You might think picking up an electric blanket from your local department store is a doddle, but there are certain things you should consider before buying the first one you see.

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1. Types to look out for

Electric blankets are fitted with wires, so when you plug it into the mains, all those little wires heat out and spread the warmth, keeping your bed toasty. But there are different styles to choose from.

Overblankets are laid over your duvet to keep the whole bed at a fairly constant temperature, while underblankets go beneath your bed sheet. If you’re prone to temperature fluctuations in the night, an overblanket might be better (underblankets can leave you feeling sticky), however, if you buy an electric blanket with a timer, you’ll be able to moderate that. If your bed is fine, it’s when you’re sitting on the sofa watching telly that you really feel the cold, invest in a portable electric throw instead.

2. Decide what size you need

It’s common sense, but don’t buy a single if your bed’s a double – there are electric blankets and throws to fit all sizes.

3. Does price matter?

A general rule is, the more you spend, the more efficient your blanket, and the speedier it heats up. If you have the money to really invest in one, look around the £70-£90 price mark, but it is possible to get blankets that (eventually) get just as toasty, at a fraction of the cost.

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4. Special features to consider

Depending on how often you’re planning to use your electric blanket, you may want to be able to vary the temperature settings; put the blanket on timer (so it heats up before you get into bed; but cools down again once you’re asleep); keep it on all night; have the option to turn on the blanket on one side of the bed, but not the other etc. Also, you can now buy electric blankets that can go in the washing machine and tumble dryer – just remember to always check the label instructions.

5. Don’t believe the myths, but use your blanket safely

You’re unlikely to be electrocuted or slowly cooked as you sleep, there is no evidence electric blankets can cause breast cancer, it won’t drive your energy bills up massively (as long as you buy one that’s energy efficient) and you’re not going to burn the house down – well, not if you follow proper electric blanket safety precautions.

Buy new (never second hand) and only buy a blanket that comes with a certified UK safety standard mark. It’s also wise to replace it every 10 years – which is what the Electrical Safety Council recommends – and serviced every three.

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6. How to maintain your blanket

It is generally advised that you avoid dry cleaning or ironing your blanket; always keep an eye out for any exposed wiring or scorch marks; unplug and leave to cool before folding away; never heat it up if it’s still folded; avoid getting it damp or wet when in use, and always make sure it is fully dry before switching it on.