Instructables
It is now a little over two years since I created this instructable, and just this past week (Sept 2008) it was published as part of The Hungry Scientist Handbook by Patrick Buckley & Lily Binns!



[href="http://modular.ucsd.edu/pics/05-2003/Pigeons_051803/lehrer-pigeons.mp3 Spring is here], and what better time to learn how make something to keep your fingers warm in the middle of winter?! Yeah sure, I guess autumn or even early winter would be a better time for that, but too bad, I'm doing this now. Hey, after all, maybe somebody reading this is about to embark upon an Antarctic adventure! Although I don't suppose that's very likely. Well, maybe y'all can try to remember how to do this for next year, eh?

Microwavable mitten warmers will provide your fingers with warmth for your daily bike commute or morning stroll. These little, reusable bags should be able to give off heat for half an hour or more.
 
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Step 1: Materials

These mitten warmers can be made quickly and easily. This instructable will show you several different methods so you have lots of options depending on your resources and abilities.

Here is a list of supplies you may choose to use:

Essential items:
- mittens (obviously)
- microwave oven
- dry, uncooked rice or lentils - but not popcorn, that's a bad choice.

Choice of cotton fabric:
- old dish towel
- old sock
- old T-shirt
- etc.

One or two of the following items:
- sewing machine
- needle and thread
- fusible webbing
- string
- rubber bands
nlgross3 years ago
I tried using small pink beans (inexpensive). Work great but after a few uses, the beans smell like cooked beans. Does rice really work better, without the smell? I don't think I can get corn.
wrique (author)  nlgross3 years ago
My experience has been that rice works fine. It does acquire a slight cooked smell to it too, but it hasn't degraded yet, & still holds the heat.
nlgross wrique3 years ago
Thanks!
Asce3 years ago
awesome. just awesome.
alix-cool3 years ago
Thanks for the great idea!
p.s. if you put some essential oil in it to make it smell nice would that work?
wrique (author)  alix-cool3 years ago
That's a very cool idea! Certainly worth trying.

I've only made these with Basmati rice, which is rather fragrant to begin with. Other rices just as Jasmine may be even more so.
Lance Mt.4 years ago
 " - but not popcorn, thats a bad choice."

...Or the BEST CHOICE!
BluesHarp8 years ago
We have one of these ... much bigger ... the size of a small pillow, maybe 6"x8" .... made with whole kernals of field corn (buy it at your local grain elevator .... oh yeah ... did I mention I'm from rural Nebraska?) .... we call them "Husker bags" .... The whole kernal corn doesn't soak up moisture. We actually keep ours in the freezer ... makes an excellent cold pack when needed, and if we need a hot pack, we take it out, throw it in the microwave for 3 minutes, and its nice and toasty.
Same here in Louisiana.  People would sell these at craft fairs from palm sized bags up to 12"x8" pillows (heavy damn things).  We also used deer corn (field corn, same thing).  Besides moisture resistant, they are also denser than most beans or rice meaning that they will retain their heat longer (small packs hold about 20-30 min of heat).  Hadn't tried the "freezing them" thing.  Good idea.  Nice Instructable, wrique.
Yet another alternative to rice is buckwheat hulls. It works very well, especially in larger formats (because it's lighter than rice). Also, add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil, and your warmer will emit a very nice and relaxing aroma.
mickeypop4 years ago
I've loved this idea for a few years now, but with a twist.

Buy a pair of gloves 2 sizes too big.
Turn them inside out and saw a pocket in the palm and back of the hand.
Fill, close, then turn right side out again.

Now i just through the whole glove in the microwave.

Works great.
bythepiece4 years ago
This is not what I thought it was.  Apparently you have to have mittens to put this in.  I thought it was a two-sided bag to put your hands into to warm them.  Also when you get old, sometimes you feet or hands just ache.  If you made 2 bigger ones and sewed them together on three sides you could slip your hands or feet into it and make a pair of each.  Thanks for the idea.
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jrossetti4 years ago
After some experimentation, I ended up using lima beans because they stay warm longer than rice.
And who really wants to eat yucky lima beans any way.
BobicusIX4 years ago
How long do these stay warm?
wrique (author)  BobicusIX4 years ago
I've found that at -25°C, these give me about 15 minutes of heat, which is enough for my walk to catch my bus.  After a thirty-minute bus ride, they no longer feel hot, but they do still help keep my hands warm for a further twenty-minute walk from my bus stop to my work.
oh, cool. but 25 Celsius? or did you mean Farenheit? Because to my understanding, -25 Celsius is about -60 Farenheit. Even though i dont know the exact conversion.
wrique (author)  BobicusIX4 years ago
-25°C is actually -13°F; pretty cold, but not as viciously cold as -60°F!

By the way, if you ever need an online unit converter, I highly recommend Speck Design's site:  http://www.speckdesign.com/tools/unitconversion - it even includes obscure old Russian units of measurement!  Granted, I don't know when I'd ever need to know that 1 kilometer is 0.937 Verst, but if I did, this site would help me out.
Oh... I guess i must have been thinking of something else. Thanks!
ax89 BobicusIX4 years ago
BobicusIX - the conversion from °C to °F is: x * 9/5 + 32, so -25C is -13F.

If you don't remember the formula, all you have to remember is 0°C = 32°F and 100°C = 212°F and then you can derive it from that.
doove4 years ago
Canada of the really long winters thanks you.
Great instructable! I like how you gave so many different ways to make them.
Love it!  Thanx for the easy directions and nice photos! :)
 
Sunbanks4 years ago
Flax seed also works well, but that might be harder to find than rice. 
sarahfish4 years ago
 great idea!  I've made bigger rice bags for sore backs and things, never thought to make it mini for mittens and boots though!
Why not get 2 pairs of gloves/socks or combination of, put one inside the other, fill the cavity with the rice and then stitch at the top??
wrique (author)  subtle_narcist8 years ago
Yep you sure could do that! In fact, if you have a pair of lined mitts, all you'd need to do is open up the seam a ltitle bit at the wrist, pour in the rice, and sew it back up. The just nuke the mittens and away you go.
Yeah but the bad thing is lots of gloves have synthetic stuff on it which melts if you heat it up
This is a really great idea. I think I'll have to make some since it's already in the 30s here. :D
yuckzee6 years ago
my grandma makes things like these all the time, except for instead of being small there like big tubesocks[not realy but about that size] and wrap them around our necks when its cold or or a bruised body part or what not
viviluk6 years ago
i tried this before but used red bean. it smells so good using red bean. hmm maybe i should do an instruction about that. who agrees/supports?
karen6087 years ago
Well many years ago I made a sock ice pack like this with an orphan sock. I still use it as a cold pack and it lives in my freezer and the rice seems fine. I rarely heat it for a heat pack but have done so, and so problems at all so far.
Thanks so much for this instructable! I just finished 3 pairs (6 total) 1 set for me, one for my mom and one for my friend. But I didn't have any fabric handy so I just used old (clean) fleece pants with different designs on them. They keep the heat in pretty well, and I will def remember to change the rice and wash the pouches every few weeks.
My grandma makes a whole heap of these... A precaution: replace the rice every so often, cause after a while it starts to cook and burn and all sorts of unpleasant things begin to happen
sumipark8 years ago
could you use salt in these bags... maybe rock salt ( ice cream salt)
_soapy_8 years ago
If the sand is dry, you won't heat it, but you might destroy your oven. I suspect that there is no relationship between the pad itself and the fungal infection, rather it is the same as athlete's foot, it's just warm and damp all the time. Doctors recommend only using outside heat for 15 minutes at a time, with a half hour break. Don't be weird and use it 24/7, and you will be fine.
Unless you plan to make these often I would suggest Velcro, a zipper or some other closure. The warm rice will cause the skin to sweat and then the rice soaks up the moisture which becomes a breeding ground for many undesirable things. I know a girl who got a fungal infection from religiously using one of these things. It would be best to replace the rice and wash the bag occasionally or better yet try something inert. Anyone ever microwave perlite or sand before?
nospleen8 years ago
My mom got a few of these at a craft fair one time. They are bigger though and we use them like hot packs on sore muscles. They work great. Excellent instructable though.