Make a Vicks VapoRub Rice Bag and a Free Monster Rice Bag Cover

Vicks-Scented Rice Bag - to ease a cough and sniffles without having to use the sticky stuff - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Everyone knows that a little Vicks Vapo-Rub smoothed onto a kid’s chest can help ease a cough and clear up a stuffy nose. But some kids (and some adults too) don’t like the sticky stuff smeared on their skin. And some grown-ups are concerned about using a petroleum jelly-based rub.

I recently had a major Mom-lightbulb-moment. I make rice bags for bedtime – usually scented with orange oil, cinnamon stick and cloves. I will sometimes put one on my “I don’t like sticky stuff on my skin” daughter’s chest to help ease a cough and soothe her to sleep when she’s sick. What if I make a special rice bag for sick times and scent it with the aromatics in Vicks VapoRub?

Awesome – if I do say so myself. Cue the chorus and trumpets please. 🙂

Here’s what to do.

Download this free pattern to make a rice bag. Don’t worry, it’s super easy – all straight lines and no handwork.

Free Rice Bag Pattern from Shiny Happy World

The pattern calls for 2 1/2 cups of rice. Before you put the rice in the bag, stir in 20 drops of eucalyptus oil and 20 drops of rosemary oil. I get my essential oils at Greenlife grocery – which is a division of Whole Foods. They have a health and beauty section off to the side.

Put the rice in the bag and sew it closed. Ta daa!

The smell will be very strong at first – keep it stored in a ziplock bag to help preserve it. After a couple of months it will seem like it’s lost its scent, but microwaving will bring it right out again.

Microwave at 1 – 1 1/2 minutes (depends on the strength of your microwave and how hot you like it) and lay it on your child’s (or your) chest. The warmth will help soothe a cough, and the aromatics will help clear a stuffy head. No stickiness needed. 🙂

For extra comfort – sew up this rice bag cover.

Vicks-Scented Rice Bag - to ease a cough and sniffles without having to use the sticky stuff - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

It’s a free pattern available over at Sew, Mama, Sew! – designed especially to fit the rice bag in the pattern. Sometimes having a special critter like this monster to help scare their cold away does as much good as the aromatics and the chicken soup. 🙂

Happy sewing! And to everyone fighting the cold and flu this season – get well soon!

Applique Wendi (with fabulous hat)


  1. Can’t wait to make these for my grandsons. Thank you so much for all you do.

  2. Becky PS SAYS...

    Great idea! I used to love Vapo-Rub when I was a kid.

  3. AW SAYS...

    Question: What are the best fabrics for making a hot pack? Any restrictions re: microwave?

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I usually use quilting cottons, though I’m also used faux fur and satin without any problems. I recommend trying anything “weird” in the microwave before you use it to make a whole cover – just in case. 🙂 I’m a big believer in testing.

    • ConnieZ SAYS...

      MUST be 100% cotton including thread

      • Actually I’ve used poly blend thread on these and synthetic fur and have never had any problems. You do need to be careful not to overheat a bag made with fur though. Every microwave is different so I can’t give a specific time or setting – but heat it up a bit at a time until you figure out what works best in your oven.

    • Alonda SAYS...

      cotton only

    • Jennifer SAYS...

      I use flannel, it’s what I have the most of on hand. I make smaller versions, in pairs and give them as hand warmers for teacher gifts.

    • Gail SAYS...

      Joann’s sells 100% cotton batting called “Wrap n Zap”. It is microwave safe. The Warm Company which makes Warm and Natural 100% cotton said it is actually 87% cotton and 13% poly blend. The scrim that the batting is attached to has poly in it. Also prewash your cotton fabric before making them because they say the sizing used in fabric has chemicals that can potentially catch fire in the microwave. Poly thread and poly wrapped thread also is a problem. I have a friend that had hers catch fire in the microwave. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

  4. Fiona SAYS...

    I commented earlier but it seems not to be visible, maybe you moderate? Anyway, was curious as to whether or not a specific type of rice needs to be used?


    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Nothing special – I just use whatever is super cheap in the grocery store.

  5. a SAYS...

    I just couldn’t depart your web site prior to
    suggesting that I actually loved the usual
    info a person provide on your visitors? Is going
    to be back regularly to inspect new posts

  6. where you get the color fur for the monster?

    • I got it from a shop on Etsy called Luxury Faux Fur. I’ve bought several from them in the past and I’ve been happy with every single one of them. 🙂

  7. Melanie Shelton SAYS...

    What essential oils and how many drops do you use for your orange/cinnamon/clove rice bags?

    • I use about 20 drops of orange oil and mix in a few actual cloves and a cinnamon stick broken up into a few pieces.

  8. Darcy SAYS...

    Does the rice work well with essential oils?

  9. Anna SAYS...

    I don’t own a microwave, are there alternatives?

    • Sure – you could use a regular oven on low heat. You’ll need to do some experimenting to find the temp and time that work best for you.

  10. Cyndy SAYS...

    I use clean dried corn from the feed store to make these. It works really well and works well with the oils.

  11. Fran W SAYS...

    I had a small canvas bag for hobby lobby that has a zipper at the top. Works great! I painted a spray of eucalyptus leaves, added essential oil so eucalyptus,(respiratory) Peppermint (headache and uplifting) and a dash of lavender (calm and sleep aid). Smells wonderful!

  12. Patty SAYS...

    I saw this and thought it was like an envelope pillow cover style cover for the rice bag to be placed in after it’s been heated. Think that’s how I would put it together, so it’s an extra buffer on little one’s skin – and no microwave concerns with the fur. Super Cute – thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Anonymous SAYS...

      I always sew covers for my rice bags. I was concerned about the fur burning, but this bag is so cute. Your idea makes the bag safe and still adorable for the little ones. Good thinking.

  13. So cute! I plan to make a few of these for my grandkids. Be cautious about buying oils off the shelf. They are usually at best synthetic scents with fillers, possibly toxins.

  14. Jean Wylie SAYS...

    How do you add the Vick’s vapour rub ?

    • You don’t actually add Vicks – you add scent the rice with essential oils that have the same congestion clearing properties.

      • ᔕᕼEᒪᒪEY SAYS...

        Was wondering that myself…cause the post says Vicks bags and there is no Vicks…can you tell me how much of what oils you use for each bag please? I’d love to make these as stocking stuffers!

        • The pattern says how many drops of each scent I use. 🙂

  15. Rebbie SAYS...

    Could you actually use the vapour rub?!? Idk, wh@ opinion do you have?!?

    • I wouldn’t recommend it. It would melt in the microwave and make quite a mess. The essential oils give you the same nose-clearing scent with a very small amount and no melty petroleum jelly.

  16. Sue SAYS...

    Don’t forget to have a cup of water in the microwave when heating up your bag.

  17. Helen SAYS...

    Thank you for you`re insight, I use Vick`s all the time, like you`re way better, Helen

  18. Terry SAYS...

    What an awesome winter project for kids for all ages. Thank you

  19. Corine SAYS...

    When you do need to add fresh oils, how is that done?

  20. Lori SAYS...

    I pinned this great idea!
    I think I’ll make one but instead of sewing it closed, I plan on using Velcro as a closure.
    Each cylinder will have removable rice “tubes”. The tubes will be made from a mesh type material.
    This will make adding essential oils much easier also removable cylinders will make washing a breeze.
    I’m very excited. I have a new grandson and making one for him is on my agenda.
    This would also make a great get well gift.
    Thanks for sharing!

  21. Diane M Sanderson SAYS...

    I have two grandsons who are not happy with having Vicks rubbed on their chests. This rice bag is a great idea, and an even better idea to add the Vicks scent to it. I have eucalyptus essential oil but not the rosemary. Would just the eucalyptus work or is the rosemary oil essential?
    Thanks for your help.

    • They’re both sinus-clearing, so I think either/or would work just fine – but both combined give it the distinct Vick’s scent. 🙂