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How to Make Rice Heating Pads {Aromatherapy Rice Bags}

This easy tutorial will teach you how to make rice heating pads that are a perfect project for any beginning sewer. Use essential oils or dried herbs to make homemade aromatherapy rice bags for easing sore muscles. Heat these for a microwavable heating pad or stick it in the freezer for a homemade ice pack.

4 rice heating pads with ribbons on a white board

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These rice heating pads are great for easing aches and pains (if heated in the microwave), and for boo boos (if put in the freezer).  They’re perfect for snuggling up to on the couch or placed at your feet in bed to warm up. You can also turn them into an aromatherapy rice bag simply by adding herbs or essential oils. 

Even better, these are so simple to make. A monkey could make these. I know, because one of them had to teach me how to use my sewing machine.

This project is just as simple as learning how to make reusable gift bags. I believe in you and you can totally do this project!

How Long Does a Rice Heating Pad Stay Hot?

Well, I’m so glad you asked because I legit spent 3 hours with the stopwatch feature on my phone tracking down the answers for you. Yes, I am a nerd.

For a rice filled heating pad that is 5×7 inches:

  • Microwave for 60 seconds and it will be hot/warm for 45 minutes.
  • Microwave for 90 seconds and it will be hot/warm for 70 minutes.

Rice Heating Pad Supply List

  • fabric (100% cotton)
  • binder clips or clothespins
  • thread corresponding to the color of the fabric
  • sewing machine
  • scissors
  • white rice (uncooked and the cheapest you can find)

The size of the fabric will be determined by how you want to use the microwavable heating pads. Need it for your shoulders? I’d start with a piece of fabric that is 20 x 6 inches. Monthly cramps? Try something that is at least 10 x 10. Just keep in mind the size of your microwave because if the rice bag is too large it won’t heat evenly.

Try 2 x 2 inch squares to slip into gloves for homemade hand warmers.

Other Options For Filling Microwavable Heating Pads

You don’t want to use rice or maybe you have an allergy? I got you friend! Here are some great alternatives:

  • Flaxseed 
  • Dried beans
  • Boiled and dried cherry pits
  • Corn (choose field/feed corn as opposed to popcorn)
  • Dried lentils

How Do You Make Rice Heating Pads?

*Ok friends, these are SO easy! I’m going to walk you through it and then you’ll find a printable version of these instructions at the very bottom of this post.

Before we get started, let’s talk about two terms – Right side of the fabric which is the pretty/printed side. Wrong side of the fabric, which is the underside that won’t be shown in the final product. Got it? 

Start with some cute 100% cotton fabric that is double size of what you want the end product to be. 

Decide which part of the fabric will be the top of the bag, and then fold an edge over (~1/4 inch) to create a hem. Press with an iron and pin. Use a sewing machine and sew a basic stitch, back-stitching at the two ends. Then, fold the right sides of the fabric together with the hemmed edges at the top.

Two photos showing fabric being sewn to make rice heating bags

Make a basic stitch around the sides like you’re creating a pocket, leaving the hemmed edges open.

2 side by side photos showing step 2 in making aromatherapy bags

Next, turn it right side out so that the right side of the fabric is showing. Fill the bag with the rice. Pro tip: if you’re new to sewing, fill the bag halfway with rice for the first few bags you make. They’ll be easier to work with and sew shut. If you’re a more experienced sewer, fill bags two-thirds full of rice before sewing shut.
 
A blue and white piece of fabric full of rice

I like to use clips or clothespins to keep the rice in while sewing. Use a basic stitch and sew the two hemmed sides together.

blue and white fabric being sewn together after being secured with binder clips

That’s it! You’ve done it and you’re now officially awesome! Once you get the hang of the process, you can knock out a DIY rice heating pad in under 10 minutes. I whipped up these four in 30 minutes, INCLUDING taking all the step-by-step photos.

4 aromatherapy rice bags in a stack

Can You Wash a Rice Heating Pad?

If you make your bags without a separate cover, they are not washable. You could always slip your rice bag into a pillowcase or cover it with a towel if you think it is going to get dirty. Or, make something like these Zero Waste Produce and Bulk Bin Shopping Bags and slip the rice heating pad in and close the drawstring. You can clean the bag as often as needed.

Can you Heat a Rice Bag Without a Microwave?

Yes! I once made a huge microwavable heating pad for my husband’s lower back…without realizing it wouldn’t fit in our microwave. Doh! We would heat it in the oven on a baking sheet for 15 minutes at 300 degrees F.

How to Make Aromatherapy Rice Bags

My preference is to add 1-2 drops of the essential oil to the outside of the fabric so that I can change the oils as needed. But, if you want to scent your rice, add 15 drops of essential oils per 2 cups of rice. 

I don’t sell oils for an MLM, but we do use them in our house. For kiddos with colds, I microwave the aromatherapy rice bags for 60 seconds and then add 2 drops of this kid-safe Germ Buster.  For help sleeping, I use 1 drop of Sleep Aid.

Other lovely scents for your rice bags are lavender (I limit the use of this oil around all the males in my house), peppermint, lemon/grapefruit, or a homemade “Vicks” blend of lavender, eucalyptus, and rosemary. You can use those same oils in my Homemade Vicks Soother Tablets.

And if you’re dealing with sick kids, go make yourself some cozy and comforting soup like Instant Pot Chicken and Dumplings. You’re going to need it.

Pro Tips

  • If your rice heating pads are more than 10 x 10 inches, the rice will shift around quite a bit. You can solve this issue by sewing segments called baffles to keep the rice in place before sewing the hemmed edges together. Turn the fabric right side out, then sew a straight line from the bottom end to the top. You’ll want to make a few of these lines and add rice to each segment. See photo at the bottom of the post as an example.
  • If you use flaxseed or cherry pits as filler, place 1 cup of water in the microwave while you’re heating the bags (don’t get the bags themselves wet). Both flax and cherry pits are great if you need your bag to have a moist heat. Moist heat is wonderfully soothing for earaches.
  • These microwavable heating pads are great if you’re a nursing mom and are dealing with clogged ducts or a difficult letdown. Make small versions and place them after heating in your bra for 5 minutes prior to nursing/pumping. And in those 5 minute, eat a No Bake Lactation Cookie. You’ve earned it! I would not recommend adding herbs or essential oils to nursing heating pads without approval from a lactation consultant, your midwife or OBGYN.
  • Always test the temperature of the rice bag before allowing kids to use them. Some microwaves heat the filling unevenly and you want to be extra cautious.
  • A 10 x 10 rice bag heated for 90 seconds would be great to keep dishes warm at potlucks or holiday dinners.

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4 rice heating pads with ribbons on a white board
Print
5 from 13 votes
How to Make Rice Heating Pads {Aromatherapy Rice Bags}
Prep Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 

This easy tutorial will teach you how to make rice heating pads that are perfect for any beginning sewer. Heat these for a microwavable heating pad or stick it in the freezer for a homemade ice pack.

Course: DIY
Keyword: Aromatherapy Rice Bags, Microwavable Rice Heating Pad, Rice Heating Pads
Ingredients
  • Fabric
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine or needle
  • Scissors
  • Uncooked white rice
  • Binder clips or clothespins
Instructions
  1. Fold and press a 1/4 inch hem at the top of your fabric.

  2. Fold the right sides of the fabric together with the hemmed edges at the top.

  3. Make a basic stitch around the sides like you’re creating a pocket, leaving the hemmed sides open.

  4. Next, turn it right side out so that the right side of the fabric is showing. Fill the bag with the rice. 

  5. Use clips or clothespins to keep the rice in while sewing. Use a basic stitch and sew the two hemmed sides together.

Recipe Notes

If you’re new to sewing, fill the bag halfway with rice for the first few bags you make. They’ll be easier to work with and sew shut. If you’re a more experienced sewer, fill bags two-thirds full of rice before sewing shut.

 

If you use flaxseed or cherry pits as filler, place 1 cup of water in the microwave while you're heating the bags. 

 

Always test the temperature of the rice bag before allowing kids to use them. Some microwaves heat the filling unevenly and you want to be extra cautious.

 

This post was originally published in 2013. The process has been retested and updated with reader feedback. New photos have been added and the tutorial has been made printable. For reference, this is one of the photos from the original post:

rice heating pads

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17 comments on “How to Make Rice Heating Pads {Aromatherapy Rice Bags}”

  1. Pingback: The Eighth Day of Christmas - Postcards & Passports

  2. I absolutely love this. I suffer a lot from backpains. I believe this could come in handy. My husband also suffers from knee pain, so he TOO can benefit from this. Thanks for sharing this. This is awesome. 

  3. Loved reading your sewing closet post again (and again). It is full of ‘happiness’. I read every post that you write Sarah. Love reading your friend’s Katie’s blog and then reading how you both got to meet up at her Mom’s (my sister knows her Mom, isn’t it a small world).
    Joy

    • What a very small world this is Joy! What is your sister’s name?

      I *should* be headed back to Canada in January or February when Katie is back in the country.

  4. I make these with “feed corn” (plain). They are much larger kernels than rice, and therefore have a different feel, which some may not like, but I think they hold heat longer than rice does, and it is quite economical. You can buy a 40-50 lb bag of feed corn at a farm store, for about $10!!! That makes you a lot of corn bags!!! …Make them with friends, and split the bag… Lots of gifts and lots of warmth!

    NOTE: You can also place them in ziploc bags, in the freezer, to use as cold-packs! =)