A warm bed on a cold winter's night is one of the many advantages of an electric blanket. Heat is cozy, comforting and induces sleep. It's also therapeutic, especially if you're afflicted with nighttime muscle aches and allergies. Electric blankets flood the market and come at all price points. Buying the right blanket takes careful examination of the actual product and an understanding of the safety issues that accompany this nighttime teddy bear.
Electric Blanket Fabrication
A heating coil is embedded between layers of blanket material, creating a large heating pad that warms the bed and its occupants. The intensity of the heat is controlled by a dial or digital function, set to the user's preference. The density of the fabric distinguishes an inexpensive blanket from one that is more protective, comfortable and longer lasting. Buy a blanket that has a raised nap or is plush, burying the coils within its construction. Flat nap blankets reveal the outline of the heating elements, making them obvious to the touch and susceptible to damage. Synthetic fibers and cotton are comfortable blanket fabrics and are easy to maintain. Shop for an electric blanket in a store's bedding department where you can touch the material to determine if the coils are well padded.
Electric Blanket Safety
Not all electric blankets are alike, especially in their safety features. Look for the UL mark on the label, designating that the product is approved by the Underwriters Laboratory, which sets the standards recognized throughout the United States and are the base for approval of electrical bedding safety. Another designation, the ETL adheres to the standards of the UL and indicates the product has passed safety tests. Look for a low-voltage blanket, one that uses 120 volts of electricity or less. An automatic turn-off safety feature is recommended for those who intend to keep the blanket on all night; it monitors the level of heat produced. Do not use a cover over the electric blanket when it's turned on. Examine the blanket for exposed coils and thinning fabric periodically as the heated coils can burn the skin.
Benefits of an Electric Blanket
In addition to taking the chill off a cold bed, the soothing heat of the electric blanket surrounds the body and helps alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with many muscle-related aches. Turning the blanket on several minutes before going to bed heats the bed without the need for keeping the blanket on all night. A low heat setting is ideal for especially chilly nights. The electric blanket also helps repel dust mites, making it beneficial if you suffer from allergies.
Look for a control pad that is illuminated, with distinctive markings for the heat settings. If you wear glasses, remove them when selecting the blanket to be sure you can read the dial with the naked eye. Raised markings are a plus. Large dials or levered switches make it easier to use the controller. Newer models have digital controllers that are easy to read and set, and some are available in remote control models. Many larger electric blankets come with dual controls, allowing bed partners to set the heat levels for different sleeping preferences.
Sizes of Electric Blankets
Ranging from throws to king size, electric blankets can be either flat or fitted. Flat is more traditional and versatile, while a fitted electric blanket attaches snugly to the mattress. Buy a blanket that corresponds with your mattress size for the best fit. Throws and heated mattress pads are also available.
Care of Electric Blankets
Electric blankets can be washed on the gentle cycle of a washer and dried in a machine. Be sure the size of the dryer allows the blanket to tumble freely during the cycle and that you use the low-heat option. Purchase a blanket that won't shrink as a result of home care. Do not dry-clean an electric blanket; the chemicals used in the cleaning process may damage it. Always check the blanket for worn or exposed heating coils, and remove all cords before washing.