How We Tested
I’m Camryn Rabideau, a freelance contributor for Reviewed. I’ve been doing product testing for a few years now, and a lot of my focus has been on household linens, including bed sheets, comforters, and towels. It seemed like a natural progression to test electric blankets, especially considering we’re in the middle of a chilly New England winter.
In addition to my previous experience testing bedding, I majored in fashion in college, which required me to take numerous courses on fabrics, textile science, and manufacturing. Thanks to this education, I have a good eye for fabric quality and construction techniques, which helped me to assess the overall quality of these blankets.
As you might expect, testing electric blankets required a lot of sleeping. We focused solely on blankets that are designed to be used overnight, so I slept with each one. To keep things fair, I made sure to set my thermostat to a brisk 60 degrees each night, and I made up the bed in the same way. In addition to using each blanket overnight, I also napped under them and used them on the couch during my nightly Netflix session.
For the blankets that had special features, such as a timer or preheat setting, I played around with the various settings, evaluating whether they were useful or just for show. Finally, I compared the warmth produced on the lowest and highest settings for each blanket, noting whether I ever had safety concerns.
What You Should Know About Electric Blankets
In general, there are three types of electric blankets: standard blankets that you sleep under overnight, heated mattress pads that you sleep on top of, and throw blankets that you can use around the house. Our testing focused on standard blankets, so the details provided in the following sections are specific to this type of product.
With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about electric blankets to make an informed purchase.
How do electric blankets work?
Electric blankets aren’t as thick or puffy as a winter comforter—if you’re looking for new bedding, our guide to the Best Comforters can help you there. Instead, they’re typically more akin to a lightweight summer blanket or throw blanket. Most are made from polyester fleece or velvet, making them super soft to the touch.
What distinguishes these blankets from a regular throw is the wiring that runs throughout the material. Unlike a heating pad, electric blankets don’t have a “cover”—the wires are integrated directly into the fabric, and they can’t be removed. At the end of the blanket is one or two connectors, depending on how many zones the blanket has, where you plug the cords in. When you set the blanket up, these connectors are typically positioned at the foot of the bed, and you then run the cords under the bed, positioning the controller(s) on your bedside table and putting the plug into a nearby outlet.
What features do heated blankets have?
There are several common features you’ll see on electric blankets. First, almost all electric blankets have 10 heat settings and automatic shut-off after around eight to 10 hours. The blanket will automatically turn off after this period of time, so you won’t accidentally leave it on all day.
Another common feature is dual-zone controls. Queen- and king-sized blankets electric blankets typically come with two controllers that allow partners to customize the heat on their side of the bed. This was once a “luxury” feature, but we’ve found it’s pretty standard today across all brands.
There are also some special features reserved for more expensive electric blankets. For instance, some models have a “preheat” option, which typically heats up the blanket on a warmer setting for 30 minutes or more before lowering the temperature. Essentially, it’s a way to heat up your bed before you get in—the preheat settings we tested specifically note not to use them when you’re in bed.
Another special feature is a timer, which means the blanket will turn off after a set number of hours. Similar to the preheat option, this will ensure you don’t get too hot overnight, and it will save electricity, too.
How to safely use an electric blanket
One of the first things you’ll notice when you buy an electric blanket is there are a lot of safety precautions. They’re listed in big bold letters in the instructions, but the blankets themselves also sport a big patch with important safety guidelines—and it can’t be removed.
In general, all heated blankets have a few key guidelines for safe use:
- Don’t use the bedding for children, disabled individuals, or with sedatives.
- Don’t fold, bunch, or tuck the blanket.
- Don’t use pins on the blanket.
- Don’t pinch, trap, tuck, or cross the electrical cords.
- Don’t use electric blankets on pull-out or fold-up beds.
- Don’t let your pets scratch or claw the bedding.
- Don’t use the blanket if it’s wet.
- Don’t use a heated blanket in combination with other heated products, such as a heating pad or mattress pad.
- If you notice any signs of damage or misoperation, stop using it immediately.
Because it’s an electric device that you’re using while asleep, it’s important to follow these guidelines carefully to ensure your safety.
Common issues with electric blankets
Despite the fact that they’ve been around for many years, electric blankets are still plagued with issues. There are several common problems you might experience if you purchase an electric blanket, and they range from moderately inconvenient to dangerous.
On the mild end of the spectrum, many electric blankets don’t last as long as you might expect, especially considering their high price. If you read reviews on popular electric blankets, you’ll see many users complain their blankets stop working after a few months—sometimes just one “zone” dies out, and other times the whole thing goes kaput. Another frequently cited issue is hot spots, where one zone or area of an electric blanket doesn’t get quite as warm as the other.
However, electric blankets can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Some users report their blankets have started smoking or melting at the connection where the cord meets the blanket. There’s also a risk of burning yourself if you leave the blanket on too high overnight. To prevent these serious problems, it’s essential to carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions. You’ll also want to stop using your blanket if there are any signs of fraying or loose wires or other damage.