Eco-Saturday: Easy rice bags

This is the first of two Eco-Saturday offerings you’re getting this week to make up for the fact that I didn’t post one last week. This one is apartment-friendly and very cheap and easy. 

Years ago, one of my mom’s Brownies or Sunday-school students or somebody gave her a Christmas present. It was a cloth bag, stuffed loosely with rice and sewn shut, with a little instruction tag that said to microwave it and “put it where you hurt.”

Rice bags have been pretty much standard-issue at her house ever since.

You can make them out of just about any fabric, provided it doesn’t have big holes in it that would let the rice fall out and isn’t made of synthetic fibers that are likely to melt when heated, but in my infinite laziness, I like to make them out of knee-high socks.

Here’s what you need:

Knee-high sock (cotton or cotton blend)
About two cups of rice
Empty Ro-Tel or enchilada sauce can (optional but very helpful)


Remove the ends from an empty Ro-Tel or enchilada sauce can. (I’m specifying these two types because you can use a can opener to take off the top and bottom. A lot of cans these days are designed for easy stacking, with rounded edges on the bottom that you can’t remove with a can opener. So far, Ro-Tel and Old El Paso haven’t sold out yet.)


Slip the sock over one end of the can.

Using the can as a sort of funnel to keep the sock open, pour rice into the sock.


Tie a knot in the end.

Microwave for 30 to 90 seconds, depending on how much heat your skin will tolerate, and drape around your neck, shoulder or wherever else your muscles feel sore or tight. You can also freeze rice bags to use in place of ice packs.

The nice thing about rice bags is that they serve the same purpose as a heating pad, but the only electricity they use is the amount necessary to heat them in the microwave — as opposed to being plugged into the wall the whole time you use them, like a conventional heating pad — and they don’t involve any packaging, disposable parts or weird chemicals like the self-heating pads and patches you get at the drugstore. Good way to recycle mismatched socks, too.


One thought on “Eco-Saturday: Easy rice bags”

  1. I usually use two socks. One to hold the rice, tie your knot, then insert it into a second one to act as a removable cover so you can take it off and wash it if it gets grimy. I usually have enough mis-matched socks to do the job.

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