Electric Blanket Safety

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Electric blankets are plug-in devices that contain integrated heating wires, as the weather turns colder heading into Winter, this is the time of year people start to pull them out of storage. People often forget the importance of fire safety while using electric blankets, but they can overheat and become potential fire risks. There are around 43 electric blanket fires each year in the UK. The most common causes of these are overheating of the heating element or other component, and the electric arcing of a broken electrical conductor, causing flammable materials to ignite.

What are the potential safety risks of using an electric blanket?

The main safety risks of using an electric blanket are fires, burns and people with certain health conditions.

When using an electric blanket, it’s always important to examine it before use, especially if it has been in storage over the warmer months. If you notice any of the following danger signs with your electric blanket it could be a potential fire risk and should be replaced:

  • Folding or Creasing in the blanket
  • Fraying edges
  • Scorch Marks
  • Exposed elements
  • Loose connections
  • Worn electrical cable
  • Buzzing sound

It’s lovely to cosy up underneath a heated blanket on cold nights but you can accidentally fall asleep with them on which can cause fire and safety risks in itself. There are a few reasons for this, it can cause overheating especially in young children or the elderly as they might not have the awareness or ability to react to the prolonged exposure to heat. Furthermore, if the heating pad has direct contact with bare skin for prolonged periods of time, this can potentially lead to burns.

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How to keep an electric blanket safe?

There are things you can do to keep your electric blanket safe for use, including:

  • Make sure to unplug the blanket from the wall before going to sleep or leaving the room to ensure it can’t be accidentally left on, especially if your electric blanket doesn’t have a timer.
  • Most modern electric blankets can be washed in your washing machine on a short, gentle cycle, but take care to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific heated blanket to avoid any accidental damage to the interior wiring or heating components.
  • When storing, they should be kept flat, they should never be rolled up, folded or stored with anything else on top of them, as this could cause damage to the internal wires.
  • Keep the power cable separate when putting it into storage to avoid the cable getting folded, which can cause kinks.

When should you not use an electric blanket?

There are some situations where using a heated blanket in your home is not suitable and should be avoided.

  • They should not be used on a sofa bed or mechanical bed because the heating wires could get trapped or pinched in the mechanisms, which can damage the internal wires. The power cable can also get twisted which causes wear or damage to the electric cables, both of these could lead to potential electric blanket fires.
  • It sounds very inviting to have a hot water bottle snuggled up underneath your heated blanket or a nice hot chocolate while all curled up but this should be avoided. If any liquids were to spill or leak onto the blanket it could cause circuit damage – electricity and water are never a good mix!
  • If you do accidentally spill liquid on your heated blanket, make sure you turn it off and unplug it as soon as possible. Never plug it in or switch it on when wet and ensure it is completely dry to keep yourself and your electric blanket safe.
  • When using them in bed you should never tuck the edges of the electric blanket under the mattress, this can also pinch or trap the internal wires causing damage.

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Who should avoid using an electric blanket?

There are certain demographics who should avoid using electric blankets. The following individuals should always speak with a health professional for advice before using an electric blanket.

Pregnant Women

Electric blankets produce non-ionizing radiation which may not be safe for pregnant women.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that currently, the evidence does not confirm any health consequences from environmental electromagnetic fields and that it does not increase the risk of any adverse outcomes for pregnant women. They also acknowledge that there are still currently some gaps in knowledge and that further research is needed.

Those with Diabetes

Those suffering from diabetes are advised to avoid high temperatures. They may also have difficulty feeling temperatures and not be aware if they are getting too hot. Always remove your electric blanket from your bed before going to sleep.

Older Adults

Older adults can have issues with sensitivity to temperature changes and may be unaware they are overheating.

Older Adults suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s are not recommended to use electric blankets without monitoring from their carers as they may have issues with regulating their own temperature.

Young Children

The NHS recommends that babies should never sleep with an electric blanket because they are very susceptible to overheating. Children under five may not be able to communicate or have the awareness to react to the temperature being too high for them. Another point to consider is, if an older child is still wetting the bed then you should avoid the use of electric blankets altogether. Parents should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on suitability for children.

Electric Blankets can also pose risks to others besides the above individuals:

Pet Owners

Although you may think you’re doing your furry friend a favour by letting them cuddle up under your electric blanket, unfortunately, it can cause overheating due to the differences in the way our bodies regulate temperature. There are pet-friendly heat pads that are available and designed specifically with your pets in mind

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How should you use an electric blanket safely?

A modern electric blanket is considered, on the whole, generally safe if used correctly and the provided instructions are followed. The following tips for proper use can be used to increase your safety:

  • It’s always best practice to replace them every 10 years, 99% of all electric blanket fires are caused by blankets that are 10 years or older. Modern blankets have much-improved fire safety features.
  • Make sure the electric blanket is always laid out flat when in use and be careful of where the cables are. Never put anything on top of it (including sitting or lying on it yourself) as this can trap in the heat and damage the coils.
  • Most modern electric blankets have timers and an auto shut-off feature if the sensors get too hot. Older versions may not have this feature so it is especially important to unplug it when not in use or before you go to bed.

Choosing the right electric blanket for you

When looking to purchase electric blankets there are a few things to consider.

  • You should always purchase them from a reputable retailer that you can trust.
  • Never buy second-hand electric blankets as you don’t know the age or quality of the product.
  • Always check that it has the UK safety mark such as the British Electrotechnical Approvals Board (BEAB) mark, or the International Standard number BSEN 60335.
  • Opt for one with an automatic shut-off safety feature for peace of mind.

Aico is the European market leader in home life safety and has years of experience in residential fire safety. For further information about keeping safe this winter check out our Winter Home Safety blog.

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