Homemade gel ice packs
These homemade gel ice packs are more comfortable than a bag of frozen peas, because they mold better to your body without the lumps and bumps.
They can be made for under $3.
What you need:
- 1 quart or 1 gallon plastic freezer bags (depending on how large you want the cold pack)
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup rubbing alcohol
- Fill the plastic freezer bag with 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and 2 cups of water.
- Try to get as much air out of the freezer bag before sealing it shut.
- Place the bag and its contents inside a second freezer bag to contain any leakage.
- Leave the bag in the freezer for at least an hour.
When it’s ready, place a towel between the gel pack and bare skin to avoid burning the skin.
An alternative filler is simply to use dish soap, which has a gel-like consistency and will also freeze/retain the cold.
Homemade moist heat packs
Heat therapy increases circulation to aching muscles and injured areas of your back and can provide soothing pain relief.
There are two types of heat therapy, dry and moist.
Moist heat packs are less dehydrating to the skin than dry heat, and they allow heat to absorb better into the skin and may relieve pain faster.
What you need:
- Cloth container (sock, small pillow case, fabric)
- 4-6 cups of filling (e.g. uncooked rice, flax seed, buckwheat, oatmeal)
- Needle and thread (optional, but recommended)
- Fill your cloth container with the filling.
- Tie or sew the container shut.
- Add soothing aromatherapy before you microwave, if you want.
- Microwave container for 1-3 minutes.
Perhaps you can find more useful tips in these three more articles about making your own pack:
wikiHow to Make a Rice Sock – WikiHow illustrated step-by-step instructions
You will need:
- Tightly woven fabric – about 18 inches by 11. A fat quarter, used by quilters, is ideal. It comes in a rainbow of color and patterns. The dimensions are 18” x 22” so you can get two extra large rice bags from each quarter.
- Rice – buy the cheapest. I used two pounds of rice to make the extra large bag. The amount needed will vary, depending on how tightly you fill the bags.
- Optional cover: Fleece remnant about 9 inches by 25 inches and, if desired, trim about 10 inches long.
To make rice bag:
- Fold fabric in half, matching right side to right side.
- Beginning at fold, stitch one long edge, turn the corner and stitch across the end, using 5/8 inch seam allowance.
- Snip corners on a diagonal to remove excess fabric.
- Turn so right side of fabric is out and the seams are inside.
- Next create channels to hold the rice in place.
- Begin at the closed edge of the bag and stitch one or more columns up to two inches from open edge
- Fill each channel between one half and two thirds full, using the opening.
- This is the tricky part! Keep rice bag on the table for this. You can either lay it flat or stand it on the closed end. Tuck edges into the opening the width of the seam allowance which is 5/8 inch, taking care to keep the folded over fabric even. Pin as you go, spacing pins fairly close together to keep rice in the bag. Then stitch to close opening – I don’t have any happy tips to offer, except do the best you can to keep the rice pushed back. Just go for it! Closing the opening by hand stitching is also an option, if you prefer.
To use as cold pack: Place rice bag in a tightly closed freezer bag and keep in freezer until needed.
Rice bag will mold to the body providing cold to relieve inflammation and swelling.
The bag will hold the cold for the twenty minutes often prescribed and, depending on its size, even longer.
To use as hot pack: Place in microwave and heat on high in 30 second intervals. BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERHEAT!
Two minutes in my microwave will let me comfortably place the rice bag on skin and provide effective heat.
However, that may not be true for your microwave. Also, the time needed to heat the rice to a comfortable and effective temperature will vary according to the size of the rice bag.
Experiment with your new rice bag and your specific microwave to find the optimum time necessary to provide you with comfortable heat.
First, let’s look at the fillers.
- Quart size Ziploc Freezer Bag
- 3 to 4 cups of regular rice (not instant)
The Ziploc brand bag I used is microwavable. If using a different brand, make sure it is microwavable. Fill the ziploc bag with the rice. You want the bag to be about half to three quarters full. Place the bag on a microwave safe plate and put in the microwave. Leave the bag open a bit to vent. Heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Be careful when removing from microwave – it will be hot. Zip the bag up completely. You can wrap this in a towel to use, or you can try making the fabric sleeve in the instructions below.
- Quart size Ziploc Freezer Bag.
- 1-1/2 cups Water
- 1/2 cup Rubbing Alcohol
Put the rubbing alcohol and the water in the ziploc bag and seal. Put in the freezer. Within a few hours you should have a nice slushy mixture. (This is a 1 part alcohol to 3 parts water mixture.) Wrap in a towel or use a fabric sleeve as in the instructions below.