What is the Best Wood to Use for a Sauna?

Which Wood is Most Often Used in a Sauna?

Cedar, hemlock, basswood and poplar are the most often used woods for saunas. Eucalyptus and sometimes pine can be used. Cedar has a rich aroma and is most often associated with a sauna. Poplar is a clean wood and is best for chemically sensitive people.

You have options when you purchase a sauna. An infrared sauna is designed for wellness and could last you decades, if not a lifetime. The components used will contribute to it longevity. The choice of components often appears like a complex decision but we will try to make it simple.  Let’s examine your choices of which timber is best to be used.


Cedar is the best choice for richness, aroma and the look of elegance. Poplar is best for those individuals who are highly sensitive to even natural smells and chemicals. Basswood and Eucalyptus are also excellent choices. Hemlock is a cheap and acceptable option. Pine should not be used.

The best infrared sauna brands will typically use Red Cedar and the brand that is the purest uses Poplar.

Healing Heat Therapy Cedar Best Wood for Sauna


Cedar is used most often as it is a soft wood that will flex and resist cracking during thousands of heating and cooling cycles. Its naturals oils are also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and provide that cedar smell most individuals enjoy. It is also very expensive to use for a sauna.

The environment inside a cabin is heat and moisture combined with microbes and toxins being expelled from the body. In this environment cedar resists microbe growth. It also remains a little cooler than other options due to it being softer. This is the typical choice for a traditional steam room using wood burning or electric heaters.  It has lower maintenance and is good for outdoor types of saunas.

It is very durable with rich tones ranging from dark cherry to light red. Those are the primary reasons Western Redwood Cedar is the most often used in the industry.

Some individuals who are hypersensitive may have problems with cedar as explained in this article:

The key difference between hemlock, pine, redwood, basswood and cedar saunas versus a poplar sauna is that the poplar infrared sauna is the only one that doesn’t contain and emit phenols. These phenols can enter your system through skin contact or by inhalation. They are responsible for the aromatic scent of many softwoods, a scent some people really like—it reminds them of a forest!

If what was being outgassed from wood into the air was harmless — say, like the smell of vanilla from a baking cake — this wouldn’t be a problem. But in the case of cedar and hemlock and other softwoods, the chemicals that produce the scent they give off can be—to some people—annoying or intolerable, even dangerous. The Poplar Infrared Sauna: what the experts use as their nontoxic sauna


Hemlock is cheaper and is therefore used in some products to reduce costs. It is acceptable to use and is a relatively clean wood. It does tend to crack a bit more than some other woods due to its hardness and the prevalence of knots in the grain. It will also become hotter to the touch due to its hardness.


Poplar is Recommended and the Cleanest Choice

Poplar is the only commonly used wood that does not contain and therefore emit phenols. It is the wood of choice for an ultra pure product. Heavenly Heat Saunas are the purest choice for the chemically sensitive as their infrared saunas are made exclusively of this wood.



Healing Heat Therapy Sunlighten Basswood Best Wood for Sauna

Basswood is a good choice for a person that is sensitive to cedar or other resins. It is called hypoallergenic and does not emit any fragrance or toxins and is usually safe for those with allergies.

It has a light, beautiful look and is usually of a very consistent color and contains few knots. It is a durable hardwood and is less likely to crack or warp with many heating cycles. A few brands including Clearlight have switched to basswood instead of Hemlock. One of the reasons companies have begun to use this is provided in this article from saunacloud:

Basswood: One of the major benefits of basswood is that it is free of harmful toxins and allergens that could bother users; when treated properly it is considered hypoallergenic. Basswood also boasts an excellent strength to weight ratio, and a density that is about 25 pounds per cubic foot. Red Cedar, Spruce, or Poplar? What Is the Best Type of Wood for an Infrared Sauna?



Eucalyptus is not often used but is now found as an option with companies such as Sunlighten. It is a fast growing product and cheaper than many other options. Many like this choice as it is very consistent in color and is easy to stain to match many different decors. We prefer options that are not stained or that use minimal, non-toxic treatments.

Eucalyptus used in this industry usually does not have the strong aroma usually associated with Eucalyptus.



Pine is sometimes used in framing due to its low cost. Hemlock, pine and spruce are cheap options for this purpose. In our opinion, pine should not be used in framing construction as it tends to not last as long as others woods and does emit some resins. It also tends to bend and warp more than other choices and reflects a low quality design.

Pine framing is not desirable at all in a product intended to detox.  We suggest asking if the brand you are considering uses pine in its framing.



In summary, Cedar is an expensive, top of the line choice and is great for 95% of the population.  When considering the health benefits, poplar is the best to use for a pure, clean experience and total detox.  Basswood and Eucalyptus are also good choices.  All of these woods handle hot temperatures and temperature changes well and will not dry out or crack easily.