Heart shaped hot water bottleI'm in love with the hot water bottle.  No, really, I am.  Winter brings out the worst in me - I'm cold, I'm grumpy, it rains, my breath freezes in mid-air, my fingers turn blue, the days are shorter, there's less to do. And this is just winter in mild-mannered Sydney, Australia.  I hate being cold.  Going to bed sounds like a great idea, except that slipping into freezing cold sheets is about as much fun as wading through an ice pool.  Without a wetsuit.

The Husband won’t allow an electric blanket onto the bed.  For whatever reason, be it fear of electrocution, a malfunction causing a house fire (he could sleep through anything so this is a valid fear), or a sudden interest in reducing household energy consumption, he just will not have it. 

I’ve tried flannelette sheets, wearing three layers to bed, sleeping with my head under the covers in the hope that expelling warm breath will generate some heat, and of course snuggling up to the Husband.  The first two cause overheating, the third only lasts about three minutes before I feel as though I’m lacking oxygen, and the fourth lasts only as long as the Husband will tolerate my icy feet wedged between his toasty thighs (about 23 seconds on average).  He’s tolerant of most things, but he does seem to draw the line at being my human generator.

Enter the Hot Water Bottle.  I recently saw them on special for $6.00 each one dreary, chilly day at my local supermarket and in a flurry of desperation promptly snapped up three (which incidentally was poor marketing – who puts hot water bottles on special in winter when it’s cold?). 

Scoff if you will.  The Hot Water Bottle (so effective it is deserving of the upper case letters) has made a world of difference.  Pop one under the covers on each side of the bed at least 10 minutes before going to bed (I usually put mine in for much longer than that but if I forget, 10 minutes will suffice) and you would not believe how effectively something the size of an A4 sheet of paper will radiate heat throughout your queen size bed. 

A Few Fast Facts

Sounds like something that your great grandmother would have done back in the year 1918, yes? You’d be right because the rubber hot water bottle was invented in 1903.  Wikipedia tells me that today’s current design was patented by a Croation named Eduard Penkala.  And when Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber – yes, used to make today’s car tires - Eduard’s design success and Charles Goodyear’s rubber led to a match made in hot water bottle heaven.

While the hot water bottle may have lost favour due to the 20th century invention of the electric blanket, along with the advent of better-built, more efficiently-heated homes, my research has uncovered that the hot water bottle has in fact enjoyed a resurgence in popularity as an effective and thrifty way to keep warm. 

And rightly so.  It seems I am not the only one who has discovered this economical and green alternative to generating heat.  The Irish are apparently fans; the Welsh, British, and of course the windswept Scots are savvy users, and interestingly, so apparently are the Chileans.  This struck me as odd; possibly because I always think of Chile as a hot country but maybe I’m just confused with the Chili pepper as opposed to the nation?

Most noteworthy however, The Times reported that as recently as late 2008, the high-tech, digital-loving Japanese have turned to the manual, low-tech hot water bottle in an effort to stay warm for a fraction of the usual energy cost.  A function of our still-downturned economy?  Perhaps something else we can presumably blame Lehman’s for.  Friends of mine have a hot water bottle of sorts for the Goose down-filled bed of their 12 year old dog, Grace – a microwavable heat pad guaranteed to provide 10 hours of warmth.  And of course my cousin Marilyn, notably a self-proclaimed trend-setter, asserts she was in fact using the hot water bottle before anybody else, ever.  She also says she looks almost exactly like Elizabeth Taylor.  At least two thousand people have told her so.  At least.  Both of these facts remain unverified by the rest of the family, however.

Lamb hot water bottleFortunately for the Japanese, novelty shaped hot water bottles have been designed, presumably to cater to those who wish to maintain their sense of style and uniqueness, or who just plain love cute things, and much like the mobile phone, an explosion of fashionable designer covers in soft printed material, knitted cashmere, and even baby alpaca provide a greater degree of colour and choice.  A red heart shaped hot water bottle, for example, is currently completely sold out.  eBay seem to have a plethora of hot water bottles for sale, all for around $18.00 and up.  I’m excited; it seems my $6.00 special was a cracking good deal.Baby alpaca

Six Ways to Use Your Hot Water Bottle

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking that this all sounds very sensible, but if I’m going to spend $6.00 or possibly even $18.00, or worse, $49.00 for a designer heart-shaped hot water bottle, I want to know I’ll get my fair share of use out of it.

Well, you are in luck. 

Below are six other ways to use your hot water bottle.

  1. Obviously No.1, particularly in winter, is the bed warmer.
  2. Relieve aching muscles, lower back soreness and other injuries.
  3. If you’re a camper (I’m not), this could be a simply way to warm your tent or sleeping bag – easy to transport and weighs virtually nothing.
  4. For the really conscientious environmentalist – you can use it at night to warm the bed, and the next day recycle the water to water the plants.
  5. Insomniacs may find the coziness a hot water bottle provides will lull them into a drowsy, relaxed state.
  6. For the thrifty, entry level prices are low, low, low – you also save on future energy bills by no longer needing the electric blanket.

Safety Facts

  • Avoid overfilling your hot water bottle – usually half full is enough.
  • Avoid filling with boiling water – let the water cool a little because hot water makes hot air and hot air expands.  No one wants a burst hot water bottle.
  • Check your hot water bottle regularly for signs of wear and tear.  Replace if necessary, but at least every one to two years depending upon usage.

There you have it.  Everything you need to know about the hot water bottle.

If you buy one, I won’t believe you if you tell me that you too, have not fallen in love with your hot water bottle.