One of the nice things about having your own sauna is the relatively little maintenance involved. It's true that people are sweating heavily in a sauna, and this can cause discoloration over time. But the high heat of the sauna pretty well guarantees that any moisture buildup will have evaporated by the time the sauna cools down.
Regular sauna maintenance is quite similar to maintaining any other room in your house. Sweeping or vacuuming every couple of days will keep it free from dust and hair, and gentle washing with soap and water will keep the seats and walls looking good. The one thing to avoid in a sauna are harsh chemical cleaners. The residues may be released when the sauna is heated causing unpleasant smells or even breathing difficulties.
Caring for the Wood
The benches of the sauna will be exposed to a lot of perspiration, so it's a good idea to always provide towels for people to sit on. This will keep the wood in relatively good condition but it will still need to be cleaned every couple of months. Use a mild detergent to wash the wood and rinse it with clear water afterwards. Never use ammonia based cleaners -- they can cause the wood to turn gray.
If the wood really becomes discolored, it can be lightly sanded to remove the stains. Another way to remove stains is to wash the wood with a mixture of oxalic acid and trisodium phosphate. These are poisonous chemicals and must be handled with care, and they must be mixed with water in a non-metallic container. While wearing rubber gloves and goggles wash the entire area of each wall and bench and afterwards rinse them with clear water.
The wooden door of the sauna may swell because of the humidity. If this happens try adjusting the hinges to stop the rubbing, but if the door still doesn't fit it may need to be sanded or planed. With a pencil, mark the location where the door is sticking and remove the whole door from the frame. If a lot of wood needs to be removed it is more efficient to use a wood plane than a sander.
Caring for the Heater
An electric sauna heater needs almost no maintenance. Besides wiping the stainless steel surfaces, sauna heaters don't need any other care. Use a soft cloth and mild detergent to wash the heater and avoid using steel wool. This can scratch the finish and cause rusting if some of the steel particles are left behind. If the heater stops working call an electrician -- it's not safe to do your own electrical repairs.
A wood burning heater, on the other hand, requires a bit more maintenance. The ashes must be removed on a regular basis and the exhaust pipe must be kept free of obstructions. Be careful of creosote build up in the exhaust pipe. It can be a dangerous fire hazard, so regular inspection is necessary to ensure the safety of your sauna. You can hire a professional chimney cleaner to remove excess creosote if it becomes a problem.
Sauna stones should be inspected from time to time to make sure they are not cracking. Because of the high stress they are under from the continual heating and cooling, sauna stones should be replaced occasionally. Although just about any type of stone can be used for the sauna, it's best to get stones with a rough surface because they can release the steam faster. The most popular types of sauna stones are peridotite and olivine which are available from sauna supply stores.
The only other time you need to replace your sauna stones is if they are giving off a bad odor. This might happen when you get new stones but it shouldn't be a problem for stones you have been using for a while.
So there you have it -- saunas are easier to maintain than most bathrooms. If you are thinking of installing a sauna in your house and worried about the possible maintenance involved, stop worrying! Saunas are one of the most carefree areas of your home.
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