How to Keep Warm in Winter

Cold? Practical Tips for Staying Warm

By The Old Farmer's Almanac
Dec 14, 2018
Wool Socks


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Where I live, winter temperatures are often in the single digits, but no matter where you live, keeping warm is a basic need that we all share.

Here are some tips—from both Almanac editors and readers—about how to stay warm. These aren’t “big” projects like buying a new heating system—just inexpensive, resourceful ways to help you warm up now!

How to Keep Warm in Winter

1. Dress in layers

Bundle up. Wear long underwear, sweaters, and even hats indoors. Remember the days of “sleeping caps”? They make sense! Yes, wear a cap or hat to keep your head warm. If you’re headed outside, cover your face with a scarf.

To avoid getting overheated inside, wear layers. I recommend a “wicking” polyester (or silk) undershirt next to your skin versus cotton. I gave a polyester t-shirt to my father and he keeps talking about the amazing difference as if I had invented sliced bread! Just don’t layer yourself so much that you’re pouring sweat.  The idea is to keep your body warm AND dry.

One reader adds, “I can’t imagine surviving cold weather, inside or out, without a stretchy fleece neck warmer. I have several and I put one on when watching television or reading to avoid turning up the thermostat. Just think about summertime when you are feeling too hot—if you can, you try to cool down by opening your collar. We are using the reverse of that principle here.”

Another idea: Try flannel-lined pants.

2. Keep Your Feet Warm

I highly recommend “house slippers” indoors. I know that it sounds a bit old-fashioned, but having the rubber sole really makes a difference.

And warm socks! One reader says, “I’m from Florida. But when it’s cold, like when we got down to 23 last week, socks are my best friends. A soft, cozy pair worn to bed keeps my feet toasty warm, and as long as my feet are warm, I’m comfortable with the thermostat turned down.”

“Keep changing your socks! Everybody forgets that your feet sweat, and THAT can make you cold even though you are layered up.” Wool socks or “smartwool” keeps your feet from sweating.

For the outdoors, it really helps to insert foam liners in your boots or hiking shoes to give your toes an extra layer of insulation again the cold earth.

3. Heat Up Your Bed

Don’t turn up the heat for the entire house. Use an electric blanket. An even cheaper and safer option may be a hot water bottle with a wool or fleece cover. Here’s what other readers say:

  • “Fill your bottle with hot water from the faucet before going to bed and slip it into the foot of the bed between the sheets. By the time you’re ready for bed it’s all nice and toasty at your feet. Believe it or not the water bottle stays warm all night long.”
  • “Use rice! Put the rice in a fleece cover, then warm in the microwave. It will stay warm half the night and keep your toes comfortable.”
  • “I have a water bottle, but better and quicker is to use a large heating pad with an automatic shut-off. Mine shuts off after 30 minutes. I lay the heating pad in the bed and turn it on about 15 minutes before retiring. I turn it off and then on again if I still need a little more heat, but it is usually adequate just turning it on once.”

Coffee, blanket, book

4. Harness the Sun

During the day, open the blinds and curtains on the south-facing windows—and let the Sun warm you. At night, close the blinds and curtains to better insulate your home.

One reader adds, “We use roller blinds every night for all windows. Saves a lot of energy in a cheap and easy way.”

5. Keep the Kitchen Cozy

Many readers keep the kitchen humming!

  • “I put a cast iron pot of water with liquid potpourri on the top of our cast iron stove. This increases the humidity in the room and puts a lovely smell in the air.”
  • “Drink lots of yummy hot chocolate!!!!”
  • “Bake something in the oven, either dinner or a dessert (doesn’t have to be fattening but even better if it is).”
  • “A hot cup of tea is great… If you are sick, a hot toddy works wonders. Also, I always have a crock pot of soup going during the cold months.”
  • “Use matches not lighters. It seems silly but if your pilot goes out, your lighter will not work.”

6. Block Drafts

Beyond weather-stripping, which is difficult with old houses, consider these reader tips:

  • “I hang blankets to close off the open stair well going to the second floor, since heat raises it keeps the warm air down stairs when we spend most of our time. I noticed it saves a lot of heating dollars.”
  • “Don’t forget to put something at the bottom of outside doors—you can just feel the cold air pour in. You can buy a fancy roll or just use a blanket or towel.”
  • “I made long round pillows to place against my doors and window sills. I found some scrap pieces of upholstery fabric that are nice and heavy and help keep the drafts out.”
  • “Just like layers of clothing, I put layers at the windows. Between the window and the thermal-backed drapes are the closed venetian blinds and a flannel-backed table cloth. And we hang a blanket over the entire exterior door cause air doesn’t just come in at the bottom.”

7. Stay Active

Get your body moving. At the Almanac, we joke that “one log can heat a house.” Just run up the stairs with the log, throw it out the top window, and repeat three times. You’ll be warm!

Our readers add:

  • “Keep active, this is a good time to clean out closets, garages, etc. Anything to keep active.”
  • “If I get a chill just sitting, I get up and stir around, the movement not only warms me up but also stirs the heat in the house. Children are great when playing, they stir the air around.”
  • “Don’t just sit around. Stay active to keep your blood from ‘thickinin.’ Exercise is good for ya.”

8. Humidify Your Home

Not only does a humidifier keep your house warmer, it also eliminates drying indoor air. As our readers say:

  • “I discovered that when I run my vaporizer (humidifier) in the bedroom, I can turn the heat down a couple extra degrees overnight. In the morning, I raise the heat by about 2 degrees at a time instead of making the furnace work hard to raise it all at once.”
  • “I keep coffee cans lined with large baggies with water in them, around the vents to add humidity to the house, and this works great. I lined the coffee cans so they would not rust.”
  • “I put a waterbath canner full of water on the stove (lasts all night).”

If you don’t have a humidifier, here’s another idea: When you take a bath in winter, leave the water in the tub after you get out. If you let it sit until it reaches room temperature, it will add a little warmth to the house and help humidify it, too!

9. More Ideas

Here’s a new one! “I live five miles from the Canadian border in the St Lawrence region—icebox country! To stay warm INEXPENSIVELY, recycle old panty hose that have runs or snags. This layer next to the bottom, legs, and toes—with slacks over top—keeps me toasty. For guys like Joe Namath too!!”

I hope that these tips help—please add any more suggestions on how to get and stay warm. Just “submit” your comment below.

Also, if you’re driving, be sure to check our car emergency kit. Always prepare your car as if it will break down.

About This Blog

Your Old Farmer's Almanac editors occasionally share our reflections, advice, and musings—and welcome your comments.

Reader Comments

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warm feet

Rub Vicks into your feet, then the socks. Really helps.

keeping hands warm

When my husband plows, his hands freeze. I have him wear gloves then put on mittens over the gloves...much warmer! You can still move your hands properly and the extra mittens keep the warmth in. He protested at first about "mittens" but gave them a try and guess what...they helped a lot!

Tube Socks

A pack of the long mens tube socks always help me out in the winter. I fill the socks with rice and tie them off. I usually use a rubber band for this, but I'm sure other things could be used. Just make sure it will keep the socks closed. Then I pop the socks/rice in the microwave for 4-5 minutes. I put this at the foot of my bed about a half hour before bed time and the bed is toasty warm. When I am in bed, I will sometimes keep my feet on it, if they are cold. If it gets too hot, I just move my feet off it. I also sometimes have a problem with arthritis in my knees, and can curl the sock/rice around my knees to warm them up. I suppose with it's portability you could heat up any body part that is feeling cold. The heat lasts a long time, as it takes quite a long time for all that heat to leave the rice in the socks. I have also used extras at the bottom of outside doors to block off cold air.

Humidity makes it feel colder, not warmer

I heartily disagree with the 'hint' in this article that says humidity makes it feel warmer. All of the science I've read also disagrees. Humidity makes hot weather feel hotter and cold weather feel colder. But raising the humidity in the house does keep your skin from drying out as much.

Bed Warmers

While raising three girls, bed time in the winter was always a chore ! NO one wanted to climb into a cold bed . . . I got to thinking about people in the Colonial era who used 'bed warmers' that look like a covered skillet with a long handle. In Colonial times they would fill the bed warmer with hot coals, and pass it between the sheets to warm the bed. Not having a traditional bed warmer, I heated a heavy stainless steel skillet and warmed each of the kids beds and they were HAPPY to quickly climb in. To this day, on extremely cold nights, I will warm my bed in the same way. Great Grandma knew a thing or two.

Keeping warm in Winter

The new velour and sherpa lined blankets are nice throws for the bed and very warm with flannel sheets and a fleece blanket. Also try to invest in a SUB-0 degree sleeping bag in case of an emergency.

After a rough start to winter

After a rough start to winter living w MS and Raynaud's my mother and i started thinking outside the box, she came up w inexpensive vinyl gloves under regular gloves will heat up your hands very quickly and increase overall body temperature, I came up w using diabetic warming creams/pain reliever creams w capsaicin. A quick blow dry on high heat inside hats and gloves before putting them on.

Keeping warn

Instead of blankets, A sleeping bag will keep the heat in or be like the old TV personality Art Linkletter. He spent his winter's in Australia!!


A very thin coating of Vaseline all over your body, including feet, will help insulate you and help retain body heat. Remember that long distance swimmers crossing the English Channel (and other endeavors) coat themselves with a thick coat of petroleum jelly to keep them warm. Also makes your skin nice and soft after it soaks in.

Staying warm

We live on on of the highest hills on Long Island, and when the wind comes up from the harbor it's downright bitter. Our bedroom is over the (unheated) garage, and faces the harbor, so it's an icebox all winter. I cannot tolerate heavy blankets on my legs, so we use two lightweight fleece blankets, and together they hold an incredible amount of heat, yet they are lightweight. Also, socks. Fuzzy ones. And collies. Fuzzy ones. Our two "Lassies" sleep on the bed and so does our cat (not such a fuzzy one, but soft and cuddly) and we all stay warm together.


Spread a full or queen size fleece blanket on top of the bed sheet and another one on top of you in cold winter nights. Toasty warm.

Fleece blankets and warmth

I discovered this works quite by accident. I'd bought several fleece blankets on sale and had one on top the bed to protect from animal hairs - easier to wash a blanket than the bedspread. One day I laid down for a nap and covered with a second blanket and was so nice and toasty - has worked all this winter and I haven't had to raise the temp at night as I had been. For those single digit and minus temp nights, I have added one of those 'reversible' fuzzy blankets sold cheap at Walmart. Oh so toasty - for me anyway. One cat lies at my back and the other wants under with me. Quite surprised at how well this has worked out.

Keeping warm

Stay hydrated and do not allow yourself to become too hungry. Keep your skin well moisturized as well. When the body feels dry, inside or out, it feels colder than it really is.

I have 9 bed warmers

I sleep with 9 dachshunds of various sizes. I have hot had heat in my bedroom for YEARS. LOL!

Opps typo

I meant "not"....not "hot". Though it does get a bit hot under the covers when you are surrounded by weiner dogs. LOL

A couple of my tricks

I have two methods of staying warm I didn't see mentioned. First I start a beard at Thanksgiving that stays until Easter. Another more gender neutral one is using a liberal dose of bath oil in the tub when bathing before going out. It works for otter and seals and for me too. When it is in the depths of winter and bitter cold outside it is an essential part of my prep. You will be amazed at the difference it makes.

Our cats snuggle up to us at

Our cats snuggle up to us at night, until it usually gets too hot and have to boot them off. The best comfy blankets to me are those FAKE mink blankets, so soft and cozy, cats love kneading them with their paws too.

All you need is some alcohol

All you need is some alcohol

Thanks, that was a big help.

Thanks, that was a big help. I'm going to stay in a cold area for a long time so this is really a life saver.

Warming your bed at bedtime

We use a hair dryer to warm our bed. Put it between the top and bottom sheets and run it on high for a few seconds, moving it around to heat a large area. Crawl into your toasty warm bed and enjoy the warmth...

thanks from person in st

thanks from person in st lawerence county i live in franklin co.. a lil further north ..i call my house the ice castle..but it's warm inside if i keep all going in wood stove.. it's scary to g o to store shopping with fear of fires in chimney.. altho i clean mine out regularly.. any ideas of what i can burn to help keep it clean.. some have said alunimun soda cans & all kinds of things to buy but what do you all say.. thanks....frozen queen.

Keeping warm in winter

Depending on where you live there is a very old way to heat your bed .
Using soapstone it is what pizza stones are made of and you can heat them in the oven
them wrap in heavy flannel and put them at the foot of the bed or if you sleep along use one close to your body.
And there is one other thing to keep you warm but it is costly and that is a 100% goose down comforter .I too use blankets to the windows and plastic to keep out the cold .We live in West Virginia and it gets cold.Hope this helps someone

Did you know that under our

Did you know that under our skin is a layer called the Adipose Fibrous (connective tissue), or "fat", that acts as insulation to prevent heat loss!

DRINK Liquor you wont know

DRINK Liquor you wont know your cold

Keeping warm in winter.

Instead of piling layers on, I keep light baby oil on hand. Instead of lotions, I rub a light coating over arms and legs. Here in Texas it doesn't get as cold but when the wind is blowing, temperatures get uncomfortable. Heating the house is not as expensive. Lower temperature to 68. Less dry air and you remain warm.

Some folks from the bitterly

Some folks from the bitterly cold northern states of USA and of Canada taught me some tips.
1. Tuck all clothing layers under your "shell" (coat) layer into each other.
This means trousers into socks, tops into bottoms etc.
2. Never wear cotton eg tshirts as underor sleep wear in cold weather - it's cooling (why we wear it in summer).
3. wear a warm touque / beanie to bed
4. blankets (folded over double rather than a single layer tucked in UNDER your bottom sheet) add more warmth value than just piling more layers over you.
All this makes a huge difference.

"There is no bad weather - only unsuitable clothing" (Scandanavian proverb) !

Clothes from "great outdoors" (hiking and camping) outfitters is superior for keeping folks warm.
Longlasting and worth the investment.
Also doesn't need ironing and dries very quickly as a rule so don't need as many items.

"Uniqlo" company's patented "heattech" fabric is the first in the world to actually MANUFACTURE heat.
Very affordable stocking -fine long underwear that dries overnight.
Deoderised and can be worn for up to days IF YOU are clean (washed) yourself. Incredibly good !

I find fleece or coral fleece pyjama the warmest of any fabric.

Microfiber sheets are not cold when you get in to bed and come out of the wash almost dry - the easiest of all fabrics to dry in winter. There are also fleecy microfiber sheets - again , avoid cotton as it is cooling and hard to dry in winter.

Electric blankets emit EMF which is harmful to health. At the very least turn it off and unplug from wall before bed.

Fleecy or knitted socks if feet are less than warm.
Start warm: hot drink followed by shower before bed.

I bought tiny digital fridge thermometers on ebay for just a few dollars and put in each room. Helps decide when to turn off heating.

"Renshade" insulating film on the inside o windows is excellent (see Internet and youtube)
Alternatively flattened cartons between the glass and your drapes / blinds is ugly but really helpful.

Draught stoppers at doors are a must.

Cheers !

I snuggle with our dog. She

I snuggle with our dog. She gives off alot of heat. She sleeps with us in the winter so she stays warm too.

My husband has been using

My husband has been using "hand warmers" for several years, but he used one last winter on his back and got burned -2nd degree- while the cloth bag and his shirts (2 layers) did not. My own analysis is that the "hand warmer" is for the skin layers that are used to such temperature changes; where skin layers normally protected by clothing are more sensitive and burn easily -even with ice.
So be careful how you use these devices, as well as the "hot rock" mentioned in another comment. I would test that one during the day, before it's time to go to sleep. The layers of wrap, especially the foil first, may be the secret to success. With the device and the rock, I would not leave it there longer than it takes to serve its purpose.
What I use in bed for myself are a clean pair of white anklet socks on my feet and -keeping my face uncovered-, just loosely laying a hand towel, or the top I was just wearing, against the top of my head.
Another secret is to place a fleece throw between me and the cold sheets (even flannel ones). The throws aren't terribly big so I first trap the throw with my feet and tuck the throw around my sides. When my fingers are icy, I use the corners to wrap them up with all fingers extended. Best money I ever spent to stay warm.

These are all wonderful

These are all wonderful suggestions. We use socks and slippers, even at home. And we don't use fans or aircon at night. :)

These are some great

These are some great suggestions! My best friend and I just moved into our new apartment at the beginning of the semester, and we have been trying to be conservative about using our heater. We were thinking about ordering heat pump services fairfax va because we heard that it will save your money while still keeping your house warm.

Instead of using extra

Instead of using extra blankets to try and stay warm, use towels. An old bath sheet is easily as large as a blanket for a single bed, but the loops help layered towels trap more air than layered blankets do, making you warmer and less likely to overheat.

If you aren't allergic to

If you aren't allergic to feathers, those old down comforters- like grandma use to have- really insulate against the cold at night. Keeping the bedrooms cool helps cut down on the heating expense in the winter, and the down comforter keep us toasty warm.

Wrap your feet with paper

Wrap your feet with paper towels to keep your boots insulated and dry!

for more check out

Great way to stop drafts from

Great way to stop drafts from coming in around doors is to hang drapes over the doors on the inside of your home. When the warm weather comes I just pack the rods and drapes away until next winter. I make sure I buy long drapes so they gather on the floor and I can place the rod high above the door. The heavier the drapes the better.

well you know what it won't

well you know what it won't keep your house warm why don't you just get heated blanket

Another way to keep warm~ buy

Another way to keep warm~ buy a polyester foam mattress pad- it will keep your body heat in bed with you. We used to heat big stones by the fireplace, and then wrap them in tin foil, then a brown bag or a towel and put them at the foot of our bed! Another trick that they did in the old days before there was electricity was to use mirrors to reflect the heat- from a candle up to a fireplace or wood stove. They would place the mirror opposite of the heat source, it would brighten up the room more, and would transfer the warmth with it!

I LOVE my silk layer for

I LOVE my silk layer for warmth, and my rice bag (sewn into washcloths)put into the microwave for a minute or two (it works the other way in the summer from the freezer too) and that toasty tub does wonders to heat my core (before you leave the water in, I have to start doing that again) A warm cocoa or peppermint tea helps too. As do those hat & slippers. Oh my Goodness! I thought I was just cold but, you've shown me that I just forgot how to be warm! Thanks! :)

The drugs stores now sell

The drugs stores now sell these things they call "heat therapy" or "heat patches" or "hand warmers." They were invented by the Japanese (I believe). Very clever. They are made of sawdust and iron filings. When oxygen hits these two elements they oxidize and produce heat that lasts all day. These pads can be worn outside or to bed or put on a sore muscle. A great invention and not dangerous or a hazard to the environment. They come in an air-tight wrap and can be kept for years if not damaged. I keep them for when the furnace dies or when I'm sick and need extra warmth.

hand warmers

I'm confused by your description. The sawdust and iron filings, exposed to oxygen makes them produce heat. I can understand why they would come in a sealed bag but don't understand how they can continue working for years if not damaged. It sounds more like a single-use product but if that isn't the case, worth trying out. Can you please give more information or the trade name of the product?

hand warmers

I think she means they keep well if not opened. They are single use as far as I know; but can keep if kept closed and dry. Think those oxygen absorbents you put in with grains and such for storage. They can keep for quite awhile until opened for use. Or perhaps, like the "Icy Hot" patches. Kinda along the line of that. Once opened and used, the reaction uses up whatever the contents are ..... ????

We live in Indiana which gets

We live in Indiana which gets cold, but not so cold as other areas of the country. Yet, from about November through March, I wear a silk or cotton "undershirt" every day, even indoors. As I get older, I appreciate the extra warmth, despite a warm heated house. And one can "tuck" the undershirt in the pants or skirt.


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