How do you stay cool without an air conditioner?
We asked NPR readers from hot countries (including the U.S.!) to share their tips on how to cope with the heat. It’s a follow-up to a story we published last week by heat wave researcher Dr. Gulrez Shah Azhar about how he dealt with super high temps while growing up in India, where his home was one of many with no A/C unit.
Nearly 900 people who grew up without an air conditioner from Vietnam to Minnesota shared their heat hacks via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and email. They offered all kinds of advice on how to deal with the heat. Here’s a selection of reader responses. These have been edited for length and clarity.
1. Sleep in a wet sheet (really)
To sleep in the St. Louis, Mo., summer heat, I would wrap a sheet around me, get in the shower (yes, with the sheet on) then lay on my bed with a fan blowing on me. I was cool and slept well. In the morning, the sheet and mattress were dry. — Sally Kuhlenschmidt, Bowling Green, Ky.
2. Utilize frozen water bottles
I grew up without A/C in Tennessee and I would freeze bottles of water and go to sleep with a few of them in my bed. I’d wake up a few hours later and switch the bottles out for others in the freezer. — Lauren Van Nostrand
3. Deflect the sun
Deflect sun rays from your house by taping aluminum foil or pop-in reflective screens designed for automobiles to windowpanes. — Patty Besom
4. Go on a cold food diet
I grew up in Minnesota in the ’60s when air conditioning was only just beginning to be a household staple. My mother would do any cooking needed for the day during early morning hours. Sometimes she would make a cold pasta salad for dinner. She also had a recipe for no-bake cookies that would only come out during the hot days of summer. We drank lemonade and iced tea. At the time, popsicles came with two joined together, each with its own stick, and most of the time we [kids] only got half. But during days of extreme heat, we were allowed the entire thing! — Jeanne Pumper
5. Spray yourself with water
Fill a pump sprayer with distilled or purified water (so it won’t leave deposits on you) and liberally spray yourself, especially your face and head. When outside, spray your hat and your shirt with this water until damp. I call it “artificial sweat” and I find it amazingly refreshing. — John Fuhring, Santa Maria, Calif.
6. Lay on a tile floor
Something I learned living in Singapore was to lay on the cold tile floors for a little while. Put a pillow under your head, turn on a good show, lay on the floor and zone out. — Kathryn Lee
7. Cool off with cologne
I live in Valencia, Spain, and the heat is almost unbearable. I don’t have an A/C. I use baby cologne to cool off. I douse it over my neck and shoulders and because it’s mostly made of alcohol, it immediately [evaporates and] refreshes. I keep it in the fridge to stay extra cool! — Lily Adamson
8. Catch a movie
When I lived in Puerto Rico, we also lived without A/C. The most effective way I found to keep cool on very hot days was to go the movies. PR’s movie theaters are notorious for being cold — they really blast the air conditioner! Sometimes it’s so cold that people have to bring in blankets and coats. — Jennifer Gandasegui
9. Pull in the morning air
I have a complex process to cool down my house. Essentially, you pull in cool night and morning air into the house by using box fans, and then close down the house as things heat up outside.
As soon as I get up at 6 or 7 a.m., I open the windows in every room and prop box fans in the sill. Around 9 or 10 a.m., I take the fans out, close all the windows, and let the fans run on the floor of each room. Right now, it’s 90-plus degrees outdoors. Inside, my fan is blowing lightly on my back as I sit at my desk, and I feel chilly enough to move my location. — Meenakshi Ponnuswami, Lewisburg, Pa.
10. Laundry = coolness
I grew up in Vietnam in the ’70s and ’80s. We used to wash clothes manually [to cool down with the water] — then we hung our laundry [on clothing lines] outside the house, which provided extra shade to residents during the heat of the day. — Diem Tu, Vancouver, Canada
11. Sleep outdoors
I spent my childhood summers living in Egypt. We lived on the 11th floor of an apartment building and I slept in the top bunk in the kids’ room — with no A/C. And as you know — heat rises! At night, I’d tiptoe to the balcony of our flat with my pillow, lay out a blanket and sleep outdoors in the coolness of the night. —Malaka Gharib, Nashville, Tenn.
Thank you to all who told us your personal stories. For more callouts like these, stay in touch with NPR Goats and Soda by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.