8 Surprising Ways to Use Rice Around the House

updated Apr 22, 2021
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bag of jasmine rice on kitchen table
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Rice, of course, is a staple of many homes, across time and cultures. But it’s not just for filling bellies, sopping up delicious sauces, or acting as a base for our favorite bowls. Turns out, rice (and the starchy water from washing rice!) can be put to work in many uses around the house — in ways that have nothing to do with eating. 

Here are eight ways you can use rice (or that water!) around the house.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

1. Clean out oddly shaped bottles and vases.

From water bottles with narrow openings to vases that get frosted with a stubborn interior crud, we all have glassware that we can’t seem to get quite clean. The solution is simple and even kind of fun — and, yes, it involves rice. Use a funnel to put some rice in your bottle or vase, top with warm water, and add a small squirt of dish soap. Cover the opening and shake your container around, swirling the rice around the inside surface as much as you can. The rice will provide gentle abrasion that will scrape the gunk off your containers. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Remove odors.

Rice combats odors in any smallish space. Grab a jar, fill it with rice, add a few drops of essential oil, and cover the opening with a breathable fabric. (Use a rubber band or a Mason jar ring to affix the fabric to the jar.) Place your deodorizer in the laundry room where you keep the litter box, a closet, your car, a bathroom, or any area that could benefit from some air freshening. 

Credit: Cambria Bold

3. Clean a grinder.

If you use a grinder for coffee or spices, you’ve probably realized both that it needs cleaning and that it’s not the easiest thing to clean. Spices left over in the grinder leave behind their potent taste and scent and you don’t want those permeating other spices or your morning brew. But even if you only use the grinder for coffee, oils accumulate and eventually go rancid. To get your blades squeaky clean, grind some grains of rice. The rice will knock off coffee grinds or spice residues and also pick up the oils they leave behind. 

Credit: Kelli Foster

4. Ripen fruit.

If you need a ripe avocado or banana but it’s not quite ready yet, grab a bowl and a bag of rice. Add some rice to the bowl, place your fruit on top of it, and then cover it with the remaining rice. The rice “bath” will trap the ethylene gas that causes fruit to ripen and speed up the process. You should have a ripe piece of produce in 24 hours. 

5. Keep salt from clumping.

You’ve probably seen this done in restaurants, but it’s a great solution for home use, too. If you struggle with humidity that causes your salt to clump in its shaker, rice will absorb the extra moisture and keep your salt shaking freely. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

6. Make a heating or cooling pack.

Fill an old tube sock with rice. When you need a cooling pad, put the pack in the freezer. If you need a warm pack, microwave the rice-filled sock in short increments. Either way, it will provide soothing relief when and where you need it. 

7. Use the rice water to clean pots and pans.

When you rinse rice, the rice releases a coating that makes the water starchy. This starch acts as a gentle, minuscule abrasive that is perfect for cleaning pots and pans, glass, or mineral deposits on faucets and shower heads. So next time you rinse your rice, don’t dump your new favorite cleaning “product” down the drain!

8. Dry out your cell phone.

Surely you’ve heard of this one. Let’s say you accidentally drop your phone in the sink or spill a glass of water on it while you’re cooking: Seal the phone up in a bag of rice and the moisture will (hopefully) be dried right up.

Got any other tips to add to this list? Leave them in the comments below!