By mistake I stored rice in a detergent box. I took it out for cooking, but it smells like detergent. What should I do? Is there any trick that can remove the detergent smell from rice, or is it not safe to use?

  • 13
    What kind of detergent used to be in the box? Dish soap, or something more toxic like laundry detergent?
    – Xen2050
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 7:55
  • 24
    In regards to [food-safety]; When in doubt throw it out.
    – robbmj
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 23:03
  • 1
    @robbmj For a tag, write [tag:food-safety], like this: food-safety
    – wjandrea
    Commented Oct 7, 2018 at 17:10

3 Answers 3


Don't eat the smelly rice because it is probably irremediably mixed with chemicals that may be harmful. But you may use that non-edible rice for other purpose detailed below.

The rice smells like detergent because it absorbs very well what you mix with or around it.

If you have a new/old or hard to clean container/board that smells weird, you can put that detergent-smelling-rice in/on it and its smell will be reduced.

Irregular containers cleaned up with rice

Using dry rice for cleaning up things is an old grandma's trick. Here are other possible uses:

In the case of water left from rice rinsing, you may be surprised that it virtually turns into a versatile cleaning agent that can be applied to diverse surfaces, from your skin to average kitchenware.

  • The smell of new paint on furniture can also be removed by wiping it repeatedly with a cloth soaked in rice water.
  • Towels that are tainted with fruit juices, sauces and sweat patches can likewise be cleaned by boiling them in rice water for about 10 minutes.
  • you can bleach a white shirt by submerging it in rice water for ten minutes before washing it with soap. The shirt will emerge as good as new.
  • removes the unpleasant odor from old chopping boards where meat is cut up. Submerge the board in rice water overnight and then scrub it with salt.
  • To remove rust from kitchen knives and other metallic instruments, put the items in the rice water for several hours before scrubbing them.

A few other alternative usages added in the comments below:

  • the rice can be placed inside an old sock or any closed cloth to:
    1. dry out the humidity in drawers, shelves, shoes or areas where water tends to accumulate (user3067860 suggestion);
    2. be used as a cold pack (frozen) or a hot pack (microwaved) for body injuries (Justin suggestion);
  • a phone or electrical device that has humidity inside its circuitry can be placed completely inside of a container of dry rice for the water to be absorbed (Jason C suggestion), this seems to be a myth (thanks ShadowRanger for the test study link):
    • Dry, uncooked conventional rice was the worst of the seven options we tested. It absorbed the least water in 24 hours, losing out to silica gel, cat litter, couscous, instant oatmeal, classic oatmeal and instant rice.
    • More importantly, the sponge that we left in open air performed far better than any of the drying agents. It’s possible that the absorbent materials could have matched open air if we’d used a lot more. But it seems that leaving your phone on a shelf may be the best option.

Once the rice has served its non-edible purpose, it is then proper to discard it (Zach Lipton suggestion).

  • 41
    I too hate to waste food, but too me once food is contaminated, it is contaminated. I consider this a nice alternative, use the rice for a secondary purpose. It is wasted as food, but try to salvage something useful from it. Suggest a combo of your answer and mechs. Don't eat it, but find another use.
    – dlb
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 16:43
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    @JasonC: The rice trick is an old wives' tale. All it does is ensure you don't try to turn the phone on before it's had a chance to dry out; rice just isn't a sufficiently effective desiccant to make a meaningful difference (and it blocks air flow that would usually provide at least as much benefit). Additional article on the topic explicitly says air drying worked slightly better than rice. Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 12:07
  • 13
    There is a lot of information in this answer, but maybe it should start with the warning to not eat the rice. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 11:26
  • This is very rice tips :p
    – razu
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 6:29
  • The hot pack is a good idea. Perhaps you should add how: just place the rice in an old (clean!) sock, tie the ends. Place a cup of water in the microwave with the rice (very important, it might catch fire otherwise); microwave for max ~2-2.5 minutes.
    – Dhara
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 10:53

The simplest trick is to place all the contaminated rice in the detergent box in the nearest trash bin, then obtain new rice. When it comes to cheap food staples like rice it's not worth the risk of eating tainted product, specially with substances that can wreak havoc on your digestive system like detergents.

  • 9
    Even if there was a way to effectively remove the detergent, the taste would still be awful. I had to eat rice which was prepared in a room full of paint scent once. The rice tasted like paint, despite not being mixed with it.
    – Clockwork
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 19:00
  • 6
    There is definitely a risk with detergents. With regard to laundry pods, www.poison.org says this: "Effects of biting into a laundry pod include coughing, choking, trouble breathing, coma, and possibly death. The detergent also can irritate the skin and burn the eyes." Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 15:19
  • 3
    @AndrewMorton: Skin irritation seems like it would be rather small potatoes compared to "coma, and possibly death"...
    – Vikki
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 21:51

It smells like detergent because it has absorbed chemicals not designed to be eaten. Trust your nose, which is warning you! and move on.

Why risk yours or somebody else's health for such little gain (the saving of 2$) is your health worth so little - or the health of others?

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