Is Soaking Rice Necessary? Why and How to Soak and Rinse Rice

Is it ok if you don't wash rice? While it's considered optional, we have many reasons why you should soak and rinse your rice before cooking. Learn why and how to rice.

Making healthier choices is a journey that many of us embark on with the best intentions, yet it often comes with challenges and extra effort.

Take soaking rice, for example. Is soaking rice necessary? We highly recommend you soak rice. Soaking rice reduces exposure to arsenic and other heavy metals, which is crucial for overall well-being. Beyond health considerations, soaking rice can also enhance the flavor profile of your dishes, elevating your culinary experience. If you're seeking more motivation to incorporate this practice into your cooking routine, stay tuned as we delve into the numerous advantages of rice soaking and provide a step-by-step guide on how to do it effectively.

Removes Dirt and Debris

Eat rice, not rocks. Soaking rice before cooking is an effective way to remove dirt, debris, and impurities that may be present on the grains. 

When soaking rice, the water helps to loosen any particles of dust, small stones, or remnants of husk that might have stuck to the rice. This could happen during processing and packaging. 

Soaking and rinsing rice washes away these unwanted particles. In the end, you get clean, pure grains ready for your culinary skills.

Reduces Levels of Harmful Chemicals

Rice is widely cultivated in diverse environments, which can make it prone to harmful chemicals like pesticides and heavy metals. It's crucial to understand these potential contaminants and take steps to avoid them, such as choosing organic brands and thoroughly rinsing and soaking rice before cooking. Here are some common toxic chemicals in rice and how to reduce your exposure to them. 

Arsenic and Heavy Metals

Rice is a cherished dietary staple for many people. However, it tends to accumulate high levels of inorganic arsenic and other heavy metals. This is largely due to the unique growing conditions of rice, which is often cultivated in flooded fields. 

The anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment in these waterlogged fields makes arsenic more bioavailable. This allows rice plants to absorb it from the soil and water more readily. Once absorbed, the arsenic accumulates in the grains we eventually consume.

While rice naturally contains arsenic, it’s alarmingly high in inorganic arsenic. Inorganic arsenic is a highly toxic and carcinogenic form of arsenic that lacks carbon atoms, while organic arsenic compounds contain carbon and are less harmful. 

Rice readily absorbs inorganic arsenic from soil and water, mistaking it for essential nutrients like silicon [1]. This leads to the prevalence of inorganic arsenic in rice grains. Inorganic arsenic is particularly dangerous because chronic exposure, even at low levels, can increase the risk of various cancers, developmental issues in children, cardiovascular disease, and other adverse health effects [2].

Brown rice contains about 80% more inorganic arsenic than white rice because the arsenic concentrates in the outer bran layers [3]. These layers are removed during the processing of white rice. 

However, processing white rice can involve machinery, which can cause chemical contamination. Therefore, it may have higher levels of other heavy metals. In fact, rice can have high concentrations of cadmium, lead, and mercury [4]. 


Pesticides can end up in rice due to their widespread use in rice cultivation to control weeds, insects, and fungal diseases. Rice is used to make many products, including cereal, snacks, noodles, and more. Its high demand makes rice one of the crops with higher levels of pesticide residues [5]. 

While washing or soaking rice can help remove some pesticide residues from the surface, certain pesticides can penetrate deeper into the grain and cannot be easily removed. However, every little bit counts because even at low doses, pesticides can be harmful to human health.

BPA and Phthalates

BPA (Bisphenol A) and phthalates are chemicals commonly used in various types of packaging materials, including plastics and food storage containers. When rice is packaged or stored in such materials, these chemicals can leach into the rice, especially when exposed to heat or prolonged contact. 

BPA and phthalates are known as endocrine disruptors. They can mimic, alter, and block hormones, which can result in a variety of health problems, including obesity, cancer, and infertility [6]. 

By acknowledging and addressing the sources of BPA and phthalates in packaging, we can take steps to mitigate their presence in our diet. Opting for BPA-free and phthalate-free packaging, along with proper storage practices, can significantly reduce the risk of chemical exposure from rice and contribute to a healthier, safer food supply.


Rice can be a source of microplastic contamination due to the widespread use of plastic mulch films in rice cultivation and the potential for microplastics to accumulate in the grains during growth and processing. Microplastics are tiny plastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters that can originate from the breakdown of larger plastic products or be manufactured as microbeads used in various products.

Like the other harmful chemicals we’ve discussed, soaking rice in water before cooking may help reduce microplastic exposure to some extent. The soaking process can potentially dislodge and remove some microplastic particles adhering to the surface of the rice grains. 

However, this method's effectiveness is limited. Microplastics can also be present within rice grains themselves. As we’ve mentioned, rice is highly absorbent. In many cases, microplastics were absorbed during the growth stage. 

While soaking can provide a degree of mitigation, it is not a complete solution. Reducing overall plastic pollution in the environment remains crucial to minimizing microplastic contamination in food sources like rice.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Some rice cookers may contain PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), particularly those with non-stick coatings. PFAS are often used in non-stick surfaces to make them resistant to heat and prevent food from sticking.

Rice cookers reach really hot temperatures, which can cause PFAS to leach into the grains. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” and are more persistent than BPA, phthalates, and some heavy metals. Therefore, many manufacturers have started to phase out PFAS due to health concerns associated with these chemicals. 

To avoid PFAS, look for rice cookers labeled as "PFAS-free," or choose models made with stainless steel or ceramic inner pots, which do not typically use non-stick coatings. Always check the product specifications or contact the manufacturer if you're concerned about the presence of PFAS in a specific rice cooker.

Reduces Cooking Time

Soaking rice before cooking it is a simple yet effective method that can significantly reduce cooking time. When rice is soaked, the grains absorb water, which helps to soften the outer bran layer. As a result, the cooking process progresses more efficiently once the rice is exposed to heat. This makes it easier for the heat to reach the core of each grain more rapidly. 

Besides more time on your hands, shortened cooking time also minimizes exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released from gas burners. VOCs are chemicals emitted from burning fuel, and prolonged cooking times can increase their release into your kitchen environment [7]. By soaking rice and shortening its cooking time, you may reduce the amount of time your gas burner is in use, leading to fewer VOCs being emitted.

Similarly, if you're using an electric stove or oven, reducing the cooking time can lead to lower electricity consumption. Cooking appliances are among the most energy-intensive devices in our homes, and even small reductions in usage can add up to significant energy savings over time. This not only helps to lower your utility bills but also contributes to a decrease in overall energy demand, which is beneficial for the environment.

Lastly, reducing cooking time by soaking rice can also enhance the nutritional value of your meals. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can degrade some of the vitamins and nutrients present in food. By cooking rice more quickly, you preserve more of its nutritional integrity, providing a healthier meal. All these factors make soaking rice a simple yet impactful step towards more efficient, economical, and health-conscious cooking.

Enhances the Texture

Who doesn’t love fluffy rice? Why settle for chewy, grainy rice when all you need to do is soak the rice first. 

Soaking rice before cooking can significantly enhance its texture, making the grains softer and more uniform. When rice is soaked, it absorbs water, which helps to hydrate the starches within each grain. This pre-hydration process allows the rice to cook more evenly, resulting in a tender yet firm texture that is often more desirable, especially in dishes like pilafs and risottos. By soaking, you avoid the common pitfall of having unevenly cooked rice where some grains are too soft while others remain undercooked.

Additionally, soaking rice helps to maintain the integrity of the individual grains. It prevents them from becoming too sticky or clumping together. This is particularly important for recipes requiring distinct, separate grains, such as sushi or fried rice. 

Aids in Digestion and Boosts Nutrition

Ease post-rice bloat by soaking your grains first. When rice is soaked, it begins to break down some of the complex carbohydrates and proteins in the grains, making them easier for your digestive system to process [8]. This pre-digestion step helps to reduce the strain on your stomach and intestines, allowing for smoother digestion and potentially reducing discomfort such as bloating or gas.

One of the key benefits of soaking rice is its impact on lectins. Lectins are a type of protein found in many plants, including rice. These compounds can be difficult for some people to digest. 

In their raw form, lectins can bind to the walls of the intestines, interfering with nutrient absorption and sometimes causing inflammation or other digestive issues. Soaking rice helps to reduce the lectin content, making the grains more digestible and reducing the likelihood of negative reactions in sensitive individuals.

Additionally, soaking rice can help to release beneficial enzymes that further break down anti-nutrients like phytic acid. Phytic acid can bind to essential minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium, preventing their absorption in the digestive tract [9]. By soaking rice, you can reduce phytic acid levels. This can enhance the bioavailability of these important nutrients and promote better overall nutrition.

How to Soak Rice Properly: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Measure and Rinse: Start by measuring out the amount of rice you need and giving it a quick rinse under cool running water. This helps remove any dust or debris.
  2. Choose Your Soaking Liquid: You can simply soak rice in filtered water or add a pinch of salt to help enhance flavor. Some people also like to use acidic liquids like lemon juice or vinegar to help break down more starches.
  3. Use the Right Ratio: For most types of rice, use a 1:2 ratio of rice to soaking liquid. So for every 1 cup of rice, use 2 cups of water, salt water, etc.
  4. Soak for the Ideal Time: Soak brown rice for at least 6-8 hours or overnight. For white rice, 30 minutes to 2 hours is typically sufficient. Soaking too long can cause the rice to ferment.
  5. Drain and Cook: Once soaked, drain off any remaining liquid from the rice using a stainless steel mesh strainer. Then cook the soaked rice according to your recipe, adjusting cooking liquid amounts as needed.

How to Rinse Rice Properly: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Gather your supplies: You'll need a mesh strainer or colander, a large bowl, and fresh, cool water.
  2. Drain the soaking liquid: After soaking, carefully drain off the liquid from the rice using the strainer or colander. Let it drain fully by shaking gently.
  3. Transfer to a bowl: Place the drained, soaked rice into the large bowl. This allows you to rinse thoroughly without losing grains down the drain.
  4. Rinse thoroughly: Cover the rice with fresh, cool water in the bowl. Use your hands to gently swish and agitate the rice, releasing any remaining starches or impurities until the water becomes cloudy.
  5. Drain and repeat: Carefully drain off the cloudy rinse water using the strainer or colander. Return the rinsed rice to the bowl and cover with fresh water. Repeat this rinsing process until the water remains relatively clear after swishing.
  6. Final drain: Once the rinse water is clear, drain the rice one final time, shaking gently to remove excess water. The rice is now ready for cooking according to your recipe.

How Long to Soak Rice Before Cooking?

For optimal results, soak brown rice for a minimum of 6-8 hours or overnight, whereas white rice generally requires only 30 minutes to 2 hours. This soaking process helps eliminate some surface starches, shortens cooking time, and can potentially reduce pesticide residues or arsenic levels. However, be cautious not to soak the rice for too long, as it can start to ferment and develop an undesirable taste.

Why Does Rice Stick to the Pot While Cooking?

Rice tends to stick to the pot while cooking due to the release of starch from the grains when they absorb water and swell. As the water boils off or is absorbed, the starch becomes a sticky gel that adheres to the surface of the pot. Additionally, if the heat is too high or the rice isn't stirred initially, it can cause the grains at the bottom to overcook and stick. Using a good ratio of water to rice, cooking on a lower heat, and occasionally stirring can help minimize sticking.

Do Rice Brands Test for Arsenic?

After a 2012 Consumer Reports study found measurable arsenic in nearly all rice products tested, the company Lundberg Farms commendably started conducting widespread testing and sharing the results publicly. Their aromatic brown rice averaged lower arsenic levels than national averages. While the rice industry initially dismissed worries, responsible companies like Lundberg have embraced transparency on this issue that impacts public health. Their commitment to food safety and open communication builds consumer trust, and we hope more brands will follow suit.

Test for BPA and Phthalates in your Body!

Personalizing your detox journey is essential because each individual's exposure to harmful chemicals and toxic chemicals varies depending on lifestyle, environment, and diet. By understanding your unique exposure levels, you can take targeted steps to reduce your toxic burden and improve your overall health. 

Million Marker's Detect & Detox Test Kit offers a practical and comprehensive solution to this need, allowing you to gain insights into the specific chemicals your body has been exposed to.

By completing a mail-in urine test with Million Marker, we can test your body for bisphenols (including BPA), parabens, phthalates, and oxybenzone. These common chemicals are found in everyday products and are known to hijack hormones. 

As we've discussed, BPA and phthalates can contaminate rice, but they are also present in many other products, such as plastics, personal care items, and household goods. Understanding your exposure to these and other chemicals empowers you to make informed choices to minimize your risk.

Taking control of your health starts with knowledge. By getting tested, you learn about your body's specific exposures and can take actionable steps to reduce them. Million Marker provides personalized recommendations to help you avoid harmful chemicals and detoxify your body effectively. Join us in this journey towards a healthier, low-tox life by getting your Detect & Detox Test Kit today.