Home-washing a Horse Blanket
It might seem a bit crazy for a company that makes money by washing horse blankets and other turnout gear to give advice on how to wash horse blankets at home, right? Well, in our view, washing between professional washings makes sense because it helps to prolong the life of your blanket, makes you understand just how difficult a job it is and also makes you think of us when you are brushing out hardened manure from Trigger’s blanket! Ha! Anyway – here are some thoughts on cleaning a horse blanket at home.
Large-capacity Front-loader is required
You can wash horse blankets, including turn-outs in a large-capacity front-loading washing machine, but they need to be line dried. Also, you need to wash T/O’s in cold or cool water. Part of the waterproofing is created by the membrane fused to the underside of the top nylon layer, and while this membrane will eventually delaminate, as long as you wash the blanket in cold or cool water you should get at least 5 years out of it. Delamination is a reaction to UV rays, so short of keeping your horse out of the sun in the winter, there is no way to prevent this eventual delamination. Once delamination starts, you can still re-waterproof the T/O’s with a waterproofing spray, but without an intact membrane, the spray on waterproofing will only last 4 – 6 weeks, long enough so the blanket could be used as a backup while a primary blanket is being repaired.
When using a front-loader, it should be one with the biggest capacity you can find, ideal would be a used commercial triple load washer. By the way, some laundromats do allow horse blankets to be washed, but they usually have one machine designated for that purpose. And if you wish to be allowed to continue to wash horse blankets there, bring some old towels with you and wipe out the tub to remove any leftover hair. You should keep this in mind at home as well.
Top loaders should not be used to wash horse blankets because they spin far too fast, which spins the dirt floating in the water into the folds of the blanket. Front loaders spin on the other axis, so the blanket gets lifted to the top and dropped back into the dirty water, so it also moves more, rather than have the floating dirt spun into the folds. The blankets also move better in a front loader, and the more they can move in the washer, the cleaner they will be.
Use a standard mild detergent
The washing instructions for most horse blankets or turnouts list a “mild” detergent and no bleach. The blanket washes are typically more expensive than normal mild detergents and don’t prolong the life of the blanket any more than following the manufacturer’s washing instructions by using a standard mild detergent. Powder detergent can be used in extra-large capacity washers with programmable settings. Other machines with a programmable setting may be able to use a mild liquid detergent, which also meets the manufacturer’s washing instructions.
There are two types of dirt you face with a horse blanket: surface dirt & ground-in dirt. Surface dirt is pretty much self-explanatory, but Ground-in dirt is dirt that has been pounded into the weave of the fabric. Most surface dirt will come out in the washer, but the only way to get ground-in dirt out is to hand scrub the outside layer with a stiff brush & detergent. A liquid detergent works best; you can tell where you are getting dirt loose when the foam, which starts off white, starts to take on the color of the dirt you are loosening. The darker the foam, the more dirt you have freed.
Customers almost always pay to have their blankets re-waterproofed after it has been washed or repaired so I’ve done a lot of waterproofing in my day. However, this something you can do yourself if you want to save a few bucks (literally – our cost to waterproof is $15/ blanket). Outside the materials I use, the best waterproofing I have found is called Nixwax Rugproof Waterproofer. It’s a bit on the expensive side; you can get it on Amazon.com for $20 or so a can. Another good one I’ve heard about (whose name escapes me) is sold in the tent & camping section at Walmart – it has an orange cap and costs something like $6/can.
You will need 2 – 3 cans for a 78″ blanket; the amount of spray you will need depends on how much of the original waterproofing is still intact. I hang the blankets over a garment rack, and start from the top and spray a strip across, spraying until the material is saturated & I see fluid running down the material. Then I move down & spray the next strip across. By hanging the blanket, the “run off” will be absorbed by the parts of the blanket below where you started so it will be used, not wasted. I usually respray the top when I have finished the first side, so I have a clear demarcation line & know where to start the 2nd line. The spray will be one color when wet and will either be lighter or darker when dry, so you want to have enough spray on hand to do the entire blanket. Otherwise, when it dries, you may not be able to tell where you left off. If any repairs have been done, you will need to seal the needle holes with waterproofing.
You need to keep the blanket dry from rain while the waterproofing agent cures & dries, and I personally find the odor of the spray really nasty, so I try to inhale as little as possible, and when possible, I do the waterproofing outdoors. In the summer, when I can hang the T/O’s outdoors in the sun, the waterproofing will cure/dry in as little as 12 hours, and the odor will dissipate in 24. If you are waterproofing indoors due to rain or cold, take care to get some cross ventilation. side as the 2 car doors) so I get cross ventilation. When it is below 50F, the waterproofing takes at least 48 hours to dry/cure & at least another 24 to 36 hours for the odor to dissipate. However, if the smell has not completely dissipated, you can put the T/O back on the horse, especially if he/she lives out 24/7. Very few barns are heated or air tight, so if a little odor is left, you can put the blanket back on the horse in the barn.
Well, that’s our treatise on cleaning horse blankets at home. Quite the chore! If you would rather spend the time doing this in some other way (say riding your horse!), bring them to us. We do a great job (or so we’re told) for a reasonable price.