No Air Conditioning? 20 Weird, Wacky Hacks Our Readers Use to Stay Cool at Home

No Air Conditioning? 20 Weird, Wacky Hacks Our Readers Use to Stay Cool at Home

Janel Laban
Jul 3, 2018

Now that the high temps have really kicked in, it's hard to remember that this is the season everyone longs for during the darker, colder months of the year. If your home doesn't have A/C (or you are choosing to leave it off as much as possible) you can feel stuck, especially when it comes to getting a restful night's sleep.

Thankfully our readers have come to the rescue with a long list of tips ranging from absolutely quirky (but they swear they work!) to "why didn't I think of that!?" good old common sense ideas. Bookmark this quick list of possible solutions and get started on your cooldown plan!

1. Make "Ice Babies" out of Bottles of Water

Freeze a 2 liter bottle with water. Put in a pillow case and hold to your chest like a teddy. Cooling down the central core will cool down all extremities as a result. My roomie calls them "ice babies." - Novalis

I have a couple of old plastic water bottles in the freezer ¾ filled with water. When it's really warm I fill the remainder of the bottle with tap water and take them to bed with me, creating a "hot water bottle" in reverse. I tuck one behind my back and roll the other one in a towel for the front side and I'm pretty good to go. - Hawaiinei

2. Pack a Braid With Ice Cubes

My crazy tip only works for people with long hair: I used to french braid my hair, loosen the braid at the bottom, and stuff my hair with ice cubes. I'd then pin the ends of the braids into the bottom to keep the cubes secure. (I lived in a family where my dad used to come around every night and turn off everyone's fan to save electricity.) - Bee T.

3. Use the 1-2 Punch of a Fan + Spray Bottle

When I was younger my bedroom was in the unfinished upstairs of our cape cod style house. No heat in winter, no A/C in summer, but I loved the privacy! On the hottest nights I would employ window fans, and a spray bottle, set to the finest mist. When I got hot, I'd spray myself with some cool water and let the air from the fan chill me. - BrandeMT

4. Sprinkle Talcum Powder in Bed

My mother-in-law, who grew up in Houston TX—and without air-conditioning—sprinkles talcum powder on her sheets. She's had A/C for a long time now, but she still powders her sheets in the summertime. - Sunnyblue

Editor's note: If you're wary of natural talcum powder, you can try talc-free powder, like this cooling mint one.

5. Give Yourself the Chills

I know this sounds odd but here I go... growing up i never had an air conditioner so we had to come up with ways to cool down. My number one way was always giving myself chills haha. I just use my finger tips and very slightly move them up and down my arms. within one minute you will get chills. It's usually good enough to let me fall asleep. It's been working since I was 4. - Carlyhannah

6. Dunk Your Curtains

Take a tip from when the cold-loving British were in hot India pre-A/C — use natural fabric curtains (linen, cotton), and leave the ends in a bucket of water. The water wicks up the fabric, and the breeze from the open window blows cool into the room. Doesn't help on still airless nights, but works a dreams with even a light breeze. - FionaAustralia

7. Literally Bathe in Mouthwash

Found this worked when I used it for a sunburn. You need a bottle of ANTISEPTIC mouthwash, a cheap $ store mint smells great too. Use generously in the shower and splash some on after you dry off. Lay a shower curtain, a plastic drop cloth or a trash bag on bed. Put a small amount of the antiseptic and wet the cover. Now just let a fan blow over you and you should stay cool all night. - Kimeb

8. Sleep on a Bamboo Mat

I highly recommend bamboo mats. They feel cool, definitely cooler than cotton. You may be able to find them thin bamboo mats specifically designed for sleeping. There are special ones for your pillow as well. I got through a few heat waves in an air conditioner-less, top floor walk-up apartment in NYC with a set my mom got for me from Hong Kong. Lifesaver. That, plus wet towels I kept in the refrigerator. - Shenge

9. Shower Yourself in Peppermint

There's something that can boost the power of a shower — using Dr. Bronner's peppermint liquid soap (specifically the liquid, not the bar). The liquid soap is loaded with peppermint oil to the point that the menthol actually has a cooling effect on your skin, that lasts about a half hour and will help you drop off to sleep. - Empresscallipygos

10. Put a Fan in the Window

If it's cooler outside at night than inside, I put my fan in the window to draw the cool air in. It's amazing how cold our bedroom gets and the gentle sound of the fan helps me to fall asleep more quickly! - MeKritterkrazy

11. Strap an Ice Pack to Your Back

I'm a big fan of wrapping an ice pack in a towel and putting it under the small of my back for a bit when I first go to bed. Then I'll keep it nearby during the night in case I need a quick cool down. Even though it melts throughout the night, it's still cold for at least 8 hours and definitely helps cut the heat. - Ramblingirl

12. Take a Lukewarm Shower With Your Pajamas On

When I was pregnant I used to climb in a tepid shower wearing my nightgown and get thoroughly soaked, then get into bed dripping wet with the fan blowing at me. Drastic measures for drastic times. It worked very well. On the worst nights, I'd get up in the middle of the night and stand in the shower again. In less drastic times, don't forget to use a mattress pad with no man-made fibers, in addition to cotton or linen sheets. - Dulcibella

13. Multi-task with Freeze Pops

Tuck a couple Fla-Vor-Ice popsicles in bed with you. Sounds crazy but that's what I did in my college dorm with no AC. We used to carry them around, tuck them in tank tops, lay on them, and eventually when we got around to it, eat them. They were a life saver! - Nwatrous

14. Fake an A/C With a Block of Ice

Put a block of ice (in a pan big enough to catch the melted volume of water) in front of the fan. Makeshift air conditioning! - Ruffh20

15. Reverse the Furnace

My mother's house had a furnace in the basement. She would close up the house during the day and set the furnace fan to reverse, bringing cool air up through the ducts into the rest of the house. - Georgeandgracie

16. Put Car Shades in the Windows

It sounds tacky, but I use the twisty windshield shades in windows that catch direct sun or indirect sun in the hottest months. It's not as offensive as aluminum foil, and if you are lucky you can find some that fit fairly well. Also, heavy curtains on large windows keep our house a lot cooler. I've also shut the vents off in the bathrooms (leaving a fan on) as it's easy to keep those rooms shut. - ThistledownStudio

I bought a cheap car windscreen shield for each window to keep the sun out during the day. An empty duvet cover is heavy enough that I don't feel funny like I would with just a sheet, but still pretty light. - 21andthensome

17. Engineer the Airflow with Fans

For me the key is to have two windows with fans... one venting hot air out, and the other bringing cool air in. Ideally, if you have double hung windows put the fan venting hot air out in the top of the window to pull out that rising heated air. - Mapchic

We live sans air conditioning as well, and since our apartment is not capable of housing an attic fan, we use those double fan units in our windows. During the cool nights, we use them to suck outside air in to cool everything down and then first thing in the morning all the fans get turned off and the curtains get closed to keep the cool air in and the sun's heat out. Now, since I can't live in darkness once I get home from work with all that nice summer sunshine to be had, I simply open the curtains and windows and switch the window fans so that one pulls in air from outside and the other pulls hot air out of the apartment. Repeat each night! - Midwest Nutmeg

If the air outside is cooler than the temp inside, try this trick. In a room other than the bedroom, place a high-velocity fan so that it level with and facing out toward an open window. Open windows in your bedroom (or all rooms) and turn the fan on high. It will pull the air from the outside through the other windows and send the hot air out the window where the fan is placed. It's especially nice if you can position your bed so it's in the air flow — it feels like a fan, with air flowing over the bed. Run it for 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime, and the room will cool right down. Even if you have A/C and decide to use it, it starts the cooling process from a much lower temp, hopefully saving money. I used to do this all the time in an apartment with windows on only one side (but in separate rooms). The air would flow around the dividing wall. Another advantage: If the fan is placed in a window some distance from the bed, the sound isn't so loud, and you can sleep. - Rubylionesse

(Image credit: Carina Romano)

18. Make Small, Smart Choices All Day

I grew up in Fresno, CA in an old farmhouse without A/C—now totally unimaginable. I completely agree with the daytime clamp-down... that is the best way to keep the temp from spiking beyond what you can control with fans. Room darkening drapes or thermal shades really make a huge difference. Also, I am a big fan (ha!) of reversing the fans to move hot air out when inside temp is above outside temp. I also would suggest sleeping low... hot air rises, so getting as close to the floor as possible/comfortable makes a good bit of difference. Ideally—a hammock is the ultimate summer sleep vehicle, plenty of airflow—but not always an option inside! - Barbieq

The key isn't what you do at night, it is how you regulate the temperature all the time. Always shut up your apartment during the day and turn on ceiling fans (if you have them) to circulate air. Then at night, switch to window fans. If you mess it up you will have to wait 'til a 60 degree night to get things back to normal. - Rahskolnikov

19. Get a Solar Attic Fan

We like our house really cool (67-69 degrees). We recently had two solar attic fans installed. The past few days, we've noticed it is cooler in the house and the AC has been off the past 2-3 days. That should save on our light bill and makes the installation costs seem not so bad. - williamsweyr

20. Skip the Shower and Take a Cool Bath

I find a shower, no matter how cold the water, still increases the humidity of my place. So I opt for cool baths. It cools me right to the core and I think sometimes that I heat the water on really hot days. Oh, and coffee popsicles in the morning :) - Emtdmt

Please share your best fixes and tips to the comments - help make this a one stop shop of super chilly coolness for future hot weather suffering solution searchers!

Re-edited and appended from a post originally published 5.28.12 - TW

Apartment Therapy supports our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations to improve life at home. You support us through our independently chosen links, many of which earn us a commission.
moving--truck moving--dates moving--dolly moving--house moving--cal Created with Sketch. moving--apt