We don’t all have the luxury of professional blanket cleaning and repair — if you’re a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to blanket maintenance, here are our favorite tips and tricks for extending the life of your expensive blankets!
It’s blanketing season for those of us who by choice or necessity will now spend the next four months obsessively checking the weather forecasts and trying to decide between medium or heavy. While some of us might be unzipping the package on some brand-new sheets this year and others are digging our professionally-cleaned and -repaired blankets out of storage, there are others among us — again, by choice or necessity — who tackle all of that blanket maintenance ourselves. For the DIY warriors out there, here are a few tested-and-true tips for getting the most out of your blankets!
Post a question about washing turnout blankets to any public group on social media and you’ll get a variety of responses — some claim that washing and drying in industrial or home washers is fine; others claim that drying the blankets will kill the waterproofing while still others claim it’s the kind of detergent one uses that will render your blanket as leaky as a sieve next year. From anecdotal experience, I can state that when I worked at a large 70-stall equestrian center, we washed and dried our turnout blankets every spring and rarely had any issues with waterproofing.
Now tragically without a designated horse clothing washer/dryer set, I’m a little more choosy about what I put in my home appliances. Faced with a pile of fairly disgusting, muddy turnout sheets and blankets every year, I prefer to wash mine outside.
I’ve found an electric pressure washer to be a valuable tool in blasting the crusted-on mud and inevitable manure off of the blankets inside and out. I have not used a gas-powered pressure washer on blankets; I do know they tend to be a bit more powerful than the electric models so proceed with caution!
After the initial mud and gunk has been pressure-washed away, tackle the rest of the built-up with some good old-fashioned elbow grease: a stiff brush and Dawn dish soap work well to get out all of the dirt and grime. Soak in a tub if necessary.
Minor repairs such as small holes and tears can be handled at home without a major investment in a sewing machine. Gorilla Tape has been a game-changer for me in recent seasons; for larger holes and rips Gorilla Tape also manufactures a wide tape patch. A few notes on Gorilla Tape: the adhesive works best when it’s applied to a clean surface, so at minimum, go over those blankets with a stiff brush before repairing. It also works best when both the tape and the repair surface are warm, so bring the blanket home if you can. The tape patches do not breathe like the blanket material, so plan accordingly if you are repairing a lot of rips!
You can also repair blankets with patches from old sheets adhered with waterproof glue. A catastrophically-damaged blanket can still have plenty of salvageable parts for repairing others — the tail flap in particular is usually a good size, maintains its waterproofing and is easy to cut off of an old blanket to save for making patches.
Interior tears can be repaired with needle and thread; you can also apply a fabric patch to ensure a smooth surface against your horse’s coat.
If your blanket has truly given up the ghost with an irreparable tear, make sure you save all of the hardware — chest buckles, belly buckles and of course those leg straps!
A number of waterproofing treatments and sprays can be applied to tired blankets. Many of these are available at camping or outdoor stores. I’ve used Nikwax to great effect but there are many similar products out there! Applying new waterproofing can usually get another season out of an older blanket, and if you’re diligent about re-applying you might be able to extend its life for several years.
What DIY blanket tips do you have to share? Let us know in the comments!