We all know rice is versatile when it comes to whipping up a delicious meal, but did you know the water you rinse it with can also strengthen your hair, heal your skin, and clean your house? It’s time we all stop tossing these benefits of rice water down the drain.
First, if you aren’t someone who rinses your rice before you cook it, you should probably start. It helps make sure you’re getting rid of any dirt, dust, or other gunk that could be lingering on the grains. You don’t want any of that ending up in your dinner, after all.
Simply submerge rice in water, give it a good swish, and strain — and then do the exact same thing again. Experts say you should rinse it at least five times, or until the water no longer looks cloudy. On top of cleaning the grains, the extra rinses remove extra starch that can lead to a gummy texture as the rice cooks. But holding onto some of that starchy water from the second or third rinse rather than pouring it out is the key to unlocking more perks from rice.
Rice Water for Hair
Rice water’s reputation for strengthening hair goes back centuries, originating in Japanese Heian period between 794 to 1185. Women of this era were renowned for their long, flowing hair that could reach all the way down the floor. Researchers claim the credit goes to their practice of “yu-su-ru,” or rinsing their hair with rice water.
Writer Brittany Ladin made a more recent case for the rice water process while testing it out for Healthline. As someone with bleached blonde and extremely brittle strands, she couldn’t even use a regular hair tie without causing breakage. Along with all of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in rice that leach into the water, Lardin also found a study that explains rice contains inositol, a compound that helps repair damaged hair from the inside out. So, she was hopeful this would bring some life back to her locks.
Lardin started by giving her rice an initial rinse, then letting the water from the second round sit at room temperature for about 12 to 24 hours. “This allows it to ferment and all of the yummy vitamins and minerals to come out,” she explained. Just be careful not to let it set longer than that (like she did on her first attempt) or it will go bad. But after letting the rinse water ferment, you can put it in the fridge, where it should last for a week.
She used rice water on her hair after shampooing and conditioning normally, focusing on her scalp and working her way out through the strands. After letting it sit for two to five minutes before rinsing, she said she immediately noticed an improvement.
“My hair already felt different. It seemed to have some sort of outer coating, or a thin shell, around each strand, protecting my hair as I brushed through it,” Lardin wrote. “Usually my hair is breaking as I work my detangling brush through my hair. But this time, my hair held its own.”
Those results only got better as she kept using rice water in her hair throughout the week. She went so far as to thank the “rice gods” for restoring her strands.
The blogger behind Curly Cailín modifies this method by boiling her rice instead of just soaking it. In this case, the water is mostly absorbed into the grains, so she squishes them through a strainer for a creamier paste. Once it’s cooled, she mixes in a bit of her favorite deep conditioner to make it extra-moisturizing, applies it to her strands, and lets it work its magic on her locks for 30 minutes to an hour before washing off. She compares the results to beauty favorite Olaplex No. 3 (Buy at Sephora, $28) — but for a much more budget-friendly price.
Results will vary based on your own strands, of course, but finding a rice water method that works for you just might be the holy grail you’ve been hoping for to rescue your hair!
Rice Water for Skin
If those benefits for your hair aren’t enough to convince you to save rice water from the drain, you should consider the perks for your skin. A study from 2018 claimed the antioxidant properties found in the liquid can turn back the hands of time when it comes to fine lines, wrinkles, and sun damage. In fact, the researchers said it had just as much antioxidant power as vitamin C-rich products. Another study from 2013 explained that fermented rice water contains collagen, which can also soothe and prevent wrinkles.
Research from 2002 also found that rice water helped participants with eczema repair skin damage from using products that contain harmful sulfates. Their results showed a 20 percent improvement in their healing process.
You can try it out for yourself by making the same fermented rice water for hair — rinsing the rice twice, straining, and leaving the second round of water out at room temperature for about 12 to 24 hours, and refrigerating in between uses for up to a week.
Then apply it to your skin using a cotton pad (or whatever you prefer). Let your skin soak it up for a half hour or so, then rinse off. Everyone is different, though, so try testing it on a small patch of skin before slathering it over your whole face.
Rice Water for Cleaning
Aside from the beauty benefits of rice water, Korean food blogger JinJoo claims rice water can help around the house, too. “For cleaning purposes, rice water becomes a natural colloidal micelles cleaner and therefore basically works like a cleaning solution without the harshness of chemicals but with added vitamins and lipids,” she explains. There doesn’t seem to be any need to let the water ferment for these uses, just save the water from the second or third round of rinsing and start cleaning.
JinJoo recommends adding the water to a spray bottle and using it to wipe down mirrors and windows without any pesky streaks. She says it also works great at getting lingering food smells out of plastic containers. Just let it sit for about half an hour or longer and you should notice any unpleasant aromas fade away. (You probably don’t want to use this for your hair or skin afterward, though, considering it soaked up whatever was causing that odor in the first place.)
And although it’s not cleaning related, JinJoo suggests using rice water to hydrate your plants. She credits her “green thumbed friend” who uses it with her veggie garden. All of the nutrients we hope to soak up in our hair and skin can help them grow strong, too!
Now you have plenty reasons to think twice before tossing your rice water down the drain.
This article was updated on Thursday, August 25 at 11:30 am EST. It was originally published on December 21, 2021.
First For Women aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission. Questions? Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org