With the the changing of the leaves, the number of warm days left in the season are numbered. If you put off washing your horse’s blankets this summer, it’s time to bite the bullet and get them clean.
If you don’t want to pay $15-$25 per blanket for professional cleaning, consider washing your horse’s blankets at home. Plus, you’ll have your blankets clean faster and control over the products used.
To wash horse blankets at home, you will need 3 items: special detergent, a large front loading washing machine, and space to hang the blanket to air dry. I also recommend a plastic bin to transport wet blankets, access to a bath tub, and washing machine cleaner.
A word of caution, using your own washing machine is the safest option. Most laundromats do not permit washing horse blankets at their facilities. Similarly, some boarding barns have washing machines, but they are only available for washing saddle pads, wraps, or fly masks.
1) Choose & Purchase the Right Detergent
Horse blankets used for turnout typically have a waterproof coating. This way, rain, sleet, and snow roll off the blanket instead of soaking in and making your horse chilly. As such, it’s very important to protect the waterproof coating so your horse stays warm all winter.
Unfortunately, using normal laundry detergents will break down the special waterproofing. In addition, strong detergents with scents can irritate your horse’s skin. So DO NOT plan on using the same detergent you use on your everyday clothes. While it’s tempting, it’s not worth ruining a $100+ blanket for the convenience.
My horse’s blanket is a WeatherBeeta, and on their website they recommend Nikwax Rug Wash. This, in addition to over 430, five star reviews on Amazon, is why I chose it to wash my blankets. Other options include Rambo Wash by Horseware, Schneiders Blanketwash, and Leather Therapy Saddle Pad & Blanket Wash used with their blanket rinse.
2) Prepare the Blanket for Washing (remove hair, pre-rinse, fasten straps)
To save your washing machine from unnecessary wear and tear, I suggest using a soft brush to remove as much horse hair on the blanket as possible. You can use a stiff brush or shedding comb if you need to, but keep in mind the firmer the brush, the more likely you are to damage the fabric or cause tears.
Since I was using a washing machine that is also used to clean clothes, I wanted to rinse out as much manure and urine as possible beforehand. A pre-rinse also will give you the best chance of getting the blanket clean with only one wash in the washing machine.
If you choose to do a pre-rinse as well, I highly recommend having a plastic bin to transport your blanket from the rinse location to your washing machine. I opted to use my bathtub, but this step is much easier to do outside with a hose. A wash stall, lawn, or fence are all good rinse locations.
Please note that your blanket will get very heavy once you get the inside lining wet. Allow 10-15 minutes for the blanket to drip dry before you attempt to move it. Finally, fasten all the straps on the blanket so they don’t damage your machine, and place the blanket in the plastic bin for transport.
3) Ready the Washing Machine & Wash Your Blanket
After taking the time to pick out and purchase the right detergent, you don’t want to accidentally get another detergent on the blanket. To prevent this, remove the detergent drawer from your machine and wash it any old soap residue with warm water.
Next, place your blanket loosely in the machine. If you folded it to transport it, you will need to shake it out so water and detergent can easily get to all surfaces of the blanket. Also double check that all the straps are fastened so they don’t scratch the drum.
All that is left to do is set the machine cycle. To maintain the quality of the fabric, most manufacturers recommend a gentle cycle with cold water. This is why the pre-rinse is so important! Let the hose do all the work rather than damaging the blanket with hot water and an aggressive cycle.
4) Perform an Extra Rinse
Once the horse blanket has gone through the wash, it’s likely that one rinse didn’t remove the detergent from the heavy inside lining. You may need to rinse the blanket multiple times. I recommend running your washing machine for an extra rinse cycle AND taking your blanket outside or to the tub for another rinse.
It’s important to remove all soap residue from the blanket, because if your horse sweats during the winter, the soap will be activated and irritate their skin. They will either get itchy and rub in the blanket, which can damage the blanket and give them sores, or they can develop skin rashes. Keep your horse comfortable by rinsing the blanket until you are sure all the soap is removed!
Not sure if you go all the soap out? Rub your fingers on the inside lining of the blanket and see if you spot any soap bubbles appear. If you don’t, you should be all set to let it dry.
5) Hang the Blanket to Air Dry in the Sun
While washing your blanket with detergent should have removed any bacteria or fungus on the blanket, hanging your blanket in the sun will ensure it is sanitized.
I like to hang my blankets over a fence with the inside lining facing towards the sun. The reason for this is three-fold. First, the outside layer is hardier and less likely to rip on the fence. Second, the inside contains the fill where most of the water is absorbed, so it dries faster facing up. And third, the outside color of the blanket won’t fade.
The blanket may take 2-3 full days to dry out. I left mine out in the sun on a 60 degree day for about 8 hours and then pulled it inside for the next 3 days to finish drying out all the way. If you plan on storing your blanket in a bin or bag, make sure it is bone dry. Any moisture left in the blanket before being stored will lead to mold growth and ruin the blanket for good.
6) Clean Your Washing Machine
Now you can omit this step if you like, but there is bound to be some gunk and horse hair left in your machine. To remove the horse hair, get a damp cloth and wipe the door, seal, and drum of the machine. If you notice any skid marks in the drum from the blanket straps or hardware, a wet Mr.Clean sponge can remove them.
To flush out any dirt or debris, place a washing machine cleaner in the drum (I like these Affresh tablets) and run a cleaning cycle. If you used a bath tub to rinse your blanket, you might want to give it a scrub with some tub cleaner too!
Washing your horse’s blanket at least once a season is essential to keeping it functioning properly. Not to mention, your horse will appreciate having a clean rug!
While cleaning your blanket at home can take some hands on work, it’s a fantastic way to cut down costs. This is especially true if you have multiple blankets to clean. Per blanket, 100 mL of Nikwax and 1 afresh washing tablet only cost me $4.25. With professional cleaning averaging $20 per blanket that is $15 back in your pocket. This can add up if you need to wash multiple blankets 2-3 times a year!
Seasonal cleanings are also a great time to check the blanket to see if it needs repairs or re-waterproofing.
If this post helped you in any way, please share it with your horse friends.