6 Foolproof Ways to Create a Cooling Patio in 2023

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Now that we’ve exited winter and packed away the indoor heaters and electric blankets for the season (hallelujah), it’s time to prep for another temperature battle looming on the horizon: hot summer days. According to The Washington Post, last summer ranked among the hottest on record—and scientists expect temperatures to rise even further in 2023. So, in an effort to preemptively beat the heat, we’ve laid out six foolproof ways to create a cooling outdoor space, from misting umbrellas and retractable screens to electric ice boxes and quick-drying towels. Read on for everything you need to know, plus 18 of the best outdoor cooling products to snag at every price point.  

How To Create a Cooling Patio

While there are a few avenues you can take to cool your patio, we came up with a foolproof checklist of some items you’ll need. First, start with an evaporative cooler that uses a natural process to cool and humidify the air. Then, add in a misting umbrella that combines a gentle breeze with a fine mist of water. Retractable screens are also perfect for blocking direct sunlight and reducing heat gain, while outdoor fans can create a breeze that helps circulate air around the space on especially stagnant days. And then, for instant relief, try bringing in an ice box that can then keep food and drinks cool and introduce a few quick-drying pool towels that can easily wick away moisture. 

Need more info on all of the above? We gotcha covered. See below for a full breakdown of each, plus every product you need to keep things ~cool~ (even when it’s upwards of 100 degrees and unbearable outside).

The 8 Best Cooling Mattress Toppers for Sweat-Free Nights

cooling patio 1
  • How It Keeps You Cool: Evaporates warm air through moisture pads and blows cool air back out
  • What To Look For: Portable units that are safe for outdoor use 

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, an evaporative cooler (aka a “swamp cooler”), is a type of cooling system that uses the natural process of evaporation to lower the temperature of the air. It works by drawing in warm, humid air through moisture-absorbing pads, which are then evaporated by the cooler's fan and circulated back out. That said, in order to get the most out of this machine, you want to place it in a shaded area—like under an awning or umbrella—so the air that enters is generally cooler than air from direct sunlight. You then connect the cooler to a water supply and turn it on. 

That said, while we’re grateful to these units for their ability to turn hot air into cold air, they can be somewhat of an eyesore. So below, we’ve rounded up three of the sleekest ones we could find (so your patio doesn’t look like a science lab). 

cooling patio 2
  • How It Keeps You Cool: Nozzles that are built into the frame of the umbrella release a fine mist of water 
  • What To Look For: Umbrellas that have nozzles and a spigot hole at the top that you can attach a hose to

Equipped with a built-in misting system that’s designed to cool down the surrounding air, these kinds of two-in-one umbrellas are this summer’s savior. The design features a series of nozzles that are built into the frame or ribs, which then releases a fine mist of water droplets when activated. Typically, however, these umbrellas are connected to a hose or water line, and the misting system is controlled by a valve or switch that can be turned on and off as needed (aka have an extra-long hose hand). Either way, place it over a seating set or dining area and prepare for sighs of relief from your guests at the next BBQ (who will presumably order one the second they get home).

cooling patio 3
Home Depot
  • How It Keeps You Cool: Block out the sun and depending on the material, allow air to circulate (while keeping bugs out) 
  • What To Look For: Motorized or manual screens made with solar or mesh materials (or clear vinyl folding screen as a portable option)

Looking for the quickest, most foolproof way to block out the sun? Add a retractable screen. They come in a variety of types, from motorized to manual and solar to mesh (and you can even add a clear vinyl folding screen as a portable option). Basically, while motorized screens are perfect for those who want to control their screens at the push of a button, manual pull-down screens are great for those on a budget or with smaller patios. There are a few material options you can go with, too, including solar screens that block UV rays and reduce heat gain and mesh screens that can help keep insects out while allowing fresh air to flow in.

cooling patio 4
dock and bay
  • How It Keeps You Cool: Quickly wicks away moisture and dries for easy re-use 
  • What To Look For: Microfiber towels or ones that have “quick-dry” in the description 

When the sun is blazing and you're trying to enjoy a (sweltering) pool day, regular towels may not cut it. Hence, why we love the invention of quick-drying pool towels. These are intentionally designed with highly absorbent materials, so they can wick away moisture from the body, allowing the towel to dry quickly and be re-used multiple times throughout the day. Naturally, this comes in clutch when you’re sweating like a pig (and can’t shake the feeling of being hot and sticky). But beyond that, quick-drying pool towels are often made of lightweight materials—such as microfiber—which can also cool you down by allowing air to circulate around your body.

cooling patio 5
Crate & Barrel
  • How It Keeps You Cool: Keeps cold beverages and food at the ideal temperature when you need instant relief 
  • What To Look For: Traditional, electric or solar-powered ice boxes that are intended for outdoor use

Whether you're planning a backyard BBQ or simply hanging poolside, you're going to need a reliable way to keep your food and drinks cool. Enter: Ice boxes. First, you have traditional ice boxes, which are great for short-term use. They’re available in a wide range of sizes and styles, from small portable ones to large-capacity coolers that can hold food and drinks for an entire party. 

Electric models, on the other hand, use a small compressor to keep everything inside cool and are ideal for long-term outdoor use (or when you need to keep items frozen). And then, there are solar-powered ice boxes, which are the most eco-friendly option. They’re perfect for off-grid adventures if you’re looking for a cooling camping solution. 

cooling patio 6
  • How It Keeps You Cool: Circulates air and creates a breeze on stagnant days 
  • What To Look For: Pedestal, wall-mounted or ceiling-mounted fans that have “outdoor” in the description. 

Last but obviously not least, a cooled patio wouldn’t be complete without an outdoor fan. Depending on your budget—and the size of your space—there are a few ways you can go with this. Types of outdoor fans include pedestal, wall-mounted and ceiling-mounted (or you can always go with a handheld misting fan). Pedestal fans are free-standing and portable, and wall-mounted fans are ideal for patios and decks. Of course, there are also ceiling-mounted fans, which are a great solution for covered outdoor spaces. Just be sure you’re strategically placing the fan in areas where people hang out (i.e., over seating or dining areas) so you’re getting a direct breeze on especially hot days. 

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Associate Editor

Sydney Meister is PureWow's Associate Editor, covering everything from dating trends and relationship advice (here's looking at you, 'soonicorns') to interior design, beauty...