An electric blanket can be a nice warm comfort during the winter months. A misused or damaged blanket, however, can easily become an ignition source for a fire. Electric blankets that are too hot or kept on one area of the body for too long also pose a real threat for burns. This is especially a concern for infants, the elderly, or anyone who might have difficulty sensing hot temperatures or moving the blanket if it gets too hot.
The City of Fairfax Fire Department offers the following recommendations for using electric blankets safely:
• Only use electric blankets that have been approved by nationally recognized testing agencies (like Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.).
• Always buy new electric blankets; second-hand blankets may not be safe.
• Replace all electric blankets that are more than 10 years old. Most fires caused by electric blankets are caused by those older than 10 years.
• Replace any electric blanket that is worn or torn, where the electric cord is frayed, or where the temperature control is damaged.
• Turn your electric blanket off when not in use. Many older models have no internal temperature control to shut the blanket off when it gets too hot; if your blanket has no such internal control, consider replacing it with a newer model.
• Turn your electric blanket off before you go to sleep (unless the blanket is made specifically to be used all night).
• Refrain from using more than one electric blanket (or heating pad) at a time. Do not use electric blankets and heating pads together. The heat generated by the combined appliances can cause serious burns.
• Do not plug your electric blanket into an outlet that is controlled by a light switch; the blanket could be switched on accidentally.
• Do not pile toys, pillows, blankets, or other materials on top of an electric blanket or tuck electric blankets underneath mattresses or other items; excessive heat may build up to the point where the blanket could ignite.
• Do not sit or lay on top of an electric blanket; this may damage the blanket’s internal coils and expose the heating element to combustible fabric.
• Never ball up an electric blanket up and leave it on; excessive heat may build up to the point where the blanket could ignite.
• Unplug your blanket if you smell smoke or if any scorching is evident; discoloration of the blanket may indicate that it is burning internally.
• Never wash an electric blanket; the twisting, tugging, and turning action of the washing machine will damage the internal coils.
• Do not dry clean electric blankets; the chemicals used in the cleaning process may damage the heating insulation and increase the risk of fire.
• Ideally, electric blankets should be stored flat. If that is not possible, roll it up or fold it with as few creases as possible; be careful when folding the blanket to protect the internal coils.
• Replace any blanket where the embedded heating wires have been displaced or damaged. Check by holding the blanket up to light; the wires should be evenly spaced and not touch each other anywhere.
• Never use an electric blanket that is wet; do not turn an electric blanket on to dry it out. Refrain from using electric blankets and hot water bottles together.
If you have any doubt about the safety of your electric blanket, discontinue using it. It can still be used as a regular blanket, without plugging it in.
If you have any questions about electric blanket safety, please contact our Life Safety Officer or call 703.385.7830.