Cleaning Dirty Sauna Wood

I need some guidance and some suggestions. I am a long-time woodworker and now, I am a property manager for a health center with both men’s and woman’s saunas. These saunas are outfitted with clear cedar and, while the benches and walls are in relatively good condition, body oils have stained the wood to the point that it looks dirty, wet and rotten. We clean the saunas nightly and use a relatively strong cleaner but they still look very bad. Short of belt sanding the entire room and every slat on the benches, is there a way to freshen them up? Clean them up and make them look better? -Gary McGeough

Rob Johnstone: The safest, and for that reason best, way to clean the sauna’s stained wood is with a sander. I would not use a belt sander, rather something like the Festool Rotex RO 125 or the 150 sander. They use hook and loop sanding discs and can remove a good deal of material in short order. Their dust extraction is very good. Bosch and Fein also make similar heavy-duty sanders that would take care of your problem. I would hesitate to use a chemical cleaner in the confined spaces of a sauna.

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