17 Things You Can Do with Rice Other Than Eating It

Rice isn't just a side for stir fry: It's surprisingly useful for things like cleaning, gardening, and pain relief. Here's why it's nice to keep lots of rice on hand.

By Jennifer Noonan and Bob Vila Staff | Published Oct 16, 2023 12:08 PM

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Uncooked white rice

Photo: istockphoto.com

Beyond its culinary use, rice offers an array of surprising yet practical applications. And the best part? Most of us have a pound (or 20) of white rice stowed in the pantry. From cleaning solutions to cooking to decor, and more, this versatile grain proves its worth beyond the plate.

1. Save Your Phone

Drying phone in rice

Photo: istockphoto.com

In recent years, most phone manufacturers have drastically improved their devices’ water resistance. If, however, your phone experiences a more substantial dunking involving, say, a toilet or a sink, the best thing to do is to immediately submerge the device in a bag of uncooked rice. Keep it there for at least 24 hours. The dry rice can draw the water out of the device, and potentially save you from having to pony up for a replacement.

2. Unstick Salt

Grains of rice in salt shaker

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When summer humidity is at its peak, your salt shaker can suffer. Excess moisture in the air causes salt to clump, and those clumps can clog the holes of a salt shaker. To free up the salt again add a dozen or so grains of uncooked rice to the shaker, right along with the salt, to absorb moisture.

RELATED: 15 Unexpected Uses for Table Salt

3. Prebake a Pie Crust

It’s a common practice of bakers to blind-bake their crusts, which means baking (or partially baking) the crust without the filling. Pie weights are what the pros use, but you can get the same results with uncooked rice. Just line the uncooked pie crust with baking parchment or foil, pour in enough rice to cover the bottom of the shell, and put it in the oven according to the recipe’s instructions. When it comes out, you should have a nicely browned, evenly baked crust that won’t get soggy when you fill it.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Japanese Rice Cookers

4. Make a DIY Pin Cushion

Simple burlap pincushion on pink background

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’re looking for a pincushion to keep on your sewing table, rice can be an excellent and “weighty” filling. To create your own, select a small piece of durable fabric or a sock, fill it with uncooked rice, and secure the opening with a knot or rubber band. The finished product? A nice homemade pin cushion to hold your pins and needles.

RELATED: 12 Things That Belong in a Beginner Sewing Kit

5. Clean Your Coffee Grinder

Coffee beans in coffee grinder

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All those tiny grounds jammed in tight corners and stuck under sharp blades make a coffee grinder a tricky gadget to clean. Keep your fingers safe and speed up the job by dumping in some uncooked rice and giving it a whir. The rice particles will clean the grinder in a flash. This trick also works for cleaning blenders and spice grinders.

6. Scrub Out a Vase

Grains of rice in clear vase

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Many vases are too slender or awkwardly shaped for a bottle brush to squeeze through the opening and clean the vessel effectively. That’s where rice can come to the rescue! Pour a small amount of uncooked rice into the vase along with soap and water and give it a vigorous swish. The rice will act as a scouring agent, erasing grit and grime.

RELATED: How to Clean Glass Bottles and Vases With Rice

7. Prevent Rust on Your Tools

Tools in toolbox

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Tools rust when they’re exposed to moisture, which means that in many garages they’re in near-constant danger. To combat rust, place a handful of uncooked rice in your toolbox, where it will act as a desiccant, absorbing moisture and preventing your tools from rusting.

8. Ripen Fruit

Can’t wait to bite into nature’s bounty? If you need fruit to ripen in a hurry, bury it in a bowl of uncooked rice. The grains will trap the ethylene gas given off by the fruit, helping it to ripen faster.

RELATED: 8 Pantry Pests That May Be Invading Your Food Stash

9. Make a Sachet

Rice in small bags

Photo: KoalasTreehouse via Etsy.com

Make a sweet-smelling sachet as a gift, or for your own dresser drawer, by adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil to 1/4 cup of rice. Stir to coat the rice evenly, then pour the scented rice into a small cloth bag, and tie it shut with a piece of ribbon or twine.

10. Dry Flowers

Dried flower arrangement

photo: istockphoto.com

Want to make blooms from your garden last longer? Dry hardy blooms like roses, zinnias, dahlias, and marigolds by adding them to a rice-filled container. Start by putting about an inch of uncooked rice in a large plastic tub. Arrange the flowers on top and cover them completely with another layer of rice. Seal the tub and let it sit for about a week. Then, open the container and gently pour off the rice to reveal the dried flowers. Ta-da! You have the makings of a beautiful dried arrangement.

RELATED: How to Dry Flowers: 5 Easy DIY Methods

11. Save Silver from Tarnish

Vintage silver spoons

photo: istockphoto.com

You can’t avoid polishing silver altogether, but you can delay the chore by placing a small container of uncooked rice in the drawer or cabinet where you store your silver pieces. The rice will absorb moisture from the air, and it’s that pesky moisture that hastens the tarnishing process.

12. Store Knives

Two black-handled knives stored in a rice-filled Mason Jar

Photo: Daryna Tobey for Bob Vila

Don’t have a knife block? You don’t need one, really. Pour dry rice into a wide-mouth jar until it’s about three-quarters full. Then, stick your knives, blade-side down, into the jar, where they’ll stand at the ready until you need them.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Kitchen Knife Brands

13. Make Hand Warmers

Never worry about freezing cold hands again with this neat hack. When microwaved, rice grains store heat efficiently and provide long-lasting warmth. All you need are a couple of small cotton or linen fabric pouches and some uncooked rice. Fill the bags ¾ of the way full with uncooked rice, close the bag, and pop them in the microwave one at a time for 30 to 55 seconds. Reheat your DIY hand warmers in the microwave to use over and over again.

14. Help Garden Plants

Using rice water to water plants

photo: istockphoto.com

Rice water can serve as a valuable natural fertilizer for plants as it’s rich in essential nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and other minerals. In fact, one study found that using rice water on plants had a greater growth performance than those watered with tap and distilled water. To make this natural growth enhancer, simply soak uncooked rice in water for 24 to 48 hours. As the rice soaks, it releases nutrients into the water. Use a strainer to remove the rice grains from the water, pour the water on your plants—and put rice on the menu for dinner tonight.

RELATED: 13 Kitchen Leftovers That Are Good for Your Plants

15. Starch Fabric

Woman soaking clothes in bowl of water

photo: istockphoto.com

Laundry starch can contain toxic chemicals that are bad for both fabrics and your health. Enter rice starch: This natural fabric starch is a cheap, eco-friendly alternative to chemical-filled commercial products. To make rice starch, place 1 cup of uncooked rice in a pot with 4 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer until the rice becomes soft and the water turns cloudy.

Strain the rice, collecting the starchy water. Once the water cools, submerge the garment you want to starch in the water and let it soak. Lastly, hang the garment out to dry.

16. Relieve Pain with (R)ice Packs

Person using heat pack on stomach

photo: istockphoto.com

Need an ice pack to relieve pain or swelling but don’t have one handy? Rice can help. To make one, fill a fabric pouch with uncooked rice and store it in the freezer for a few hours, preferably overnight. The best part? While traditional ice packs often freeze into uncomfortably rigid shapes, rice packs remain soft and pliable, making them an ideal choice for alleviating pain in joints.

RELATED: 10 Ergonomic Tools That Make Gardening Nearly Painless

17. Hold Candles

Candles on table

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Planning a hygge evening with candlelight, hot tea, and cozy blankets? Put rice to work as a candle holder. Simply fill a glass or shallow container with raw rice, ensuring that the candle is inserted securely into the rice to keep it upright. What’s more, the rice helps catch any dripping wax, making cleanup a snap.