There are some rules to follow when entering and using saunas, especially when they are public.
Each type of organization or business will have it's own rules when using their sauna or steam room and it is a good idea to check what these are before just "guessing".
This post is going to be focusing on saunas based in the United States because it will be more concise and accurate and apply to a more specific group and it will be a much shorter read as well. I will maybe post a longer post on some of the rules for saunas in other countries in the future but for now, this one will have to do. Hope you like it!
1. What Should I Wear? Be sure you always know the rules regarding nudity before disrobing. Oftentimes, you will be require to wear a towel if it is a public sauna. A good rule of thumb would be to wear a towel if the other guest have one and if they don't, feel free to to so yourself.
If you are the first one in there, I would be cautious and remember that someone could come in and feel uncomfortable, especially if it is a family or shared public sauna. Some saunas/steam rooms will require a bathing suit, this is more the case in steam rooms and depends on the rules.
2. Try Not To Make Anyone Feel Uncomfortable: Making someone uncomfortable in such a small space can be an intimidating situation for a many people. Just remember to relax and take in the experience, not to focus on what others are doing, especially if they chose to not wear any clothes!
3. Practice Being Sanitary And Clean: Be sure to shower before getting into the sauna or steam room, especially if you were sweating previously or have an excessive amount of dirt/grime/body odor on your skin. This will keep the room more sanitary for others and yourself. You could also bring an extra towel to sit on, for added sanitary protection if you want.
4. Try To Keep The Sound Levels Down: Most people go into a sauna or steam room to relax and if there is a lot of loud talking going on, it is really going to be difficult to really relax. Try not to talk at all, if possible and if you have to, try to use a whisper so you don't disturb anyone else.
If you are in the room with a friend or two, then a conversation is much more appropriate. If someone enters, then it would be polite to obey the rules so they can relax too. If you happen to be listening to music, then be sure to bring headphones and keep the volume at a reasonable sound level so no one else can hear your music.
5. Remember To Close The Door: Remember that a sauna and steam room work, only if they are in a concealed room. Try to walk in and out quickly and remember to close the door behind you. You don't want to be that "person" that let out all of the heat/steam!
6. Relax And Try To Avoid Movement: Most saunas and steam rooms are for sitting in and being still, there is not really enough room for someone to do a "hot yoga session" anyways. You could also run the risk of getting your sweat all over somebody else, which is really gross and I would bet that the majority of people would agree and strongly disapprove.
7. Be Sure To Bring Towels: Having your own towels on hand is a must (unless they are provided) and using them is thoughtful to others that will use it after you.
8. Ask Before Changing Anything: The best thing to do is to ask other people in the room with you if it would be okay to turn up the heat, add water to the rocks, or anything else, really. It's just plain common courtesy and more than likely, no one will object if you ask anyways.
9. Share The Room With Others: There may be other people who want to use the sauna or steam room, so be sure to time yourself and when your time is up, let someone else have a turn.
Some hotels I looked at had individual saunas inside the rooms, so they were private and standard and minimum etiquette was advised (towel to sit on, timed session) and nothing else really.
For the hotels that had a shared sauna (either unisex or separate facilities) there were really no strict rules about the use of a sauna. Some places had a person inside that controlled the steam, heat and other elements for you, so you didn't need to adjust anything yourself. Other hotels didn't say much (lack of info really) and nudity seemed to be okay in the majority of the hotels I made contact with. You did have the option to use a towel if you would prefer to do that but others WERE allowed to be nude, so keep that in mind.
Health clubs or gyms will have stricter rules than a lot of other places just because they are public and especially if it is a shared sauna room (both genders). That is just what I gathered from the information I found.
There are not always rules posted for what to wear in the sauna but you may want to be on the safe side, just in case. A towel is preferred by most people because it feels more comfortable than swimsuits but other people choose to wear their swimsuits with towels over that.
There is a good post that describes different situations at a few different gyms and it seems to revolve around where the showers, hot tubs and steam rooms/saunas are located and whether or not they are single gender facilities or shared.
24 Hour Fitness Rules: Coming Soon!
Sauna Etiquette For LA Fitness: Coming Soon!
Golds Gym: Coming Soon!
Public saunas pretty much follow the basic rules that I listed in the "General Etiquette" section at the top of this article. The biggest issue is nudity (in my opinion) and what people are really wanting to know about.
Just remember that some people will not be okay with it and if their are children allowed in the facilities as well, it could become a major issue for some people. Use your judgement and think about how much "friction" you want to deal with if you choose to go completely nude.
No clothes is the way it should be done but be mindful that you may have some opposition on whether or not it is appropriate... all public amenities are subject to this!
It was hard to find any helpful information on this one, seeing as how nobody had a definitive answer to go off of. The only real etiquette rule I could find was to sit on a towel so you keep the seat sanitary and clean for the next person. I did find an answer about age restrictions on Carnival's website that stated that no one under 18 years of age can use any of the spa amenities.
Another great article I read was listing some general etiquette rules while aboard the Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Lines and even went into a little detail about clothing. They said that you have the choice to wear paper underwear, a bathing suit or nothing and it was a personal choice. Here is another post I found where people explain their experiences on a Carnival Cruise while using the sauna.
There are many "clothes optional" cruises that also have rules to them as well, these ar obviously less strict than a family cruise but worth mentioning.
Since this is your own personal sauna, there really are no rules and going nude is the best way to do it. Using a towel when sitting or lying down is best because it cuts down on the amount of bacteria that can build up and make cleaning a bit easier.
Take a shower before and after your session to rinse off any impurities you might have lingering on the surface of your skin and that's about it! Really easy if you have your own personal sauna or steam room and a lot more enjoyable.