When your home or apartment is so freakin hot that you feel swaddled in a wet rag that’s been microwaved on high; when sweat seems to be erupting out of your pores; when there is zero wind passing through your open windows — what the hell do you do? If you have air conditioning, it’d already be on! But what if you don’t? What can you buy, make or MacGyver that will keep you not just comfy cool, but KEEP-YOU-FROM-LOSING-YOUR-SANITY kind of cool.
Stuff You Can Buy Besides a Fan
Swamp Cooler. It’s no air conditioner — these boxes, also known as “evaporative coolers,” don’t work well in humid climates — but it’s something! They basically pass air over water, which works to cool the air off. They come in all sizes, though are typically boxy and cost several hundred dollars (which is several thousand dollars less than installing central A.C.).
Dehumidifier. They can cost less than a hundred bucks, and if you live somewhere that gets sultry in the summertime, they can make a real difference. You can even use the water they collect to water your poor plants or whatever. It won’t cool your home, but it can make it less sticky, which is nice!
Bamboo Sheets. A not-as-obvious pick, but bamboo keeps you cooler on a hot evening than cotton sheets. Bamboo breathes better and stays cooler.
Cooling Pillow. They work different ways (from gel pads to bamboo fibers), but all of them draw heat away from your noggin so that you’re not resting your head on a giant sponge full of your own sweat. They cost anywhere from around $30 to more than a hundred dollars.
(Mostly) Easy Stuff You Can Do
Fan Combined With Ice in a Bowl. This is an old staple, and if you do it right, it’s said to work. Basically, point your fan at a large container full of ice (try a metal one). Mess around with the angle of the bowl (you may need to prop it up) until it’s just right. If you do it correctly, the fan’s breeze will hit the bowl, then ricochet that cool air toward your general direction. All it takes is a fan — you at least have this, right? — and a steady supply of ice.
Put Your Fan in the Right Place. As long as we’re talking about fans, put them where they’ll actually make the most difference: Windows or hallways are best. If you combine them, you can create cross breezes that pull in cooler air from the outside, or from cooler rooms in your home, and chill the warmer rooms a bit.
Get Your Curtains Wet. Unless you live in a humid place, dampen your curtains. When air passes through the window and the curtain, its dampness will cool the air at least a little.
Turn Your Fan Out, Not In. At night, face a fan out the window to pull hot inside air into the outside world, never to be dealt with again. (Of course, this is for nights when it’s actually cooler outside than inside.)
Fill Water Bottles, Freeze Them, Then Snuggle With Them in Bed. Make sure they’re screwed on tight! But this is worth a shot, according to the internet.
Keep Your Blinds Closed. If you have a window or two that get direct sunlight, this is a pretty obvious one, no? When you keep the sunlight out, you keep a bit of heat out too.
Focus on You, Not the Room. Ultimately, it’s you that’s feeling uncomfortable. So instead of paying so much attention to your home at large, keep yourself cold by drinking cold, hydrating, refreshing drinks, or even wearing cold washcloths or ice packs. The bracing chill feels good, at least momentarily.
In any case, none of this can hurt, right? Anything’s better than stewing in a hot, humid, completely still room, feeling as if you’re being slowly cooked sous vide style. So if you can, peel your sweaty ass off your sweaty couch and get creative!