How to Clean Horse Blankets
by: Ann Compton
As the chill
of winter gives way to gentler temperatures, you may start
thinking about packing up your horse’s winter gear – and part of
that annual ritual should include cleaning blankets. This,
however, may not be as simple as it sounds.
Home Laundering Hurdles
Certainly, there are some blankets you can clean yourself.
Ambitious equestrians blessed with spare time and strong arms may
even be able to clean all their blankets. Some horse owners have
been known to stuff blankets into their washing machines in spite
of the appliance’s groans of protest. This is not a good idea.
Carolyn Nadau of Anchorage Equestrian Laundry Service in
Harrisville, R.I., says that over time, cleaning horse blankets
will take its toll on your washing machine. “Home washers are not
built to handle the volume of hair, mud and manure that come off a
horse blanket,” she notes. Moreover, using a domestic washing
machine can wreak havoc on your home drainage system, which
probably will back up eventually.
This is not to say that you can’t launder some blankets at home.
Lighter weight blankets that don’t get too dirty, such as coolers
and show sheets, can be washed in your machine. Some stable sheets
also can be machine washed, depending on their bulk. If you’re
going to put a blanket into your washer make sure it has enough
room to agitate, otherwise you won’t get all the dirt off. That
pretty much eliminates heavier, bulkier blankets that barely fit
into the typical domestic machine.
If you want to try cleaning the bulkier blankets at home, Kathy
Lasky of Bit of Tack in Newtown, Conn., suggests first draping
them over a fence and using a shedding blade to remove as much fur
as possible. Then go over the blanket with a stiff brush to remove
loose dirt. Next, hose the blanket with water and scrub it with a
good detergent. Lasky recommends using a detergent made for
delicates, especially if the blanket is waterproof. Follow with a
thorough rinsing and let the blanket dry completely before
The two biggest problems people encounter when they clean their
blankets at home are storing them before they are completely dry
and not rinsing them thoroughly, Nadau says. “A blanket that is
even slightly damp will rot if it is folded and stored for the
summer, so it’s important to be sure it is absolutely dry before
putting it away.”
The best way to store your blankets is in a tack trunk where mice
can’t make a home in them. However, a plastic bag may also be used
if you tie it tightly. Some horse owners save the zippered plastic
bags many sheets and comforters come in and use them to store
clean horse blankets.
When washing blankets in your home machine, Nadau suggests running
them through a complete extra wash cycle without soap to be sure
the blanket is thoroughly rinsed. She stresses that even a small
amount of soap residue can irritate some horses. Therefore, it’s
important to use a detergent with the least amount of chemicals
and never use fabric softener. Horses sweat underneath their
blankets, and this can cause problems if there is soap residue in
Additionally, always wash blankets in cold water. This prevents
the fabric from breaking down and reduces shrinkage. Nadau notes
that if you maintain your blanket over the course of the winter it
will be easier to clean in the spring. She suggests brushing the
blanket regularly to remove dirt. Always brush when the blanket is
dry. Brushing when dirt is wet will imbed it into the material.
Using the Pros
In most instances, the best choice – especially if you have
expensive, heavy turnout blankets – is to send them to a
professional cleaner. The cost of cleaning usually will pay for
itself in the long run by extending the life of your blanket. Most
professionals not only clean; they disinfect and deodorize the
blanket, too. Many tack shops will send blankets out for
professional cleaning. The cost ranges from $20 for a regular
blanket to roughly $25 for a turnout covering. They usually come
back looking like new, packed and ready to store.
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December 27, 2016