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How to Cool Off When It’s Hotter Than Hell Outside

For a couple of weeks now, my news feeds have been full of friends complaining about how hot it is outside. All of them live north of the Mason Dixon Line and are rarely treated to the heat-wave-type weather I live with all summer long. This post contains a round up of ways to cool off when it feels like the burning cauldron of Hell outside your door (or inside it, if you don’t have air conditioning.)

  1. Go to Starbucks. No, this is not an endorsement of the Man, but every one I’ve ever entered is so freaking cold that I usually leave with my teeth chattering. If you don’t have A/C and want to get out of your sweltering house or apartment for a while, there’s likely a little green station near you.
  2. Put ice cubes in the bath tub. Don’t get carried away and throw in so many that you freeze your naughties off. Immersing yourself in a few cubes and some lukewarm water will do the trick.
  3. Make a fan. In the South, many of the country churches and funeral parlors have disposable fans for visitors. You can make your own with a sturdy piece of paper and a popsicle stick. Just staple the two together and start relieving yourself immediately. (Instructions by following this link.)
  4. Run through a fountain. I just did this in London with a bunch of kids because it was hot. My purse was soaked; my shoes were squishing; and I was euphorically happy. I didn’t care what I looked like, and the spray and the laughter kept me cool for the rest of the walk.
  5. Replicate fountain at home with a water hose. Being sprayed by surprise is the awesomest form of cooling off, because it usually leads to a water war in the yard. The soaking is preferable to the sweating.
  6. Carry a handkerchief. In summer, my handkerchief is my “dew rag.” I use it to wipe away any unsightly sweat before I go into a meeting or to clean up when I come into a random place off the street. Stick an ice cube in there, and it’s Heaven.
  7. Wear natural fibers, and wear as little as decently possible. Cotton and linen breathe better than anything I’ve found. I wear sundresses all the time in summer, and I just don’t give a good one if they don’t look professional. They keep me cool, which improves my mood and makes me marginally tolerable to others around me.
  8. Ladies (and men if it’s your thing), dresses are cooler than pants. My husband loves “dress season,” because I almost always wear dresses when it’s hot. They make a natural breeze “down there” and circulate more air for a cooling effect.
  9. Keep blinds closed at home all day long. Closing blinds or pulling curtains will make things a mite gloomy, but it does block the sun’s rays that heat up a room. Things may be a tad cooler at night, making it easier to sleep, something I have a really hard time doing when I’m sweltering.
  10. Stand on an air vent. Marilyn Monroe made it famous. Just make sure you have your drawers on.
16 Comments Post a comment
  1. michael maher #

    Make up a batch of ice cream, and eat it!

    July 10, 2010
    • I guess I inspired you, since I hear the ice cream machine……

      July 10, 2010
  2. You know me. Do you really want to see me in a skirt or kilt? Not gonna be a pretty sight….

    July 10, 2010
  3. I agree with MTM! And with Andra’s note to pull shades, curtains and otherwise darken the room.

    Other things what work well are to do all the work before noon and then go swimming in the afternoon, sitting on your porch in your damp bathing suit later while sipping a gin and tonic with a giant slice of lime.

    At night, my mama’s favorite was to tell us to bathe in cool water, then put on our (cotton) night gowns while we were damp. Then we’d lie down on the bed which was positioned in the path of a fan, placed in the window to bring in all the night air. We also might have a bowl with ice cubes and a wash cloth (which I have always called a wash rag) to place across our faces for additional cooling!

    My grandmother’s favorite was to have us go out on the screened porch which was under the magnolias on the side of her house in old Summerville. We’d sit in the rockers with an icy bottle of Coke (our family bottled Coke a Cola so there was never a shortage of it) which we’d use to put on our necks, foreheads and in our cleavage to cool us off.

    July 10, 2010
    • I love all of these, Cheryl. I was hoping more people would jump in and tell their stories for this post.

      A fan is one of man’s greatest inventions. I love to feel the lazy breeze one creates, and to fall asleep with its comforting whir.

      July 10, 2010
      • Justin Ferrick #

        Did somebody say “fan?”

        July 10, 2010
      • Yep, several people did, but it can’t hurt to reiterate it.

        July 10, 2010
  4. Liz Caldbeck #

    These are really great tips! I am also a fan of wearing dresses and skirts in the summer, even a mild breeze can feel fantastic.

    A few others I thought of, if you don’t have time to take a bath then just wash your feet in cool water. For me, when my feet get too hot it’s all over so this can work as a quick refresher. A variation on this is to put your feet in a portable tub filled with cool water and sit in front of a fan. I fell asleep like this more than once in college, and always woke up cooler and more relaxed.

    I also put lotions, aloe vera gel and atomizers filled with water in the fridge, they feel wonderful on your skin. I believe Evian makes a cooling misting spray, but I prefer to make my own with a cheap spray bottle, water and a drop or two of essential oil in the fragrance of my choice.

    Stay hydrated. I try to drink plenty of water throughout the day, but going from air conditioning to heat and humidity all day can really do a number on me. I try to keep a bottle of water filled 3/4 of the way up in my freezer. I take it with me and leave it in the car while I’m in and out, it melts slowly and I always have cool water.

    Lastly, I like to put on a little baby powder before I go to bed.

    July 10, 2010
    • Liz, these are all awesome tips. I really love the mist of water idea. I’m definitely going to try that one! Thank you.

      July 10, 2010
  5. My favorite (when we would stay on Sullivan’s Island in my aunt’s house) was to come back from the beach, all salty and sandy and jump in the 0UTSIDE shower. This shower had no hot water, so it was great. Then it was on to the front porch, dressed in shorts, to claim a rocking chair. Often, there wasn’t a fan around, but the breeze was heavenly! I’m still a big fan of the rocking chair + porch, but thankfully we have ceiling fans around these days.

    July 10, 2010
    • Barbara, one of these days, I’m going to have an outdoor shower. I love them, too.

      July 10, 2010
  6. As a child up north, I spent a lot of time in the basement during the summer before my folks put in AC. There aren’t many basements here and judging by the warm water coming out of the cold water tap during the summer months, I imagine you’d have to go a lot deeper to find the cool down here.

    A fan on the floor works well. I have a nice Vornado bullet style fan pointed straight up on the floor in the living room that I stand over to cool down when I come in from outside. My shorts and t-shirt fill with air until I look like Bibendum (the Michelin Man). Feels great!

    July 10, 2010
    • I’m chuckling imagining you as a version of the Michelin Man, Bill. 🙂

      July 10, 2010
  7. I actually remembered another cooling off tactic while sitting here with my monthly migraine… ice pack on the head really helps cool everything else off. Perversely, it made me grateful to my migraine today.

    July 10, 2010

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