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An electric blanket can be a must-have in areas where the mercury drops dramatically as fall and winter weather moves in. But you don’t have to live somewhere that sees snow to benefit from an electric blanket. They can provide great comfort to people struggling with an illness or for those dealing with certain medical issues. Of course, if you’re using an electric blanket while you’re sick, or frequently reaching for it as temperatures dip, you’re going to want to ensure it’s getting properly cleaned.
Because these blankets have electrical components, there are a few extra steps you’ll need to take to stay safe and prevent your blanket from being damaged, which is why we consulted with the pros to find out exactly what you need to know before your next wash day.
As a Chicago-based cleaner, Val Oliveira, CEO of Val’s Services, has plenty of experience with dealing with electric blankets (they don’t call it the windy city for nothing), which is why she was excited to offer up some cleaning tips. The first thing she says you should do is disconnect and unplug. “Ensure that the electric blanket is entirely disconnected from its power source, with any controllers or detachable cords removed,” she explains.
Next, you’ll want to check the manufacturer’s instructions. “Always consult the cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer, typically available on a tag or within the user manual.”
How Often Should You Clean an Electric Blanket?
Washing your electric blanket is an undertaking, which is why Oliveira says you should make sure you’re extending the amount of time you can go between washes by taking good care of it. “When the electric blanket is not in use, store it in a cool, dry environment,” she says. “Avoid tightly folding it, as this may result in damage to the wiring. Instead, loosely roll it up.”
Shantae Duckworth, professional organizer and founder of Shantaeize Your Space, seconds this, noting that you’ll want to wash your electric blanket as infrequently as possible to avoid damaging it, really only giving it a bath when it’s been used by someone who has been sick, or when it has obvious signs of dirt, stains, or spills.
If your electric blanket has visible stains, Oliveira says you should begin by treating these areas. “Use a blend of mild detergent and water to gently blot at the stains, taking care not to immerse the entire blanket, which could harm the wiring.”
How to Wash an Electric Blanket in a Washer
Before you toss your blanket in the washer, both Duckworth and Oliveira suggest triple-checking that it’s safe to machine wash. “If approved, use a front-loading washing machine set to a gentle or delicate cycle,” Oliveira says.
Next, you should add mild detergent and make sure to select cold water. “Avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals, as they may inflict damage upon the fabric and heating elements,” she continues.
To keep your blanket extra safe, Oliveira suggests securing it in a laundry bag or pillow case during the wash cycle. And if you have any reservations about using your washer, Duckworth says you should just err on the side of caution. “I actually would recommend hand washing the electric blanket because there is less of a chance of accidentally using hot water or too much agitation,” she explains.
How to Wash an Electric Blanket by Hand
You’ll need to fill your bathtub or a large sink with cold water and a small amount of mild detergent to get started, according to Oliveira. “Submerge the blanket and gently agitate the water to disperse the detergent,” she continues, adding that you’ll need to exercise care when hand washing. She suggests using a gentle pressing and squeezing motion as opposed to twisting, which could damage the wiring.
Duckworth suggests leaving your blanket submerged in water for about half an hour “so that the dirt and residue can become loose.” After that, you can come back to the blanket and slowly begin to agitate it again (remembering not to twist) to remove the rest of the dirt.
“Once it is nice and soapy, drain the soapy water and rinse under cold (make sure it is cold) water until there is no more soap,” Duckworth continues. “Then, squeeze the blanket in the sink or tub to help release excess water.”
Drying Your Electric Blanket
Both advise against using a dryer for your blanket, as heat can impair the wiring. Instead, Oliveira suggests laying the blanket flat to dry on top of a clean dry towel. Pro tip: Roll the blanket in a towel to help speed up the drying process. Oliveira says this process can take several hours to a full day to complete.
Duckworth says you can also lay your blanket out over your shower curtain rod, helping to increase the airflow around the blanket.
Just remember that your blanket must be fully dried before you can use it again. Using it while it’s still damp can be dangerous, so don’t skip this step!
Clean the Controller and Cords
While waiting for your blanket to dry, Oliveira says you can tackle some of the other non-washable parts. “Wipe the controller and cords with a damp cloth, being cautious not to introduce moisture into the controller,” she says, once again adding that these will need to be completely dry before they are reattached to the blanket.
Before you can snuggle back up with your blanket, Oliveira says you’ll need to give it a thorough check, looking for exposed wiring or any noticeable damage. “If any such issues arise, refrain from using the blanket, as it could pose safety risks.”
A version of this story was first published on January 9, 2017, by Brittney Morgan.