Facility Dude

Hot tips for keeping your sauna and steam room running

By Kate Donnelly
May 07, 2015

Clubs, Facilities Management

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For many fitness club-goers, a trip to the sauna or steam room is the perfect way to relax and loosen up after a workout or swim. In fact, while these fixtures have been commonplace in Europe for a while now, they're starting to gain popularity here in the U.S. as well, as more health clubs adopt saunas and steam rooms.

Hot tips for keeping your sauna and steam room running But with the novelty of saunas and steam rooms comes lack of experience as well. Even the best-intentioned club administrators can make costly or even dangerous maintenance and operational mistakes when it comes to these pieces of equipment. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Thorough cleaning is a must

For health club administrators, extensive wipe-downs of equipment is nothing new. But the practice is especially important when it comes to saunas and steam rooms due to a variety of factors. For starters, there is frequently much less standing between club members and the surface of the sauna than there is between members and other exercise equipment. Not to mention the intense sweating that occurs in these rooms - sweat that can drip down underneath the benches and accumulate.

Athletic Business recommended giving your sauna a deep clean at least once a week, being sure to get underneath the benches and in other areas where sweat may hide out. Your sauna likely has wood finishes - if this is the case, be wary of which products you use to clean the wood, as some chemical agents can damage it. Of course, one simple way you can help preserve your sauna's cleanliness is by having members sit on towels when they use it.

Be mindful of the heating element

The rocks and heater that make saunas and steam rooms so effective can also contribute to maintenance or even safety concerns if not used properly. One point that should be rigorously enforced is that nothing other than water should ever be poured over the rocks. Not only can this damage the heating element beneath, but it can pose a fire hazard. Help encourage your members to adhere to this guideline by providing a water bucket and dipper that is kept in the sauna, so users always have access to it.

The rocks should be cleaned in warm soapy water, and your heating element should be cleaned regularly. Any broken rocks should be removed to prevent buildup of debris that can damage the heater. When replacing the rocks, don't pack them in too tightly - otherwise the reduced airflow may cause the emergency shutoff to activate.

Safety, safety, safety

It goes without saying that safety should be a chief concern when maintaining your sauna. The extremely high temperatures combined with the inherent privacy and lack of facility supervision while the room is in use can create problems if the proper precautions aren't taken. Almost all modern saunas and steam rooms have emergency shutoff devices that deactivate the heating element if the temperature passes an upper threshold. These should be inspected regularly to ensure that they are working. If possible, they should also be located somewhere that's inaccessible to users, so they can't be tampered with or disabled.

If your facility uses building automation systems, it may be worthwhile to install an alarm that is keyed to this upper temperature limit as an added layer of protection for users. Alternately, some facilities have their saunas and steam rooms set to operate only between certain hours. Also check the sauna door itself to ensure the wood hasn't warped, split or been damaged in any other way that could make opening and closing it difficult.

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