensure everything is fine. On the other hand, a hot tub needs to be drained and cleaned, often to prevent dirt from settling at the bottom of the tub.

Saunas comparatively require more cleaning to prevent the wooden/acrylic base, inner sides, and vents from clogging or developing mold, algae, etc. The drainage of the tub needs to be cleaned with special cleaning agents so as to remove harmful biofilm and prevent microorganisms from festering in the water. Additionally, hot tubs require constant Total Alkalinity (TA) and pH tests, as well as shock treatments of the water, to keep bacteria away. All of which, are not necessitated by a sauna.

Energy Consumption
Barring infrared heated saunas that require electricity to run, normal saunas do not require electricity and do not take much time to heat up, thereby, making its energy consumption comparatively much lesser than a hot tub. On the other hand, a hot tub requires constant electricity to keep its heater and motor running.

Therefore, the aforementioned comparisons tilt in favor of saunas and make them better than hot tubs.