How to make Rice Heating Pads Smell Better

Nothing can be as comforting as a favorite rice heating pad when the discomfort of cramping occurs.

Be it menstrual cramps from periods, tension cramps, or other types of muscle aches, microwavable heating pads offer fast soothing relief.

Rice heating pads are a cheap and easy way to make a great natural pain relief tool in a hurry.

Rice socks or DIY heating pads made with cute fabrics and supplies found in cupboards dominate many Pinterest feeds.

However, there is one problem with these easy to make heating pads…

After a while, they can begin to smell!

So, what can you do to make sure that your rice socks or other rice heating pads don't smell when you need them most?

Woman holding nose from smell

Why Rice Socks and Rice Heating Pads Smell

First, let’s discuss why rice heating pads may begin to reek in the first place.

Rice, especially long grained white rice which is recommended by various tutorials as the main heating pad element, is a cheap, easy filler for heating pads and rice socks.

However, it is also a food.

Rice Expiration Dates

If you check the package of the rice in your cupboard or at the store you will see that there is an expiration date stamped on it.

All food, even dry pantry staples, have an expiration date.

An expiration date is the date when rice producers and packagers estimate that a food item will maintain its optimal usability.

After that date, the quality of the product can no longer be guaranteed and the food item itself is likely to deteriorate.

The expiration date on a package assures the customer that the product-unopened and left in optimal environmental conditions, will remain good until that day.

The same goes for rice.

An unopened package of rice kept in an airtight container in ideal conditions can last almost indefinitely.

However, normal bags of rice that are exposed to air have a limited shelf life since they can become subject to air, rot, mildew, humidity, etc.

According to Healthline.com, white rice has a shelf life of about two years.

Signs that your rice has gone bad includes:

  • Holes in the bag
  • Bugs in the rice
  • Moisture under bag
  • Beginning signs of mold or mildew
  • Bad odor

The covering or bag portion of a rice heating pad is porous, and thus exposes the rice to air, moisture, and possible mildew.

One of the main reasons that a rice heating pad may smell strange or rotten is because the rice is beginning to deteriorate and rot.

Rice Can Burn

Another cause for a rice sock heating pad to smell is the tendency of dried food stuffs to begin to burn in the microwave.

Have you ever put some leftover food in the microwave and instead of reheating it for one minute the microwave timer accidently gets set for 10 minutes?

Well, sadly that was an experience one of my children had when learning how to use this marvel of reheating technology.

If you never had the exhilarating experience of rushing through a smoky house to quickly retrieve the piece of charred inedible cardboard and tossing it straight into a sink of water, you may not realize how easy it is to burn food in the microwave.

The reason why I relate this story is to show that food has a burning point, even in the microwave.

The drier the material, the easier it is for it to burn.

This goes the same for rice.

When heating up a rice sock or heating pad, it is recommended to include a small mug of water to provide adequate moisture to help the rice not burn.

As the water is heated, the rice absorbs some of the steam helping it not to burn.

However, sometimes the steam only reaches the outward layers of rice inside the rice sock, leaving the rice in the very middle still vulnerable to burning if the heating pad is too thick.

If your rice sock has a faint burnt smell, the cause of the smell may be that part of your rice filling is burnt.

To avoid this and depending on the thickness of the heating pad, a heating pad should be heated in the microwave between 1 and a half to three minutes at the most.

Rice Attracts Bugs

Weevils in Rice

Have you ever gone to the cupboard ready to make some delicious fried rice or rice pudding, only to find that your bag of rice has been invaded by weevils?

Or, have you ever opened a bag of newly purchased rice only to be turned off by the stench of the colony of creepy crawlies?

Sadly, those situations have happened to my family more than once during dinner time.

In response, I have had to run off to the supermarket on more than one occasion to buy out all of their airtight food containers in an attempt to save my pantry items.

How does this relate to rice heating pads?

Unfortunately, as mentioned before, the fabric used to make rice heating pads and rice socks isn't airtight.

It also doesn't offer any protection from the creepy crawlies that want to make your rice heating pad their homes and breeding grounds.

Yes, there could be weevils living in your rice sock!

You may ask as many do...

"How do weevils get into sealed bags of rice and my heating pad?"

Trigger Warning: Weevils complete their entire life cycles in the rice and other grain products you eat.

The Rice Weevil Life Cycle

There is an actual species of weevil that infests grains, especially rice, called the rice weevil.

Although not dangerous or poisonous, rice weevils are a pest that affects the food supply around the world and destroy tons of grain every year.

This is how the weevil life cycle is described by the University of Pennsylvania:

The weevil life cycle begins with an adult rice weevil laying eggs inside kernels of various grains, including rice.

She does this by chewing a small hole in a grain kernel with her pair of mandibles, depositing a single egg inside, and then sealing it with a gel type fluid.

From there, and over the course of her four to five month lifespan, she lays between 300-400 white eggs in single kernels of grain.

Each, carefully hidden and completely undetectable to the human eye.

The egg then hatches and a white, squishy larva eats the kernel that it was hatched in.

It then changes into a white pupa before emerging as an adult beetle, ready to start the next cycle all over again.

The total time of the egg to adult transformation is dependent on the temperatures that the grain is stored.

The fastest growing rate is 26 days, with optimal temperature occurring between 77-81 degrees F. 

Unlike other weevils who are mainly flightless, rice weevils have wings which help them infest grains in a larger radius.

Ways to Get Rid of Rice Weevils

It is very easy for weevils, especially rice weevils to infiltrate the pantry and even your favorite rice heating pad.

Here are some tried and try methods of getting rid of these pesky little pests:

  • Store all grains in airtight containers
  • Throw away bags of food that show signs of heavy infestations
  • Freeze grains, such as rice, wheat, corn, beans to help kill weevil eggs
  • Periodically vacuum out pantry cupboards
  • Never use chemicals or pesticides that can come into contact with food.

Will Microwaving My Rice Heating Pad Kill the Weevils Inside?

One trip in the microwave would kill off anything currently living in the heating pad.

However, merely killing off weevils may not eliminate the stench of the weevils and the damage they have already caused to the grains of rice.

How To Make A Rice Heating Pad or Rice Sock Smell Better

Now that we’ve listed reasons why a rice heating pad or rice sock may start to reek, here are some helpful tips to help eliminate odious stenches coming from your favorite heating pad.

Using Essential Oils in A Rice Heating Pad or Rice Sock

Essential oils on table

One of the most popular ways to make a rice heating pad smell nice is to add some drops of essential oils to the rice.

Adding essential oils occurs when you are initially putting the heating pad together.

Essential oils, especially pure therapeutic quality essential oils, are a go to for the DIYer when they want to add a pleasant, soothing, and relaxing element to their rice socks and heating pads.

Unlike perfumes or other forms of fragrances with alcohol or water bases that eventually evaporate, essential oils have a long lasting scent and can handle multiple go-arounds in the microwave.

Some favorite essential oils scents include:

  • Lavender
  • Orange
  • Jasmine
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Cinnamon/Clove Blends
  • Rose
  • Grapefruit
  • Peppermint

However, it must be noted that even essential oils scents eventually fade.

Warning: Make sure you don’t use essential oil scents to cover up underlying problems such as rot, burn, or mildew of the rice heating material.

Replacing Rotten or Burnt Rice in Rice Heating Pad

If you suspect that the filling of your rice heating pad has gone rotten, it may be time to replace it with fresh material.

Due to its cheap construction costs, many people may choose to throw away a rice heating pad once they determine it may have gone rancid.

However, if you have a heating pad that you want to keep using, try the following steps to replace the filling heating material:

  1. Check to see if there is a way built into the pad to easily remove filling such as a buttoned flap or plastic zipper.
  2. If no built in feature is located, locate the side of the heating pad with signs of outward stitching or a section of easily accessible stitching.
  3. Using a seam ripper, carefully undo stitching about an inch long section, creating a hole large enough to pour out contents of the heating pad.
  4. Once all contents are poured out, wash the cover of the heating pad according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  5. Prepare new rice filling by selecting fresh rice without signs of rot or bugs. Use rice placed in the freezer for two weeks to ensure all weevil eggs are no longer viable.
  6. In a bowl, inspect the rice and place essential oils if desired.
  7. Once the heating pad cover is washed and completely dried, use a funnel to pour rice into the heating pad.
  8. Pour enough rice into the heating pad so that it obtains the density and weight that is desired.
  9. Carefully restitch the open seam using a blanket stitch or other hand sewing stitch that will secure the opening.

Avoiding Rice Heating Pads that Smell

If you don’t want the trouble of dealing with heating pads that are prone to smell, invest in a heating pad that doesn’t use perishable food items as its main heating element.

Heating pads with inorganic, yet natural materials are proven to retain heat and comfort better than rice heating pads found on the market or on a DIYers blog.

Natural materials, especially Lava Sand, are a great option for heating pads due to their indestructible qualities and their ability to retain heat longer and at a more comfortable temperature than grain based heating pads.

Lava sand doesn’t rot, and since it is derived from volcanic minerals, will never burn.

Giving you the peace of mind that your heating pad will always be at the ready when you need it most without stench or the unknowing of whether or not it is burning.

Frequently Asked Questions about Rice Heating Pads:

Can I wash a rice heating pad?

Washing a rice heating pad is tricky. Surface washing a pack opens up the possibility of moisture leaking into the rice fillings and causing it to rot, while sticking the whole thing into a washing machine is not advisable. 

To wash a rice heating pack, it is recommended that the filing be completely removed, the case/covering washed as recommended by material type, and then the filling be replaced in the covering so that way it is never exposed to moisture or rot.

Can I use something other than rice to make a heating pad?

Yes, large grains such as barley, wheat (whole, not processed), corn kernels (not the popping variety), flax, and steel cut oats are used by many DIYers as heating pad filling.

However, these are still food based fillers and will run into the same issues as rice. Only inorganic fillers such as lava sand will not rot or be at risk from bugs and mildew.

What do I do if my heating pad begins to burn?

If a heating pad begins to burn it is suggested that the filling be replaced immediately.