DIY Heating Pad with Rice

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DIY heating pad with rice
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I’ve mentioned in the past that we don’t use microwaves, but I do make one exception. We make homemade reusable DIY heating pads that are easily heated in the microwave. Most of my microwave concerns (mainly that they make food taste terrible) don’t matter for something we are not eating. So I don’t mind using one for a homemade heating pad.

DIY Heating Pads

Before I had kids, I used an electric heating blanket. Once I conceived my first child, I noticed the warning label cautioned against use while pregnant. There were also warnings of the potential for burns, electric shock, and fires. Electric heating pads carry many of the same warnings. 

I wanted to find a natural alternative. In college, I often used this hot/cold pack that could be heated in a microwave or put in the freezer. That one finally bit the dust after college, but thankfully, my mom figured out a homemade version that we’ve been using ever since.

Her homemade rice heat pack is super simple to make and works wonderfully. Just a couple of minutes in the microwave, and they stay warm for some much-needed heat therapy. 

How We Use These

I now have a couple of these, and all of my children have one that they made with my mom. We use them all the time, but some of my favorite uses have been:

  • In labor: I had terrible back labor with my last birth because she decided to arrive breech. The only thing that got me through the back pain and excruciating positions needed to get her out safely was these heat packs on my back. They were amazing.
  • Cold nights: Once upon a time, not that long ago, we lived in a poorly insulated apartment with three kids, including a preemie. It got really cold at night, and no amount of running the heater (despite the $400 electric bills) got it warm in that apartment. We would heat the rice heating pad up each night and place them in our children’s beds under the sheets (but below their feet) to keep them warm while they fell asleep.
  • Cold and Flu: In the unfortunate event of a cold or flu, these are wonderful for keeping warm and easing sore muscles. These are the other things we do if illness strikes to speed recovery.
  • Great sleep: Years ago, I started sleeping with an ice pack on my head. Weird but true. I found that it improved my sleep quality. A DIY rice pack can also double as an ice pack for better sleep. Now my husband and I regulate our body temp at night with the Chilipad. 
  • Reusable Hand Warmers: In the past, I’ve made little miniature heat pads with felt and fleece. These are great to use as hand warmers (if we ever get cold enough to need them this year!).
  • Sore Muscles: Heat helps increase blood flow to achy muscles for soothing relief after a long day. If you need to alternate cold and heat on a muscle injury, you can put one rice bag in the freezer and one in the microwave, rotating as needed. 
  • Pain relief: DIY heating pads are great for other types of pain relief. They can also help with migraines and menstrual cramps. Add a little lavender essential oil for some calming aromatherapy. 

How to Make a DIY Heating Pad With Rice

You’re going to need rice (of course), cotton fabric, and something to sew with. I use cheap white rice as a filler since we are not eating it. If you don’t have a sewing machine, these can be hand sewn, though it won’t be quite as quick. DIY projects like this also make great gifts for friends and family at Christmas. 

You can make your homemade rice heating pad any size or shape you want, but I make mine into a 12×6 inch rectangle. 

DIY heating pad with rice
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3.87 from 52 votes

DIY Heat Pad With Rice

These rice heat bags are an easy way to make a natural heating pad. Throw it in the freezer for an ice pack too!
Active Time20 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Yield: 1 rice bag
Author: Katie Wells

Equipment

Materials

  • 12 inch square piece of cotton fabric or whatever shape/size you prefer
  • 5 pound bag white rice (might not all be used)

Instructions

  • Fold the material in half with right sides together. Start at one of the short sides and sew the long side and part of the opposite short side, leaving a gap of several inches on the last short side. This is where you're going to put the uncooked rice in.
  • Turn the fabric tube inside out so that the rough ends are hidden.
  • Fill the tube with rice until it is about 2/3 full. You can also add some lavender buds or a few drops of essential oils for a relaxing experience.
  • Fold the remaining side in so that the rough ends are hidden and sew closed.

Notes

To use: Heat on high in the microwave for 60 seconds or until the desired temperature is reached. The exact time will depend on your microwave. 

Simple DIY Rice Heating Pad Variations

There are some great tutorials online for making a really nice looking rice heat pack. This is one of my favorites. I make nicer ones like that for gifts, but for regular home use, these are easier:

  • Use an old tube sock – Fill the old sock with rice and sew or tie the end to make an easy rice sock. A cotton sock is the best option. 
  • Use an old pillowcase – Just cut the pillowcase in half. Use the side with the bottom seam and fill with a couple of cups of rice. Sew a line all the way across to create a sealed tube, then repeat with another couple of cups of rice. Repeat until the entire thing is full and seam the end to create a finished rice pack with several tubes full of rice.
  • Create a simple sleeve with a piece of square material – Fold in half and sew up two of the sides, leaving a thinner end open. Fill with rice and sew the remaining side to seal.

Ever made your own heating pad before? Leave us a comment and be sure to share this post with a friend!

Sources
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

135 responses to “DIY Heating Pad with Rice”

  1. Tammy Avatar

    I put my heat pack AKA “Jeffry” in the microwave for 30 sec increments with half a cup of water to stop the rice drying out and catching fire.

  2. pati Avatar

    You can also use cherry pits. If you can a lot of cherries its FREE..I save mine. You have to boil them off drain and boil again to clean the pits. Then lay them out to dry.

  3. Jenn Avatar

    I love this. Ever since giving birth, I get occasional sciatica and this would be perfect for that. I’m curious about why sleeping with a cold pack on your head helps you sleep better….?

    1. Melissa Avatar

      Because the body temperature naturally drops a little in sleep; a cold pack helps bring it on faster. Also, in warmer climes or high humidity, it can be hard to cool off for sleep.

  4. Deanna Avatar

    I love these. I have various sizes, but the most popular one is the size of a night mask. I use it for puffy eyes, headaches, back of the neck pain. This one is always kept in the freezer. Great for hot flashes too!!

  5. Katia Avatar

    Hi Katia
    Thanks for all your emails. I was curious about hands heaters… I’m always quite cold, specially i always have cold hands. Do you have special tips for this problems? I need to warm up my body (i’m very slim) but sometime i need to get very hot shower to do it… Is there any supplement that could help? Thanks katia

    1. Melissa Avatar

      Yes it could be hormonal, but if not, cayenne capsules can help (always take them with food!!!), because it stimulates circulation to the entire body, and it heats the body up because it’s a chile pepper. It also has powerful anti-microbial properties, so can help keep us well & prevent illness. I mix it into my home-made hot chocolate mix for extra warming, & take a capsule daily as a supplement. It’s also an ingredient in many topical pain remedies (on intact skin only). Not to mention it’s yummy in recipes!

      1. Nickie Avatar
        Nickie

        Katia – It could be a host of different issues, hormonal, circulatory, nerve problems, even auto-immune. I would have it checked out. I get something called Raynaud’s Syndrome, and it’s freaky especially in winter to see my feet look like they are on a dead person, all white or blue/purple. If it is nerve problems, be careful using hot packs that you don’t burn yourself. I have done it a few times on my own….

  6. Erin Avatar

    I love these packs! I make several dozen every year! Add flaxseed to the rice as a heat retaining agent. It’ll stay warmer for a longer period of time. Also I add eucalyptus and lavender essential oils for a stress relieving mood setter! <3

  7. Alicia Avatar

    This is awesome! I use mine so much I need to make another to replace it, they get a little smelly after being microwaved repeatedly for a long time. 🙂 I love mine in flannel, it just makes me feel warmer. And, these are GREAT gifts! Thanks for posting!

  8. Annika Avatar

    I love this! It’ll make a perfect Christmas gift for those hard to shop for family members. I’m definitely making one for myself. The hardest part will be picking a fabric pattern. 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

  9. Paula Avatar

    I have made the heating pads for the kids that used corn and I really liked them also! You have to heat them slowly at 1st to release the water so they don’t pop like popcorn and when heated they always felt a little moist. I always worried that over time they might grow mildew inside. I just threw them away after a couple of months and made new ones but I should have cut into one and checked I guess :/

  10. Penelopa Avatar

    Thank you for this great post! My first baby boy is coming next month and this is exactly what i was looking for to help during labor!

  11. Cheri Avatar

    I love these! As a family of five (three children 6 and younger) we mostly use these for stomach aches. Whatever the reason or cause of a belly ache, the kids ask for their ‘belly bags’ to be warmed so they can put them on their belly to feel better. I have another scented one with my favorite spices to be warmed and put around my neck after a long day at work. The kids and I just decided to make some for Christmas gifts…perfect timing on this post. Thank you Wellness Mama! I have never been disappointed with your ideas, remedies and recipes.

    1. Mandie Avatar

      I love the idea of adding spices for scented bags! What do you use and how much would you recommend?

    2. Susan Wampole Avatar
      Susan Wampole

      For my 12 kids, I used to fill emptied cotton animals. When hey got bigger I switched to leg warmers lined with a thin sock… My kids, grandkids and even my great grandson are still using them. I like the texture of rice but prefer flax as it can deliver moist heat also and dries out well.

      A little felt pad with essential oil is easy to change out.

  12. Hettie Avatar

    I have several smaller ones of these with a rice/lavender mix for headaches. Another rice one of similar size to yours sits in the freezer ready for aches and pains.

    We also have a larger one full of beans to add some weight when laying down with an achy back or upset tummy– my boys love it.

    With all of them, I have oven dried the beans and rice beforehand for mold prevention.

  13. Joslyn Avatar

    Do you know how to heat one in the stove or toaster oven? We don’t own a microwave.

    1. Dianne Avatar

      I’m not sure how it would work in an oven unless you maybe wrap it in aluminum foil.

    2. Marci Avatar

      I’ve heated up cotton rice packs in the oven, just make sure to use a pan with a lid. I’ve also used my rice cooker set to low for smaller packs, and I’m guessing that a crock pot might work too. I usually check it about every 5 minutes or so, and shake to make sure it is warming evenly.

      1. Mary Fox Avatar

        At what temperature would you say for a palm sized bag and for how long? I’m wanting to make something special for my friends that are homesteading in Arkansas–they don’t have plumbing let alone a microwave. This seems like a perfect present for them and I’d like to add a cute set of instructions in their letter.

    3. Mary Lennox Avatar
      Mary Lennox

      I agree, Joslyn. Microwaves are dangerous and I wouldn’t have one in our house. I’m sorry a natural site like this even espouses one.

      1. Terry Schuh Avatar
        Terry Schuh

        Omg. That’s scary. We’ve been using microwaves at home and at work for over 30 years with no side effects

  14. Lisa Avatar

    Which essential oils (and how much) would you add to the rice for aromatherapy benefits?

    1. Stacey Avatar

      Peppermint, Lavender, Spearmint, Rosemary, Chamomile, Lemongrass. Any of these would be good for muscle pain and relaxation. Approximately 20 -30 drops total of essential oils for an entire bag of rice. Be sure to mix and spread out and allow the rice to dry for an hour or so before utilizing.

      1. Heidi Avatar

        Can you keep adding essential oils to the pack? Maybe have an inner bag and then Velcro the outer cover so you could add more oil?

        1. Judy Avatar

          This would be a good idea. Trying to figure out how to clean mine. It’s a very large one and needs washed. Wondering if I should just empty it,wash it and load with fresh rice.

  15. Nancy Avatar

    Did you use instant rice or the uncooked? May have missed this answer, how long do you heat it’s? Thanks, love your post!

    1. Debbie Avatar

      I am assuming it is regular rice, not instant rice since it did not specifically say instant. Also, the directions say to heat up for 60 seconds. I am going to try this when I get some rice and heat 30 seconds and then another 30 seconds just in case. Microwaves vary and I have a big old monster with a lot of power.

      1. Dianne Avatar

        I’ve always stuck mine in the microwave for a couple of minutes. It gets really hot but it lasts longer. It smells like cooked rice but it still works.

        1. Lauren Avatar

          I love to make these for people and have made many. I once made one for a friend of mine, but someone in her family had a rice allergy. I did a little googling, got creative, and instead used coffee beans. Not coffee grounds, but it turns out that the beans work the same way as rice! Great alternative, and it smells even better. However, I’ve also used essential oils in mine, and so far only peppermint works in coffee beans. When I use rice, though, I can add lavender, peppermint, orange, lemon, etc- depending on what I need/want. As far as the problem with the rice falling to one side, I sew mine into sections (make the general shape, fill about 1/3 full with rice, sew a line, sew another 1/3, sew a line, and then fill the rest of the bag before sewing it shut). This is helpful in keeping the rice evenly distributed. If you have worn fabric, holes are less of a mess if you sew in sections. Just a few thoughts to add to the bucket!

  16. Tomatillo Avatar
    Tomatillo

    My wife and I have used the rice-filled “Bed Buddy” from WalMart. It’s so much nicer than a heating pad.

    Thanks to you I now know how to make our own, and I know it can be frozen and will help my wife with her hot flashes. Wonderful!

    Thanks Wellness Mama!

    t

  17. jenie Avatar

    I love these rice packs and have made several. One time after a move, my rice bags were still packed so I filled my hubby’s sock with rice and popped it in the microwave to heat up. Well, heat up it did and caught fire. Imagine my surprise and disappointment. I think something unusual must have caused this to happen, however now I watch the bag heat up in the microwave (from a distance of course) thank you wellness mama for all of your information.

    1. Laura Avatar

      I believe the reason it might have caught fire was the fact that the sock was not 100% cotton. The other materials in the blend are what most likely caught fire.

  18. Erin Avatar

    This is so simple and helpful. We have one similar to the one you used in college. Will this DIY version work as a cold pack as well?

  19. Lori Avatar

    I’ve made and used these for years, I’m a grandma now, I love them since you can customize them, like if you have a problem area where you like heat all the time neck ect, you can customize one to fit that specific area, I have problems with lower back pain, so I make one with ties so It travels with me as I go about my day. you could use velcro, I can’t stay sitting all day when all I want is that warmth, usually on cold winter days.

  20. Dianne Avatar

    My mother in law made me one of those probably 20 years ago. I didn’t like how all the rice would move to one end or the other, depending on how you held it. I helped her improve on the design. She always made hers with kitchen towels. I had her take the towel, fold it in half and sew baffles in the towel. The towel gets sewn on the sides but one end stays open where you can pour the rice in the baffles. Once filled, the remaining end gets sewn. This way the rice stays spread out pretty well and it covers a larger area.

    1. Sara B Avatar

      I wish I knew this before I made my own one (well.. a gift). Another alternative like beans or seeds might be even more pleasant and affordable.. Anyone has other suggestions? I tried seeds and I find them awesome and we have them at home for our birds 🙂 and don´t forget to add herbs or essential oils for aromatherapy 🙂

3.87 from 52 votes (51 ratings without comment)

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