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Tutorial: Hot/Cold Rice Packs

How to Make Hot/Cold Rice Packsrice packs

In our house, we try to use natural remedies first for ailments before tapping into the more modern treatments that are available to us. It’s not that we shun Western medicine—not at all—it’s just that we’d rather try to figure out something a little more natural before we turn to more drastic measures. And while there are a lot of awesome home remedies out there, there is one that rises above them all in our house—the rice pack.

wrist rice pack

If you’ve never heard of a rice pack, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. A pack. With rice in it. Some folks do rice socks (just fill a clean sock with rice, and sew or tie it shut), but I actually like doing pretty little fabric pouches for my rice.

Why rice? Well, the rice is (a) affordable (b) malleable—meaning you can shape the pack around whatever body part is a-hurtin’ and (c) holds both heat and cold. You can stash your rice packs in the freezer, and they are cold. Or pop ‘em in the microwave for a few seconds, and—BAM—they’re suddenly transformed into a cozy, warm hot pack. I also, personally, find something really nice about the texture of the rice in fabric, too. It’s soothing (kinda like this scene from Amelie). You might find me just playing with these rice packs sometimes. Maybe.

rice packs

The rice packs work for an incredible number of ailments. Itchy bug bite? Put a rice pack on it. Sprained your ankle? Rice pack. Migraine? Rice pack. Eyes itchy from allergies? Rice pack. Stubbed your toe? Rice pack. Bee sting? Rice pack (after you put onion on it—there is a chemical in onions that helps slow down the immediate sting). Excruciating back pain during labor? Rice pack (or two).

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rice packs

I made my rice packs into boring rectangles, but you could have some fun with these as make them in fun shapes, which I think would be especially awesome for kids. I’m new to this whole parenthood thing, but I’m assuming there are a lot of childhood boo-boos that could be helped with a star-, dinosaur- or puppy-shaped rice pack. You’d follow the same method listed below, just instead of cutting your pieces into squares or rectangles, cut two shaped pieces.

Alright, let me show you how to make some rice packs. For each rice pack, you’ll need:

Materials

  • 9” x 9” square of fabric
  • Funnel
  • Rice
  • Scissors, thread, sewing machine, iron, etc.
rick pack materials

First up, take your square of fabric, fold it in half, right-sides together, and iron it flat.

iron rice pack

Then, head to your sewing machine, and you want to sew all the way around the open edge, except you want to start about an inch and a half in from the fold. That gives you a little opening to turn the fabric right-side-out and to funnel in the rice.

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sewing rice pack

Now, because these rice packs are mushed and squished and used pretty roughly, I like to reinforce the seams. There are a number of ways you can do this. You can zig-zag stitch in the seam allowance. You can use a serger. You can use pinking shears. I ended up using one of the overlock stitches on my machine.

overlock sewing rice pack

Now, turn the pack inside out.

rice pack

And press to where it looks all nice and smooth.

rice pack iron

Then, place the funnel in the opening, and start pouring in the rice.

rice pack

Don’t fill these up too terribly tight. Like I said above, you want them to be able to mold around your body—you don’t want them to be so full of rice that they are rigid. I used about two pounds of rice for three rice packs.

rice pack

Go ahead and fold in the opening, and pin it shut.

rice pack

Thread a needle with some coordinating thread, and start stitching the seam opening closed. There are a few ways to do this. You could use a ladder stitch (which is what I did). You could also just use your sewing machine to close the entire end with a top-stitch (although, the more full your pack is with rice, the more difficult this will be). Whatever you do, I recommend actually going over it two or three times. This little seam will be the one “weak” spot in the pack. And you really want to reinforce it.

And then that’s it. You’re done!

rice packs

You could also do scented rice packs by tossing the rice with your favorite smelling essential oil before filling. A warm lavender-scented pack over the eyes would be a great way to help you get ready for bed. And peppermint oil is a natural headache cure—a cold peppermint-scented pack could really help take the edge off your migraine. A scented rice pack would make an awesome gift or stocking stuffer!

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38 comments

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  • My husband and I use these often. They’re great on your eyes at the end of the day, especially because we both live on our computers all day.

  • These are so great. Sometimes my kids just feel yucky and instead of going straight to the tylenol or something it’s nice to do “something” without really doing much. So I love to warm little things like this up to take to their rooms for some comfort and nice smells when they aren’t feeling their best. These are perfect!

  • Emma SAYS

    We have so many of these at my mom and stepmom’s house and I’ve given them as presents too! I can’t live without mine during period cramps! So useful and easy to make!

  • Celia SAYS

    What a great idea! I’d love to make a few for my classroom!

  • Margot SAYS

    You can also just take an old tube sock, throw some rice inside, and make a knot on the end and call it a day.

  • I love using these! Our kids use them in the summer to help them cool down at night or heated up on cold winter nights. I’ve never made my own before- does the rice ever go bad? Also, where did you get he blue fabric from? It’s so cute!

  • Oh my goodness! While my family is the same- we almost NEVER take medicine unless it’s very serious, I’ve never heard of rice packs before! I know what my next sewing project will be! Thanks for sharing! Are there certain kinds of fabric that should or shouldn’t be used?

    • Dena SAYS

      I know this was directed at Cassie, but I thought I’d let you know I make these all the time in various sizes. The heavier, the better for a migraine! And I always use flannel. Feels great, and holds up great. I personally, would only use flannel.

  • Sherry Jurykovsky SAYS

    Amazing timing as I just tried this two days ago. I did the rice in a sock, microwaved for 45 seconds. The first site I found said use two socks, one inside the other which I tried. It worked really well. Then I did the single sock but found it wasn’t as comfortable. The rice pack worked so well I was already deciding to make a cover for it, I’m going to go with flannel. I think the softness will be appealing, sort of like a kitten for my wrist. Plus I’m going to piece it like a quilt, just to practice that and make it extra special. I’ll leave the sock inside for padding and so the rice doesn’t come through my extra seams. Also, thanks for the tip about using it as a cold pack. I wouldn’t have thought of that.

  • Kat SAYS

    I LOVE my rice bags (also made out of pretty fabric). Mine are actually filled with split peas rather than rice though. I’ve used both, the peas just feel like little massagers. :)
    There’s not much batter than a microwaved rice bag in the middle of a cold winter!

  • I haven’t thought about these in ages! I love your DIY ones, they’re way cuter prints than the old ones I grew up with. Thanks for the reminder, I should pick some of these up. :)

  • I’d never thought about making my own rice pack. It’s so easy! Now I know what I’m doing this weekend!!

  • Arub Khan SAYS

    My daughter had a spa day, in Kuwait, as a gift from her husband. During her pedicure, a rice pack was placed around her neck. It was filled with rice, black peppercorns and whole cloves. We made our own using a new sock and simply tying it shut. I later found a satin pillow case, cut it in half and placed the sock inside, along with a small pillow made of fluff. I can unzip the case,remove the sock and heat it. It can be applied directly or placed in the pillow for a great lower back treatment.

  • Amy SAYS

    Nice tutorial! These would make great gifts, I think I’ll start making these for Christmas Gifts. They’d go great in a gift basket too!

  • Aline SAYS

    I know it is cold/hot pack… I understand that we can warm up with microwave but how do we keep it cold? Put it in freezer? how long?

    thanks
    Aline

    • Carole SAYS

      Just stash a coupled in the freezer… and you are ready for those bumps & bruises.

      I use a sealed container to store them in the freezer… just in case.

  • Did this with a footie, not good, weave is to big rice leaked out. So I made a pouch like yours and use the footie who lost their mate around it. That way the footie can be washed if it get dirty, rice pouch can not be cleaned.

  • Phyllis Tomchuk SAYS

    These are the best thing ever, I have often thought of making them too, I do have a Heat Bag, it is filled with split peas. Have had it for years, the peas are still good in it have not spoiled, I love the whole cloves put in with the rice too, I just have to try making these myself, would be a good craft sale item. Thanks for all the input and different ideas, I have Jasmin rice that should smell good when heated. ummmm…

  • Linda Vore SAYS

    I wonder about using a zipper on the seam – that way, it could be emptied and washed?

  • Jeanne Ray SAYS

    Great idea! But a couple of warnings. A doctor told me not to put anything very hot or cold on my eyes. Just lukewarm is fine.

    For a sprain, use a cold one first, to prevent swelling. Later a warm one is good.

    Meat tenderizer mixed with water works much better than onion on bee stings.

    How about making some small ones and attaching ribbons (or elastic) so you can tie them on insect bites on your kids’ arms and legs?

    I was worried about the rice attracting bugs, but I guess the microwaving kills the eggs. :-)

  • Autumn SAYS

    Although it looks a little messy, I secure my open end (the whole side) with coloured thread and overhand stitch

  • Bethany SAYS

    I want to make some of these! Will the essential oil scent eventually go away? What do you do then? Drop it directly on the fabric?

    • Cassie SAYS

      It does eventually fade, but the best way to keep it intact is to store it in a zip-top bag when you aren’t using it. I have some that I’ve had for years that still smell awesome!

      • DS SAYS

        In addition to essential oil I’ve added about 1/4 cup of dried lavender. Had it for years and still has nice fragrance. I don’t heat or cool but find the weight on my forehead with the fragrance wonderfully comforting!

  • Kay SAYS

    What a great ideas from everyone!
    Whole clove sounds really good, I do have question about why black peppers?
    how about cinnamon?

    I was thinking of making it and adding Peppermint or wintergreen Essential oils for gift for men who has a lot of pain. any thoughts?

    thinking of making few small ones to keep in the freezer for little ones bump head or nose in the gym at the church.

  • Sue SAYS

    I always make an outside cover of same fabric to be able to wash as needed…

  • Tona SAYS

    This is a very cute and awesome idea. Thank you for sharing. :)

  • Janice SAYS

    How long do you put them in the microwave? Sorry if you said it and I missed it. Thanks for sharing this. My girls and I will be making them!!!

    • Cassie SAYS

      It depends on the power of your microwave—I’d start with 15 seconds, and then add an addition 15 seconds until it’s hot enough for you. :)

  • Kaitlyn K. SAYS

    Could these be made with fleece or flannel fabric? or should I stick with strictly cotton? what about quilting fabric

    • Julie @ Wholefully SAYS

      Quilting fabric is usually cotton, so that would definitely work. I suspect flannel would as well, but I’m not sure about fleece.

  • I never considered wrapping some fabric around a rice pack and microwaving it. This would be perfect for all the back pain I’m currently in. I’ll have to remember to pick up some rice from the store soon.

  • Tina Wolf SAYS

    My daughter is making these for school. Every years the 4th grade has a business adventure project and the kiddos have to come up with business ideas. At the end they have a sale and sell there product to parents, family and school staff. My daughter came home and said this is what she wanted to do, so we will be spending the weekend making about 40 of these bags. Excited to spend quality time with my mini me. Thanks for the extra ideas these are amazing.

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