Are your massage stones cooked, roasted or heated?

by Pat Mayrhofer

How to Properly Heat Massage Stones, MASSAGE MagazineThere has been much discussion on how to warm massage stones. Many technicians choose to take the less expensive route by purchasing a slow cooker, such as a Crock-Pot, or turkey roaster. However, these units lack professional standards and go against the manufacturer’s requirements for use. Other technicians use a variety of methods, such as electric fry pans, warming trays, heating pads, woks and towel cabbies. The only safe, professional way to heat massage stones is in a massage-stone heater.

Let’s explore some different heating methods. Those technicians who use a slow cooker do so because it is small, inexpensive and fits well within a crowded work space. But a slow cooker only has a high and low temperature setting, which makes it difficult to regulate the temperature of massage stones. Due to the small size and shape of a slow cooker, the massage stones fall to the bottom of the pot, which makes it difficult to retrieve a matched pair of stones or a particular shaped stone for a specific technique.

A turkey roaster was the original method for heating massage stones before companies like The Metal Ware Corporation and Amber Products designed professional massage-stone units. While the turkey roaster does the job of safely heating stones, and it provides the interior space to lay out the massage stones in a workable form, it is in fact a kitchen appliance. If you read the manufacturer’s product information, it states the product is for kitchen use only. If you are ever sued for burning a client, you could face a legal backlash for using a kitchen appliance for something other than what it was intended. Furthermore, the turkey roaster looks like a kitchen appliance, featuring such words on the temperature indicator as “bake” and “roast.” If massage therapists want to be recognized as professionals, then they need to present themselves as professionals and work with professional products.

Electric fry pans, warming trays, woks and heating pads are not safe professional units for heating stones. A technician cannot properly monitor the temperature of massage stones when using these appliances. Electric fry pans and woks are not deep enough to completely cover the massage stones with water, which allows the massage stones to heat evenly. Instead, the water evaporates quickly and when not covered by water, the massage stones become too hot. Warming trays and heating pads do not provide a way to adequately monitor the temperature of massage stones.

Many spas utilize towel cabbies to heat massage stones. While this is a professional unit for warming towels, it does not provide a way for a massage therapist or esthetician to monitor the temperature of the massage stones. An additional factor with using a towel cabbie or other dry heating method is the massage stones may dry out and eventually crack or break.

There are professional massage-stone heaters available for purchase, with The Spa~Pro Massage Stone Heaters and Amber Products’ massage-stone heaters being the most popular.* The Spa~Pro Massage Stone Heaters are available in 18-quart and 6-quart units in 120-volt and 220-volt versions. Amber Products also has a variety of units in several sizes and price ranges. The above units range in price from about $60 to $600. Less expensive massage-stone heaters are available from several other companies.

The Spa~Pro Massage Stone Heaters are the most widely purchased units. The 18-quart heater offers a large bottom surface, allowing for a user-friendly layout of stones, which provides access for easy retrieval of matched pairs of stones. The heating element encircles the side of the heating unit to provide even warming of the water and massage stones. An adjustable temperature control permits the therapist to adjust the temperature for safe stone massage. The removable water reservoir permits for easy cleaning of the unit and massage stones. The 6-quart unit is functional for full-body massage as well as hot-stone facials, hot-stone pedicures/manicures and hot-stone reflexology. These units range in price from $60 to $110.

Amber Products offers massage-stone heaters in several shapes and sizes. These heaters also have an attractive appeal for spas. The company’s large heaters offer a deep well, which allows for a functional layout of massage stones as well as for the stones to be completely covered with water. Other features include a brass drain system and valve and a solar battery thermometer. These massage-stone heaters are available from $99 to $600.

As a professional, how do you heat your massage stones? Are your massage stones cooked in a slow cooker, roasted in a turkey roaster or heated in a massage-stone heater?

Please look for future articles on, as I explore the exciting arena of stone massage. I will write about safety issues, contraindications, the expansion of stone therapy to different modalities, the evolution into cold-stone therapy with marble stones and now the resurgence of stone massage with the innovation of carved basalt stones. I will also discuss accessory products, such as massage oil, essential oils, heaters, textiles, DVDs and seminars. I look forward to an ongoing conversation with you.

*Note: The products mentioned in this article are not endorsed by MASSAGE Magazine, and are included for information purposes at the request of the author.

Pat Mayrhofer is president and founder of Nature’s Stones Inc., an international massage-stone, education and supply company. She is a massage therapist with more than 15 years of experience, having taught for 13 of those years in Italy, Austria, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Mayrhofer and her staff have created a comprehensive series of live, hands-on training programs, educational DVDs available for distance learning and a line of associated stone and textile products. For more information, visit