How to Use a Microwavable Heating Pad

Heating Pads are easy and effective tools used to apply comfortable heat to help alleviate muscle cramps and pain.

Whether you have a rice sock, a heating pad purchased online, or you decide to make your own with beans, flax seeds, or other pantry items- heating pads are a great way to find relief.

Here are the basic step by step instructions on how to heat up and use a heating pad:

Directions on How To Use a Microwavable Heating Pad:

  • Purchase or make a heating pad that can be heated in the microwave.
  • Place a heating pad and a small microwavable glass of water inside the microwave.
  • Heat the heating pad for 1-3 minutes (depending on heating pad filler and density of heating pad).
  • Allow the heating pad to cool to a comfortable temperature.
  • If the heating pad still feels too warm to the touch, place a hand towel or other fabric barrier between the skin and the heating pad.
  • Woman lying down with heating pad

    How to Make a Heating Pad

    There are several tutorials on Pinterest and other online websites that talk about making homemade heating pads.

    Heating pads can be made in all shapes and sizes, with many individuals opting to add essential oils and dried herbs from tea bags to add a calming scent when the heating pad is heated.

    Heating pads can range from rice that is knotted up in an old wool sock to one that is in the shape of a favorite animal that smells like Christmas morning after a thunderstorm.

    With so many options, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the myriads of choices available when it comes to making a heating pad. 

    However, all microwavable heating pads have the following features in common:

    • A cloth covering made of natural fibers such as hemp, cotton, or wool
    • A dry substance that retains heat used as a filler such as rice, dried beans, flax seed, cherry pits, clay beads, or certain sands.

    To make a simple heating pad:

    1. Choose a natural fiber fabric to use to make a cover (avoid polyesters and other materials that are petroleum based).
    2. Cut two identical pieces of fabric the size that you would like your heating pad to be. Make sure to add ½ inch border to use as a seam allowance.
    3. Place the two pieces of fabric on top of each other with the printed, or pretty side, facing each other, leaving the dull side facing you. Make sure both pieces are aligned perfectly with each other.
    4. Using a sewing machine, go along three of the sides and half of the fourth side, leaving a small, open pocket.
    5. Reach inside the pocket and pull the pouch until the printed sides are now on the outside.
    6. Choose a filler that can be microwaved repeatedly without burning, smelling, or rotting. If using a pantry based filler be aware that any food stuff placed inside a heating pad is subject to decay, especially if repeatedly heated.
    7. Fill the pouch with your desired filler. Leave enough space at the top so you can either close up the pouch hole with a sewing machine or by hand stitching it.

    Visual templet on how to sew a heating pad

    Making a Rice Sock

    If you need a heating pad in a hurry and don’t have the time or a sewing machine to make one, rice socks are the quick and easy option for fast relief.

    To make a rice sock heating pad all you have to do is:

    • Find a clean wool or other natural fiber sock that is free from holes.
    • Measure out several cups of uncooked rice (avoid parboiled rice and instant rice)  that are free from weevils or any signs of rot. 
    • Fill the sock about ¾ of the way with the uncooked rice, making sure that there is enough room at the top of the sock to tie a tight knot.
    • Secure the top of the sock with a double knot.

    Best Rice for Rice Sock Heating Pads

    Although most uncooked rice can be used to make rice sock heating pads, long grained white rice is considered the best rice to use.

    Brown rice can also be used, but not only is it more expensive than long grain white rice, it has more of a powdery residue.

    Do not use precooked, instant, or parboiled rice.

    Not only does precooked rice rot, but it has a tendency to burn more than uncooked white rice.

    Best Heating Pad Filler

    When it comes to filling a heating pad many people turn to their cupboards to find cheap and easy to find materials to stuff their pads.

    However, like all food, things that are kept in a pantry or cupboard have an expiration date.

    Eventually items such as rice, flax seed, beans, corn, and other substances will go bad and begin to smell.

    Not only are pantry based items prone to smelling, they are also prone to burning if overheated.

    If you plan on using a pantry based heating pad, make sure that you check the contents of the pad occasionally to make sure there are no signs of burning, rot, or bugs.

    There are common non-pantry items used to fill heating pads.

    These items include clay beads, cherry pits, and sand.

    While none of these items will rot, the heat retention for clay beads and cherry pits are inferior to their pantry counterparts.

    Sand on the other hand is a completely different story, especially lava sand.

    Lava sand is a type of sand mined near extinct volcanoes.

    It is a rare substance that is protected in many arts of the world.

    However, there are some locations where lava sand is legally gathered for the use of heating pads, such is the case with Lavabags.

    Dark things absorb heat while lighter colors tend to reflect it, which is why lava sand is preferable to other sand that you commonly find in landscaping and playgrounds.

    Lava sand absorbs heat and retains it longer and at a more consistently comfortable temperature than all other fillers in the pantry or on the market.

    Microwaving a Heating Pad

    When heating a microwavable heating pad in the microwave it is generally recommended that a cup of water be heated alongside the pad in a mug or other microwave safe cup.

    The reason for this is to help provide moisture in the microwave so that the foodstuffs used to fill the heating pad are less prone to burning.

    The more a heating pad filled with food items is heated the more the items dry out and eventually burn.

    If you open up a rice sock that has been used multiple times you will discover how the grains in the center of the rock are discolored or even burnt.

    It is recommended that if you use a heating pad stuffed with pantry items that you check it regularly and throw it away when you begin to smell any signs of burning.

    If you use a heating pad that is made from non combustible materials then a cup of water is not needed when you microwave your heating pad.

    How Long to Heat a Heating Pad

    The amount of time that you heat a heating pad is dependent on the materials used to fill the heating pad and the density of the heating pad itself.

    If you buy a microwavable heating pad online follow the instructions that came with the product.

    However, if you made your own heating pad, the average time to heat it is between 1-2 minutes.

    The skinnier the heating pad, the less amount of time it takes to heat.

    When making your heating pad, consider making one that is flatter so that the heat can be more evenly distributed.

    Heating pads that are too thick in the center will take longer to heat and run the risk of burning. That is because in order to heat the entire heating pad up hot enough for use some spots may get overcooked.

    Also, for heating pads that use small grained fillers such as flax seed and walnut shells, it is recommended to only heat it up for 1-1 ½ minutes since smaller grains burn quicker than larter grains such as corm, rice, and beans.

    For noncombustible heating pads, they can be heated for up to three minutes.

    Allow Heating Pads to Cool to a Comfortable Temperature

    Once the heating pad is sufficiently heated in the microwave, be careful in removing it since in many cases it may be slightly too hot to handle.

    It may take a heating pad a few minutes to cool down enough to use.

    However, if you need to use the heating pad immediately, place a cloth barrier such as a hand towel, blanket, or other piece of fabric between the skin of the individual and the heating pad.

    Heat retention of heating pads varies according to the fillers used inside them.

    Larger grains such as rice, corn, and beans are hotter when removed from the microwave and take the longest to cool down.

    However, they retain their heat longer than smaller grained fillers such as flax seed, steel cut oats, and walnut shells.

    Heating pads made from lava sand outperformed all other traditional heating pad fillers because it reached a comfortable temperature sooner and retained it longer than when compared to rice, corn, flax, clay beads, cherry pits, pearled barley, steel cut oats, wheat, and other pantry based items.

    Heating Pads are Safe and Effective Forms of Pain Management

    When it comes to pain relief for muscle aches and cramping, heating pads are a must have tool.

    Unlike pain medications, you can begin to experience comfort in only a few moments by just a few pushes of a microwave’s buttons.

    By making sure that the heating pad you use is microwave safe and heated according to directions, you can relax and enjoy the benefits that microwavable heating pads offer.