Sep 1, 2017

Kids in the sauna-- a great family building tradition

I first experienced a sauna when I was 6 years old. My mother’s friend’s family owned a sauna in the woods and she took me with them in the middle of winter to give it a try. I remember sitting on the bench and getting hot then running outside and throwing snowballs at each other. That was my first experience and it was fun.

Fast forward about 30+ years and here I am, with my own sauna and my own two kids. My son was 3 when I started building the sauna. He enjoyed helping whenever he could—still does. Once the sauna was operational, I wanted to get the kids accustomed to using it with me. My daughter was 7 when she first tried it. My son was 3. The first couple of times, my daughter did not enjoy the hot room very much. The temperature was too high for her, and the steam that would come from throwing water on the stove freaked her out. Regardless of the hot room, both kids enjoyed eating snacks and watching cartoons on TV in the changing room.

After the first few sauna uses, my daughter learned that the steam dissipates quickly, it actually feels good and the spearmint smell is great. The heat was nothing to worry about. I learned to keep the temp around 160F-170F for her as well. What really made the sauna fun for her is that after getting warm, she could go outside in the cold and pour cold water on herself, then run back in to warm up.

My son was 3 when he first tried the sauna. First few times, he’d come in to the hot room, take his shirt off, get on the top bench, spend a minute there and say “it’s hot” and leave. He too enjoyed the snacks and cartoons in the changing room more than sitting on the bench. However, as he watched my friends and I use the hot room as well as his sister, he learned to enjoy it. He’s gotten to the point where I think it’s time for him to come out and cool off, but he wants to stay on the bench and watch cartoons through the candle window. Kids are funny.

Overall, I love the days the kids and I use the sauna. I enjoy doing something with them that started with an idea and was built with my own hands. I love that they enjoy something unique that I enjoy. I’m glad that I could give them the ability to get so warm that going out in the snow didn’t scare even a 3 year old.

One word of caution about kids and sauna. Take it very slow and error on the side of caution. Make sure the kids drink plenty of water and don’t over stay in the hot room. With their small bodies, they heat up faster than adults. Although they may not show it, they will try and stay in there as long as possible to the point of overheating. Make sure they do plenty of cool offs and limit to being in the hot room no more than 5 minutes at a time-- at least until you see how well they do.

We have since had friends over who brought their kids to the sauna and the dynamic is fun to watch. The kids want to go to the hot room with the kids, and adults want to go with adult. My now 8 year old daughter is a sauna professional along with her friends. I looked through the candle window and they had their towels on the top bench, the other girls were laying down, my daughter threw spoons of water on the stove and they were all enjoying the steam and talking away. Yep, I’m definitely happy I went ahead with the sauna build and the money I spent on it is well worth it.

Jan 11, 2017

TV in an outdoor sauna? Ohhh yeah!

When I was building my outdoor sauna, I knew I wanted to have music playing during sauna rounds. I always had it in the plans to install speakers. Eventually, I bought ceiling speakers rated for bathrooms use off and installed 2 in the changing room and 2 in the hot room. All wires lead in to the same junction box in the changing room. I hung a cheap stereo right next to the junction box and hooked it up to the speakers. The first few saunas we always had music, either via radio channels, CDs, or the magical AUX jack that the stereo came with. Anyone could plug in their cell phone and play any sort of music off the web. However, that ended up being short lived.

You see, I have 2 kids and no time to watch TV at home. The sauna for me is a means of warming up in the winter months, but it’s also an opportunity to get away and do what I want. And so, I started thinking about putting a TV in the sauna. I shared my idea with the guys and got a mixed response. Some said it would be good to watch sports while we sauna. Others were sure it would take away from the sauna experience and hinder conversations. I could see both sides, but could not let go of the crazy idea. After again searching for a while on, I found a person selling a relatively new 24” TV with WI-FI capability for $80. So, I went ahead and bought it.

Next came the install. I wanted the TV to be visible from all corners of the sauna. It needed to hang in a place that wouldn’t get in the way, but would be visible from both the changing room and the hot room. I decided to buy a full motion TV wall mount from Walmart for under $20. This would allow me to hang the TV high and swivel it and move it any direction I needed, then, move it out of the way when not in use. It took about 30 minutes to hang the TV while the stove was warming up one sauna session and after it looked great.

A TV is a great addition to an outdoor sauna.
A TV is a great addition to an outdoor sauna.

For the next part, we needed internet. I specifically bought a WI-FI enabled TV (not all of them are) to be able to stream videos from With, you can stream music videos, which satisfies the music fix. You can also stream some movies, live events and sports. My house is supplied with internet via a wireless WI-FI router which is only about 20 yards from the sauna, but the signal inside the sauna from that router was too weak. Furthermore, as I found out, TVs have a very weak WI-FI receiver in general. Even the cell phones have stronger receivers. While being inside the sauna building, my cell phone could connect to the home WI-FI and stream music, while the TV could not. To resolve this, I bought a cheap WI-FI Extender. It’s a small device that you plug in to an outlet and runs you about $20 used. You first need to configure it to your home WI-FI, but once that’s done, you can plug it in to your sauna’s outlet and it will pick up your home’s weak WIFI signal and amplify it-- giving you WI-FI in the sauna. VoilĂ !

So far, we have built in speakers in the sauna for sound, we have a great little WI-FI enabled TV hanging in the corner for all to see. The last step is to put the two together. Luckily, the TV had a phono (headphones) style output in the back that allowed me to hook it up to the AUX connection in the stereo in the other corner of the changing room. All I needed was to run a long phono cable from TV to the stereo. I bought a 25 foot cable at for about $10. Once all plugged in, we had the TV streaming through all of the 4 built in speakers. Pretty sweet!

So in the end you may ask, who was right? Was the TV a good addition or did it kill the sauna vibe? I think the consensus is--- it’s great. At the end of 2016, we all spent an evening watching one of the heated 2016 presidential debates while taking a sauna. We discussed the event while watching and enjoyed some steam. Since then, we always have the TV going at every sauna session. Whether its watching stand-up comedy, a funny movie, a sports event or just a video of waves breaking on shore with some great music behind it while the snow is falling outside our window, the TV has really been a great addition to the sauna. It even makes for a great incentive for my kids to go to the sauna when I put on cartoons. They look forward to watching the TV, filling up on sauna snacks and warming up in the hot room.

Jan 6, 2017

Ice cubes for steam? That's brilliant!

Sometimes, completely unexpected, an idea is born out of necessity that is just brilliant. As I have previously blogged, we started using bottled gallon water from the store to throw on to the stove to make steam. The city water gave a bad smell.

Sometimes, we have water left over in the gallon jugs so we simply leave it in the sauna until next time. 

With it being winter, the water freezes. Sometimes, by the time the sauna is back up to temp the next time we use it, the water thaws. Sometimes, like last night, we just can’t wait. We needed water and it was all frozen. We ended up cutting the plastic jugs and breaking up the blocks of frozen ice in to cubes. We then put those cubes in to a bucket. That exposed the brilliance of the idea. As it come out, throwing a 4” chunk of ice on to the stove provides the same steam wave as throwing a ladle of water, but, in a much smoother and slower form. There are other benefits to having these chunks of ice that we discovered. First, it provides a place in the hot room to hold your drink and keep it cool. Second, it provides you with cold water and chunks of ice that you can use to pour over yourself in the hot room to cool down without leaving. Of course, there’s room for improvement. Imagine mixing water with your favorite sauna scent like Spearmint and freezing that into preformed chunks of ice prior to your next sauna. Next time you sauna, no need to chisel a block of ice. Simply take out a cube or two of your scented ice and toss them on the stove for a slow release of steam and fragrance. Ahhh, when’s the next sauna?

Use ice cubes to throw on the sauna stove for slow steam release.
Use ice cubes to throw on the sauna stove for slow steam release.