The lost art of the sauna washerwoman: a journey into Finland’s wellness traditions

Finland, the land of a thousand lakes, is not only known for its breathtaking nature and impressive northern lights, but also for a unique tradition that brings body and soul into harmony: the sauna. At the center of this wellness experience is a fascinating figure who has shaped "sauna culture" for centuries - the sauna washerwoman.
The sauna: a sacred place
© saunazeit

The sauna: a sacred place

For the Finns, the sauna is more than just a place to sweat. It is a sacred place, a place of purification and conviviality. In the sauna, all social hierarchies disappear and people come together to relax, chat and enjoy the warmth. In the history of the sauna, however, there was one special person who intensified the experience: the sauna washerwoman.

The role of the sauna washerwoman

The sauna washerwoman was an experienced expert in cleaning and caring for the skin of sauna guests. In Finland, it used to be customary to be thoroughly cleaned by a sauna washerwoman. Her profession was of great importance and an integral part of Finnish sauna culture. Her job was not only to wash the body, but also to pamper the sauna guests with a special scrub to remove dead skin cells.

Natural exfoliating substances such as ground oats, honey or other natural ingredients were usually used to gently exfoliate the skin and make it soft and supple. The exact composition varied depending on the individual practice of the sauna washerwomen.

The sauna washerwoman today

Today, the profession of sauna washerwoman has become rare in Finland. They can only be found in traditional saunas and a few luxury hotels. Modern technology and self-care products have largely replaced their role. Nevertheless, there are some places where the tradition of the sauna washerwoman is kept alive and attracts wellness enthusiasts from all over the world.

The sauna washerwoman and sauna culture

The sauna washerwoman is a fascinating figure in the history of Finnish sauna culture. Her craftsmanship and ability to care for the skin and invigorate the senses have made the sauna an even more intense experience. Although the profession of sauna washer has become rarer today, sauna culture remains an important part of Finnish life.

When you visit Finland, don’t miss the opportunity to visit a traditional sauna and perhaps even use the services of a modern sauna washerwoman in a first-class hotel. Immerse yourself in the world of the sauna and let yourself be enchanted by its healing effects.

David Brunner