Sauna Rocks - Another Hot Sauna Topic - 903
A traditional Finnish sauna that uses sauna rocks to help generate heat and humidity is often referred to as a rock sauna, and the name aptly conveys just how important a feature of the conventional sauna the rocks are. The sauna heater or sauna stove holds and heats the sauna rocks, and the sauna bather tosses water onto the hot rocks to create the loyly or vapor that increases the level of humidity in the sauna room. Even in the modern era of far infrared sauna therapy, many sauna enthusiasts hold firm to their belief that sauna rocks are essential to achieving the definitive hot sauna experience.
While sauna fans are forever at liberty to debate what defines an authentic sauna bath, it is imperative that rock sauna owners always use proper sauna rocks in their saunas. Many sauna manufacturers and sauna retailers often include sauna rocks with the Finnish-style saunas and material kits they sell, but sauna owners who enjoy frequent dips in their rock saunas will undoubtedly someday have to replace old sauna rocks with new ones.
Even the very best sauna rocks eventually crack and crumble under the intense pressure of the sauna’s fluctuating temperature and humidity levels. Once a sauna rock begins to disintegrate like this, it can no longer hold heat as well as it used to. The rock will also produce less steam, and it may even clog your sauna heater. Before you have to replace the rocks in your sauna, it’s highly recommended that you learn to differentiate good sauna rocks from bad sauna rocks.
For reasons that should be obvious, sauna owners should avoid using rocks that could explode in the sauna. Also steer clear of rocks that give off poisonous or offensive odors. Rocks containing sulphur minerals (minerals with a yellowish color and/or metallic luster) or asbestos minerals should likewise be avoided. Rocks with sulphur minerals don’t pose a health risk; they just wear down rapidly. However, rocks that contain asbestos minerals do pose a serious risk, as asbestos has been shown to cause cancer.
To avoid placing in your sauna heater rocks that could potentially explode, conduct the following test recommended by sauna expert Mikkel Aaland: “Thoroughly heat a sample for two hours or more. Drop it into a pail of cold water, and then look for cracks. When the rock is cool, test it further by hitting it with a hammer or against another rock. If the rock cracks or makes a soft grinding sound when rubbed against another rock, discard it. If it survives, you have a safe sauna rock.”
Because the best sauna rocks are those least exposed to weather, traditional Finnish sauna lovers hold certain quarried rocks in especially high esteem. One of the more popular is peridotite, a quarried Finnish rock and one of the more common rocks in the earth’s upper mantle. Peridotite is an igneous rock, as are olivine and vulcanite which also perform well in sauna environments.
Many purists choose to use dark-colored igneous rocks in their saunas because these contain iron and magnesium and therefore possess a relatively high heat capacity.
Before you replace your sauna rocks, be sure to review the manuals and other literature that came packaged with your sauna and sauna heater. If you use a type of rock that’s not specifically approved or recommended by your sauna heater’s manufacturer, you could inadvertently void the heater’s warranty.
The information that came with your sauna heater should also recommend an amount or weight of rocks for use with the heater. As a rule, though, you should use enough rocks to cover an electric sauna heater’s heating elements. For a wood burning stove, the rocks should form a small mound that rises above the rim of the stove. Remember, in both cases, to pack the rocks loosely to allow the air to circulate properly.
Consult with a qualified rock sauna or sauna heater retailer for additional information on sauna rocks. An abundance of sauna rock information can be found online, but not all of it can be considered accurate or reliable. One website, for example, recommends using smooth stones from rivers and seashores as sauna rocks, while another urges sauna owners to reject the idea. Different opinions also exist regarding the use of rocks with high iron content. Concerns about the size, shape, texture and mineral content of your sauna rocks are perhaps best addressed by the dealer or manufacturer from whom you bought your sauna heater.