With chilly nights becoming the norm, many are looking for warmer blankets and throws for cozy companions. If one of those blankets or throws is electric, it should be inspected, regardless of age, before snuggling up for the season to make sure that it is safe. Older blankets that have seen their better days are definitely a hazard but occasionally, a newer blanket or even one fresh out of the bag could have a wiring issue. Electric blankets and their 100 feet of wiring account for numerous fires, injuries and death each year.
When inspecting a plug-in blanket or throw, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends looking for cracks and breaks in wiring, plugs, and connectors. Also look for dark, charred, or frayed spots on either side of the blanket. If the blanket shows any of these characteristics or is more than 10 years old, it should be thrown away—DO NOT DONATE. (If you want to keep the blanket for some other use like covering plants in the fall, throw away the control unit to render it non-electrical.) Older plug-ins (10 years plus) are more likely to be a hazard because most operate without a rheostat. The rheostat control found on most newer blankets and throws control heat by gauging both the blanket temperature and the user’s body temperature. Lastly, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to make sure the blanket has not been recalled.
If a new blanket or throw is to be purchased for self or as a gift, make sure it has been tested by and bears the label of a reputable testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions. If the directions don’t match your intended use, do not purchase. And again, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to make sure the blanket of consideration is not on the recall list.
Once the blanket or throw is in use, keep these safety tips in mind:
Keep the blanket flat while in use. Folds or bunched-up areas can create and trap too much heat. This also includes tucking ends in which can cause excessive heat build-up. The blanket is also best stored flat or rolled which puts less stress on the coils.
Keep everything and anything off of the blanket. This includes comforters/bedspreads, blankets, clothing, pets, and yourself. No sleeping or lounging on top of the blanket either. Weight of any kind may cause the blanket to overheat. Pet claws can cause punctures, rips, and tears which may expose or break the wiring and create shock and fire hazards. If pets are a must, consider a low-voltage blanket.
Avoid washing. Washing machines and electric blankets aren’t a given match. Always follow the manufactures directions if washing is necessary and do not use the spin cycle. There’s no guarantee that the internal coils in the blanket won’t get twisted or damaged or that the electrical circuitry will avoid damage in the laundry.
Heat and then sleep. If the blanket does not have a timer, turn it off before going to sleep. Most manufactures recommend the same.
Consider the bed. Never use an electric blanket on a waterbed or adjustable, hospital-style bed.
Mind the cords. Avoid running cords under the mattress as this creates friction that can damage the cord or trap excess heat.
Electric blankets and throws are great cozy companions but they need to be respected and used with care. Today’s electric blankets are safer and more energy efficient than those of the past. Many of these innovations were developed as Underwriters Laboratories, an independent product-safety testing organization, came up with stricter safety standards for electric blankets, including warnings on the instructions. With respect and care, these cozy companions are perfect for deflecting cold rooms and beds.