Make Microwaveable Heat Packs Yourself

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Sew microwaveable heat packs from colorful fabric for cute and cozy gifts. This project is a super simple way to give affordable presents.

Microwaveable Heat Packs: DIY on a Dime | Life as Mom

As you may know, we’re total wimps here in Southern California. Some of you are weathering extremely cold temps where you live and I’m wearing fingerless gloves as I type. I am cold all the time.

I have no idea how I survived five years in Kansas City, but I’ve gotten soft in the nine years since we moved back to California. (Psst, no one in California actually says “Cali,” so please don’t.)

In my defense, our home stays quite cool all year long. We don’t have an air conditioner and only really want one a few days out of the year. It’s not that it doesn’t get hot here, but our house stays quite chill.

All. year. long.

Which means it’s quite nippy in here during the winter, thus the fingerless gloves. And the corn bags.

Years ago, in Kansas City, mind you, a friend gave us a cloth pillow filled with dry feed corn. I thought it was crazy. And then she said, “You know a friend gave me one and I thought she was crazy. But, it’s really amazing how nice it is in the winter.”

How right she was! We had one “corn bag” or microwaveable heat pack to share among the seven of us that first winter. The kids would take turns heating it in the microwave and then slip it under the covers to warm up their beds. Once they fell asleep, the parents would snatch the corn bag to heat up their own bed.

Oh, yes, yes, we did.

In summer time, they would store it in the freezer to cool off with!

Microwaveable Heat Packs: DIY on a Dime

Now, let’s go back to Christmas 2007. It was the Christmas of our Great Debt, and the only thing the kids wanted on their list were corn bags of their own. They were so sweet about it. They knew we had NO MONEY to buy gifts, so their requests were humble and modest.

Determined to give them something fun — and super thankful that the grandparents were picking up our slack — I bought colorful fabric in the patterns that I knew would please them (Kansas City Chiefs, dinosaurs, Thomas the Tank Engine, and rainforest lizards). After they went to bed, I sewed up a storm, even making little hand size packs to put in their pockets. And yes, I made my husband hunt down the feed store to buy feed corn.

Those heat packs lasted quite some time until their edges just frayed and broken bits of corn started to poke through.

Microwaveable Heat Packs: DIY on a Dime | Life as Mom

A few years later, I made the kids a new batch, including making the girls their own custom microwaveable heat packs. I busted out the sewing machine that probably hadn’t seen the light of day in the five years prior. I found flowered cotton for the girls, hockey and Marvel comics for some of the boys.

Instead of hunting down feed corn, I filled our new packs with rice which is cheaper and easier to find in my neck of the woods. Be sure that it is NOT minute rice. Ahem. You can also fill microwaveable heat packs with cherry pits and flax seed as well as the original feed corn.

This is an easy, fun gift to make for your kids or for yourself! A few years ago my friend Anne shared these cute owl heating pads that she made. These microwaveable heat packs are even easier. You just need to be able to sew three straight lines. That’s it!

You’ll need the following supplies:

  • cotton fabric
  • sewing machine
  • cotton thread
  • rice, feed corn, cherry pits, or flax seed to fill
  • scissors and pinking shears

How to assemble a microwaveable heat pack:

  1. Cut a rectangle twice the size of your desired heat pack. Mine were 10 x 11 inches. Pink the edges.
  2. With right sides together, fold the fabric in half, forming a thin rectangle. Sew two sides together. Reinforce with an extra seam. Turn the case right side out. It should look like a skinny pillow case.
  3. Fill the bag with with rice, leaving two to three inches empty at the top. Fold the top inside itself, and sew shut. Sew that seam again to reinforce it.

That’s all there is to it!

To use: Just heat the bag for a minute or two in the microwave and use to warm cold beds or sore tummies. It is recommended to place a mug of water in the microwave alongside the heat packs in order to avoid scorching. Store in the freezer to use as a cold pack.

As always, please use common sense and safety precautions. I am not responsible for fires in your microwave. I am merely sharing our experience and what has worked for us.

I could not find specific instructions for bags with the fillings I’ve used. However, I did find these safety reads for bags filled with wheat. I’m not sure how that filling differs from these fillings. Just FYI.

P.S. There is a good round of Q&A in the comments section.

Microwaveable Heat Packs: DIY on a Dime | Life as Mom

Originally posted February 12, 2013. Updated November 26, 2017.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. And if you can’t sew, you can buy cute socks and stuff them full of rice. There are tutorials for that online, too. =)

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Yes, just be sure that they are cotton socks. I wanted to do that with Christmas socks and they all had synthetics in them. Boo.

      • Oooh, why is that? I think I was going to try it with synthetic socks…

        • Jessica Fisher says

          I don’t have a link or anything, but I remember when I was researching it years ago, it said not to use synthetic fabrics because those could catch fire in the microwave. I could be wrong, that was my understanding.

          • Synthetics CAN be used! I have made these “corn bags” for years now with polyester fleece, which is very cozy! Never had a problem with microwaving them. I usually nuke them for 3 minutes to heat to the best temp.
            Also, about the “popcorn” smell…you can add whole spices to the bag to bring out a nice scent when heated. (anything works…I have used whole cloves, small cinnamon sticks, whole allspice)

        • Synthetic socks melt and burn. And then smell bad.

        • Denise. Small says

          Polyester and acrylic fibers will melt and maybe even catch fire in the microwave. Must use 100% cotton.

        • Charlene says

          they can catch fire!

      • doodle70726 says

        Down here in Louisiana we use rice and they are great for earaches. Just be sure to wrap the heat pack in a towel before you lay your sore ear on it.

    • Yes! Using socks is great. We make little tiny ones (baby socks) with rice to use for ear aches. You don’t even have to sew them if you want them for temporary use. Just fold over the end after filling, and then slip another sock over it. Heat in the microwave in 10 second increments until desired temp.

    • Helen says

      My friend gave a heat bag made from cotton wash cloths filled with rice. It is great worms my feet every night in the winter. My husband always ask me if I want a hot tub for my feet

    • Michele Weil says

      Hi what kind bag do u use ? Then can u do fleece material like they do the tie blankets and tie like that. Hope that makes since

  2. We love these as well! So easy to make and they will become a cherished item. We live in NH so ours get used a lot this time of year. They also help when I get a migraine.

    On another note, on your advice, I purchased Andrew Peterson’s “Love and Thunder”. It is fantastic and I have already ordered more including “Music for the Lost Boy”. I will also be gifting these out to others I know will love them as well. Thank you for bringing his music to my attention!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      AP is great!

    • Jennifer Blake says

      Ironic that I read this today. I’m sitting in a hotel down there street from the Ryman Auditorium after seeing the 20th anniversary show of “Behold the Lamb of God” by Andrew Peterson and crew. He’s our favorite, and we see it every year. I sang “Canaan Bound” every night to my oldest (now 16) and his little brother (4) for years. Love and Thunder is just a fabulous album.

  3. Cheri A says

    Oh, I’m SO happy to see this. You see, we do live in the cold. And I bought one of these for my daughter a few years ago at some craft fair. My so wanted one, so I happened upon another one around Christmas. Well, they both have corn in them. But the second one stinks and I mean stinks when it is heated. I just threw it out. So just plain old rice works too? I think I’ll try to make him another one with some rice in it.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Yes, plain cheap white rice works fine. DO NOT use Minute Rice. I had a friend who did that. LOL.

    • Jackie W says

      dried beans like navy beans, pinto beans ect. work great too.

    • Judi Snyder says

      Flax seed is the best. It is lighter than rice and it is also softer. I make them with flax seed and am beginning to make covers for each one. I have used mine for many years and they still are very useful. See if you can find someone who makes them with flaxseed.

      • I have made them with flax seed and I think it stays hot longer, I’ve alao used wheat, rice, corn which smell so good it makes you want a snack lol. They all work well. I’ve made small ones to fit the hands of children to keep their hands warm with or without gloves or mittens prior to going out to wait for the school bus.

  4. totally forgot about pinking shears!! Thank you! I love to sew but finally gave away my serger because I could never ever thread it right. I was dreading double-sewing all my seams in the dress I’m making. Just ordered some shears on Amazon. Thanks!

    • Why do you have to use pinking shears? I’m new to sewing.

      • Pinking shears help reduce fraying of the cut fabric edges. You don’t have to use them, but it your fabric has a tendency to fray, it can get annoying.

        • Susan Fenner says

          Instead of pinking shears you can also “zig-zag” stitch all the edges to keep them from fraying as well. Extra time but if you don’t have shears it works.

          • Great point. Thanks!

          • Nancy Ching says

            I’m using these for menstrual cramps and read that certain blends of essential oils help or just plain ol’ lavender or peppermint essential oil helps. I sprinkled the rice with lavender essential oil and let the rice dry, you can do this step before sewing. You could probably mix the rice with dried lavender too? I don’t know if the smell actually helps, but it sure smells good and the heat definitely help with the cramps. Disclaimer: no scientific study has shown that heat packs help with relieving menstrual cramps, but based on personal experience, it works for me.

  5. So just plain ol’ – buy it cheap in a bag rice? If so excellent! I’ve lost a lot of weight and am always cold now and would love one (or four) of these to warm my bed at night or something along those lines.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Yes, about a dollar for a one pound bag at Walmart. 🙂

      • Theresa C says

        I bought Jasmine Rice. Sprinkled lavender essential oils over the rice. I also use baby receiving blankets. Got them cheap at a thrift store. I cut them in half. Sew them as usual and fill with my scented rice. I make these for myself and my friends. You think you get cold, we live in Ontario Canada. PS I also breed small dogs so I have a couple bags for my puppy beds. Keeps them warm and snuggled.

      • Kenzie says

        Am I able to use minute rice? Only thing in my house right now!

    • linda hunt says

      You can use dried beans, split peas, feed corn, rice and add lots of dried herbs. Add a scent that is soothing. When your heat bag is warmed it sends a wonderful smell through your home.

  6. Love them. Only our bearded dragon has one though—and his is made of rice dumped in an old sock, tied off with a rubber band! My dh would think I was mad if I made up a nice one for the dragon (when the beardie travels this is his heat source for short trips). LOL

  7. We use them all the time but recently I read this link from an article after elderly womans bedding caught fire ! I still heat the bed with it but don’t leave them in it , just warm the bed for 10 min or so before we get in. I make ours and use buckwheat to fill.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      I’ve never heard of them being made with buckwheat. And I’ve never heard of them catching on fire with rice or corn. Interesting, though. Thanks for the heads up.

      • If bags are constantly reheated without being cooled down first the grain (whatever you use) gets too crispy and burns. Allow bags to totally cool off before reheating.

  8. Another thing I have done with our rice heat packs were to make them in muslin, then use the cute fabric as a cover that can be taken off and washed. No more grungy looking heat packs!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Yes! I’m just so lazy….. especially when it comes to sewing. I am a Jo March if there ever was one.

      • Stephanie says

        Or you could simply rip a seam and empty the rice (our whatever you used) into a bowl, wash the fabric and fill it back up once laundered. This works great if the rice our what-have-you starts to smell or if you want to add some spices or essential oils to the mix. Then just stitch back up and viola like new again! 😘

  9. These are great for headaches too – I make them with rice in a sock (and sometimes a decorative cover) and my family LOVES them – first thing they ask for when they have any sort of muscle pain. Here is how I make them:

  10. Misty O'Rourke says

    I made one using pinto beans and a dress sock from my husband in a color he would never wear. My hubby used to work in a bean mill so they were easy to come by. I like the weight of it. It’s at least 5 years old now and it’s starting to get stinky. Guess it’s time to make a new one.:)

  11. I have also bought and made them with flax.

  12. Courtney says

    Has anyone ever heated one in the oven? (we don’t own a microwave)

    • I have not. I would be a little scared to do so. In the absence of heat packs, I have tossed their comforters into the dryer for a few minutes right before bed. 🙂

    • I would think you could heat it in the oven, well away from the element and at a low temp, maybe 125-150°… Other things to consider would be, of course, to only use natural fiber, and check and shake the bag often as it heats. Just laying it on the rack and not using a pan would probably be more efficient in heating it.

    • Carrie Phelps says

      I place mine in the microwave for about five minutes, it’s very hot so I place a hand towel over it and remove the towel once it cools and I can use it that much longer.

    • If you’re at all concerned about putting cloth into your oven you could make your bag resealable (with Velcro) and heat the rice separately.

  13. Carrie Phelps says

    Someone I dated about fifteen years ago gave me one of these for Christmas. I thought he was cheap. Come to find out it was one of the best Christmas presents I ever got! I use mine all the time, I suffer with earaches & sinus headaches. I microwave mine for about five minutes, cover with a towel (I remove the towel once the heat begins to diminish) and either lay it on my ear or place my neck directly on it over the pillow. I love love love my rice pack!

  14. Does the rice eventually cook? Could I sell these to raise money or would they eventually cook or rot?


  15. Oh, sorry. By heals, I mean does it relieve aches and pains like other heat packs that are used for therapy? I know it’s just rice 🙂 thank you!

  16. Trena cannon says

    I made 8 of these tonight with my 16 year old daughter. I was making one for dad tonight and she saw it and went crazy thinking of her friends that she could give them to, from her football playing guy friends to her girlfriends that suffer from menstrual pain. It was a fun project to do with her! She was texting her friends to find out when everyone’s birthday is. What a great night! Thank you for the idea!

  17. Barbara Webber says

    Lentils work also

  18. I like to use flax seed and lavender essential oil

  19. Is there a recommended time for how long to heat these? I put one on “sensor reheat” the other day and got distracted. The rice burnt to a crisp and now our microwave smells of burnt rice every time I use it. As much as I loved it, I’m hesitant to make another one.

    • It really depends on the size of the bag. We use the 30 second button until warm enough. I know that the one my sister made can do 2 minutes. But, yeah, I think that sensor reheat thinks it should make it hot to eat which isn’t what you want. Bummer. 🙁

  20. Michele says

    My daughter’s Girl Scout troop made them out of out shirt sleeves. You only had to sew one side closed! Any recommendations how to clean them?

  21. Linda says

    I used to make these and Made a little pillowcase to go over them . I took care of the elderly and gave awAy more than I sold buti love them

  22. I wonder if these could be used to keep my kids lunches warm??

    • They don’t stay warm for more than an hour, so I’m not sure that would work. Might be worth a test at home, though.

      • How about if it is in an isulated lunch box? It might stay warmer longer.

        • I don’t know that they would keep them hot enough to be foodsafe. I’ve seen food heating packs that are designed for that and have a temperature guarantee. (I’m kind of a stickler for food safety, and I’d be worried that it would reach unsafe temps.)

  23. Heidi Holmes says

    These are wonderful if you suffer from arthritis and in the summer pop it out of the freeser for when a bee sting happens it is a quick remedy.

  24. jan aduddell says

    These are very cute sewn shut, but eventually the rice will dry up and get “old.” You can just cut across the top and re-sew, or you could just leave the top tied very tightly with a rubber band and then for extra security a very tight piece of string. For yourself…use the men’s large tube socks, fill and tie, and then place upside down inside another tube sock and tie it…you can then easily reuse…and refill. I wet the sock before a more intense heat.

  25. Stephanie says

    Super excited to try making these again! I think I must have used minute rice the last time and it sure stunk! Suggestions on amount of essential oils to use per say cup of rice? don’t want to overdo it. Thanks 🙂

    • I’ve never used essential oils in mine. Sorry I can’t be more help.

    • cathy thompson says

      I use ten to fifteen drops per sack so and it is okay I use peppermint in one and cinnamon in other one . I usually let dry 24 hours before I put in the sack though . I hope this helps

  26. Bethany says

    Hello! I just wanted to let you know that this craft post is featured on my blog and I’ve got a link back to this post so readers can follow it. Thanks! 🙂

  27. carolynn says

    i received one as a gift several years ago. i live in the tropics so we don’t suffer from cold… but ¡oh how nice it is on a crampy belly or lower back in pain…. thanks for the ideas! you can put some lavender flowers in there along with the rice or corn for some soothing scent.

  28. I wonder if this would work with Terry cloth kitchen towels?

  29. Katie Thomes says

    When my daughter was born she often had an upset tummy the nurse told me to make a rice bag and microwave it about 10 sec and place it on her tummy. I actually bought a bag of lentils and filled a sock, tied it shut and we use it all the time. My daughter is now 2 and we keep it in the freezer and it’s her “boo boo sock” for when she gets hurt.

  30. Do you think it would work with cracked corn feed. I wondered if it would be more likely to catch fire when heated.

  31. Christi says

    Thank you for the clever idea! My daughter and I went right out and picked fabric unique to each recipient. However, when we tried it at home, the rice really smells after being in the microwave for two minutes. Any suggestions? Have you had this issue? Maybe put in Lavendar? Or use corn kernels? Thank you!

    • We have used corn and rice. The initial heating may be when extra moisture in the rice is evaporating. It goes away. With the feed corn, I had to heat and cool for several times in order to get it all out. Just be sure not to use Minute Rice! I had someone do that once. That doesn’t work. It goes mushy. 😉

      • Good to know… Ugh
        I just ran out of the rice I bought and filled the top of the socks with minute rice 😔
        Also the socks I bought are 92% Polyester, 8% Spandex will that work or do I need to get different socks

  32. My daughter is going to make one for her dad for Christmas. She was trying to come up with something should could make him and this is *perfect* for him. She just asked him about what scents he likes, like herbs, and he said citrus scents. Do you think we could put lemon and orange peels in it? How would that work? Do we need to dry them or just use a certain part of them?


  33. Colleen says

    Years ago I made a wrist rest for those long periods at the computer. I used a mans sock, filled with lentils and rubber banded the end. Folded over the sock so the band wasn’t exposed. Works great.

  34. Fyi split peas work great as well.

  35. Use the legs of old jeans they last for ever

  36. I like to add dried lavender to my rice bags. Makes them smell comforting.

  37. Cameron says

    I am new to sewing and will probably make some of these this winter. We have, from my MIL in Upstate NY, two “cherry pit pillows.” They are exactly the same as this, except filled with cherry pits. They give off a wonderful moist heat when microwaved and smell nice and earthy. A lady makes and sells them in lots of sizes and shapes, such as one that can sit behind the neck like a travel pillow. Anyhow, I tried to save cherry pits last summer to use, but it got to be too messy. Rice will be a Lot more expedient!

  38. I worked many years in veterinary clinics (including an emergency clinic) and we used socks filled with rice to use as warmers for puppies, kittens, or other small animals. They were also used to warm animals who were recovering from surgery. Lots of uses and easy to replace when needed.

  39. deFarge says

    I’ve had a rice tube with plastic? or nylon? rope handles; have used it for nearly twenty years and it smells a little “foody” but not unpleasant at all. The sock material it’s made of has sprung many leaks so now it’s wrapped in a piece of old, thin towel and tied at the ends with string. It’s shaped to be a neck pillow, but I use it on my knees and boy, does it feel good! I’ll use some of your fantastic ideas and make some that are better shaped for knees and give them as gifts. Everyone in my family has arthritic knees and they’ll love these. I just happen to have old beans and lentils I never cooked. Love the thoughts about putting herbs and oils in!

    btw, one blogger shows how to sew rice pads with sections, or pockets. This would be a good way to keep the warm rice/beans/other where you want it–so it’s not all sagging or squishing to the sides.

  40. Just a question my daughter gets really bad leg cramps and heat usually helps however my cats just chewed threw the cord…. would this be warm enough to help with her leg cramps? Or should I just stick with a heat pad since it has the high heat setting?

  41. I just made 30 of these as teacher gifts for this Christmas but 2 so far have sprung a leak. I wanted to try them out before gifting them and after 3-5 times in the microwave the seams started coming apart. I used flannel fabric. Is it possible the heat from the microwave is melting the fabric or the thread? I don’t want all that work to go to waste (not to mention the fabric and rice) but I also don’t want a gift that will break after a couple of uses.

    • Oh no! I have not made them with flannel, but my cousin sent me some that she made from flannel and they were fine. Did you sew double seams and backstitch?

    • Joyce Spurr says

      Did you use nylon or poly thread? You may need to use cotton. And make sure you double stitch and backstitch because the Weight of the filler will push through the seam.

  42. Laura H. says

    Thanks for shaing this gift idea with us. I’m wondering about how much rice you used per bag? Thanks for your help!

  43. Chasity says

    I’m excited to do this! Can I use frabric glue?

  44. Shelly Flinn says

    I’ve seen posts about filling knee high stocking with rice before sewing in cotto . Anyone heard of this?

  45. Please let everyone know to put a mug 1//2-3/4 full of water in the microwave with the packs when heating. It prevents them from scorching. My dad who is a fire marshal is adamant about us doing this. We’ve always done and never had problems. Just want everyone safe. 🙂

  46. Is it possible to use Jean matireal for the bags. I have tons left from making my quilt.

  47. Don’t overheat or you will have a fire!! I thought I put mine in the microwave for 2 minutes, hit 20 minutes by accident. Luckily I was in the kitchen and looked at the microwave
    around 4 minutes. It was smoking and stunk to high heavens… removed it with a tong directly to outside – 10 degrees that day. burnt the cotton fabric and what every was inside. It took 3 weeks of cleaning to get rid of the smell.

  48. But I love these hot packs. Making more this week end!

  49. These made life in Minnesota survivable when we lived there! I’d heat one up to hold in my lap in the car on cold mornings to keep from freezing before the car warmed up.

    • My cousins in Minnesota and Wisconsin have been sewing these up in huge batches. It’s the only way to survive, I think! Laura and Mary put hot potatoes in their pockets, we use rice bags. lol!

  50. In the south, if you use corn, you will end up with corn weavel bugs that will eat the corn. Then you have corn meal.
    Yuck. Flax seed is much better, with lavender buds.

  51. My microwave just broke. Can you heat it with anything else?

  52. Expecting a slim Christmas 2017, I made one of these for each of my children to “bulk up” their small number of gifts. Like your kids, it’s been the most-used gift and everyone loves them. I took a commenter’s advice and made pillow cases for each one that has worked out well. Glad someone mentioned it, or I would have been frustrated by not being able to wash them. I used about two pounds of rice in each one.

  53. Does the fabric need to be all cotton? I bought the filer years ago but was concerned that a synthetic fabric may melt in the microwave.

  54. Jenn Marshall says

    I find they are great in the freezer for strained muscles or hot feet. I’ve had a few small squares made for the freezer, to be used in the middle of a bra for hot flashes!!!

  55. When I make bigger bags for the back or warming the bed, I use a 50/50 mix of whole and cracked corn to fill them. It’s very cheap at the local feed store here. I like the mix because the whole kernels hold the heat better, and the cracked corn makes the bag less lumpy and more flexible. When I make neck wraps, I like the flax. The small seeds make it more flexible, as does dividing the wrap into sections and stitching. I add about 1.5 C of flax, stitch across the bag, add another 1.5 C, stitch again, etc. until the bag is filled. When I make the neck wraps, I put the seams on the inside, but when I make the larger bags I cut them out with pinking shears and then sew on the outside. No turning, and the pinked edges add a decorative touch. I like to use flannel because it’s cotton and has a nice, soft feel to it. I don’t care to use fleece because it’s too stretchy to hold the bag’s shape.

  56. Kimberly says

    I am wanting to write a message on mine…have you had any experience with fabric paint and the microwave?

  57. Lisa Myers says

    Do you have to use whole kernel feed corn or can you use cracked corn?

    • I have only used whole kernel. In the instances when the corn got really old it ended up cracking and tearing holes in the fabric. For that reason, I’d recommend whole corn, cherry pits, rice, or flaxseed.

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