Don’t Have Air Conditioning? 9 Clever Tricks to Stay Cool This Summer

A man places his feet in water with fans against him while trying to stay cool from the heat indoors.
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It’s not your imagination. It’s literally hotter than ever. Several recent days were probably the hottest in Earth’s modern history, scientists said as massive heat waves continued to break temperature records worldwide.

With temperatures hovering somewhere between “hot” and “inferno” in much of the U.S., you might be wishing you’d sprung for that apartment with central air conditioning — or at least one of those window units.

Even if you have AC, some of these tips can help you stay cool.

How to Stay Cool Without Air Conditioning: 9 Clever Tricks

If you’re stuck somewhere that isn’t used to the heat, here’s how to stay cool without AC using a few unusual tricks.

1. Take an Icy Foot Bath

The quickest way to cool down is to dip your toes in freezing cold water. Cooling the many “pulse points” on your feet can bring down the temperature throughout your body.

Fill a bowl or shallow bucket with cold water, and take your feet for a dive. Cue a cartoonish sizzle…

Be cautious, though. Start with cool tap water, and add some ice if you need the boost. Going too cold too fast could be painful, even if it sounds refreshing.

While you’re hitting pulse points, try running cold water or holding a cold, wet towel over your wrists, the back of your neck or forehead.

2. Wear a Cooling Vest

This is actually a thing, and it’s much cheaper than an air conditioning unit!

Pick up any variety of cooling sport vests for as low as $27. They’re either equipped with gel or meant to be soaked with water before you wear them. If a vest isn’t your style, you can also try cooling caps, sleeves and bandannas.

Either way, you can wear the vest under your shirt for a sweaty morning commute or just put it on in the house on those especially hot days!

3. Freeze Your Sheets

Hot nights are particularly tough sans air conditioning. To stay comfortable and get a good night’s rest, cool your sheets before crawling under them.

“This old trick won’t relieve the heat all through the night, but it may help you fall asleep faster,” says Lifehacker.

Stick your sheets in a plastic bag and let them sit in the refrigerator or freezer for a couple of hours before bed. You’ll get into a refreshingly chilled bed and avoid cranking the air or listening to a noisy fan all night.

4. Make a DIY Ice Pack

To cool your pulse points on the go, freeze some water in a not-quite-full water bottle to create a makeshift ice pack. You can do the same by filling a sock or small, hand-sewn pouch or pillowcase with rice and freezing for a couple of hours.

When you need relief, place the pack on your wrists, back of your neck, forehead or toes!

Bonus tip from this Wisconsinite: I know you don’t even want to think about it, but you can use the same tools to warm up in the winter. Fill your water bottle with boiled water, or stick your rice-pillow in the microwave for a couple of minutes.

5. Cool Down Like an Egyptian

We’re unsure where the name comes from, but the “Egyptian Method” is a simple way to stay cool on a hot day or night.

Before bed, wet your top sheet or a large towel with cool water, and wring it until it’s not dripping wet. Use that as your blanket to stay cool while you sleep. To keep from soaking your bed, you can place a dry towel between you and the mattress.

During the day, I’ve seen friends use this trick with wet T-shirts. It’s not an out-in-public kind of style, but the damp shirt will keep you cool at home in front of the fan!

6. Make Your Own Air Conditioner for Free

When you only need air conditioning a few days out of the year, you may be able to save money on the real thing by using these DIY units:

  • Fill a roasting pan or shallow bowl with ice, and place it in front of a fan.
  • Hang a wet sheet in front of an open window.
  • Roll up a damp towel and affix it to the front of a box fan.

In any case, the breeze will pick up cool water, creating a refreshing mist in your sweltering room.

7. Unplug

Your light bulbs and appliances radiate heat when they’re turned on or plugged in, even the most energy efficient ones.

Unplugging and keeping the lights off can avoid adding that unnecessary heat into a room. On top of avoiding air conditioning, this will also help you save money by cutting your electricity consumption!

Unplug and flip the lights off to take advantage of long, sunlit days in the summer, save energy and reduce the overall heat in your house or cozy apartment.

8. Eat Spicy Food

Ever wonder why the spiciest foods come from the hottest places on Earth?

Spicy food like curries and chillies can stimulate heat receptors in your mouth, raise your internal temperature, improve circulation and cause you to start sweating, which will cool you down!

So keep the hot sauce handy wherever you go this summer.

9. Drink Chrysanthemum Tea

Practitioners say chrysanthemum is a natural coolant that clears the head.

Brew a batch of chrysanthemum iced tea instead of black tea or lemonade, which contain dehydrating elements like caffeine and sugar.

Drink it to cool down on a hot summer afternoon, or have a soothing cup of the herbal tea to calm your head and cool your body before bed.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a former senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Senior writer Mike Brassfield contributed to this report.