It is unfortunate that the term “steambath” still lingers in our minds as a valid name and description for the sauna. The sauna is not a steambath! True sauna temperatures are in the 77C to 88C range with typical humidity of 10% to 20%, for a dry type of hot thermal bath. On comparison, the recommended home humidity for healthy living is normally about 40%.
Steambath have much lower temperatures, 54C to 71C and very high humidities in the 40% to 70% range. Unfortunately, it is the steambath image that persists in the minds of many peoples based on scenes in countless movies and TV episodes where people (often “shady” characters) meet in the protective steam for “anonymous” discussions.
Even the early Finnish settlers who brought this custom to North America, gave up calling it a sauna and reverted to an everyday “steam bath”. Since the late 1950’s, when the home sauna started being available as a product and often desirable as a status symbol, it needed a name descriptive of its characteristics.
Somehow it became called “the sauna”‘ a very progressive move with its inherent difficulty in pronunciation for North Americans. Any signs still around saying “STEAM BATH” are for very old public saunas and to the passerby it is unknown whether it is a real “steambath” or a real “sauna”, as both still exist.