15 cool hacks to beat the heat

From making cold coffee to frozen fruit ice cubes, here are 15 ways to stay cool when the mercury rises

You step outdoors. In five minutes, your shirt is sticking to your back and the exposed portions of your skin lose all feeling.

Are you wearing make-up? It is probably sliding off your face to join the sweat on your neck in a foundation-coloured pool.

Yes, it is that time of the year - the sticky, unbearable time when the only activity worth doing is laundry.

It is June and Singapore is in the thick of the yearly heat wave, which seems to get worse each year.

In last year's annual Climate Assessment Report, the Meteorological Service Singapore said that 2016 was Singapore's warmest year on record since 1929.

As the mercury often shoots past 32 deg C these days, even with the short rainy spells, there is no escaping sweaty days or humid nights.

Air-conditioning is an easy fix. But running it all day is going to hurt both the environment and the wallet.

To beat the heat, The Sunday Times offers these 15 simple and cheap hacks to cool down. Now, sit back, make a misting spray with peppermint tea, and check these tips out.


What: Cannot sleep in the heat? Fold your bed sheets and pillow cases, put them in resealable plastic bags and stick them in the freezer for a few hours. Take them out when it is bedtime and make the bed. Verdict: The cooling effect did not last through the night, but the sheets stayed cold enough for me to nod off.



What: Fill a hot water bottle with cold water and crushed ice cubes. If your ice cubes are too large, put them in a plastic bag and break them with a heavy object.

Put the water bottle in the refrigerator for another 10 minutes to cool it down further.

Take it out and place on the back of your knees or to bed and place it by your feet. Verdict: The bottle kept cool for about two hours. The only downside is the mild condensation, so wrap the bottle in a thin towel.


What: Cotton is the go-to material as it allows the body to breathe and absorbs excess sweat. Good alternatives are linen and clothes made out of other natural fibres. Avoid synthetic materials such as polyester.

If you are someone who perspires a lot, stay away from light-coloured clothes as sweat stains show easily. However, bright white fabric is actually quite effective at hiding perspiration patches.

Also, covering up does not sound like a thing to do in a heatwave, but wearing long sleeves protects your skin. But, again, it depends on what material your outfit is made from. Verdict: I wore a long-sleeve white cotton shirt and was out in the blazing sun for a day. It was more comfortable than when I was sweating it out in a sleeveless shirt made of rayon.


What: If you do not want to deal with condensation from melting ice, make a rice sock instead. Fill a clean long sock with rice, knot the top and freeze it for about an hour. The compress stays cool for about half an hour. Verdict: Less bulky than a hot water bottle, a rice sock can be wrapped around my wrists or neck to make a cool pillow. Placing it on my forehead was also a good way to soothe a heat-induced headache.


What: A car parked in the blazing sun is essentially a giant oven.

To get rid of the hot air inside, roll down one of the windows all the way, then walk to the other side of the car and open and close the door five to 10 times. This creates a circulating air flow that forces the trapped hot air out of the vehicle. Verdict: The car felt cooler than when I first opened it.

However, I would use this method only when the interior of the car is extremely hot as I do not want to wear out the rubber seal of the door.


What: Just switching off an appliance or gadget is not enough - you should unplug it completely.

Some appliances give off heat even when switched off. For example, a phone charger might feel warm after a whole day of being plugged into the wall, even if it has not been used. Verdict: I took my phone charger and desktop computer plugs out from their sockets, but I am not sure how much heat I actually reduced. The room temperature felt the same.


What: Brew a pot of peppermint tea and put it in the fridge. Once it is cold, pour some into a spray bottle and mist yourself with it. The menthol in the tea will give your skin a tingly feeling. Take the bottle along with you when you head out for the day for a refreshing spritz whenever you feel like it. Verdict: My skin felt cool when I spritzed on the cold liquid. The additional shiok factor kicked in when I walked past a blowing fan and the liquid evaporated.


What: Wash blueberries and place them in an ice cube tray. Fill the tray with water and put it in the freezer.

Once the cubes have frozen, pop them into cold water for a flavoured drink. You can use other fruit such as strawberries. Verdict: I ended up drinking more water than usual. The flavoured cubes made plain water more exciting to drink.


What: On hot days, keep your curtains or blinds drawn, especially for windows that get direct sunlight. Windows that have no shade let sunlight into the room and heat it up.

Close your curtains and blinds to reduce the amount of heat the room will absorb. Open them in the evenings, when the temperature outside is cooler. Verdict: I closed the blinds in my bedroom when I went out. At the end of the day, it was not as hot as if I had left the windows open and the blinds up.


What: Fill half a plastic bottle with water, turn it upside-down and freeze it overnight.

If you freeze it upright, the ice pushes out the bottom of the bottle, making it difficult to place the bottle on any surface.

Take out the bottle the next day and top up with water. Verdict: Essentially, this method made a very large ice cube in the water container.

I used a 1.5-litre mineral water bottle and the ice took a few hours to melt. It was probably because I was indoors.

Taking it outdoors will cause the ice to melt more quickly.


What: Putting frozen white or red grapes in room temperature wine is a good way to chill the beverage. Using ice means a watered-down drink when it melts - which does not happen with frozen fruit.

You can also freeze other fruit such as cherries and cranberries and eat them straight from the freezer as a cool treat. Verdict: I got a brain freeze from eating the grapes straight from the freezer, but it was an instant cool down from the heat.


What: Instead of spending $6 on cold brew coffee from a hipster cafe every day, you can build your own cold brew "machine" for a cheap supply.

Cut off the bottoms of two 600ml water bottles and punch a small hole in the centre of one of the bottle caps.

Then cut two sheets of coffee filter paper so that they are big enough to cover the mouth of the bottle. Place both filters in the cap with the hole and screw the cap back on the bottle.

Put the bottle with the filter cap inside the bottle without the cap and invert over an empty water glass. Fill the open bottle with freshly ground coffee - the amount depends on how strong you want your coffee to be. Add water to the coffee grounds and stir until all the grounds have been hydrated.

Put the whole contraption in the fridge and let the mixture drip on its own. You should have a cold brew ready in about an hour or so. Verdict: The "machine" worked well and the brew tasted delicious. However, the whole set-up was precarious because the plastic bottles are light. I knocked it over by accident, which caused quite a mess.


What: Fight fire with fire by chowing down on some spicy food. Wash it down with a hot drink too. This raises your internal temperature and your body will try to cool itself by perspiring.

When the perspiration evaporates, you are supposed to feel cooler. Verdict: With my burning mouth hanging open and sweat dripping from my forehead, I did not look glamorous. But once the heat subsided and the perspiration evaporated, I did feel a little cooler.


What: Here is an alternative way to keep cool if you are not a fan of air-conditioning.

Put ice cubes in a bowl and place it directly in front of a fan. When the wind from the fan blows over the ice, it creates a cooling mist. Verdict: This was a pretty rudimentary air-conditioner, but it did the job of creating a gentle, cool breeze if there was a mountain of ice cubes in the bowl.

But I had to sit close to the fan and bowl of ice to feel its cooling effect.


What: Spread out across your body are pulse points: around your neck, inner wrists, the inside bend of elbows, back of your knees and ankles.

Place an ice pack or a cold mineral water bottle on these spots for at least 30 seconds and your body starts to cool down. The cold chills your blood vessels effectively and lowers your overall body temperature. Verdict: For me, this was the easiest way to cool down because you can use anything that is really cold.

It works fast too, which is a plus point when you have worked up a sweat walking outdoors and need to pop into a meeting looking fresh.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 18, 2017, with the headline 'Beat the heat'. Print Edition | Subscribe