Use a Bed Warmer

Posted on March 25, 2008 by Allie


When I was younger I was obsessed with books about “olden times.”  I loved reading all of the Little House books, Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables, and I was fascinated with all of the historical details.  One of those details was that back in “olden times” people used bed warmers or wrapped a brick that had been warming by the fire in a piece of flannel and took it to bed with them to keep their feet warm.  When I climb between cold sheets, I always wonder why that’s a tradition that didn’t last. 

Lately, I’ve been freezing when I go to bed, but wake up in the morning having kicked off most of the blankets because I’m way too hot.  Last week, I started using my own version of a hot brick to warm the bed at night: a microwavable hot pack (like the kind you’d use on an injury).  I’m not saying that hot packs are especially eco-friendly — they’re plastic and goodness knows what that blue stuff actually is — but we already had one around the house, and the energy savings potential is great.

I can turn the heat down lower at night (and possible turn it off completely earlier in the season), so I don’t shiver for half the night and sweat bullets for the other half.  Two minutes in the microwave uses a lot less energy than keeping the heat up higher all night, or using an electric blanket.  And as I get warmer, the hot pack cools off.

The added bonus is that I’ve been falling asleep faster, because I’m not spending the first twenty minutes or so after I get in bed trying to warm up.


  1. It didn’t survive because a lot of the old time bed warmers had a distressing tendency to set fire to the bed clothes, especially those that looked like a pan and that actually had lighted coals inside.

    One thing I do to keep the bed warmer is to put an old blanket between the mattress and the bottom sheet. It works a lot better than just piling up blankets on top of yourself.

    March 25th, 2008 at 6:43 pm
    Comment by ana
  2. I always loved the bed warmers too! Although it did seem like a huge pain in the ass.

    March 25th, 2008 at 7:37 pm
    Comment by Noelle
  3. Yeah, I can see how the old coal warmers were probably a bad idea, and a pain. I just wonder why no one came along with an electric version. I guess electric blankets took that spot.

    That tip about the blanket between the sheet and mattress is great!

    March 25th, 2008 at 8:12 pm
    Comment by Allie
  4. I totally use my heating pad as a bed warmer and Chris laughs at me! But my feet get freezing, and we don’t have a fireplace where we can heat coals in a pan to slide in to the end of the bed. Plus, that seems kind of dangerous, even if we did have a fireplace.

    March 26th, 2008 at 12:29 am
    Comment by nancypearlwannabe
  5. those who are freaked out by the blue stuff could buy (or try making!) a buckwheat heating pad like these ones. i have a flannel one and it was great for cold nights when i was living alone in a drafty apartment. also good for menstrual cramps and muscle aches.

    March 26th, 2008 at 2:12 am
    Comment by maria
  6. Damn, that’s a good idea. I often fall asleep with my feet tucked up in a lotus-type position because they’re perpetually freezing. Sleeping like this all the time sometimes gives me knee aches. Or maybe I’m just getting old.

    March 26th, 2008 at 7:13 am
    Comment by Aaron
  7. I picked up an old-fashioned rubber hot water bottle a couple of weeks ago, and now I’m not sure how I lived without it for so long. It hadn’t occurred to me to use it as a bed warmer, but it’s actually perfect for the job!

    March 26th, 2008 at 12:54 pm
    Comment by Amanda
  8. I remember once leaving a hot water bottle on the inside windowledge of a bedroom in a flat I lived in as a student and it froze!

    But I did always use them because there was no heating in any of the rooms. But they did sometimes leak!

    March 26th, 2008 at 2:04 pm
    Comment by Reluctant Blogger
  9. When it’s really cold, we put boiling water in our Nalgene bottles (that’s one thing polycarbonate is good for!) and hold them in our laps while we’re sitting around the house rather than turn the heat up. When getting ready for bed, I throw it under the covers to warm my spot on the mattress. Those things stay warm for hours.

    March 26th, 2008 at 2:25 pm
    Comment by mickey
  10. Finally! A good use for those bottles! That’s brilliant!

    The buckwheat heating pad is a great idea too.

    March 26th, 2008 at 2:35 pm
    Comment by Allie
  11. I have a cloth bag full of rice that would save you from using plastic and help you feel Green still! It only needs 2 minutes in the microwave to be SMOKIN’ hot. Works like a charm.

    Lucky for my man, I’m his warm brick. For some reason, no matter what, I radiate enough btus to heat a small town…so he gets to warm his cold toes on me. I’m nice like that. :)

    March 26th, 2008 at 3:23 pm
    Comment by erikka
  12. Wow. The rice is a great idea!

    I’m impressed that you generate heat so well. I am the exact opposite. My hands are so cold that I’m just short of having X-men powers. I swear, a few degrees colder and I could freeze anything I touched.

    March 26th, 2008 at 4:13 pm
    Comment by Allie
  13. I am a HUGE fan of hot water bottles. I have a great one and I use it EVERY night. I can’t believe I used to sleep curled up smaller than my cat! The one thing that bugs me is the water usage. So I usually reheat the water on the stove after boiling my late night hot water. It doesn’t take too long so I don’t think it’s using too much energy. My cat likes to lay over my hot water bottle on my stomach!

    March 27th, 2008 at 5:44 am
    Comment by Rachel
  14. I am old enough to remember when I was a child, we use to have soapstone slabs that were about the size of a book. You heated them on your old stove or other heat source, and when it was warm enough you wraped it in a heavy cloth or slipped it into a fitted sack. Placed it in bed by your feet. I took a hours to slowly lose it’s heat. You still can buy soapstone slabs today. You can also buy soapstone griddles which never need greasing to cook on. and they last forever.

    March 30th, 2008 at 6:00 pm
    Comment by Marian Clinton
  15. another thing that’ll keep you warm is to take one of those emergency blankets – the ones that look like aluminum foil – and put it face up under your fitted sheet. that will keep you toasty.

    April 8th, 2008 at 3:27 am
    Comment by julie
  16. Thank you for great bed warmer ideas I hate a cold bed. I had a foot warmer from Mastex company that started a fire when it was “not turned on” destroyed my bedroom. I will never use a electric bed warmer.

    June 6th, 2008 at 12:37 am
    Comment by Melody Munro
  17. [...] in March, Mickey mentioned in comments that he fills his old polycarbonate bottle with hot water and uses it as a bedwarmer.  You could fill it with ice and cold water in the summer to do the [...]

    June 27th, 2008 at 1:35 pm
    Pingback by Allie’s Answers » Blog Archive » Tip of the Day - Repurpose Your Old Nalgene Bottle
  18. The foot warmer you had problems with may have been recalled.

    August 15th, 2008 at 1:54 am
    Comment by Ann
  19. After a recent knee surgery I have been going to physical therapy twice a week. Each therapy session is started with a warm wrap on my knee. No matter how awake and energized I am as I start the therapy session, I am put to sleep in minutes with the warm wrap and have to be woken up by the therapist every time. Has any research ever been done to see if warm packs on the lower extremities helps induce sleep?

    September 19th, 2008 at 8:05 pm
    Comment by michael
  20. [...] throw blankets, wool socks, warm sweaters, and bed warmers to stay toasty without turning on the thermostat.  Cuddle up on the couch with an afghan and a cup [...]

    September 30th, 2008 at 2:24 pm
    Pingback by Keep The Heat Off & Bundle Up
  21. Michael,

    Apparently it does:

    October 24th, 2008 at 7:37 am
    Comment by Lynne
  22. I’ve been using a plain 2L soda bottle as a foot warmer for about a month now. You can’t use boiling water — I melted one that way — but I fill it with the hottest tap water (about 115 degrees at my house.) Replace the top very securely, dry off the outside and slip it under the down comforter. It stays warm for about 6 hours. Easy, cheap, and effective.

    January 12th, 2009 at 2:13 am
    Comment by Holly
  23. Flannel sheets and a mattress pad go a long way to preventing “sheet shock” when you crawl into bed even without a bed warmer.

    January 14th, 2009 at 9:32 pm
    Comment by Jeff
  24. My Chronicle column this week, to be posted on my blog later today, talks about hot bricks, which were a staple of my bringing up. The blog commenters talk about the old ways a good bit and you might enjoy dropping in once and a while. I enjoyed your updated version and will try it.

    January 31st, 2009 at 2:47 pm
    Comment by Leon Hale
  25. Is there a certain type of brick one should use to warm in the oven, like the kind for walls or homes or is there a special type of stone one would use?

    January 3rd, 2010 at 12:35 am
    Comment by Jennifer Abbott
  26. It is freezing cold in our house and I looked up bed-warmers. Our cat sleeps in the garage and gets a “snuggle safe” disc which is heated in the micro wave and stays warm for hours. We put it under his pillow and he loves it. I wonder if there are not any of such discs for humans?!

    January 12th, 2010 at 10:30 pm
    Comment by Nell
  27. Just use a hair dryer to warm the sheets and your feet for a minute or two. Bed will be warm when you climb in.

    May 27th, 2010 at 11:12 am
    Comment by Dee

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