Weighted blankets are continually rising in popularity. Their therapeutic effect and relieving of sensory-related symptoms have made them the most sought after blankets. However, before choosing the best-weighted blanket, one might ask themselves what filling material makes it have that soothing and hugging feeling of calmness? But before we try to answer this question, let’s understand what a weighted blanket is.
What is a weighted blanket?
Weighted blankets are blankets that have extra weighted added onto it that exerts pressure on the body. These extra weights are fastened between the blanket fabric to make them firm and stick to one point.
The weighted blankets are known to ease sensory-related symptoms and instill calmness during sleep. They are used by an Occupational Therapist as a prescription to people with sleep-related conditions.
The weighted blankets are known to work because of the pressure points on our skin which when stimulated produces serotonin hormone, a ‘happy hormone’. Serotonin stimulates the production of melatonin hormone which is responsible for sleep.
Why do I need to know the filling material of weighted blankets?
Weighted blankets come at a cost and they are a health investment. Before investing your hard-earned money on it, it is a good idea to have a general knowledge of it. Being an investment in your health and wellness, it is advisable that you invest in a quality product.
The filling used on a weighted blanket can be organic or inorganic. This means that some of the fillings can have a side effect on your skin. Others may make your weighted blanket difficult to keep it clean and maintain in the long run.
On some occasions, there is a need to make your own weighted blanket, especially during these hard economic times. However, lack of proper knowledge of the materials used to make a weighted blanket including weighted blankets filler options may result in shoddy work. Understanding what filling material is the best and where to get them goes a long way.
Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) and Weighted Blanket Filling
The research about autism in the 1980s led to the discovery of the Deep Touch Pressure Stimulation(DPS) theory. This was related to the response that autistic children had when held firmly or squeezed gently. Professor Temple Gradine, who was a victim of sensory disorder, supported this idea and carried further research into it. She used her own experiences and livestock physiological responses.
The idea behind DPS was used to design and invest a weighted blanket which has worked wonders since then. The extra weights added onto a weighted blanket are meant to mimic the deep touch therapy and stimulate the skin to produce serotonin. The serotonin hormone triggers the brain to relax which lowers heart rate, respiration and increases blood flow to the rest of the body. These responses allow the mind and the body to heal.
What are Weighted Blanket Fillers?
The term “Fillers” refers to the extra weights added in between the weighted blanket to increase its weight. This extra weight stimulates deep touch pressure points on the skin. The weighted blanket is stitched into several pockets that are filled with the weights. The pockets are then fastened to restrict the movement of the materials used as filler. This way, the weight of the blanket is evenly distributed on the blanket.
There are so many different filling materials for a weighted blanket. Each of the filling materials has its own strengths and weakness. The most common include micro glass beads, plastic poly pellets, steel shots, sand, and grains. In this guide, the different filler options are examined, their benefits and drawbacks as well as the recommendation of where to buy them for DIY enthusiasts.
The Most Popular And The Best Filling for Weighted Blanket?
In this guide, we will discuss plastic poly pellets, micro glass beads, steel shot beds, sand, river stone pebbles, and grains such as rice, beans, and corn barley. We will also look at some safety measures when handling weighted blankets fillings.
Plastic Poly Pellets
Plastic poly pellets are among the most commonly used filler materials in weighted blankets. The small round poly pellets are usually made from ABS virgin plastic and have a pebble-like structure. ABS virgin plastic means that the plastics are pure and free from toxins.
Plastic poly pellets are the most used because they bring the cost of the weighted blanket down and have some standards, unlike grains and sand. However, they are not the best alternative because they may react with skin over time. They also produce some sound which may be distractive at a time when total silence is paramount.
The noise caused by plastic poly pellets can be reduced by using a cotton fabric. When these poly pellets are stuffed in between a cotton fabric, it limits their movement hence reducing noise. The problem is that the weight on the cotton fabric may be unevenly distributed.
The use of plastic poly pellets can work best with Minky or fleece fabric because of their thickness. The thickness and smoothness of these fabrics reduce the texture of the plastic poly pellets and reduces their noise significantly.
Why I do not recommend the use of plastic poly pellets
The production of plastic poly pellets is not controlled by any institution. Anyone can start producing the plastics and claim that they use virgin plastic. This is the reason why plastic poly pellets have invaded the market driving costs downwards. It is difficult to distinguish the non-toxic from the toxic plastic poly pellets. However, consumers can investigate the source of the plastics by looking at the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) of the poly pellets.
The other problem with plastic poly pellets is that just like plastics in general, their extended use leads to other side effects. The most affected are those people whose skin is sensitive to plastics and oil-based materials.
Plastics are not good for the environment. They do decompose naturally. Without recycling them, they pose a danger to wildlife and sealife. However, if it a must that you use plastic poly pellets, kindly be responsible and recycle them should you need to dispose of them.
Where to Buy
Quality plastic poly pellets can be obtained from Amazon, the leading online seller. These are the leading products on Amazon.
|Victory Plastic Poly Pellets||
–Smooth and round
-Washer and dryer safe
-BPA free material
-Washer and dryer safe
|Polly Plastics||-Safe to use, non-toxic
-Made of premium material
Pros and Cons of Plastic Poly Pellets
|Cheap and readily available||Results in uneven blanket texture|
|Easy to clean||With time it develops an unpleasant smell|
|Durable||Poses danger to wildlife and humans|
|may be toxic|
|Unfriendly to environment|
Micro-grass beads are minute particles like salt crystals. They are heavier than their filler counterparts hence requiring small amounts to achieve a similar weight of a blanket. The micro-glass beads have a smooth and finer texture than plastic poly pellets. They are also resistant to ‘clumping’ as compared to poly pellets.
Glass beads are made from glass, hence they are 100% natural. The glass material used to make glass beads is hypoallergenic. It is therefore suitable for people whose skin is allergic to plastic poly pellets. The micro-glass beads are used by most of the top-rated weighted blankets because of their quality and zero reaction with the skin.
Glass is also good for the environment. It is highly recyclable and does not lose its quality regardless of the number of times it has been recycled. It also requires minimum efforts to recycle.
The fact that fewer glass beads will be needed to make a weighted blanket makes the blanket thinner and less bulky than its counterparts. This makes it compact and easy to wash in the machine and can be dried in a dryer. The weighted blanket is also able to retain its feel and look for a long time.
The only problem with micro-glass beads, when used as a filling material for a weighted blanket, is its price. It is more expensive than plastic poly pellets.
Micro glass beads present a perfect option for those who are highly sensitive to their environment. It also provides a perfect option for those who desire the deep touch pressure effect without the added bulk.
Where to Buy
|Roly Poly 15 lbs – Best Choice||-Consistently smooth and round
-Machine washable and dryable
-Easy to sew
|PinWheel Blankets 25 lbs||-Non-Toxic
|HugHappy 5 Lbs||-High-Density Pellets
-Non-Toxic & BPA Free
Pros and Cons of micro glass beads
|Its highly hypoallergenic and non-toxic||Prone to beads leakage due to its size|
|Machine washable||May shift to the side if not fastened correctly|
|Can be easily recycled||Not readily available like poly pellets|
|It is 100% natural||It’s expensive than poly pellets|
|Highly smooth and soft to the skin|
Steel Shot Beads
Steel shot beads are a common filler option for weighted blankets. They are a bit larger and heavier than micro glass beads. Their size and weight make them better than micro glass beads and plastic poly pellets because it means smaller quantities will be needed to fill up a weighted blanket.
The steel shots beads are round and have a smooth texture making them ideal for applying a deep touch pressure on the body.
Their size of the steel shots prevents them from accidentally leaking through the stitches. It is rare to find a leaking weighted blanket especially if due diligence was followed in stitching it. However, in the long run, this is normally the case. Therefore, a solution to this problem is highly welcome.
Steel shot beads are highly durable. The steel material used to make them cannot be decomposed and is guaranteed to last longer than the blanket itself. The stell used cannot easily collect dirt or rust, hence making it free from allergens.
The fact that steel shots are heavy means that the blanket will be thin and less bulky. This makes it easy to care for the blanket. The weighted blankets filled with steel shot beads can be machine washed and dried. However, ensure that you check on the weighted blanket washing instructions before you wash it.
Steel shots beads may potential lead to some noise when not fastened to the blanket fabric well. However, this can be reduced with the help of a cotton stuffing in the lining of the filler pockets. This will muffle the noise and guarantee the much-needed comfort at night.
Pros and Cons of Steel shots
|Highly durable material||They are slightly expensive than glass and plastic|
|Obtained from natural materials||Potential noise from steel beads|
|Highly hypoallergenic||Highly susceptible to rust if not dried well|
|Large size prevents them from leaking|
|Small quantities needed unlike counterparts|
On rare occasions, sand is used as a filler option for weighted blankets. Sand is a good alternative because it is cheap and readily available.
The only strength of sand is its price and is readily available. Unlike many people’s beliefs, the sand is not 100% organic material and has some impurities in it. It is also difficult to get sand in regular shape and most of the crystals will have irregular shapes.
Sand is not advisable for DIY enthusiasts because it tends to be clumpy, especially when wet. This is because it will require a hustle to select the good crystals from the rest and occasionally, the unwanted sand crystal will make their way into the blanket.
Due to its irregular shape, the sand does not distribute evenly on the blanket pockets. Their shape will result in unevenly applied deep touch pressure on the body.
Maintenance of sand filled weighted blankets is extremely cumbersome. Sand can easily clump when washed making the blanket lose its shape. It is also a hustle to dry a sand-filled weighted blanket. It takes significantly longer to dry when compared to the weighted blankets filled with plastic poly pellets, glass beads, or steel shots.
Sand also lacks a uniform size, hence it will be difficult to restrain them from leaking with a stitch. They also prove to be messier when they leak when compared to the other filler options.
Pros and Cons of Sand
|Readily available||Can be allergic to the skin|
|Cheaper than the other filler options||Hard to clean the blanket|
|Highly susceptible to leakage|
|Lack of uniform size|
Grains such as Rice and Beans
Dried grains and foods offer a cheaper alternative for the craft enthusiasts even though it is hardly used in commercial production. Dried foods and grains such as beans, rice, barley, or pasta can be used to fill a weighted blanket. The fact that they are also readily available makes it an easier target for DIY enthusiasts.
Food as a filler material is not a sustainable option. The grains deteriorate fast and cannot be exposed to water because of their weak coat. Therefore, weighted blankets with grains as filling are not durable.
Grains are also susceptible to molds and grain insects. The grains infested by insects will rot, smell bad, and eventually break down. The bad odor will eventually result in a lack of sleep rendering the initial purpose of the weighted blanket obsolete.
Grains such as rice, corn barley, and beans will expand when exposed to water. The expansion results in increased weight and the weighted blanket losing its shape. Even with extended drying, most of the grains will remain moist providing a good environment for molds to grow. This makes it hard to wash and care for the weighted blanket.
We do not recommend the use of dried grains as a filler for weighted blankets. The downsides far outweigh the benefits that will be derived from the weighted blanket. Healthwise, it is also risky as it may lead to other undesired diseases.
Pros and Cons of Grains
|Readily available and cheap||Hard to wash and dry|
|May create room for molds to thrive|
|Easily absorb water hence increasing weight|
|Lack of smooth and even texture|
River Stones and Pebbles
River stones and pebbles filler is yet another great alternative for DIY enthusiasts. The most direct reason is that stones can be collected from nature hence providing a cheaper option for those on budget.
The stones and pebbles have to be smaller in size and smooth. This makes it difficult to find a collection. The weighted blanket made from stones and pebbles will have uneven weight and shape because of the lack of uniformity in all the stones.
If you must use river stones and pebbles, ensure that they are dried out well. This reduces the chances of collecting molds and ensure that the stones are distributed across the pockets of the weighted blanket.
While making the weighted blanket, you can try to incorporate cotton fabric along the lining of the pockets. The cotton fabric will help keep the stones together and give you the necessary padding from the stones.
Even though stones offer a cheaper alternative, they are still not the best as filling options for a weighted blanket. Consider using plastic poly pellets or glass beads shots as opposed to the stones.
Pros and Cons of River stones and pebbles
|Readily available||May have sharp edges|
|Difficult to achieve even weight distribution|
|If not completely dried, may provide room for molds to thrive|
|It might be hard to achieve the desired weight|
Safety when handling weighted blanket filling materials
Weighted blankets come with numerous benefits. It aids in alleviating most of the sleep-related disorders such as restless legs syndrome, anxiety, and ADHD. These benefits are derived from the extra weights added to the weighted blanket. The extra weights are as a result of the use of filling materials.
There are several filling materials for weighted blankets as discussed in this guide. However, extreme caution should be exercised when choosing a filler material to be used. Not all of them are safe human use and may have unprecedented side effects.
Investing in a weighted blanket is like investing in your health. Therefore, everything that goes into making a weighted blanket should be worth your health. This includes the filling material for your weighted blanket. A wrong choice of the filling material may endanger your life. That’s enough reason not to risk your life with low-grade filler material.
Always ensure that proper stitching is down on your blanket. Restitch it if it is possible. The filler material should be held firmly to the lining of the weighted blanket pockets. This will avoid the uneven distribution of the weighted material. It will also prevent the filler materials from leaking which may be disastrous and messy to your environment and to your health. Accumulation of the filler material may lead to suffocation due to inability to lift the blanket.
You should also take note of your skin sensitivity to the filler materials. Any filler option that reacts with your skin should be avoided. Whenever necessary, seek the doctor’s recommendation.
If you are suffering from any sleep-related disorders, avoid DIY weighted blankets, and ask for the recommendation of your doctor. The same should be true for children and the weak or the sick.
Weighted blankets provide much-needed non-medicated therapy to stress, anxiety, and sensory disorders. The weighted blanket can easily be purchased from the manufacturers or they can be home-made. However, it requires the knowledge of the best fabric for weighted blanket and the best filling material that can be used.
There are several filling materials that can be used to make a weighted blanket. The most recommended and commonly used are plastic poly pellets, micro glass beads, and steel shot beads. Others include sand, river stones and pebbles, and grains such as rice, beans, barley, and pasta. The last three are not recommended unless you want to make a weighted blanket for fun. This is because of their many shortcomings and possible side effects. When considering buying a weighted blanket, note that there is more to fabric and filling materials. You can always learn other things that are important when you want to choose a weighted blanket.