my homemade heating pad stinks!
May 18, 2009 6:51 AM   Subscribe

help me make a microwaveable heating pad that doesn't burn or smell bad. barring that, help me buy one.

i made a heating pad following many instructions on the internet. i went the "tie some rice in a sock and microwave it" route. i wanted to try it before i did something crazy like sew one. i'm glad i did because i'm getting undesired results.

i've made 3 in the last two weeks or so. my experiences go like this: make sock/rice heating pad (both brown and white rice have been tried), for the first few microwave trips (a minute to two minutes, and then every 20 minutes or so, another minute, for stretches of about an hour or two).

after the first few heatings there is residual water on the sock, then slowly, in the next few heatings, everything smells vaugly like day old burnt popcorn or burnt rice on a rice cooker. then it takes on a smell that can't be dealt with and it gets thrown away and i start over. the rice is also very dark brown to black at this point.

i've read online about adding oils or herbs, but this won't actually help the burning problem, just mask the odor for longer. is there another solutions? is there a grain better suited that won't get burned?

i also am not adverse to buying something professionally made if it does the job. i want something soft, about 6"x3", that can be reheated in the microwave so i can control the temperature (hot hands and the sodium acetate warmers fail the temperature control test). i don't want anything electrical.

help me stay warm!
posted by nadawi to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You're burning it. Same will happen to any grain filling. Next time you put one of these things in your microwave, heat it for half a minute instead of one minute.
posted by flabdablet at 6:55 AM on May 18, 2009

- heating it too long
- let it dry out much longer between uses. That might mean having a few that you rotate.
- it's better if it's in a long thin line, rather than a short fat thick sock. The ones I make look like little duvets - little pillows holding bits of rice/flax so that they don't get all bunched up at one end. It takes a lot of heat to warm the inner rice/flax so by the time those are heated, the exterior layer is crunched.
- I use flax because it doesn't burn as easily, although apparently there are cases of either rice or flax burning/exploding in the microwave.
- you can buy them on etsy for a VERY reasonable price. Get a few and rotate!
posted by barnone at 7:10 AM on May 18, 2009

I made mine out of flax seed, but I agree with everyone else--you're heating it for too long. Make several more, heat for less than 30 seconds and rotate more frequently. If they're not getting hot enough, consider getting an old fashioned water bottle and using near-boiling water.

Also...are the socks you're using clean? As in never, ever worn, not just washed? I can't help but feel like that would make a difference.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:57 AM on May 18, 2009

PS: Apparently "feed corn" is the best filler. Or cherry pits. But I haven't had any issues with my flax one.
posted by barnone at 8:00 AM on May 18, 2009

I use wheat, And if it's burning, it's because there isn't enough water. Try sprinkling the pad with water a few minutes before you heat it. I can heat a pad for 3-4 minutes using this method. It's the water in the pad that helps keep the heat in.
posted by Solomon at 8:48 AM on May 18, 2009

When you heat them, put a measuring cup filled with water in the microwave as well. I think it's inevitable that you'll have some smell when you heat up rice; over time, I've come to actually kind of like the smell.
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:03 AM on May 18, 2009

I'll join the chorus to say that you're overheating the bag or not distributing the contents evenly, so some bits get burned. While my rice bags do start to smell a bit cooked, it usually takes many weeks.

I've had best luck with a long, sort of flat bag. I curl it on its side in the microwave. I have a feeble microwave and use 2 minutes for the first heating, then scrunch the rice around and reposition the bag, then nuke for another 30-45 seconds and I'm done. If I had a stronger microwave, I'd lower the power or reduce the heating time.

My rice seems to absorb moisture from the air. The bag itself will occasionally feel pleasantly damp (I like moist heat) but there won't actually be puddles. I don't wet the rice or anything.
posted by PatoPata at 9:21 AM on May 18, 2009

To purchase: Thermipaq Thermal Clay heating pad. Can be placed in freezer for cooling effect, or microwaved for warmth.
posted by goml at 10:42 AM on May 18, 2009

I'd fill my pads with silica gel beads.

They run about $12/lb. from the linked company.

They won't burn, and I don't think they will burn your cotton sock in the microwave either, since they only heat in the first place because of the water they have absorbed.

They have the added virtue that if you dry them out, partially or completely, and store them in an airtight container, they will heat up spontaneously when you get them out again because of the latent heat of vaporization of the water they absorb.

They are odorless except for any odors they may absorb (which can be burned out of them), and the non-indicator variety is nontoxic when ingested.
posted by jamjam at 11:56 AM on May 18, 2009

Please ignore above link by me.

Duro-Med TheraBeads King Sized Back Pain Relief

This product will never stink. It comes in many sizes. Amazon appears cheapest. Rice and grain will always end up smelling foul. I use this one 3-5 times a day with no stink!
posted by vincele at 3:13 PM on May 18, 2009

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