16 Primitive ways to stay cool

Some of the links in this post may contain affiliate links for your convenience. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Growing up in Phoenix, you would think I would have become accustomed to that city’s God awful heat, but the truth is, I never did. Every single summer I found myself hunkering down indoors and scurrying from one air-conditioned building to the next. After I married and had kids, I noticed how quickly my kids over-heated when they played outdoors and began learning how to mitigate the effects of heat while enjoying school-free days.

A heat wave is about as predictable in the summer as the presence of watermelon at farmer’s markets.  If you live in an area that doesn’t usually experience high temperatures, you may find yourself and your family in danger of heatstroke.  As a lifelong desert rat, here are a few tips to help you stay cool, or as cool as possible when summer heat soars.

  • Make ample use of every type of fan you own.  Ceiling fans are a must, just be sure the fan blades are turning counter-clockwise, which blows the air downward.

    image by comedy_nose
  • Turn off your fans when you leave home.  Circulating air is meant to help keep your body cool.  When no one is in the room, electricity is being wasted.
  • If your home or apartment doesn’t have air conditioning, keep spray bottles filled with water handy.  It’s amazing how a spritz of water on your face will help you feel cooler.
  • Here’s an old trick I learned when I lived on a kibbutz.  Just before bedtime, spritz your bedsheets with plenty of water, aim an electric fan toward your side of the bed, jump in and go to sleep, quickly!
  • If you don’t yet own a few battery-powered fans, hurry over to Amazon and pick up at least one or two. I bought one small fan (this size) for each member of my family. My thinking is that we should each be able to have our own fan and not have to share its cooling breeze with anyone.
  • Use other people’s air conditioning!  A few summers ago when our house was being renovated, the kids and I spent dozens of hours at the library, at Chick-fil-A and at Starbucks (they both have Wi-Fi!).  Sometimes we’d go to the mall, but that was too dangerous to our budget.  If you have friends and family who enjoy your company, pay them a visit.
  • Soak in a tub filled with cool water.  This will cool down your core better than a shower will.
  • Wear your bathing suit around the house.
  • If you’ll be outside, wet down a bandanna, place a few ice cubs down the center, diagonally, roll it up, and tie it around your neck.
  • If the mornings are cool, open all your windows, let that cool air flow through your home, and then close them up as soon as the heat sets in.  At that point, close your curtains, shades, or shutters.  I love a bright, sunlit home, but in the summer, this works for me.
  • Check the western exposure of your home.  If you have windows that face west, check into inexpensive blinds from Home Depot or Lowe’s.  Even, gasp!, aluminum foil taped over your windows, temporarily!, can help keep your home cooler.
  • Watch the landscape workers in your town.  You’ll find they always wear wide-brimmed hats, long sleeved shirts, and long pants.  They know what they’re doing.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but that extra fabric will protect your skin from the sun.
  • If you need to do outside chores, do them in morning when the sun rises.
  • Young children and the elderly are more susceptible to heatstroke.  Pay careful attention to their needs.  Check on elderly friends and relatives.  In the great Chicago heatwave of 1995, hundreds of people died in less than a week.  Most of them were elderly.
  • If you must, douse your naked body with water and stand in front of a fan.
  • Finally, think like a SurvivalMom.  What can you do to prepare for the next heatwave?
The following two tabs change content below.
I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 9 years.

42 thoughts on “16 Primitive ways to stay cool”

  1. That one girl

    If you take a warm bath instead of a cold one your body will lower its temperature making you cooler, longer once you get out of the tub. Cold baths make your body raise its temperature to stay in its comfort zone.

    1. You never mentioned the the most inexpensive and best cooling device, the evaporative cooler. They use a fraction of the electricity a A/C does,and make you feel much more cool and comfortable. A modern cooler with 8-12 inch thick pads is almost 100% efficient and will keep you cool even with 50% humidity. It will freeze you out with humidity at 10%. I grew up in Phoenix with an old type of swamp cooler, believe me these new units are much better.

  2. Lisa,

    Some ceiling fans run the opposite of what you mentioned as the blades are turned the other way. My ceiling fan runs clock wise to push the air down. Just check yours to see if that's the case.

    Wearing long sleaved clothing in the summer time is good in the desert. It works like this: the outside temp maybe 120 degrees, but because you are wearing long sleaves, you maintain the core temp of 98.6 because the long sleaves act as an insulator and retain the desired temperature. Also acts as a sun blocker. Doesn't work that well in very humid climates.

    1. Im an electrician, and not all but most of the fans in homes today have a little switch in the fan it self that will let you change direction of the blades. Good luck, Stay cool! J

    2. Thanks—I was contemplating advising this also.
      I was afraid I had the only fans made that turned clockwise for cool air coming down!!

  3. I just wanted to mention that for the ceiling fans, it's not always counter clockwise. It all depends on what direction the blades tilt. So, just stand underneath the fan and see if you can feel the breeze. If you can, it's going the right direction. If not, switch it!

  4. In my younger days, I used to play up to 7 sets of singles tennis in over 90°F lasting up to 5 hours. I would keep a small, frozen blue ice in my back pocket, and between points, rub it over my face and arms, then put it back in my back pocket. True story! PS: sometimes, I would play 18 holes of golf afterwards!

  5. Sun clothing is a great option for really hot weather. It's those long-sleeve shirts you see now or swimwear that looks like a wetsuit, with long sleeves and legs. They're made of soft, lightweight, breathable fabric. They protect you from the sun without making you hotter the way regular clothing would. Keeping your hair wet and going barefoot or wearing flip-flops helps too. And let's not forget to drink lots of cool water! Other drinks are good too but stay away from caffiene heavy stuff like soda because it actually dehydrates you more.

  6. We were at a street fair in central California a number of years ago and it was very hot—around a 100 degrees or so. We came upon a very large tree, I believe it was a cedar, it was considerably cooler in the shade of that tree. It reminded me of my youth when we had no air conditioning and we spent alot of time out side playing in the shade of trees & bushes.

  7. We had an awful summer in our apartment two years ago. It turns out our air conditioning was spitting out heat and we never knew it. It was 96 degrees constantly. We didn't just spritz our sheets, we soaked our sheets in cold water and wrung them out. We also put the pillowcases in the freezer. When ready for bed, we propped up our top sheet on a chair and pointed the fan across the edge of the sheet. It worked SO well!

  8. Install thermal curtains. They block the heat outside in summer just like they block it INSIDE in the winter, and they also make rooms darker. They're worth the cost of replacing regular curtains.

  9. When I was a little girl, there was a wonderful lady that would talk to me about living through the Dust Bowl. She said that they would sit in small tubs of water and blow the fan across them to stay cool.

  10. A few weeks ago a bad thunderstorm/windstorm eliminated our electricity for 7-8 hours. It began around 7 pm on a hot, muggy TN night. By 7:30 I was miserable.

    I used two devices to stay cool. One is called a Personal Cooler. It runs on 4 D batteries and comes with an adaptor. It's basically a small fan. I only use it in emergency situations because of the battery cost. I also used another battery fan, a combination mister and fan, sold at Walgreens; it uses 3 AA batteries. I went to bed with the windows open, aimed all the little fans in my direction, and slept surprisingly well.

  11. An inexpensive kiddie wading pool in the shade can do wonders.

    I used to sit and read with my feet in the cooler water of the pool and stay comfortable. If the water gets too warm, use it to water plants and refill it with water from the hose.

    I occasionaly had to put up iwit my dog siting in the water, but better that then an overheated dog.

  12. Growing up in the North I learned that in older houses there is usually a combination of windows/doors that needs to be opened to circulate cool air in the summer. Older houses were often designed so that if the basement door was opened, and a certain upstairs bedroom door/window were opened at the same time, then cool air would be sucked up through the house without any fans at all. Even in a newer house, opening a basement door and putting a fan in front blowing the cool air out of the basement can cool the house a lot. Make sure to open attic windows in hot weather, or put up attic vents.

    If it is really hot, use pushpins to put blankets up over the windows. A very old-fashioned technique is to soak a bedsheet in cold water, and hang it in front of a window where a breeze comes through or hang a soaked sheet in front of a fan.
    To keep cool while working outdoors, buy a cooling bandanna – you soak it in cool water and wrap it around your head or neck, to help you stay cooler for hours.

    1. An old farmer, my Grandad showed me how to wash my wrists in cold water. He said a lot of blood vessels were near the skin and easy to cool. advice ca 1944

      1. Hi Kenn. Thanks for posting that comment. Here in the desert, we do the same thing — cool down our wrists and the back of our necks. Your Grandad was smart, but you already knew that. :o)

  13. If all else fails, there's simply being wet. Light weight cotton clothes, kept damp, will keep you cool. Children can spend a bit of time in the lawn sprinkler, and a few hours out (without changing out of the wet clothes), then back in again.

    Be sure to watch out for heat rash or prickly heat in body "fold" areas such as buttocks and between the breasts. These areas may need to stay very dry on some people. Gold Bond powder, or even the old fashioned scorched corn starch will help hold the heat rash at bay.

  14. This tip is for the ladies. I live in southern Georgia. We are used to heat and humidity. A neat little trick I have is to keep some sprayable body splash in the refridgerator. (I prefer Bath and Body Works splash.) The alcohol in the splash gets really cold. When I come in from outside, or just need a little lift, I spray some on for a quick, cool refresher. The scent is also very uplifting.

  15. These aren't cheap, but we have enough cool packs now for all four of us. We need a vest to hold them for one of the kids, but they are a miracle. They don't do squat for humidity, but at least they help with the blunt heat. My eldest has agreed to wear his cool vest for golf camp tomorrow morning because he felt so miserable today, poor kid. But my husband and I have both used them in the past and they work amazingly well at keeping you cool and comfortable in extreme heat, and they really don't cool off fast until it's over 100. Even then, "fast" means 1.5 – 2 hrs. They are, to me, a good long-term investment. We bought a cool pad (like a little blanket) we used on my eldest when he was a baby and we're still using those pads, we just put them in a vest now.
    http://www.coolsport.net/index2.html

  16. Let's not forget to stay HYDRATED WITH WATER!!! Also consider increasing your salt content, not alot but slightly more than normal. And keep a eye on how much you urinate and how dark your urine is. Especially with small children, babies and elderly or frail adults. I had a heat stroke at midnight when I was 6 or 7, it did permanent damage. Watch out for high humidity (I was in a Minnesota bus station and it was over 100 and super high humidity). So drink lots and lots of water. Play in the sprinkler and stay out of the sun.

  17. We just watched a Mythbusters where they were trying to cool beer fast. Spraying it with a specific type of fire extinguisher worked, but a far cheaper and more readily accessible fast method was to put it in salt water with ice. Just ice cooled it to 50 something in 5 minutes, ice water to high 40 something, and ice salt water to 37. It was definitely colder faster. I know I wouldn't want to drink the water in my trunk until it cooled down – a lot.

    So, if you have some ice and need to get cold drinks fast on a hot day, take a tip from Mythbusters!

  18. Thanks for all of the great tips! I have noticed that many of the ideas here depend on fans, and therefore – electricity. Our power was out for over 5 hours, and in GA heat without even our fans, the heat was quickly unsafe. We do have a battery-operated camp tent style fan, and I know there are other battery-operated fans on the market, but they seem pretty weak and require us to sort of huddle near it. Since that power outage, I have purchased some hand-held water mister fans. I keep them in the fridge, and they have been working overtime all season going with us to the playground, parks, zoo, etc. They don't cool as well as a box, ceiling or pedestal fan, but they work well enough, and don't require being plugged in – just 2 double a's. . .

  19. I have a couple of those hand-held asian folding fans. They're inexpensive, don't require batteries, fold compactly for storage, and they're pretty.

    Lots of great ideas here. I never thought of spritzing the sheets with water before laying down, I'm going to try that.

  20. Pour a little water on your head and put on that wide brim hat. Mentioned before, were the sun shirts. I own several. Add a little water on the sleeves and 'oh yeah' cool. Before you put on those long pants, sprinkle corn starch down inside each leg. It keeps you drier longer.
    Those hand-held misters are great. Get the pump up ones.

  21. Apple Cider Vinegar is an amazing additive to your water bottle. My husband and I put a tablespoon of ACV along with a dash of honey in our water bottles and are able to continue our landscape business throughout the season. People marvel at how we keep going. I also put ACV in my chicken/goat/puppy water bowls.

  22. I was in the monsoon of a few years back, that hit down town. no electricity. or ac. for 3 days. I would have welcomed cooling suggestions. I actually did not sleep very well even wrapped in a wet sheet. no morning coffee maker. water heated on the propane grill.. I will do better next time……… Indian school and 17th ave.

  23. Keep hot/cold packs in your freezer. Put in dish towel and lay across neck, head, to cool you down at night. I fall asleep pretty fast that way. For the winter months, nightcaps that they used in the old days, really work well at
    keeping the heat in your body and not letting in cold air.

  24. Pingback: 65 Survival Lessons from the Great Depression | Survival Life

  25. One of the books I have read suggested a wet towel the full length of the body at night. Have yet to try it we do not get that may hot days were we are.

  26. These are all good suggestions. When my AC went out two summers ago, I took lots of tepid showers wearing my bikini and wore wet bandanas around my next. Just splashing water over my face brought relief. I also opened the doors and windows and had plenty of fans, but closed everything up during the hottest parts of the day until things cooled down again later.

    I live in very hot, very humid South Carolina. Out temps get over 100 in the hottest part of summer. I live in an older house and they are made for withstanding the heat more than the cold. The older houses here are made with minimum 10-foot ceilings (since heat rises) and long, deep porches that stretch across the front and the back of the house. My grandfather built the house I live in and I remember we all sat on the big porches when I was small so we could cool off. My grandmother also used a pleated hand fan while she rocked on the porch.

    As an aside, during the winter, to save on the gas bill, I sleep with 3 hot water bottles, one at my feet and one on each side, next to the kidney area, and I wear a ski cap as a night cap to stop heat loss from my head. I also wear thermals alone or under a gown or pajamas depending on how cold it is. I stay warm all night.

  27. Easiest trick. Quit worrying about it being a bit uncomfortable. Sweat a little and decide to enjoy it. Think about how miserable it is freezing to death in snow. The heat suddenly feels all right.

  28. Everybody’s afraid to say it nowadays, but consume plenty of salt when it’s hot! Along with lots of fluid, of course. Your body needs salt just as much as it needs water: without sufficient amounts of either, you will die. Your sweat is highly salty, and what goes out must go back in.

  29. Good suggestions mostly, but none of these work well, or at all, in very high humidity conditions. Such as coastal TX, LA or most of FL. With very high humidity no evaporative cooling effect happens because the water won’t evaporate. So ideas that rely on that method (most of these above) are useless. Fans work some but mainly push hot humid air around you. The ice/cold water works a bit but spraying sheets in high warm humidity just ends up soaking you in a damp hot sheet. You naturally do that anyway.
    There is a good reason why the coastal South had a major population boom after widespread a/c became available. If you have experienced humidity, you’ll understand.

  30. Good suggestions mostly, but none of these work well, or at all, in very high humidity conditions. Such as coastal TX, LA or most of FL. With very high humidity no evaporative cooling effect happens because the water won’t evaporate. So ideas that rely on that method (most of these above) are useless. Fans work some but mainly push hot humid air around you. The ice/cold water works a bit but spraying sheets in high warm humidity just ends up soaking you in a damp hot sheet. You naturally do that anyway.
    There is a good reason why the coastal South had a major population boom after widespread a/c became available. If you have experienced humidity, you’ll understand.

    1. You are right, but there are ways to compensate for that too.

      As a southern reenactor of several time periods, living in Mobile, Alabama, I posted tips to the main page to help with that.

      I’ll copy them here.

      As a historical reenactor we have a few guide lines.

      DRINK. Out west your sweat dries up faster and you don’t know how much you loose. Down south, it’s so humid you just drip, literally. If water is unclean or not reliable, it’s ok to conside a VERY WEAK beer. If available adding lemon does help with some bacteria too. Consider local adaptogenic herbs like mint. They have a cooling effect in the heat, think mint julep, and a warming effect in cold, peppermint tea or hot cocoa. Local fruits or veggies are good to keep cool too. Watermelon & cucumber are wonderful. Besides peppers, if it grows in the summer it will probably help in some way.

      Even the “s” word. Sugar. In moderation, it has a wet/hydrating cooling effect. Honey & licorice root are very sweet, and keep your kids drinking plenty of water.

      To keep food or liquids cool keep them in porcelain lined metal containers and sit them in water. Running water or a stream is best.

      Light colored, light weight Natural fibers breath easier and wick away moisture. Cotton is king. Leather isnt a natural FIBER.

      Take off your shoes! (Or at least keep it minimal.) Barefeet on dewy grass is pure bliss! But just like you cover your feet to stay warm, uncover them to keep cool when possible. Don’t worry, your feet can handle it and it’s better for your knees, hips and back because you walk differently.

      SHADE! Even if you have to bring your own, like an umbrella or an open wide brim STRAW hat.

      Yes, men can use a hand fan too.

      Bandanas were used for more than just keeping dust out of your face. Wet it an keep it around the back of your neck. (Side tip, cool cloth around the front of your throat helps with nausea.)

      In your house. Open windows and get a good cross breeze. High ceilings help because heat rises. Plants do too by releasing moisture through respiration.

      This article helps alot too.
      https://www.google.com/amp/s/livesandlegaciesblog.org/2017/08/31/the-heat-is-beyond-your-conception-staying-cool-in-18th-century-virginia/amp/

  31. I love to put my feet in a small tub of cool water. It feels very refreshing and cools me down quickly. I also cool my wrists with wet handkerchiefs rolled up with ice chips and tied around them like a bracelet. It even works with just water in the event you have no ice. I keep a wet washcloth in a small plastic bin next to my bed for warm nights. If I wake up hot and uncomfortable I use it to wipe down my arms, legs and chest. It cools me down right away.

  32. I have found here in Australia that during out summer time which can have temperatures average ranging from 35 to 50 degrees Celsius,,, placing our hands and feet in cool (not cold) water breaks the heat problem… its like paddling at the beach, it cools the blood in turns cools your core temperature…

  33. As a historical reenactor we have a few guide lines.

    DRINK. Out west your sweat dries up faster and you don’t know how much you loose. Down south, it’s so humid you just drip, literally. If water is unclean or not reliable, it’s ok to conside a VERY WEAK beer. If available adding lemon does help with some bacteria too. Consider local adaptogenic herbs like mint. They have a cooling effect in the heat, think mint julep, and a warming effect in cold, peppermint tea or hot cocoa. Local fruits or veggies are good to keep cool too. Watermelon & cucumber are wonderful. Besides peppers, if it grows in the summer it will probably help in some way.

    Even the “s” word. Sugar. In moderation, it has a wet/hydrating cooling effect. Honey & licorice root are very sweet, and keep your kids drinking plenty of water.

    To keep food or liquids cool keep them in porcelain lined metal containers and sit them in water. Running water or a stream is best.

    Light colored, light weight Natural fibers breath easier and wick away moisture. Cotton is king. Leather isnt a natural FIBER.

    Take off your shoes! (Or at least keep it minimal.) Barefeet on dewy grass is pure bliss! But just like you cover your feet to stay warm, uncover them to keep cool when possible. Don’t worry, your feet can handle it and it’s better for your knees, hips and back because you walk differently.

    SHADE! Even if you have to bring your own, like an umbrella or an open wide brim STRAW hat.

    Yes, men can use a hand fan too.

    Bandanas were used for more than just keeping dust out of your face. Wet it an keep it around the back of your neck. (Side tip, cool cloth around the front of your throat helps with nausea.)

    In your house. Open windows and get a good cross breeze. High ceilings help because heat rises. Plants do too by releasing moisture through respiration.

    This article helps alot too.
    https://www.google.com/amp/s/livesandlegaciesblog.org/2017/08/31/the-heat-is-beyond-your-conception-staying-cool-in-18th-century-virginia/amp/

  34. Several years ago we had about 12 days of unexpected 98F – 103F temps. We also had a power outage start then. Living out here, we’re the last to be repaired. Power went on, lights went on. Our A/C went on for about 5 min, then died. Called our local Heat & Air place, he said it was crazy, it was impossible to get furnaces, A/C units or parts, and he was working with 5 other companies to try and get at least a few buildings with working air and get people to gather in them.

    We have a ranch style home, no basement, and I had been closing the windows & curtains when it was light. When the temps started falling I opened the curtains & windows, put the big fan in the window blowing out, and got the house down to about 82F. I had to stay up as we have coyotes and I needed to apply birdshot to their hides a couple times a night when they tried to get in. I also had beef boullion flavored balloons loaded with white vinegar or very diluted ammonia and tossed outside in the yard. I could hear the pops of balloons being bitten, then yips and screeches but after the 4th day, they wouldn’t come near the house (actually never saw or heard coyote for about 18 months after). They apparently decided this was not a good place to be. As soon as it started getting light, I shut windows & curtains, and hit the sack. The house was about 82F at night and it rose to about 86-88F during the day. Yes, we have a LOT of insulation and 2 layers of roof decking. Worth more than every penny.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

shares
Malcare WordPress Security