Should You Stain Your Outdoor Sauna?
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Should You Stain Your Outdoor Sauna?

Should You Stain Your Outdoor Sauna?

One common question that arises among new sauna owners is, "Should I stain my sauna?" This article explores the various aspects of staining an outdoor sauna, providing detailed insights into the benefits, methods, and considerations involved in this maintenance task.

Benefits of Staining Your Outdoor Sauna

Staining your outdoor sauna can significantly enhance its lifespan and appearance. The benefits of applying a stain go beyond mere aesthetics, offering protection and preservation of the wood used in sauna construction. Here are some key benefits to consider:

Protection from Weather Elements

Outdoor saunas are exposed to harsh weather conditions, including rain, snow, and sunlight. These elements can take a toll on the wood, causing it to deteriorate over time. Staining can provide an extra protective barrier that helps shield the wood from moisture, UV rays, and temperature fluctuations. This protection reduces the risk of warping, cracking, and rotting, thereby extending the life of your sauna. However it is important to note if your sauna is made from High quality woods like Cedar (which are naturally weather resistant) a stain may not be needed. So let's get into this topic a bit deeper.

Enhancing Aesthetic Appeal

A well-maintained sauna can be a beautiful addition to your outdoor space. Staining allows you to enhance the natural beauty of the wood, highlighting its grain and texture. With a variety of stain colors and finishes available, you can customize the look of your sauna to match your personal style and the surrounding environment. Whether you prefer a natural, rustic look or a sleek, modern finish, staining offers versatile options to achieve your desired aesthetic.

Reykjavík 2-Room Large Outdoor Sauna

Preventing Wood Damage

Wood is a natural product so it is susceptible to damage from insects, fungi, and mildew. Staining your outdoor sauna can help prevent these issues by creating an inhospitable environment for pests and reducing the growth of mold and mildew. This added layer of protection helps maintain the structural integrity of the sauna, ensuring it remains safe and functional for years to come.

Types of Stains for Outdoor Saunas

When it comes to staining your outdoor sauna, there are several types of stains to choose from. Each type has its own advantages and considerations, so it's important to understand the differences before making a decision.

Exterior Oil-Based Stain vs. Water-Based Stain

Oil-Based Stains

Oil-based stains are a popular choice for outdoor saunas due to their deep penetration and durability. These stains are absorbed into the wood, providing long-lasting protection and rich color. Oil-based stains are particularly effective at repelling water and resisting mildew, making them ideal for outdoor use. However, they can be more challenging to apply and clean up, requiring solvents for removal.

Water-Based Stains

Water-based stains are an eco-friendly alternative to oil-based options. They are easier to clean up and emit fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making them a safer choice for both the user and the environment. Water-based stains provide good protection and color retention, although they may not penetrate as deeply as oil-based stains. They are also less prone to fading and can be applied in a wider range of weather conditions.

Natural Stains

For those who prefer a more natural approach, there are stains made from natural ingredients such as linseed oil, beeswax, and plant extracts. These stains offer a non-toxic, environmentally friendly option that enhances the wood's natural beauty. While natural stains may require more frequent application, they provide a safe and sustainable choice for maintaining your outdoor sauna.

Choosing the Right Stain for Your Sauna

Selecting the appropriate stain for your outdoor sauna involves considering several factors to ensure the best results. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind:

Factors to Consider

When choosing a stain, consider the specific conditions your sauna will be exposed to, such as humidity, temperature fluctuations, and sunlight. Additionally, think about the level of maintenance you are willing to commit to and your personal preferences for the sauna's appearance.

Color and Finish

Stains come in a variety of colors and finishes, from clear and transparent to semi-transparent and solid. Clear stains allow the natural beauty of the wood to shine through, while solid stains provide more coverage and color options. Choose a color and finish that complements your outdoor space and meets your aesthetic goals.

Durability and Maintenance

Consider the durability of the stain and how often it will need to be reapplied. Oil-based stains typically last longer and require less frequent maintenance, while water-based and natural stains may need more regular attention. Assess your willingness to perform upkeep and select a stain that aligns with your maintenance capabilities.

Step-by-Step Guide to Staining Your Outdoor Sauna

Staining your outdoor sauna can be a straightforward process if done correctly. Follow these steps to achieve a professional-looking finish:

Preparation and Cleaning

Before applying stain, it's essential to prepare the wood surface. If it is a sauna that has been installed for a while then clean the sauna thoroughly to remove dirt, mildew, and old finishes. Use a wood cleaner or a mixture of water and mild detergent, and scrub the surface with a brush. Rinse the wood thoroughly and allow it to dry completely. If it is a new sauna then put it together and move on to step 2.

Applying the Stain

Choose a dry, overcast day for staining to avoid direct sunlight and ensure even application. Stir the stain thoroughly and apply it using a brush, roller, or sprayer, working in the direction of the wood grain. Apply a thin, even coat and avoid drips and puddles. Allow the first coat to dry completely before applying additional coats as needed.

Drying and Curing Process

After applying the stain, let the sauna dry for the recommended time specified by the stain manufacturer. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the type of stain and weather conditions. Ensure the sauna is fully cured before using it to prevent damage to the finish.

Maintenance Tips for Stained Saunas

Maintaining a stained outdoor sauna requires regular care to keep it looking its best. Here are some tips to help you preserve the stain and protect the wood:

Regular Cleaning and Inspection

Keep your sauna clean by regularly removing dirt, leaves, and debris. Inspect the wood for signs of damage or wear, and address any issues promptly. Cleaning the sauna with a mild detergent and water can help prevent the buildup of mildew and grime.

Reapplying Stain as Needed

Over time, the stain may wear away, especially in high-traffic areas or where the sauna is exposed to harsh weather. Reapply the stain as needed to maintain the protective barrier and keep the wood looking fresh. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for reapplication intervals, which typically range from one to three years.

Alternatives to Staining Your Outdoor Sauna

If you decide that staining is not the right option for your outdoor sauna, there are alternative methods to consider:


Painting your sauna provides a different aesthetic and can offer excellent protection against the elements. Paint forms a solid barrier on the surface of the wood, preventing moisture infiltration and UV damage. However, it can obscure the natural beauty of the wood grain and may require more frequent maintenance.

NorthStar Outdoor Sauna Series | Finnleo - Pure Sauna

Leaving the Wood Natural

Some sauna owners prefer to leave the wood in its natural state, allowing it to age and weather over time. While this approach requires minimal maintenance, it does leave the wood vulnerable to the elements. Regular cleaning and occasional application of a wood preservative can help protect the wood while retaining its natural appearance.

Canadian Timber Tranquility 2-6 Person White Cedar Barrel Traditional

Pros and Cons of Not Staining

Choosing not to stain your outdoor sauna has its pros and cons. On the positive side, it reduces maintenance tasks and allows the wood to develop a natural patina. However, it also exposes the wood to potential damage from weather, pests, and mold. Weighing these factors can help you decide if staining or another method is the best choice for your sauna.

Should You Stain Your Outdoor Sauna?

Deciding whether to stain your outdoor sauna ultimately depends on your preferences and the specific conditions your sauna will face. Staining offers numerous benefits, including protection, enhanced aesthetics, and prevention of wood damage. By carefully selecting the right stain and following proper application techniques, you can enjoy a beautiful and long-lasting sauna. If staining is not for you, consider alternative methods like painting or leaving the wood natural. Regardless of your choice, regular maintenance and care will ensure your outdoor sauna remains a cherished retreat for years to come.


What type of stain is best for an outdoor sauna?

The best type of stain for an outdoor sauna depends on your specific needs and preferences. Oil-based stains are durable and offer deep penetration, while water-based stains are eco-friendly and easier to clean up. Natural stains provide a non-toxic option. Consider factors such as exposure to weather, desired appearance, and maintenance requirements when choosing a stain.

How often should I stain my outdoor sauna?

The frequency of staining depends on the type of stain used and the conditions your sauna is exposed to. Generally, oil-based stains may need reapplication every 2-3 years, while water-based and natural stains might require more frequent maintenance. Regular inspection and cleaning can help determine when it's time to reapply stain.

Can I stain my sauna myself, or should I hire a professional?

Staining your sauna can be a DIY project if you are comfortable with the process and have the necessary tools. However, hiring a professional can ensure a high-quality finish and save you time and effort. If you choose to do it yourself, follow the manufacturer's instructions and take your time to achieve the best results.

Is staining an outdoor sauna environmentally friendly?

The environmental impact of staining an outdoor sauna depends on the type of stain used. Water-based stains are generally more eco-friendly than oil-based stains due to lower VOC emissions and easier cleanup. Natural stains made from organic ingredients offer the most environmentally friendly option. Choosing eco-friendly products and following proper disposal methods can minimize environmental impact.

What are the alternatives to staining my outdoor sauna?

Alternatives to staining your outdoor sauna include painting and leaving the wood natural. Painting provides excellent protection and a wide range of color options but may require more maintenance. Leaving the wood natural reduces maintenance but exposes it to weather and pests. Each method has its pros and cons, so choose the one that best suits your needs.

Can staining damage the wood of my sauna?

When applied correctly, staining should not damage the wood of your sauna. In fact, it provides protection and enhances the wood's appearance. However, improper application or using the wrong type of stain can cause issues such as uneven coverage or trapping moisture. Follow proper preparation and application techniques to avoid potential problems.


In conclusion, staining your outdoor sauna is a valuable maintenance task that offers numerous benefits. It provides protection from weather elements, enhances aesthetic appeal, and prevents wood damage. By choosing the right type of stain and following proper application and maintenance practices, you can enjoy a beautiful and long-lasting sauna. If staining is not your preferred method, consider alternatives such as painting or leaving the wood natural. Regular care and attention will ensure your outdoor sauna remains a cherished retreat for relaxation and well-being.

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