Are Electric Blankets Dangerous?

Are electric blankets dangerous

Electric blankets are a great way to create a warm bed to snuggle into, but are they really safe? What are the dos and don’ts for safely using an electric blanket?

There’s nothing more tempting on a cold night than jumping into a warm and cosy bed and that’s exactly what electric blankets are designed for. But are you sacrificing safety for that brief moment of comfort? Is your electric blanket safe or is it an accident waiting to happen?

The answer to that question depends on many factors such as the age of the blanket, how it has been stored and how you’re using it. In this article, we unpack the key things you need to know about electric blankets and how to use them safely.

Use a new electric blanket

If you haven’t used your electric blanket for a while and you’re not sure how old it is, consider getting a new electric blanket. There are rarely issues with a new electric blanket that has been purchased from a reputable manufacturer and most of the safety issues with electric blankets come from older blankets. In fact, Columbia University in the US estimates that 99% of fires started by electric blankets are started by blankets that are more than 10 years old.

According to Choice Australia, it’s advisable for all electrical blankets to carry a label stating that they have been manufactured to the Australian/New Zealand standard AS/NZS 60335.2.17:2012. Don’t purchase an electric blanket if you can’t find a mention of the standard on the product.

Even though the legal responsibility for new appliances rests with the manufacturer, Fire and Rescue NSW recommends that you test your electric blanket before using it to make sure that it’s working properly. Be wary of purchasing electric blankets online or from overseas websites if you can’t identify the manufacturer and you can’t be certain that they’ve been manufactured to Australian standards.

Never purchase a second-hand electric blanket because you have no visibility over how it has been used and stored and therefore no assurances that the product is safe to use.

How long do electric blankets last?

Don’t use an electric blanket that is more than five years old. It’s easy for electric blankets to be damaged when they’re stored away in cupboards. The damage sometimes isn’t visible, so if you’re getting an electric blanket that you used last winter out of storage, here are some tips for how to check it:

  • If the blanket has been folded up in the cupboard with other things on top of it, don’t use it before getting it tested as heavy folding can damage the internal wires in the blanket.
  • Lay the blanket out flat and visually inspect it. Feel the wires to check that they’re not bent or damaged in any way.
  • Check that the cable hasn’t been twisted and the plug isn’t damaged.
  • Check your manufacturer’s instructions for the blanket as sometimes the manufacturer will specify when you need to get your electric blanket checked (when it is three years old, for example).

If in doubt, get your electric blanket tested. The team at Jim’s Test & Tag can test your electric blanket to ensure that it’s safe for you to use.

Caring for your electric blanket

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when it comes to caring for your electric blanket. It’s important to care for an electric blanket properly, as they can easily become damaged and become unsafe to use.

Here are some general tips for caring for your electric blanket:

  • Never wash or dry clean an electric blanket.
  • Be careful with sharp objects around an electric blanket.
  • Check that the bed you’re using the electric blanket on is suitable for an electric blanket Electric blankets can’t be used on water beds, for example, and many electric blankets can’t be used on futons or foam mattresses.
  • When storing an electric blanket, ideally roll it loosely around a cylindrical object. If you must fold it, fold it gently with the minimum number of folds and don’t place any objects on top of it in the cupboard.
  • Always turn the power off and pull the plug out when the electric blanket isn’t being used.
  • Don’t use a blanket that is bigger than the bed you are using it for. It’s not ok to use if the electric blanket drapes over the edge of the bed.

How to use your electric blanket safely

In addition to caring for your electric blanket properly, it’s important to use it safely so that it doesn’t become a potential fire hazard in your house. Here are some things to consider:

  • Never leave your electric blanket on overnight or when you’re sleeping;
  • Don’t ever switch the electric blanket on when it’s folded or if there are items piled on top of it which could cause it to overheat;
  • Don’t use it with a hot water bottle – use one or the other. Electricity and water don’t mix and hot water bottles can easily leak;
  • Don’t use your electric blanket if you notice any damage to it or if it is more than three years old and doesn’t have a current tag showing that it has been tested;
  • Use the electric blanket on the bed with the switch at the pillow end; and
  • Use an electric blanket with a timer so that if you forget about it, it should automatically switch off.

Are electric blankets dangerous?

The answer is that they can be if they’re not used correctly in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, maintained properly and regularly tested to ensure they are still operating safely. If an electric blanket is badly maintained or used incorrectly then it can cause a potential fire risk within your home, so it’s important to treat them with care and understand the risks involved in using the appliance.

Electric blankets shouldn’t be used by everyone

There are some groups of people for whom using electric blankets is not recommended:

  • Infants. Never use an electric blanket on a bed for an infant as it’s dangerous for infants to overheat.
  • People with mobility issues. Don’t use an electric blanket with someone who is immobile, such as your elderly aunt who is coming to stay. Because there are risks involved for anyone in using an electric blanket, it’s important that the person using the electric blanket has the capacity to get out of the bed and away from the heated blanket if it starts to overheat or smoulder.
  • Pregnant women. It’s widely recommended that electric blankets aren’t used by pregnant women as overheating could cause issues for the developing fetus.
  • People with nerve damage. People who have nerve damage which means that their sense of touch isn’t as acute (such as some diabetics) shouldn’t use electric blankets as there is an increased risk of them burning themselves because they don’t realise that they’ve overheated while using the blanket.

How do I get my electric blanket tested?

The team at Jim’s  Test & Tag offers electrical testing services using certified electrical equipment. With franchises in many places around Australia, there’s bound to be a Jim’s Test & Tag close to you that can help you with all your electrical testing needs, phone 13 15 46 for more information.

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