When the weather is cold and wet, you and your clipped horses depend on waterproof-breathable blankets to keep them cozy. It’s important to clean and repair them, of course, but you also want to maintain that all-important waterproofing.
Part of the key to keeping waterproof-breathable blankets clean and waterproof is gentle washing. They should be washed in cold water and line dried. Putting the blankets in the dryer will damage and weaken the waterproofing.
Ann SeCoy of Delta-S Equine Design says that a waterproof coating is applied in the factory to one side of the fabric during manufacturing, which should ensure that the fabric be waterproof for about two years.
Waterproofing is a coating. It can be removed with harsh soaps or detergents. Companies like Rambo, Nikwax, Saddler’s, EQyss, and Nature’s Blend make cleansers geared specifically for horse blankets.
Our last trial of blanket washes was March 1998. In it, we determined that Nature’s Blend (Tanner’s 800/826-6373, www.tanners.com) was the most economical, most gentle and won’t harm waterproofing. For persistent problems with odors, we suggestion adding baking soda to the wash. Rinse twice, if necessary, to remove all the soap residue.
Overall, horse-blanket washes are more expensive than regular detergents, but it’s money well spent. Even gentle household detergents won’t have the same effect as products made to waterproof blankets.
If you send your blankets out to be washed, be sure that the person doing the washing uses one of these horse-blanket soaps and line dries your blankets. Don’t take these blankets to the dry cleaners, because dry cleaning will often cost you the waterproofing layer.
No waterproofing lasts forever. Eventually, you will have to rewaterproof even the sturdiest blankets. Nikwax and Tectron make waterproofers that cost around $10 and can be applied as part of a wash cycle, which makes the chore easy. And many outdoor companies make waterproofers that protect the waterproof-breathable fabric. Check with your blanket manufacturer if you’re in doubt as to which product might work best on your blanket.
Sometimes maintenance goes beyond cleaning and maintaining waterproofing. Horses on 24-hour turnout are hard on their blankets, and many will tear even rugged blankets in at least one spot. If your blankets need to be patched, use fabric similar to the blanket material.
Tent-repair kits, which can cost $10 or more and are sold in surplus or camping stores, will work if you can’t find a good match for your blanket in a fabric store. Once you’ve patched the blanket, only the tiny holes from stitching the patch may leak. You can seal these patches with more waterproofer.
People who aren’t used to sewing may want to send the blanket out and pay to have it repaired. When the blanket returns from the repair shop, rewaterproof it.
Kathleen Conklin, who repairs blankets, recommends that customers list the problems with each blanket on a tag as well as request that the repairer fix anything else that they might identify as a problem. Ask the repairer to contact you with an estimate. Then you can have the benefit of their expertise as well as a blanket in better condition than what you started with.
Many repair professionals also clean blankets. In addition, they may prefer to work on clean blankets, so be sure yours is clean when you send it or be prepared to pay a cleaning charge. Costs vary widely for this service, of course.
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