What is a Weighted Blanket?

A weighted blanket is like a regular blanket but heavier. It is typically sewn into pockets, usually square or rectangular in shape. Manufacturers use a variety of materials added into each pocket to provide the weight. The type and quality of materials varies and may include items such as plastic pellets (both virgin and recycled), glass beads, river stones, sand, steel ball bearings and even various organic materials such as rice or wheat. In addition to the material used for weight, some manufacturers also add a filler to each pocket to provide softness and to help keep the material from moving around inside the pocket.

How Does it Work?

A weighted blanket uses deep touch pressure (or DTP for short) and sensory reinforcement in order to help the body with spacial awareness or what is called proprioception. For an excellent article on deep touch pressure check out this article: What is deep pressure stimulation (DPS)

Proprioception refers to the body’s awareness of where it is located in space. A good example is the sobriety test commonly used by law enforcement, which involves stretching out your arms with your eyes closed and trying to touch the tip of your nose. Most of us can accomplish this with little difficulty, however since alcohol can mess with our awareness of where things are, a person who is inebriated has difficulty performing this task, sometimes missing their nose by inches or even more!

In conditions like autism, attention deficit disorder, Asperger’s and others, this sensory system does not always work properly, the result of which can be experienced in a variety of ways from causing feelings of anxiety and restlessness to playing too rough with others, bumping into things, etc. The idea behind the weighted blanket is that it helps reinforce the sensory input the brain is receiving and thus helps reduce anxiety, making it easier to relax or to fall asleep.

Today, manufacturers fill weighted blankets using a variety of materials. The type and quality of materials varies and may include items such as plastic pellets, glass beads, river stones, sand, steel ball bearings and even various organic materials such as rice or wheat. In addition to the material used for weight, some manufacturers also add a filler to each pocket to provide softness and to help keep the material from becoming unevenly distributed.

At Red Barn Blankets we believe that virgin plastic pellets which are nontoxic and hypo-allergenic are the best choice for providing weight. Many of the other filler types have drawbacks which, in our opinion, make them unsuitable for use in a weighted blanket. Here are a few of the most commonly used materials along with the pros and cons for using them.

Glass Beads – While glass is becoming more and more common, we don't believe the pros (cheaper for the manufacturer and denser allowing for more weight to be put into the blanket) justify using them when considering the drawbacks which include extra wear and tare on the fabrics due to the beads having or developing rough edges from chips and breaks which can cut through the stitching and create holes in the fabric. Glass beads actually come from the abrasives industry where they are used to restore automobiles and to remove burrs from metals. – click here

Rice, Grains – One of the least expensive options but since they are organic materials they provide a good place to grow mold and attract insects and may also induce allergic reactions in some people.

Sand, River Stones – Surprisingly, both sand river stones are classified as porous materials see here and this makes them more difficult to get completely dry (i.e. takes significantly longer in your dryer) If they are not completely dried out, then just like organic materials that can create a favorable environment for mold and mildew. 

Steel Ball Bearings – Probably don’t need much of a comment here except to ask you to imagine two siblings having a pillow fight and one of them decides to swing a 10 pound weighted blanket full of steel ball bearings at their opponent. Ouch! Enough said about that one!

The Weighted Blanket’s Size and Weight

The most frequently asked question concerning weighted blankets is “How do I know what size or weight blanket to get for my child?”. Unfortunately, the response that is typically provided, whether by well-meaning friends, family members or medical professionals is based on a common misunderstanding.

The “Ten Percent Myth”

Whether you’ve scoured the internet or discussed the topic with a medical professional, you’ve probably heard the advice of taking 10% of the user’s weight plus or minus a pound in order to get the “correct” blanket weight.

The problem is, it’s incorrect! That formula does NOT come from any studies on weighted blankets but seems to have come from one or more papers researching back injuries in school children.

 In those studies, the researchers determined that using backpacks heavier than 10% of the child’s body weight increased the risk of back injury. Somehow this research seems to have been picked up by weighted blanket advocates, however the idea of 10% of body weight was a safety limitation for backpacks, never a weight recommendation and it had nothing to do with weighted blankets.

There is a simpler and much better method however which can make the whole process easier.

A Matter of Preference

For healthy adults, both the weight and the size of a weighted blanket is simply a matter of personal preference. There is no single formula which "correct" for everyone. There are some caveats, but in general if the person using the blanket has full use of their faculties, can move and breath without any problems and is fully conscious then it’s nothing more complicated than preference.

We have found that many of our customers enjoy a really heavy blanket because it feels like a giant bear hug while for others that same heavy blanket may actually increase their anxiety level and so they prefer something lighter.

What Constitutes Light vs. Heavy?

Each size blanket is available in a range of weights. In general, the available weights are driven by the size of the squares in the blanket, how many pellets can comfortably fit in each square and finally the size of the blanket itself.

For example, in a small blanket (37” x 52”) there are 70 squares, each one being 5” x 5”. In each square you can put a maximum of 60 grams of plastic pellets. So, 60 grams times 70 squares (doing conversion in my head) equals roughly 9.5 pounds. In a larger blanket like a king size, you can, of course, fit more pellets and make it even heavier.

Pressure is Better!

One last thing we haven’t discussed yet is the fact that weight alone really isn’t sufficient. For example, imagine you have two different blankets, one small and the other king sized, each one filled with 6 pounds of pellets.

Even though they have the same amount of weight, the king-sized blanket will feel lighter because the 6 pounds of pellets are spread over a much wider area and only a relatively small portion will be in the part of the blanket that is on your body. The small one will feel heavier for exactly the opposite reason.

This is why the 10% formula doesn’t work. Imagine I weigh 110 pounds. Using the formula, I arrive at a “recommended” weight of 12-13 pounds, but in what size blanket? That same weight will feel very different in a small, queen or king size blanket. See the problem?

Using pressure instead of a simple static weight eliminates this problem because it allows us to select a weight that feels the same regardless of the blanket size. The pressure I am referring to here, is the weight of the pellets per square foot of blanket.

So, in my previous example, the 12 pounds in a small blanket (37 x 52) comes out to 0.89 pounds per square foot but in a king size blanket (76 x 82) it comes out to only 0.27 pounds per square foot.

By using pressure, we can find a weight that feels the same regardless of the size of the blanket. For example, if I want a blanket that is 0.52 pounds per square foot, then I can choose either a small blanket at 7 pounds or a king size blanket at 22 pounds and get roughly the same feel.

For those who enjoy math … the small blanket is 37 x 52 and therefore 37 inches times 52 inches equals 1924 square inches. Divide that number by 144 to convert to square feet and we get 13.36 square feet.

If we want to know how many pounds for a specific pressure we simply multiply the square feet by the pressure we want to get the # of pounds.

13.36 times 0.52 = 6.94 pounds of pellets

If we want to know how much pressure a specific weight will be, we divide the weight by the square footage of the blanket.

2 pounds divided by 13.16 gives a pressure of 0.89 pounds per square foot

The range of our blankets tends to run from 0.30 - 0.95 pounds per square foot with most of our adult customers preferring something around 0.65 on average. The smaller blankets which are more appropriate for a child tend to have a lower maximum pressure.

Special Considerations

Children occasionally need their personal preferences constrained for safety reasons. Weighted blankets for children should be just large enough to cover the child but not excessively large to the point that the amount of weight required to be effective becomes a safety hazard. The last thing you’d want is for a young child to find themselves stuck under a 30-pound blanket.

There are certain medical conditions that also warrant special consideration in both children and adults. Anyone considering the use of a weighted blanket who is dealing with a condition that restricts breathing, results in difficulty of movement or loss of muscle strength such as COPD, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, seizures, etc. should always consult with a medical professional before using a weighted blanket. In addition, normally healthy adults who are taking medications which make them drowsy or disoriented should not use their weighted blanket without specific instructions from their physician. Similar precautions should also be taken with the elderly.

As of the writing of this article I know of no scientific studies available to determine what constitutes a safe weight or pressure in children, therefore common sense and consultation with a medical professional should prevail. 

How do I Know my Preferences?

This is a great question, especially if you are making your first purchase of a weighted blanket. There are at least two options you might try.

  1. The simplest one is to choose a size for the blanket and then take the weight that is in the middle of the range for that particular size.
  2. The second option involves taking regular blankets or quilts from your house and laying down on the bed while someone keeps adding more blankets until it feels comfortable and soothing for you. (PS …try it for several minutes so you are sure it isn’t too heavy). Once you know how many regular blankets it takes to make you feel comfortable, you can add up their weight, calculate the pressure from each blanket and simply add up the pressures.

So, for example, if you need to put 3 regular blankets on in order for it to feel soothing and the blankets have the following pressures (0.14, 0.08, 0.17) you would add them up for a total of 0.39 you then know that whatever size weighted blanket you decide on, it should have a weight which produces 0.39 pounds per square foot of pressure.

Safety Guidelines

  • NEVER use a weighted blanket as a punishment or restraint
  • NEVER use a weighted blanket in a crib or bed with rails
  • NEVER use a weighted blanket with a person who is unconscious or unable to remove the blanket from their face
  • NEVER use a weighted blanket with a child under 3 years without consulting a medical professional
  • NEVER let children use a weighted blanket as a tent or for playing hide and seek
  • A weighted blanket is a wonderful thing, but using it safely is of paramount importance. The examples given in this article are just that, examples. They are not intended to provide a complete or comprehensive list. If you have any questions or concerns at all, you should consult a medical professional before using a weighted blanket.
  • You should ALWAYS consult with a medical professional before using a weighted blanket on a child or if there is any concern over safety.

Fabrics: - We use only high quality fabrics from reputable manufacturer's such as Robert Kaufman, Michael Miller, Timeless Treasures, Shannon Fabrics, etc. We never use low quality materials that can cause itching or fall apart with minimal use. All of our fabrics can be machine washed at home using cold/warm water, gentle cycle with no bleach or softener and then dried on cool delicate cycle in the drier.

For Weight: We use only virgin co-poly plastic pellets. We never use recycled pellets which might contain unknown chemicals or residue. Our pellets are manufactured specifically for us and are non-toxic. We do not use glass beads (as they may crack/break and work their way through the fabric), nor do we use rice, river stones, sand, etc as these are porous and may harbor bacteria or provide a growing place for mold or mildew.

For Filler: For softness and also to keep the pellets from moving and thus providing an even distribution of weight we use a soft polyester fiber which is hypo-allergenic and non-toxic, the same type you might find in a soft stuffed animal.


If the number of days since you placed your order has been...

Three days or less: Any order which is less than 3 days old may be cancelled for any reason and the full purchase prices will be gladly refunded.

Four or more days: You may still cancel your order, however a 15% restocking fee will be charged. 




RUSH!! We do offer a rush service for $35 per blanket. This ensures your blanket will ship no later than 10 days after receiving the rush service fee.

This service is available throughout the year EXCEPT during November and December during which time we are unable to accommodate rush requests.

Please keep in mind this affects only the time required to make the blanket and has no affect on the time required by UPS or the Postal Service to actually deliver the blanket.


Washing a Weighted Blanket in Your Home

Washing: Your blanket can be machine washed on gentle cycle using cold or warm water and mild detergent but NO SOFTENER and NO BLEACH. Larger blankets should be washed in a front-loading machine or a machine without a center agitator, as the agitator may damage the blanket.

Drying: You can safely machine dry your weighted blanket on gentle or delicate cycle and cool or warm heat. Please DO NOT use any fabric softener.

Note: You may notice marks or lines on your blanket when you first open the box. These are chalk lines used by the seamstresses when they sew. Since we do not pre-wash the blankets before shipping this chalk may still be present. Not to worry, the chalk will come off in the first wash and is non-toxic. It is the same type of chalk a tailor might use when hemming a garment.

Safety: Here are some general guidelines regarding the safe use of weighted blankets. This is not a comprehensive list and any additional concerns or questions which have not been covered should be addressed by a physician or other medical professional.

  • NEVER use a weighted blanket as a punishment or restraint
  • NEVER use a weighted blanket in a crib or bed with rails
  • NEVER use a weighted blanket with a person who is unconscious or unable to remove the blanket from their face
  • NEVER use a weighted blanket with a child under 3 years without consulting a medical professional
  • NEVER let children use a weighted blanket as a tent or for playing hide and seek