I think a lot of people fear the term “nude sauna” because of its implications. When talking with others about their willingness to go we are often met with an incredulous look and: “you get naked in front of other people and call that relaxing?” Well, when in Rome, right?
Nudity in a coed sauna takes some getting used to, but after a couple minutes it really feels like nothing is out of the ordinary. Plus, when you go with a partner, it’s really nice to spend time with that other person and not have to get split up into the gendered areas.
Over the last few years of travel, we’ve visited various mixed saunas around the world and have experienced nude saunas and clothed saunas. Of the different mixed saunas we’ve experienced, there are always sauna etiquette rules (some are written and some go unspoken). I’ll get more to this point later.
We’ve found that going without clothing is far more comfortable. Why?
Benefits of a Nude Sauna:
Going Nude is more Hygienic.
If you show up at a hot pool in a bathing suit, who is to say when the last time that suit was cleaned? What bacteria is in that suit?
When you’re nude, it is imperative that you take a shower before entering the gender separate or unisex sauna, this means no clothing clinging to you, and a chance to really hose off. There are no additional chemicals on your clothing, and no bacteria clinging to materials on your body.
Cleaning when nude is a great way to ensure that you are not a host to a lot of bad bacteria. Sauna etiquette dictates that you clean yourself.
An additional benefit to being nude is you don’t need to worry about the question: what to wear in a sauna? The answer is nothing!
You don’t Sweat Through your Clothes
Korean Spas in New York City will require you to wear a uniform when going to the coed sauna section of the spa. Men wear blue and women wear pink. There are several mixed sauna rooms throughout the area that will boast different healing benefits whether that be in the form of minerals or salt or temperature.
Different coed sauna rooms will vary in temperature and that’s where having a cotton uniform on can be annoying because you can sweat like a stuck pig and then come out 10 minutes later drenched in your own salt. Going nude will allow you a good towel off and chance to dunk in a cold bath no problem. Which leads me to my second point:
Transitions from Hot to Cold are Easier
In a Polish sauna, I went with a friend of mine and we sweated our sorry butts off in a room over 50C/122F. Lying down or sitting still is just about all you can do as you breathe deep and keep track of how long you are in the coed sauna.
If you are new to the sauna experience, it is recommended that you spend no more than 10 minutes in a hot room before leaving and going to cool off. At the Polish sauna, there was an ice bath that was a delight to step in after a couple minutes of 122F.
Spending time in a nude sauna meant I could go from the hot room to the cold bath without the song and dance of stripping out of my sweat soaked clothes and putting them somewhere. All I needed was a towel and voila! Cooled off.
I’ve been to some spas where the cold bath is really small, sauna etiquette dictates that you don’t hog this for too long. Just enough to cool off and then move on. Sharing is caring.
What to Wear in a Sauna
Depending on the spa, this can mean nothing. No clothes means no pockets for things to fall out of. All you really need is a towel. In some nude saunas we’ve been to, they’ll give you a bracelet at the reception that you wear to keep track of how long you’re spending in the spa. The bracelet is also a way to buy food or drink while you are there.
No clothes means fewer things to carry!
Also: some clothing can bleed in the steamy heat. Going nude means no worries about that!
You Reap the full Benefit of the Sauna Experience.
Being nude means your whole body gets exposed to the heat. You can sweat and steam and your epidermis gets the hits it needs. No one will care if you decide to be wholly naked (especially in Europe).
I’m Nervous About Being Naked in front of Other People
That’s ok. No one is asking you to be naked if you aren’t comfortable. If being nude is not your thing in a unisex sauna and you are wondering what to wear in a sauna a towel wrapped around your middle is perfectly fine. Some spas will provide robes as well.
Culture also plays a role in how unclothed you’ll be in a coed sauna. Which brings me to the next section:
What are Unisex Saunas like Around the World?
If you are unused to being around the opposite sex while naked, there will be a transition period. In some parts of the world, it is totally normal to be in a coed sauna and in other parts: forbidden. It’s very important that you observe the rules and regulations of the country you are in and respect the local culture.
We’ve been to nude saunas and spas in Germany, Poland, New York City, and Japan. In Morocco, we went to a Hammam in Chefchouen where it was required that we keep our bottoms on, but go topless.
Morocco, being a highly religious country, had very strict rules about keeping the genders separated. Coed saunas are not a done thing there and it is highly irregular for genders to mix even with clothes on, let alone clothes off! We only spent 5 days in Morocco, but were lucky enough to go to a local Hammam!
If you are not sure about what to wear in a sauna in Morocco, a good pair of clean cotton undies (not thongs!) are probably the most comfortable. Get a pair that has some wiggle room in case you decide to get a body scrub!
A body scrub means a person of the same gender will scrub you raw with soap and a coarse rag (that you need to bring with you). The body scrub will also go right into your undies as well, so don’t bring any that you are particularly fond of and worry about damaging!
In Germany and Poland there were unisex saunas throughout the spa. In the German spa, even the locker rooms were coed! No one gave a rat’s ass about nudity at all. It was buns out from the get-go!
The various spas we went to were mixed saunas and most people were naked. The spa at the German sauna provided robes. If you are wondering what to wear in a sauna in Europe, bringing your own robe is not a bad idea as some spas will not have any. A towel is good plan as well depending on the spa.
The Korean spas we’ve visited in NYC are not coed nude saunas, but the changing rooms are gender separate and everyone is naked in those areas. It’s incredibly important to shower and soak before going to the unisex sauna area, so stripping down to your birthday suit to take a shower and scrub is the norm, you’re just doing it with people of the same sex.
The answer to the question of what to wear in a sauna here is answered for you when you come in. At reception, they will give you a simple cotton uniform that you wear when in the mixed sauna area. You really need nothing else: no socks, no sweaters.
In Japan, we went to an onsen in the mountains to the north where the changing rooms and hygiene areas were gender separate, but there was a coed hot pool to relax in. This was a nude section, but the water was cloudy and there was not very much to witness. We really enjoyed this onsen because we could soak together and relax without being separated.
Most other spas in Japan will be gender separate. In these rooms, people are usually naked. If you are wondering what to wear in an onsen in Japan, a cotton pair of undies is ok as well. Bringing a fresh outfit to change into once you are clean is also a good idea!
If it is your first time going to a nude sauna it is vital that you observe the rules and regulations of the spa you’re about to go to. You’ll have enough on your mind being naked in front of strangers for the first time, you don’t need to also worry about coming off like an idiot or insulting someone.
Always Have a Towel to Sit on
Nude saunas mean no undies which means hygiene is everything. You must have a towel to sit on at all times. It is incredibly unhygienic to not.
Towels will be provided for you at the reception when you enter. In Morocco, we needed to bring our own rags and soap to scrub with as there was nothing provided by the Hammam. I think you can get a lot of information about what might be provided if you ask around with the locals.
If you are unsure about the area you are in or what to wear in a sauna in that area, asking a local is a good idea. You can also call in on the reception wherever the spa may be and check in yourself.
Drink lots of Water
Being in hot rooms will make you sweat. You’ll need to drink plenty of water so you don’t dehydrate!
Don’t Worry About Being Naked
Odds are, wherever you are, you’ll be surrounded by naked people. Even in Morocco, when the ladies insisted I keep my underwear on, I saw plenty of naked everything. For people around the world, a sauna is a chance to relax and clean yourself. Part of the process is showering and scrubbing: you need to be naked to do that properly!
If you can help it, try not to wear any metal jewelry: it’s going to get hot and could be uncomfortable! What to wear in a sauna does not include rings, earrings or big necklaces!
Take a Shower/ Clean Yourself
When you walk in to a coed sauna or gender separate sauna, the first thing you’ll need to do is shower off. Odds are there will be soap provided and it is expected of you to give yourself a good clean. This is just good hygiene.
If you Feel the Spa is Dirty or Creepy: Don’t Go There.
This is all a matter of personal taste and first impressions. There should be plenty of options in a given area and if you don’t feel safe, or that the hygiene of a sauna is in question: don’t go. You should be under no obligation to put yourself through any kind of uncomfortable experience.
This also applies to a nude sauna feeling shady or creepy. So far, we haven’t had any creepy experiences in a unisex sauna (thankfully) but if you ever feel uncomfortable you can leave (and then please let the management and/or internet know about your experience so others can avoid!).
Never Take Photos Unless you are Given Permission
This is incredibly important! Taking photos of a nude sauna is a sure-fire way to make the place feel creepy. Everyone going to a nude sauna is hoping for a chance to relax without having to worry about winding up on the internet.
No Sex, please!
People are here to relax, usually with their partners, family and/or friends. Please don’t have sex. This should be a given.
Be Respectful of the Space You’re in
Coming to a unisex sauna means you will be mixing with the other gender. Don’t expect a sauna room to be only reserved for you and your girlfriends, which means being respectful of other people who come in and out of a room. This means keeping your voices down, and talking to a minimum.
When in a mixed sauna, it’s important you keep your voice down in general: this is just good sauna etiquette.
Cellphones are frowned upon. In our experience, it’s a good idea to leave the cellphone in the locker and go into the saunas sans phone. Plus, there will likely be a lot of steam, water, and heat: all things that are not good for a phone anyway!
Chill (or Sweat!)
Relax! Getting a body scrub, a massage, dunk in a cool pool, nap, or eat. Spending time in a mixed sauna should be a relaxing experience!
Lots of other people go to saunas to relax and unisex saunas can be a great place to chat with other people and soak up local culture or just shut off and zone. It’s totally normal to chat, a lot of people will go to the local sauna to gossip in low voices, all part of the sauna etiquette!
Close the Door
Whenever you enter a room, it is imperative that you close the door. Anytime a door is open, the temperature can change and affect the efficiency of the room, so please be respectful. Sauna etiquette is to always enter and leave as quickly as possible.
Last Things to Think about Before you Go to a Nude Sauna:
Nudism in a sauna is an experience that is common throughout the world. It’s ok to be naked!
Most mixed saunas will have different levels of seating. Generally, the hottest seat in the room is the highest, so bear that in mind when you enter a hot sauna! Sitting near the floor will be cooler.
If you are ever curious about going to nude beaches, we’ve written about the etiquette of the nude beach as well.
Where we Want to Go Next:
We haven’t been to any nude saunas in Sweden or Norway, but we’d really like to check that out.
The hot pools of Iceland look really nice, too.
We want to check out the scene in Korea, how different is it from our experiences in Japan? NYC?
Any questions about what to wear in a sauna? Feel like we’ve missed something? Let us know in the comments!