Monday, February 18, 2013

Washing horse blankets

I've always taken my horse blankets in to be washed and repaired, but in the last couple of winters I've started doing increasingly more of my blanket care myself.  I did recently have to take Rondo's blanket it to have the front of it virtually reconstructed, since the damage he'd done to it -- playing tug-of-war with his own blanket while it was on him, from what I've seen -- was beyond my meager hand-sewing skills.  Panama's blanket, however, has been getting so many rips in it, what with his buddies biting it all the time, that I've been patching it myself -- otherwise, I'd be taking it in for repair every other time he wore it (and I'd probably have to have three blankets, to cycle out as others were being repaired).

Usually I just do the repairs without washing the blanket, but this last time, it had gotten too messy -- and the blanket needed too substantial a repair.  I didn't want to take it in to be washed, though, as I would have to wait probably a week to get it back, so I looked up information for washing it myself.  I found tips ranging from soaking it in a huge barrel and hand-scrubbing, to taking it to the car wash, and lots of contradictory advice on whether or not it could go into a home washing machine.

Some of what I found indicated that you could damage either the blanket or your washing machine by putting it in there, and other sources disagreed on whether you could use regular laundry detergent.  Some people said detergent would remove the waterproofing, and others said just to use very little.  Woolite and other non-detergent soaps were suggested, and a lot of people swore by the very expensive special blanket wash. Everyone said to make sure you run it through several extra rinses afterward (or just another cycle, but without any soap).

In the end, here is what I did:

1. When I first removed the blanket, I took a dry washcloth and scrubbed off as much of the caked-on soil as I could.  Most sources say to use a stiff brush, but I didn't have one that could be repurposed, hence the washcloth.  I threw it over the partition between the cross-tie stalls at my barn, but you could also do this over a fence, or still on the horse.  The mud and manure does have to be dry first in order to brush it off like this.

2. When I got the blanket home, I folded it in half lengthwise (i.e., down the spine) and inside out, so that the lining faced out, and buckled the belly and leg straps (though I actually left the chest buckles undone).  My leg straps aren't stretchy or removable, otherwise I would have removed them and put them in one of those mesh lingerie bags to keep them from getting stretched out in the wash.  Then I put it into the machine so that it was upside down and coiled around the agitator in a circle.  Panama is small, so I was able to make it go in one, loosely bunched circle around the agitator.

3. I ran it on a complete wash and rinse cycle on cold, without detergent.  Some sources recommended running a complete cycle first as a soak, and then using soap in another cycle, but I thought I probably wouldn't need the soap cycle.  Sure enough, it was pretty darn after one cycle -- but on removing the blanket, it was clear that some spots hadn't gotten water at all, because of the waterproof exterior (which was facing in, remember).

4. I turned the blanket around so that it was folded lengthwise rightside out, keeping everything buckled, and loaded it in upside down once again -- but this time the exterior of the blanket was facing out.  Then I ran it on one more complete cycle, once again without soap.

5. The blanket was still a bit wet when it finished, so I ran another spin cycle, and then took it outside and hung it on the fence to dry.  I hung a beach towel underneath it first, so that it wouldn't catch on the fence and tear, and hung it so that the lining faced out (since the exterior is waterproof).  It dried almost completely within a couple of hours, and I flipped it over so a few damp spots on the exterior would dry, too.

Ta-da!  One very clean blanket, and there was no soap required.  If it were really dirty, or if I hadn't brushed most of the soil off first, it probably would have needed detergent, but then I think I would have had to run three cycles each side: soak, wash (with soap), and a third cycle without soap to make sure it was all out (since horses are apparently very sensitive to soap that isn't fully rinsed out).  A front-loading or commercial washer would probably only need the three cycles (no flipping sides), but because my washing machine is top-loading and fairly small, both sides didn't get clean that way.

Contrary to what blanket-washing services warn, there was no dirt or horse hair in my washing machine afterward.  I did run an empty load of soap and hot water afterward to make sure it was clean, but I don't think I really needed to.  It might be different in spring, when the horses are shedding, but my blanket has a nylon lining so it shouldn't pick up too much hair.

The nicest thing was that I threw it in the washing machine first thing in the morning, and by the time the sun went down, it was dry.  (It was a nice, warm day, which helped with quick drying.)  If it hadn't needed a couple of patches reinforced, I could have thrown it back on him that very night!  I will probably do this myself more often, certainly with Panama's blankets, which are plenty small enough to fit in my washing machine, and possibly (with a little squeezing), Rondo's too -- and I figure, since it's so easy to do it myself, I can do it more often and have less soil to clean off each time.  Since I now know that I don't have to use soap for moderate soil as long as I brush most of it off first, I don't think I'll have to worry too much about damaging the waterproofing, either!



At March 13, 2014 at 4:06 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

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At March 13, 2014 at 1:43 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

I love comments. I really do. I want to encourage a dialogue on my blog. But comments with unsolicited links, especially those that insult my intelligence by trying to "trick" me into posting a link, will be removed.


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