The absolute best option for microwavable heat is a corn bag if sustained heat is your only concern. You should know there is a problem with the smell though. The first time you heat a corn bag it will have a pleasant popcorn smell. The next time it won’t be so pleasant. Eventually the corn bag will take on an earthy smell that you will mostly become nose-blind to. Others will notice it and be too polite to say anything. I tried many DIY solutions, but I have to admit that in the end the best option was a purchase.
My husband keeps the house almost unbearably cold even in the summer, so this has been a long quest for me. I almost caught a cold on my honeymoon in the summer…in Cancún because hubby likes to sleep at 68 degrees in the summer, 66degrees in the winter. (Help! I married a Viking!) I didn’t know I should pack sweatpants and wool socks for my honeymoon! That’s what I sleep in now (we are such romantics). I’ve found I can shave lots of time off my ‘falling asleep’ winddown if I can get my feet warm.
I grew up in a really drafty house that relied on wood-burning stoves, a drafty crawl space under the house and constantly battling frozen pipes every winter. My mother-in-law had mercy on me and bought me a heated throw blanket in our first year of marriage which gave up the ghost before our 4th Wedding Anniversary. I still use a heated throw blanket in my office, but we began to worry about the safety of sleeping with electric blankets. The final straw was when I began to have hot flashes and I would wake up drenched in sweat unable to get away from the heated mattress pad…it’s not like you can just throw off the blanket. You’ll have dreams you are a hot-dog on a grill!
After my first pair of ‘corn bags’ began to leak burnt crumbs I asked my mom to sew me up a new pair. My angel mom upgraded my originals with cotton corn bags and perfectly sized fleece cases for washability! We still use them for injuries or if a child needs a heat bag for their bed. For nightly use though, they quickly began to have an unpleasant scent and I was beginning to battle with the hubby over the thermostat.
The Quest was on! I read about walnut shells and I tracked down a case of walnut hulls at a tool supply store. I filled this Holstein Cow bag with Walnut Hulls and it heated great! It really was hotter than blazes and stayed that way for hours and hours. However, something about the heat didn’t seem right. I grew up in logging country and down there we’ve had incidences of sawdust piles spontaneously combusting. After 3 uses I was done. It actually smelled like a brewing fire. I am not taking a chance of catching my microwave on fire. Anyone want to buy a box of walnut shells?
Next up was Cherry Pits. There is an actual business that sells cleaned, dried cherry pits. It sounded so perfect I figured my mom and sisters would want some to replace their corn bags. I bought the 40 pound bag. The shipping was almost as much as the price of the bag. Oh well, I had come that far. By the end it was over $60 which made this an expensive DIY experiment. Once the huge bag was in my dining room I filled a cloth bag, sewed it up and microwaved it. Just like with corn bags, the first heating smelled yummy. The cherry pits smelled like a cherry pie! I was excited and held the bag close enjoying the ‘aroma therapy’ but the heat dissipated far too quickly. I was in love with the scent and decided I would just use a lot more bags, but the sweet scent of cherry pie quickly fermented and was no longer pleasant. These do make good coldpacks though because they give up their cold quickly, don’t give you ‘frost bite’, conform to shape of the injury, have no fluid to leak and they don’t break down like my previous go-to frozen peas. These Made In America Hefty bags are all it takes to make a small cold-pack. They also make a nearly musical sound that is addictive to kneed with your hands, so they would be perfect for a kid’s stuffed animal. I don’t sew kids toys anymore, and I don’t need 40 pounds of ice packs, so if you want a small sample size of cherry pits to experiment with I’m happy to part with some.
In all this bustle I noticed I had an “Aromatherapy Spa Wrap” I had picked up at a garage sale. After a week of using it I noticed the baby blue velvet had developed some discoloring from nightly heating in the microwave and it didn’t hold heat as well as corn or walnut hulls, but it also didn’t have any odor. It was too small to wrap around my feet, and didn’t have enough volume to stay warm very long, but I discovered that ‘mineral beads’ would heat and not create any odors.
I found these heat bags with clay beads that are large enough to wrap around my feet from ankle to toe. These really saved my bacon when I broke my leg because my cast had to be elevated high in the air every night and it was too painful to sleep with a heavy quilt pushing down my toes. I was able to prop my leg up above the blankets and wrap the heating pad around the ankle to add soothing heat that radiated all the way to my bare toes.
The grey color takes a beating well and the suede fabric is warm to the touch without being as bulky as fleece. By laying it flat in the microwave and propping up the ends it can fit on the turn table and expose the maximum surface area to microwaving. Mine is 11.5″ by 20″ and it weighs about 4.5 pounds. This is the closest thing currently available for sale. In my freezing house with my freezing toes it stays warm around an hour. If I haven’t gotten to sleep before they have cooled down I sometimes get up and zap them in the microwave again. Which brings me to one
other possible option.
These ‘bottom warmers‘ are popular with the hunting crowd. I don’t hunt, but when I camp I put two in my sleeping bag and hug them to bring my core body temperature up. As I get warmer and warmer at night I keep pushing it down in my sleep and wake up in the morning plenty warm with it at my feet. On ridiculously cold night I use these in addition to my heat bags to see if I can avoid re-heating in the night. It’s good to have a back-up if a winter storm takes out your electricity.
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