9 Cheap Ways to Stay Cool with Things You Already Have at Home

published Jun 19, 2023
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Black woman portrait cooling off at home during summer heat
Credit: tommaso79/Shutterstock

Even the most zealous fans of summer would agree there can be a downside to having consecutive days of warm and sunny weather. As humidity climbs, so does the temperature inside your home. It can be tough to stay cool without air conditioning, especially if your trusty fan is just blowing hot air around the room.

When this happens to me, I turn to a hack I learned from a childhood friend that involves using a winter scarf to cool down — it sounds strange, but it works. In fact, some of the most budget-friendly cooling methods are lying around your house. You just need a little patience and ingenuity to get some relief from the heat. Here are nine smart tips for reusing your scarf and other items you probably already have at home to cool off this summer.

Harness the cooling power of your winter scarf.

My friend’s scarf trick sounds counterintuitive but works like a breeze. Choose a large, lightweight scarf made with cotton or a moisture-wicking fabric like bamboo or linen. (Since you’ll need to get the scarf wet, avoid wool or heavy knits that are dry clean only.) Next, soak the scarf and try to squeeze out as much water as you can — you don’t want it dripping all over the floor. Then, wrap the damp scarf around you — make sure to cover your neck, chest, and arms — and station yourself in front of a fan.

The air from the fan will feel colder through the dampened scarf and as the scarf dries, the water evaporates and draws heat away from your skin. It’s not an all-day fix, but this cooling effect can last long enough for you to sit comfortably and watch a TV show or fold the laundry. 

Cozy up to a can of soda.

In addition to keeping you hydrated, cold beverages can help by bringing down your body temperature. Try holding a chilled soda can on each wrist or the inside of your elbows for 10 to 15 seconds. Since the blood vessels are near the surface of your skin in those spots, the cold can helps bring your overall body temperature down more quickly.

Stash your washcloth in the freezer.

Soak your washcloth and wring it out before placing it in the freezer. Store it rolled up rather than lying flat. Once frozen, place it on your neck and wrists to keep cool. For an easy store-bought version, you can find cooling scarves online that are relatively inexpensive.

Put on your migraine hat.

If you experience headaches or migraines, you might already have a migraine relief cap. These stretchy hats fit over your head and eyes and are filled with soft cooling gel, so there’s no messy ice packs and you can wear them comfortably against your skin. Tip: Put your cap in the freezer for a couple of hours and it’s ready to use as a cold compress.

Reuse your TMJ wraparound ice pack.

Similar to the migraine relief cap, this tool wraps around your head and jaw. For those with TMJ, (temporomandibular joints, which connect your lower jaw to your skull), the wraparound ice pack can relieve the pain caused from teeth grinding and jaw clenching. But it also doubles as a cooling wrap when you’re sweltering inside.

Credit: Karis Danish

Hang damp curtains.

If you forgot about your curtains during spring cleaning, no sweat. Pop them in the wash and hang them to dry. Similar to the damp scarf method, when there’s a breeze, the curtains will draw cool air into your home.

Alternate between misting and dunking.

Fill a spray bottle with water and keep it in the fridge so you can treat yourself to a refreshing mist when you get overheated. Then, for the dunking effect, keep a bowl or bucket of water nearby so you can submerge your hands or feet for an instant cooldown.

Have a “cool” nighttime routine.

Trying to fall asleep while sweltering is endlessly frustrating. Try optimizing your sleeping situation for the hot weather by swapping out your flannel sheets and pillowcases for more breathable fabrics like cotton or linen. Before you go to bed, pop your pillowcase in the fridge or freezer for a couple of hours. The cool fabric will help you drift off to sleep.

Also keep in mind that your favorite moisturizers can trap body heat. If you don’t want to skip your beauty routine, try storing your face cream or body lotion in the fridge so your skin feels moisturized and refreshed.

Rinse off and take it easy. 

Along with oil-based lotions, sweaty clothes and shoes can also trap heat. So, make sure to change your clothes and hop in the shower whenever you can. And because these cooling tips work best when you’re sitting still for a few minutes, they’re also a good reminder to conserve your energy and not push yourself too hard on a hot summer day.