Home » Phone in the Sauna: Yay or Nay? Here’s What You Need to Know

Phone in the Sauna: Yay or Nay? Here’s What You Need to Know

by Max
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Phone in the Sauna - Yay or Nay - Here's What You Need to Know

Saunas have been around for thousands of years but over the past 20 or so years there has been a growing question about saunas that has never been asked before: when can you bring your phone into the sauna? Being that Finland is both the popularizer of the modern sauna through the wood-burning sauna we see today as well as the Nokia cell phone revolution of yesteryear, it’s unfortunate that the two inventions don’t go together especially well.

There is a lot to ask when it comes to phones in saunas. More than whether or not it is possible to keep a phone in the sauna safely, the other key question is whether or not it is polite or acceptable to bring your cell phone into a sauna. Depending on your sauna preferences and situation, there is likely a very specific answer to fit you. Starting from the top and working down to specific examples, let’s explore all there is to know about cell phones and saunas.

Can You Bring Your Phone In a Sauna?

While certainly there isn’t a magnetic force keeping you from bringing, this question is instead looking into whether or not your phone can survive a sauna trip. Saunas are exceptionally hot and that heat has the potential to damage most cell phones with plastic casings or even the plastic lining of a sim card. But as phones become increasingly waterproof, they are also getting more and more resistant to heat. The newest Google Pixel, for example, is able to withstand more than 100 degrees Celsius heat, otherwise known as the boiling point of water. But more than anything, even if your phone itself advertises top-grade heat resistance, it’s more than likely that your sim card is susceptible to real and irresistible damage during an extended sauna trip.

So when asking the direct question of whether or not your phone can survive a sauna, the answer is likely yes. But the chance of you getting a signal afterward is a bit lower. The higher up you sit in the sauna, also, the more likely it is that your phone will be damaged; this is because (especially in traditional saunas with different height benches) saunas are designed to get hotter closer to the roof. By all means, bringing your phone into a sauna is a real gamble. Especially if you’re not dealing with something urgent, it may be smart to keep your phone outside the sauna

Some people like to bring their phones into the sauna for the reason of listening to music. Some facilities actually have heat-proof speakers built into their saunas for that very purpose, piping in soothing music for sauna-goers. But there are actually more than a few reasons why listening to music on your phone in the sauna is not the best idea. First, the speakers on cell phones (even waterproof ones) are especially weak when it comes to water. Being that water gets tossed around very often in wood-burning saunas, it’s more than possible that you could damage your speakers after an extended time in the sauna. And in a steam room, things get even worse: the condensation and humidity in the steam room can actually lead to rust on some metal phone speakers if you are not careful. And if you are planning on using headphones in the sauna, that can actually be even worse. Some plastic earphones are not as heat resistant as silicone ones so it is entirely possible that leaving your earphones in for an entire 20-minute saunas session could lead to rashes and discomfort.

The Layers of Sauna Etiquette as Related to Phones

There are several places and styles of saunas where bringing your phone could be seen as overtly rude. Just as well, there are other facilities that may treat phone use like an everyday thing.

Phones and Public Saunas

Usually, phones are not allowed in public saunas. The most prevalent reason why phones aren’t allowed in these areas is that public saunas very often also have public shower facilities nearby. If you try to bring your iPhone into a public changing and showering area, that could make the other occupants extremely uncomfortable. Think about how you would feel if someone had a handheld camera nearby if you were changing or showering. Even if a person isn’t using the camera, it can be very unnerving to know that someone has a pocket-sized camera in hand while they are in compromising positions.

Another key reason why phones are generally not allowed in public saunas is that they have the risk of ruining other people’s sauna experience. Many people enjoy the sauna as a space for quiet reflection. Even if people are politely chatting, the sauna is an enclosed environment for relaxation. Taking a phone call or hearing the buzz of an iPhone in a sauna could immediately take someone out of their relaxation. Remember, if you are using a public facility, basic decency demands that you respect the comfort of those who are sharing your space. Let’s admit it: phones can be very distracting, so you are probably going to damage your own experience all the while.

Before making your own call about whether or not to bring your cell phone into a public sauna, be certain to ask your spa or club staff directly. Like anything else, it is up to the club or spa officials to determine whether or not phones are permitted in their saunas.

Phones and Private Saunas

When using a private sauna, it’s generally up to the owner of the sauna whether or not phones are allowed. This is a basic rule that actually goes back quite far in sauna history. While not originating with cell phones, it is usually up to the owner of the sauna to make the biggest decision about the soak: this being when to splash the rocks over the wood stove. Either the owner of the sauna or someone they nominate is in charge of bucket duty and as an extension of that base rule, there is probably someone who can make the final call about cell phones in the sauna.

The rule here, like always, is to just ask. The worst thing you could do in a private sauna is to assume that phones are allowed and bring one in without consulting your group ahead of time. You run the risk of not only insulting the sauna proprietor but making yourself look rude in the process.

Phones and Infrared Saunas

There is, however, an even more private kind of sauna where you may not have to ask permission to bring a cell phone. This is, of course, an infrared sauna. Most infrared saunas are built for only one person, so the only person you’d have to ask before getting in is yourself. But here’s the thing: bringing your phone into an infrared sauna may be worse than both a traditional wood-burning sauna or even a steam room. Infrared saunas are heated by radiation and that radiation comes in rays which are most effective when they have a direct line to your body. If your phone goes in between you and the source of the radiation in an infrared sauna, that phone is going to heat up fast. Heat by radiation can be even more damaging to phones than the heat from other saunas because it is so concentrated. Sim cards are especially vulnerable to this type of radiation.

If you happened to lay your cell phone over your body during an infrared sauna visit, also, you may risk some discomfort in that region. More than just phones, it’s not advised that you bring much more than just yourself into an infrared sauna.

Phones and Saunas Across the World

Depending on where you take saunas, there may be completely different expectations about cell phones. So let’s break it down by region. But, of course, regions are sentiments more than anything else. This means that even if a sauna is in one part of the world, it could more than possibly still subscribe to rules from another part of the world

Phones in the Sauna: North American and Western Europe

You will likely find more leniency in this part of the world when it comes to rules about using cell phones in the sauna. Let’s consider some regional examples: sports clubs in New York City, Toronto, and Seattle (a vast breadth of North America) generally allow members to bring their phones into the sauna. New York Sports Club, specifically, makes a note that phones are allowed in their sauna facility only after confirming with location staff. In Western Europe, there are more than a few gyms, clubs, and sole sauna facilities in major cities such as Paris which allow cell phones. The same is true for the United Kingdom. In Paris, specifically, a club in the 11th arrondissement which asked to not be named in this article said that they allow cell phones in their main sauna facility but would ask phone users to put them away if other club members complained. All of the examples here are non-heritage-affiliated sports clubs and sauna facilities. When using a facility that is tied closely to traditional cultural practices like the Turkish Hamman you can almost always expect phones to be banned from the front door.

Phones in the Sauna: Eastern Europe

Nearly all sauna facilities in Eastern Europe will expect public sauna users to not use their phones in the main soaking area. France is a good place to consider as the wide border between Eastern and Western Europe sensibilities and the further you travel from Paris to the East, the more likely cell phones will not be allowed in sauna facilities at all. For example: while nearly all sports clubs in Paris will allow cell phones in their main sauna rooms, sauna facilities in Strasbourg on the Eastern border of France near-uniformly do not.

Phones in the Sauna: Scandinavia

Expect in Scandinavia for phones to be a no-go in nearly every sauna you could find. Even tourist-heavy Helsinki (a city with more saunas than are reasonable to count!) ‘No Cell Phones’ is a very common rule to find written in both Finnish and English at most facilities. An interesting exception to this rule is that phones are often more common at Scandinavian spa facilities that are frequented by Western tourists. A key example is the Blue Lagoon spa and sauna in Iceland. This resort is a natural hot spring, actually, but there are several world-class traditional saunas on the grounds of the spa. Despite public saunas in Reykjavik meant for Icelanders not allowing phones, phones are allowed both in the hot springs and sauna facilities of this major spa. The spa even supplies phone bags so that sauna and hot springs users’ phones don’t get wet at the facilities.

Being that most saunas are indeed cultural objects rooted in tradition in Scandinavia, use the same rule of thumb mentioned above when deciding whether or not to bring your iPhone. Any practice based on tradition and a shared history likely wants nothing to do with modern distractions like cell phones. These practices from Hammam to Finnish saunas bring the users in touch with thousands of years of history and a long line of generations all taking part in the same restorative and relaxing practice. By bringing your phone into one of these facilities, it’s more than rude: you may very well be outright insulting the heritage and culture of the people who maintain the facility you are using.

Frequently Asked Questions About Phones in Saunas

Even having addressed the major situations when a phone in the sauna is allowed, there are still a few more exceptions.

Is It Impolite to Bring a Phone Into a Sauna Even If Expecting an Important Call?

There are exceptions to every rule and this may sometimes be one of them. If you are expecting an urgent call and you are using the sauna with close friends, be certain to explain yourself ahead of time. And if you do indeed get that important call, be sure to take the call outside the sauna so as to not disturb everyone else in the sauna. The point is, you shouldn’t be staring down at your phone and looking at social media while you’re in the sauna. If your phone is quietly next to you on the bench of the sauna, that is probably fine. More than just being a space to quietly relax, saunas are also a great place for genuine socializing. It’s not terribly uncommon for two strangers to become fast friends in the hot halls of a sauna. So don’t miss out on a chance of making a great human connection by having your phone in the sauna, isolating you from the life that the sauna can bring us.

And if you are truly expecting some urgent news or are in the middle of a deal that makes your phone essential, maybe now isn’t the best time to use the sauna in the first place.

Is There a Difference Between Bringing an iPhone or Old-School Phone Into the Sauna?

The biggest difference here is that iPhones and modern smartphones have access to the Internet and can do a whole lot more than old-school telephones. Old school phones still have the potential to be a sauna annoyance with shrill ringers and clicky keys. But modern cell phones are functionally mini computers. With a smartphone, there are about 1,000 more ways that a person could become uncomfortable. Mainly, smartphones have high-powered cameras. Some people may get uncomfortable at the idea of someone bringing a camera into the sauna for what some may call obvious reasons. Most people are wearing only a towel or could even be fully nude in the sauna. Even if you have no plans to snap any pictures in the sauna, you have to understand why someone could be anxious about phones in the sauna. This is why so many saunas in more traditional regions like Scandinavia won’t allow phones in the sauna outright: they also expect you to sauna in the nude.

Conclusions on Phones in the Sauna

We could talk forever about the nuances of whether or not phones are allowed in certain saunas at certain times but the bigger question to ask is do people really need their cell phones in the sauna? Sure, if you want to take a consensual group photo or take a group Facetime to a friend or relative who can’t join you in person that is likely completely fine. But if you are bringing your phone into the sauna just to scroll on it as if you were killing time on the subway, you may very well be missing out on the best part of the sauna experience. Closing your eyes and letting your mind flow uninterrupted in a steamy sauna is one of the most profound and elevating feelings you can get as a sober person. And the only way to reach that bliss is to fully sink into the sauna experience! While sure, modern cell phones can indeed survive the sauna, take it upon yourself to ask whether or not you truly need your phone while spending time in the sauna.

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