Learn about the different types of weighted blanket materials and what weighted blankets are typically filled with to determine which one is the right fit for you!
What are the different types of weighted blanket materials?
Choice is an area where weighted blankets do not skimp. These sensory tools offer a range of options in the categories of overall weight, material, filling, style, layering, temperature control, and more. As you may know, having a big selection to pick from can be exciting. But people may also find it very overwhelming, especially if they are not familiar with weighted blankets or the mechanisms behind them.
Weighted blankets are fairly simple, but it’s important to understand the choices in front of you so you can decide which ones are best for your needs and preferences. For this reason, we have prepared a detailed guide that helps you learn about each option before you.
Hand-knitted weighted blankets
Serenity Knit Weighted Blanket
This type of weighted blanket (also known as a gravity blanket) has the most appeal for those who enjoy homemade, authentic-feeling products. Hand-knitted weighted blankets are just as they sound: individually-knitted loops that make up the entirety of a large fabric covering. Some types of hand-knitted weighted blankets have stitches that are slightly larger than traditional ones at around 1/2″ but others have much larger, chunkier cables that can be as big as 3” each.
These are among the most comfortable (and, similarly, the most popular) weighted blanket choices among the general population. They are also considered to be the most stylish, so people may even opt for these to be displayed around their home. The hand-knitted blankets with bigger cables are often on the larger side (weighing 15 pounds or more) because there is so much material involved in the manufacturing process. So there might not be quite as much variety in terms of sizing within this category. However, this is a good option for many people whose body type is appropriate for a 15-pound (or heavier) blanket. Because these blankets are so big, they are often made of light and breathable materials such as cotton to offset their bulkiness. This helps them remain optimally comfortable.
Weighted Blanket Fabrics
Luxe Organic Weighted Blanket
Cotton is one of the most desirable fabrics for blankets (and articles of clothing) because it’s generally a versatile, long-lasting, and cozy material. Depending on the quality of cotton that is used, weighted blankets made from this material may be breathable and aerated enough to use throughout the summer or heavy and warm enough to accommodate winter temperatures.
Weighted blankets that are made of organic cotton carry the added benefit of being free of pesticides, pigments, and bleach as well as having hypoallergenic properties. This means the material is less likely to retain allergens such as dust, pet dander, dirt, dead skin, and other debris that accumulates on fabrics. Cotton is also non-abrasive, so it’s a better fit for people with sensitive skin.
The downside with most cotton fabrics (even cotton blends) is that they are at risk of shrinking, so users must take extra care to avoid this during wash and dry cycles. But, unlike some high-maintenance materials, cotton does stand up well in the wash for many years as long as you follow the simple care instructions on your blanket.
When made into fabric, bamboo is very similar to cotton in many ways. Many people view bamboo as a sustainable and natural fabric that minimally harms the environment while also providing ultimate comfort.
In terms of texture, bamboo is smooth, soft, and long-lasting. Bamboo rayon blends are breathable and excellent choices for weighted blankets. During the growing period, bamboo matures very quickly and most farmers do not have a need to use any pesticides or other chemicals on the plant.
While people regard bamboo as a natural substance, they often assume that the end product is also eco-friendly. This is not the case, since manufacturers must add chemicals to the bamboo in order to extract it from the hard pulp that is then discarded. While this process does not require nearly as many chemicals as the processes for other fabrics do, it is not considered quite as eco-friendly as cotton is. Bamboo weighted blankets may also be a bit harder to find than their cotton counterparts.
Signature Weighted Blanket
This man made material is much cheaper than those previously mentioned. Polyester is thought of as one of the most common synthetic fibers used in clothing and other household goods.
Polyester is more cost-effective for use in the manufacturing of weighted blankets, since so much fabric is required to make them. This material is strong but equally lightweight and flexible. Polyester also has an edge on bamboo and cotton by being wrinkle-resistant and immune to shrinking. It launders well in essentially all washing and drying cycles, so it is easy to maintain. Polyester can also be dyed easily, so it is usually available in an array of colors and can even be dyed at home according to changing preferences.
Polyester is minimally-breathable so it may not be the most comfortable if you plan to use your weighted blanket for an extended period of time. This material is also prone to static cling, which can be undesirable and even uncomfortable for some people. Some sources state that polyester retains odor more than fabrics like cotton do. This may be a benefit if you want to add some essential oils to your weighted blanket to enhance your relaxation, but this could also mean you need to wash it more frequently to eliminate any bad odors.
Weighted blanket covers
If you aren’t opting for a hand-knitted weighted blanket made of the materials we discussed earlier, your weighted blanket will likely come with a removable cover that protects the filling inside. Many people prefer this option because covers are easier to remove and wash in response to spills, accidents, or for general maintenance. Fleece, microfiber, and cotton covers go over innermost bags with filling. As we mentioned earlier, these materials are durable, wash well, and can be customized to your preference.
What are weighted blankets typically filled with?
Filling for weighted blankets consists of a range of manmade or natural materials. Depending on the size of the blanket, manufacturers may use lighter materials to more easily grade its weight or a mix to achieve the exact number they need.
These beads are man made and are individually lightweight. They do come in various sizes ranging from 9 millimeters all the way up to 19 millimeters. Silicone beads are usually used for hobbies like jewelry-making, so they are readily available and are usually a good option for people who want to make their own weighted blanket. They are non-toxic so no one will be harmed if a child or pet accidentally gets their hands on them.
Also known as plastic pellets or plastic poly pellets, polystyrene beads are even smaller than silicone beads, but they are a bit more dense. These pellets are often mixed with stuffing to fill plush animals, especially those that sit up tall due to having some weight in the bottom. These are also man made and consist of a material called polypropylene. Despite this, they are considered safe across the board since they are popularly used in children’s toys. The good thing about polystyrene beads is that they are flexible, so this filling will allow a weighted blanket to contour to a person’s body for added comfort.
These beads are usually part of the more expensive weighted blankets, since they are a bit pricier to include. They are similar in size to the silicone beads, but they offer a bit more weight than that material can provide without the bumpy feel of poly pellets. These are a good complement to cotton covers, since glass beads are also hypoallergenic and a more sustainable alternative to plastic. The weight of these beads means that far less is needed to fill blankets, so this is more cost-effective if you are making the blanket. But this also means the end-product won’t be as bulky.
While this doesn’t sound like a terribly comfortable filler for a weighted blanket, these are actually very similar to glass beads. Their size is equivalent to that of the glass beads and their smooth surface makes them comfortable for the user. Less is also more here, so people making weighted blankets with steel beads will not need as much of this material to finish their product. The smooth outer surface is resistant to allergens, so it will not retain any natural debris that may be present and can cause sensitivities. Steel beads also last for quite some time, so they are a good filler if you plan to use your blanket heavily.
Sand, pebbles, or grains
In this category lies other natural fillers that are an especially good choice for the DIY fan. Sand, grains, pebbles, rice, and beans are all suitable additions to a weighted blanket. While these are not always as durable as many of the other options, they are by far the most affordable choice for fillers. Sand poses the added challenge of leaking and pouring out of the smallest holes, so this is something to be cautious of. You can try to avoid this problem by double-insulating the inner bag that surrounds the filling or using smaller bags of sand within a larger bag.
What filling is best for weighted blankets?
As you may already know, weighted blankets are an evidence-based way to calm the nervous system by providing deep pressure stimulation and deep pressure touch that serves to relieve symptoms of anxiety and alleviate insomnia. Research also shows that weighted blankets can improve behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as decrease symptoms of chronic pain and restless leg syndrome. Some of the calming effects that weighted blankets offer on a physiological level include decreased heart rate, greater production of melatonin (helping with sleep), lower cortisol levels (a major stress hormone), and a boost in serotonin (a “happy” chemical that improves digestion and mood).
When it comes down to it, the filling that is best is the one you’re most comfortable with. If you feel better with an eco-friendly option, then you may be better off getting a weighted blanket that has steel or glass beads. But if you’re looking for something that you may already have on hand, poly pellets can often be taken from old toys that you are looking to upcycle something into your blanket. There are many options and tons of pros and cons associated with each, so this gives you the chance to explore what is before you to land on a good choice.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do weighted blankets contain lead?
Some weighted blankets may contain lead as a filler. This is dangerous, since lead is associated with many health hazards. All of the options we described above are lead-free, so they are safe for you to use. Be sure to do your research before purchasing (or making) a weighted blanket to ensure the materials do not contain lead.
Can a weighted blanket be too heavy?
Yes, weighted blankets can be too heavy. If they weigh too much, the issue is not so much with effectiveness as it is with safety. Blankets that are too heavy can worsen pre-existing breathing problems and impair circulation in people with conditions like diabetes. A good rule of thumb is to get a blanket that weighs no more than 20% of your body weight.