Wheat bags

Wheat bags pose a risk of fire or injury if not used properly.

The basics

Wheat bags can bring relief and comfort to you when you use them properly. As with any product involving heat, there is a danger of fire and a risk of injury to you if you don't use it properly.

Before you buy a wheat bag

Buy wheat bags that have clear heating instructions. Choose wheat bags that include a manufacturer’s contact details in case you have a problem.

Manufactured wheat bags

Wheat bags available in shops usually contain buckwheat, which has a known moisture content. Knowing this moisture content and the volume of the wheat bag means that the manufacturer can recommend proper heating times. If you follow the recommended heating time, the bag should not overheat, cause a fire, or burn you.

Homemade wheat bags

Homemade wheat bags can pose a greater fire and injury risk because the moisture content and volume of these bags is not known, and the proper heating time can’t be recommended. The use of a type of wheat other than buckwheat may increase the risks of overheating, fires, and burns.

Using wheat bags safely

  • Choose wheat bags with clear heating instructions and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Look for wheat bags that meet the New Zealand safety standard for Wheat bags: AS/NZS 5116/2016

Use for the intended purpose, don’t use wheat bags as bed warmers

The intended purpose of wheat bags is as relief for sports-related injuries, muscle strains and arthritis. The wheat bag should be used by placing the bag on the part of the body where pain is occurring.

  • Only use a wheat bag for direct application to the body and don’t cover it with blankets, pillows or warm clothing
  • Use a hot water bottle instead of a wheat bag in confined spaces that can trap heat, such as under blankets or in bedding as wheat bags can ignite when heat is trapped.

When heating in the microwave

  • When heating, don't leave the microwave unattended and make sure the wheat bag rotates freely in the microwave turntable.
  • Heat for the specified time, you shouldn’t reheat a bag that has been heated recently.
  • Adding oils to wheat bags creates an added fire risk. If you add oils to wheat bags, over time you will saturate the cover cloth and create an added fire risk to the existing danger of overheating and fire.
  • Wheat bags need to be hydrated so they don’t dry out, If you use the wheat bag infrequently, it may absorb enough moisture from the air. Otherwise, industry advice recommends applying moisture directly to the surface of the bag by lightly sprinkling or using a water spray bottle.

How to store and when to replace

  • Only store the bag when it has cooled completely (this can take 2 hours). Leave it to cool in a safe place where a fire would not spread, e.g. the kitchen sink.
  • Don’t store in hot places such as a car seat in the sun, spontaneous heating can occur and the wheat may catch fire.
  • Discard the bag if there is evidence of problems, e.g. discolouration or charring.
  • If you smell burning, your wheat bag should be thrown away: Wheat will dry out over time and start to emit a cooked or burnt smell. This is letting you know that it is time to replace your wheat bag. Carefully remove the bag from the heat source and place it on a non-combustible surface, such as a sink or kitchen bench. Let the wheat bag completely cool, then throw it away.