Health Tips: How To Make A Reusable Hot Compress

How to make your own reusable wet or dry hot compress, with tips on ingredients, uses, and storage.

A hot compress is a handy item to have available in your home medicine cabinet. Features to look for include; ones that will stay hot over a period-of-time, different sizes to be used on different areas of the body, and reusable. Numerous products can be found to purchase on store shelves, but the majority of these are disposable and include quite a price tag! Making your own can be much more economical and gives you the freedom to personalize their size for the area of your body that you intend to use them.

A hot compress that is to be used wet is a simple project, and handy to have around when you are in need of one. These work great for ailments such as earaches and sinus problems.

Materials for Wet Hot Compress

Three washcloths cut in half

Sewing machine or needle and thread

I highly recommend the sewing machine for this project due to the thickness of material you will need to sew together.

Lay all six pieces of washcloth material together and sew around the edges and diagonally across. Wet with water as hot as can be bared, wring out and apply to area in need. While this sounds very basic, it works much better than a washcloth that is simply folded, as the firmly sewn pieces will hold the heat well. Wash and dry after each use.

Materials for a Dry Hot Compress

Fabric scraps in assorted sizes

Pinking shears

Needle and Thread or sewing machine

Flax Seeds (one half cup per 5x7 inch area)

Optional additives can include eucalyptus, peppermint, spearmint leaves, chamomile, and lavender

Different fabrics will provide different results in the heating phase. Cotton works well, but can become very hot. Some nylons work well also, but experimentation with your individual choice will provide you with information on what scrap fabrics you have, can or cannot be used. Small sample compresses should be made and heated to assure you of fabrics compatibility.


A basic size compress, good for across the forehead, wrist or ankle area, is 5" x 7". With pinking shears, cut four pieces of fabric 6" x 8". Sew two pieces of fabric together on all four sides, wrong sides of fabric together, with a one-inch seam all around. Sew remaining two pieces of fabric together in the same manner. Sew these two together on three sides. Fill with flax seed and optional additives. Sew closed.

Use and Caution

The easiest way to heat your compress is to lay it flat in the microwave for approximately 30 to 60 seconds. Larger compresses may take more time to heat and should be both rotated, flipped, and shaken throughout the heating process at regular intervals to help distribute the heat evenly.Different microwaves heat differently so experimentation will give you the best results. Keep in mind that an overheated compress will burn so be extremely cautious when using.


Your hot compress should be stored between uses in an airtight container, such as a Ziploc bag or plastic container with airtight lid.

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