Introduction: Microwavable Mitten Warmers

Picture of Microwavable Mitten Warmers

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=" 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.

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

Step 2: Option One

Picture of Option One

Use a sewing machine to sew a small bag out of some fabric. These ones I made measure about 8cm (3 inches) by 5cm (2 inches).

Begin with a piece of fabric a little wider than you want the finished bag to be, and a little more than twice as long. The extra width is your seam allowance. By the way, you needn't fuss about with a whole lot of cutting, just snip the edge and rip the fabric. Next fold the piece in half with the inside out, and run them through your sewing machine to sew the two sides together. Then turn them right side out, and fill with rice. Tuck the remaining raw edges inside and stitch the opening shut.


The final thing to do with all these options, is to microwave your finished mitten warmers for between 30 seconds to a minute. The rice will likely have a fair bit of moisture in it so for the first few heatings, so expect the warmers to come out of the microwave a bit damp. If you use basmati rice, like I did, also expect it to smell delicious! You can pop them into your mitts right out of the microwave and enjoy you toasty fingers!

Step 3: Option Two

Picture of Option Two

What? You say you don't have a sewing machine? Well it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out you can do pretty much the same thing as Option One, but do all the sewing by hand. I used a blanket stitch to close up the top seam on mine.

Step 4: Option Three

Picture of Option Three

Now if you are like me, you're not a big fan of sewing. Well then, let's try to minimize the amount of sewing you need to do.

Find an old pair of socks that you've worn the heels through, but the toes are still in good shape... and make sure they're clean! Lob off the toes to make pockets with enough room to hold the rice. Fill rice into these pockets, and tuck in the raw edges, placing enough fusible webbing between to span the entire opening. Iron this seam together.

Since microwaving these bags will melt the fusible webbing, you need to stitch along the seam. Socks tend to be quite stretchy and the fusible webbing helps stabilize the fabric while you sew it, however you could do without it if you prefer.

Step 5: Option Four

Picture of Option Four

What's that? You say you suffer from [" aichmophobia] and don't want to sew anything at all? Try this: Either fill the toes of old socks with rice like the previous option, or make a satchel out of an old dishtowel or T-shirt.

One way to make a satchel is to take a square of fabric and push some of it down into one hand that you can fill with rice. Gather up the loose ends over top and tie off with some string. Try not to make the satchel too tight; keep it a little slack. Then just trim off the excess and use.

Step 6: Option Five

Picture of Option Five

So you never quite managed to learn the whole tying-string-together thing, eh? Not to worry, use rubber bands instead of string. Wrap the rubber band as tightly as possible around the open end of the sock, or satchel.

Step 7: Option Six

Picture of Option Six

Still too complicated for you? (sigh...) Okay then, just put some rice in a bowl, heat it up in the microwave, and then pour it into your mittens.

Sure the rice will be loose in your mitts and you'll probably loose some if you raise your hand to wave at a friend, but this is absolutely the fastest and easiest mitten warmer I can think of to keep your fingers from freezing when you are outside [" on a winter's day].


nlgross (author)2011-11-20

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)nlgross2011-11-20

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 (author)wrique2011-11-20


Asce (author)2011-10-13

awesome. just awesome.

alix-cool (author)2010-12-31

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-cool2011-01-02

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. (author)2010-02-06

 " - but not popcorn, thats a bad choice."

...Or the BEST CHOICE!

BluesHarp (author)2006-07-26

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.

firestarter24 (author)BluesHarp2010-01-29

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.

RavingMadStudios (author)2010-01-24

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.

mickeypop (author)2010-01-24

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.

bythepiece (author)2010-01-24

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.

jrossetti (author)2010-01-23

After some experimentation, I ended up using lima beans because they stay warm longer than rice.

mdeblasi1 (author)jrossetti2010-01-24

And who really wants to eat yucky lima beans any way.

BobicusIX (author)2010-01-22

How long do these stay warm?

wrique (author)BobicusIX2010-01-22

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.

BobicusIX (author)wrique2010-01-23

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)BobicusIX2010-01-24

-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: - 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.

BobicusIX (author)wrique2010-01-24

Oh... I guess i must have been thinking of something else. Thanks!

ax89 (author)BobicusIX2010-01-24

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.

doove (author)2010-01-24

Canada of the really long winters thanks you.

stitchknitsew (author)2010-01-24

Great instructable! I like how you gave so many different ways to make them.

fought piranhas (author)2010-01-23
Love it!  Thanx for the easy directions and nice photos! :)
Sunbanks (author)2010-01-22

Flax seed also works well, but that might be harder to find than rice. 

sarahfish (author)2010-01-22

 great idea!  I've made bigger rice bags for sore backs and things, never thought to make it mini for mittens and boots though!

subtle_narcist (author)2006-04-01

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_narcist2006-04-01

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.

blugyblug (author)wrique2008-11-22

Yeah but the bad thing is lots of gloves have synthetic stuff on it which melts if you heat it up

jessyratfink (author)2008-11-21

This is a really great idea. I think I'll have to make some since it's already in the 30s here. :D

yuckzee (author)2008-11-01

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

viviluk (author)2008-03-07

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?

karen608 (author)2007-03-26

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.

Camel_Doughnut (author)2007-01-29

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.

infiniteregress (author)2007-01-11

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

sumipark (author)2006-08-29

could you use salt in these bags... maybe rock salt ( ice cream salt)

_soapy_ (author)2006-06-06

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.

commodoredave (author)2006-05-03

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?

nospleen (author)2006-03-21

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.

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