Would hanging a wet sheet somewhere in the room help?
July 28, 2009 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Another West Coast heat wave question. Beside eating ice cream and drinking ouzo straight from the freezer, what are some good ways to cool down?

I'm in Seattle, and temperatures this week are likely to reach 102°F/39°C. This is the first time I've lived in a home without A/C, and since I don't have a place of work yet to go chill or a lot of money to spend on outside activities, I'm mostly stuck in a hot apartment. Even the building pool is unpleasantly warm to swim in, and the ice cream machine is failing me because it's so hot and humid! The library is nice and cool, but it closes at 6pm, and since the outside of our apartment is mostly made of windows and faces the north and the west, late afternoons and evenings are almost unbearable despite the blinds. Showers are nice, but the "cold" tap water is tepid at best these days.

So, hive mind, what are your secret yet brilliant ways to cool down?
posted by halogen to Home & Garden (34 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Check your local drug store for menthol sunburn gel (I get a huge bottle of it for $3). Slather it on, sit in front of a fan and you'll be chilly in no time (briefly).
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:04 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you have a fan? A spray bottle full o' icewater and a box fan will give you a crude AC.
posted by john m at 6:06 PM on July 28, 2009

Response by poster: That's a great idea! I already have eucalyptus and menthol shampoo and conditioner and earlier today wished that I didn't have to rinse it off.
posted by halogen at 6:06 PM on July 28, 2009

Best answer: In Sydney summers, which tend towards the sticky humid, I find putting my feet in a bucket of tap water while I'm watching TV or reading a book really does the trick.

It doesn't have to be cold; the lukewarm tap water you've described will be fine—just as long as it's significantly below your own body temperature, and it covers your instep where there are lots of blood vessels close to the skin. Give it ten minutes or so.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:08 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

I like freezing Coke Zero/Pepsi Max in ice trays, optionally pouring more (room temperature) Coke Zero/Pepsi Max over it a big cup.

Hawaiian Shave-Ice with Sprite Zero is surprisingly tasty.
posted by @troy at 6:09 PM on July 28, 2009

I've used (and am currently using) evaporative cooling with good success. One sheet isn't going to do much, though. You'll be taking it down and dipping it every few minutes. Put down a tarp and use something heavier. You do need a fan for best cooling, preferably one with some oomph. If you don't have one already, you'll likely have trouble finding one, as everyone else in town wants a fan, too.
posted by reflecked at 6:14 PM on July 28, 2009

Best answer: A former roommate of mine used to soak clean dish towels in water, wring them out, fold them up, and freeze them. She'd wrap them around her neck/shoulders.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:14 PM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have been eating appalling amounts of frozen grapes.
posted by adiabat at 6:20 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: What usually works for me is soaking in a cold bath - if I'm brave, as cold as the water will go, but usually just fairly cool - until I'm cold all over, and then drying off really well and dusting myself with Gold Bond powder for an additional mentholated kick.

In the past, I've also bought tons of freeze-and-eat Otter Pops/Fla-Vor-Ice - they're super cheap, and not only can you eat them, but you can use them (still wrapped) as impromptu ice packs. Stick 'em in your armpits, behind your knees, in your cleavage, wherever; switch out and refreeze when they melt. (Do not stick them in your orifices, and do not serve your armpit pops to guests. Not that I've ever done either of these.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:35 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Fan - don't do anything that will add more water to the air, it will just seem hotter. (The water on the fan thing is for hot dry climates, not humid. Drier air will seem cooler to you. That is why AC is used in places like DC and FL, and swamp coolers in AZ.)

Shower several times a day.

Frozen or wet towel on neck.

Foot bath in cold or ice water.

Cut up a watermelon and freeze it.

Nothing alcoholic - it will make it seem hotter.

Find a business you can sit in (since libraries are suffering from budget cuts) coffee shop, mall, deli, etc.

Take a nap during the hottest part of the day.

Keep all doors and windows open as much as you can at night. Blow in as much cool air as you can during the night. Close everything in the morning before the temps rise. Put extra quilts and blankets over the windows if you can to prevent as much heat as possible. Keep doors closed as much as possible during the day until temperatures equalize.

wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 6:37 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Running cool or cold water over the insides of your wrists can make a surprisingly big difference, and is quick and tidy.
posted by redfoxtail at 6:46 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Two words:

Kiddie Pool.
posted by Jon-o at 6:50 PM on July 28, 2009

Best answer: Hop into the shower, but don't dry off afterwards. Then stand in front of a fan, naked.
posted by squeak at 7:00 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's 105 here in Portland, and even warmer inside the house. I'm going to take a cool bath. Always works like a charm.
posted by jdroth at 7:07 PM on July 28, 2009

Bottle of ice water in the cleavage--looks dopey, works like a charm.

Can you sleep on your stomach? I always feel cooler that way, and you can drape a damp cloth over your back and feet.
posted by hippugeek at 7:07 PM on July 28, 2009

If it doesn't cool off sufficiently at night, you can moisten a bath towel, drape it over yourself like a blanket, and point your box fan at it.
Italian ices (lemon, specifically)
Frozen grapes and/or chunks of banana
Go to the movies; they're usually air conditioned
Beers in a bucket of ice and water

I can't personally vouch for the following, but I've heard of it a few times:
  • Procure one of them styrofoam coolers, the bigger the better
  • cut a large, roughly rectangular hole in either side, leaving a few inches of lip at the bottom
  • Duct-tape box fan to one side of the cooler, so that the bulk of its wind will pass through the cooler
  • fill the bottom of the cooler with ice, as much as will fit
  • Engage fan and point it toward yourself
Good luck!
posted by willpie at 7:08 PM on July 28, 2009

I've done something similar to willpie's 'heard a few times' - Tie freezer bricks (ie., blue ice packs) 'round with string, like a package, and hang them either in front or behind the air exhaust/intake of your fan. Ghetto/MacGuyver AC. Beware; they'll 'sweat' so have something under to collect the condensation.

One year I got ambitious enough to build a rack so I could have multiple ice packs perpendicular to the airflow to cool even more.

If you have a kitchen that is closeable (ie., has a door that can be closed to separate it from the rest of your apartment), Close That Door! Fridges generate a ton of heat. Remember to keep your curtains closed; if you aren't proud, aluminium-foil your South facing windows.
posted by porpoise at 7:30 PM on July 28, 2009

If you have a kitchen that is closeable (ie., has a door that can be closed to separate it from the rest of your apartment), Close That Door! Fridges generate a ton of heat.

Ours is just a doorway, so we went to target and bought a spring-loaded shower curatin rod and a plastic shower curtain and placed them in the doorway. It's ugly, but it's a world of difference.

Also, the drawing in cool air during the night and closing everything up before the sun comes up helps too- keep a fan on anyway to keep the air moving.

Finally, Slurpees. For some reason, they cool me off better than ice cream or popcicles.
posted by dogmom at 7:59 PM on July 28, 2009

1) Turn off everything electrical that you can. Lights, computer, everything. Be ruthless--unplug even the cell-phone charger, because that wall-wart is heating the room.
2) Box fan in the window as soon as it gets dark and the air outside is cooler than the air inside.
3) Take off your socks the instant you get home.
4) Cut your hair short.
5) Enjoy the heat: Lie on the carpet and make sweat angels.
posted by IvyMike at 8:31 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

What usually works for me is soaking in a cold bath

The bath doesn't have to that cold. It can even be warmer than the ambient temperature. Just keep it under blood temperature (ie: 98.6 farenheit - 37 celcius).
posted by philip-random at 8:42 PM on July 28, 2009

- ice pops - a nice dessert that's, well, more healthy than ice cream
- being ok with wearing a wifebeater around the house every day
- rubbing the excess water on your arms/legs/back of neck instead of drying your hands

In Sydney summers, which tend towards the sticky humid, I find putting my feet in a bucket of tap water while I'm watching TV or reading a book really does the trick.

this sounds *amazing*
posted by Muffpub at 9:14 PM on July 28, 2009

105 or 106 in Eugene. . just made a bed out side, in a tent.. .I have hopes of sleeping well for the first time in a few nights.
posted by Danf at 9:25 PM on July 28, 2009

Best answer: 91% rubbing alcohol evaporates a lot faster from your skin than water, or just about anything else you can safely dab on your skin, providing maximum evaporative cooling. Beware of cheaper 70% alcohol mixtures, often sold in drugstores immediately adjacent to the 91% stuff. The 21% difference in formulation is generally water, and the cooling rush of 91% rubbing alcohol is effectively killed by the bonding of alcohol molecules to water molecules, in the cheaper stuff.

In the interests of fire safety, if you're splashing lots of 91% alcohol on yourself, be sure to vent fumes where they'll do no harm!
posted by paulsc at 10:08 PM on July 28, 2009

Last time I was anywhere that hot with no air conditioning, we put a child's wading pool on the kitchen floor with cold water and frosty bottled beverages in it.

Sitting around that, drinking cold drinks, with our toes in the water was pretty damned awesome.

Of course, this was a rented cabin, so there you go.
posted by Sallyfur at 11:15 PM on July 28, 2009

Best answer: A couple of survival tips from a desert dweller (It was a nice toasty 108 today here, which is pretty close to normal for this time of year)...

Get two bags of ice - preferably one cubes and one solid block. Place in bathtub. Fill with cold tap water. Soak for a bit. You will cool down fast, and feel cool for a while - and the water will stay cold for a few hours if you need back in.

Also, if you have access to anything that can shave ice then you can make raspados! Take a pound of strawberries. Cut them up in quarters. Boil half of the strawberries with two cups of water and one cup of sugar. Once boiled, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Halfway through the 20 minutes, mash the strawberries into a pulp in the sugar water. After 20 minutes are up, pour through a mesh strainer into a bowl. Press the mashed strawberries a bit to get the last of the syrup. Put syrup in the fridge. After it's cooled for a couple of hours, put the rest of the strawberries in it. When everything is nice and cool, shave some ice and fill a glass most of the way. Ladle some strawberry syrup in. Put a scoop of vanilla ice cream (optional, but so worth it) over the top. If you want, ladle a little more strawberry syrup over it. There is some work and waiting involved here (and the unfortunate step of cooking which produces heat) but not only are these things tasty, they will cool you to the core very quickly. You can replace strawberries with the fruit of your choice, but I've had my best luck with the pretty red berries.

Most importantly, stay hydrated. You're going to need something to sweat out. More water than anything... sodas can be refreshing, but make sure you drink more water than anything, and do it before you're thirsty. The beginnings of noticeable dehydration will make hot days far worse. So drink that water up! (And keep some in the fridge so it's cold!)
posted by azpenguin at 12:22 AM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

And, for sleeping, to avoid sticky sheets, sprinkle bottom sheet liberally with talc or corn starch. The year we didn't have air and the summer was very hot and very humid, I took a frozen gel/ice pack and put it under my feet and another on my head. Looked silly, but it worked. Nthing the cool bath. Much better than a shower.
posted by x46 at 12:38 AM on July 29, 2009

Best answer: If it's an option, do what people here in Egypt do: sleep all day and don't go out til night time.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:12 AM on July 29, 2009

I love really hot baths. I get out looking like a lobster, and then sweat copiously for the next two hours. The best thing I've found to cool me down quickly is a pint glass of very cold water, drank as quickly as possible. Sipping it doesn't work, it has to be chugged. It sets my teeth on edge, but I'm back to normal temperature a minute or two later.
posted by Solomon at 2:29 AM on July 29, 2009

Best answer: Try to keep as much heat out of the house during the day, get it down to a science.

Keep all windows closed and covered, cover with thick drapes if you can. If it's still hot and humid at night it might not be worth 'breaking the seal' and letting air in from outside.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 2:32 AM on July 29, 2009

Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to tepid water and loll in the tub. Open your windows wide, before sunrise.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:03 AM on July 29, 2009

Spicy food helps, according to some.
posted by TedW at 5:50 AM on July 29, 2009

Two words:

Kiddie Pool.

That's what we've been doing. And vodka martinis.

You're in an apartment, but it still applies: bathtub (no hot water, just the same water you'd have in a kiddie pool) + vodka martinis in a glass that's sat in the freezer for a bit. Read a bunch of magazines.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:07 AM on July 29, 2009

Best answer: In case you didn't notice it, this question is specific to how to keep your place cool without A/C.
posted by philip-random at 8:35 AM on July 29, 2009

Response by poster: Taping aluminum foil over our giant windows keeps the living room perceptibly cooler than all the others! Covering the leather furniture with cotton sheets prevents me from sticking to it, and sleeping with a wet sheet as a cover was lovely. Turning off all computers an monitors definitely helped cool down our small but sunny study, and feet in cold water bucket in front of the TV = heaven. Thanks everyone!
posted by halogen at 3:25 PM on July 29, 2009

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