5 Ways to Cool Down When You Don’t Have Air-Conditioning

A fan is just one tool at your disposal.

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For all the wonderful things that summer brings—post-8 p.m. sunsets, abundant farmers’ markets, trips to the beach—it’s also a time when staying cool can be a challenge. This week, more than ever: According to The New York Times, “79 major cities are forecast, as of Tuesday, to have dangerous levels of heat on one or more days.” Add no air-conditioning to the mix and getting through 100-plus-degree days seems nearly impossible. But there are a few ways to lower the temperature in your space or at least help it feel cooler than it actually is—check out these five methods. Most important, if you suspect you’re suffering from heat exhaustion or heatstroke, contact your health provider or call 911.

Embrace Low Light

More daylight hours is a thrill—until you realize all that extra light can make your house even hotter. Natasha Bhuyan, M.D., recommends keeping your shades down to block out excess sun and sticking with LED lightbulbs kept relatively dim to reduce the heat they give off. Psst: Invest in blackout curtains for ultimate light blockage.

Change Your Sheets

Bedroom with curtains

A stuffy room can make it hard to fall asleep, even if you’ve never struggled with insomnia. Airy sheets are your best friend here, and cotton percale ones are more breathable than both cotton sateen sheets and ones made with synthetic materials like polyester. Linen sheets are another great option for regulating your body temperature. Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, brand editor at House Method, also recommends skipping the top sheet and swapping your duvet for a lightweight cotton quilt instead.

Lightweight, loose-fitting cotton or linen pajamas is the other part of the equation. Or if you’re comfortable snoozing in the buff, there’s no cooler option than that.

Circulate the Air

Fans don’t actually reduce the temperature of the air, Bhuyan explains, but they do circulate it—making it feel colder. She recommends the old-school trick of positioning a fan in front of a bowl of ice for extra heat relief. Place a tower fan directly in front of your bed, or create a cross-breeze by putting the fan across from an open window. “This will help push warmer air out,” she says. (However, if temps are extremely hot during the day, it’s best to keep the window closed.) Ceiling fans are also helpful—just make sure they spin counterclockwise and turn them on the highest setting. 

Chill Out in the Shower

Bathroom with white tiles
Photography by Nick Johnson

Brace yourself: Bhuyan notes that a moderately cold shower can be especially helpful in fighting overheating (and you’ll get used to the water temperature after those first few seconds pass). Since summer heat increases the skin’s oil production, celebrity aesthetician Renée Rouleau suggests switching out oil-based products for water-based ones that still do a good job of keeping your skin hydrated. For a cooling treat, keep some products (like alcohol-free toner or a water-based gel mask) in the fridge between uses. “And, of course, drinking plenty of water is essential,” she adds. 

Use Appliances Strategically

The oven is the obvious enemy when temperatures are soaring, but any large appliance in your home—your washer and dryer, for instance—can make your space feel warmer. Your best bet, says Bhuyan, is to turn them on at night when the air is ever-so-slightly cooler. 

Rebecca Deczynski


Rebecca is most often found digging through troves of vintage treasures, both in-person and online. Ask her to recommend a good book to read or an obscure Instagram account to follow, and you won’t be disappointed.