Many people use electric blankets in the cold winter months to keep warm and save on their heating bills.
However, many electric blankets, especially older ones, are potentially dangerous.
A recent survey by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards found that 86% of electric blankets that were tested were not suitable for use.
If you do have an electric blanket, it’s important to use it safely and treat it well. Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to electric blanket safety:
- Lay your electric blanket flat when turned on. If you turn it on when it is crumpled or folded up, it is more likely to overheat
- Turn it off or unplug it when not in use
- Check that the electric blanket is safe to wash before you clean it
- Make sure that any room that you use an electric blanket is at room temperature. For example, if your bedroom is cold, the electric blanket will sense a difference in temperature and produce more heat to compensate for this
- Store your electric blanket safely when not in use. Don’t place heavy items on top of it or treat it with protective chemicals. Loosely roll it rather than folding it to prevent damage to the delicate wires
- Look for the British or European standard mark when you buy an electric blanket
- Lay anything on top of the blanket. This can not only cause overheating, but damage the sensitive wires in the blanket
- Iron your electric blanket – this can cause the wires and other internal components to melt
- Touch the blanket if you have wet hands or feet
- Use the electric blanket while you sleep, unless it has safety controls for all-night use
- Use a hot water bottle at the same time as an electric blanket. If the hot water bottle leaks, it can be dangerous
- Run the cord under a carpet or rug. This not only can cause damage, but be a trip hazard
- Use more than one electric blanket at the same time
- Let pets on the electric blanket. Not only can they get burned, but their claws could damage the blanket
- Use an electric blanket if you or someone you care for has a condition that makes them insensitive to heat, such as diabetes. Electric blankets can also be dangerous for people with cognitive issues like dementia
- Buy a second-hand or counterfeit blanket
- Use a blanket that is more than 10 years old
How do I check an electric blanket for safety?
It is recommended that you replace your electric blanket every ten years, or if you notice damage.
Before you use your electric blanket, give it a quick check.
- Is there any discolouration? This can be a sign of internal burning
- Is the fabric worn or frayed?
- Are any wires visible?
- Is there damage to the plug or cord?
If you turn the electric blanket on and you spot the following, turn it off immediately:
- The heat is unevenly distributed
- There is a buzzing sound
- There is a burning smell
How do I dispose of an electric blanket?
If you want to dispose of your old electric blanket, don’t put it in the bin.
Check with your local council to see if your nearest recycling facility accepts electrical waste.
Electric blanket safety checks – make sure your electric blanket is safe
Most councils across the UK provide free electric blanket checks between August and October each year, just before the chilly winter months.
A qualified electrician will test your blanket to make sure it is safe to use. If it fails testing, your council may offer you vouchers to cover the cost of a new blanket.
Even if you think your electric blanket is fine, we’d recommend getting it checked as there could be invisible issues you can’t see.
Contact your local council to find out more about when they carry out testing, and how to book an appointment.