As Anchor's Fire Safety Advisor, part of my role involves ensuring all our customers across our retirement housing and care home services are aware of fire safety tips that can reduce the risk of a fire.

As such, this blog focuses on using wheat bags safely and how to reduce the risk of them causing a fire or injury.

Wheat bags are cloth bags containing grains, which can be cooled down in a fridge or heated up in a microwave to provide cold or heat therapy. Due to the comfort they can provide wheat bags are very popular and while seemingly easy to use, as with any product involving heat, there is a real danger of fire and injury when they are overheated or used incorrectly.

Heating wheat bags safely

The number one rule when using any type of wheat bag is to always follow any manufacturer’s instructions given carefully. Do not heat a wheat bag in a microwave for too long, or at too high a temperature.

Heating manufactured wheat bags

The manufactured wheat bags you can buy in shops usually contain buckwheat, which has a known moisture content, allowing the manufacturer to recommend the best heating time based on this and the volume of the grain. Be sure to stick to the instructions carefully.

Heating homemade wheat bags

While sometimes cheaper, homemade wheat bags can pose a great fire risk because the moisture content and volume of the bag is not known and an accurate heating time is harder to recommend. Always err on the side of caution when heating a homemade wheat bag.

Overheating and the fire risks posed by wheat bags

Repeatedly heating a wheat bag can cause it to dry out and overheat to ignition point. When heating a wheat bag in a microwave, always place a cup or bowl of water in with the wheat bag to reduce this risk by maintaining a safe moisture level.

Hot wheat bags can also catch fire if they are kept insulated after they have been heated. Be careful not to insulate heated wheat bags by placing them under bedclothes, or placing them in sunshine.

The fire risk of adding oils to wheat bags

It is important to be aware that any oils added to wheat bags will saturate the cover cloth over time and can create an added fire risk to the existing danger of overheating and fire.

Wheat bag safety tips

  • Buy wheat bags with clear heating instructions and always follow them carefully
  • Do not over-heat a  wheat bag
  • Do not leave the microwave unattended when heating a wheat bag 
  • Watch out for over-use, signs can include an over-cooked odour, a burning smell, smoking or charring
  • Do not use a wheat bag if you notice any problems with it, if possible contact the manufacturer
  • Use only as a heat pack for direct application to the body
  • Do not use wheat bags to warm surfaces, chairs, cushions or as bed warmers
  • Do not reheat a wheat bag until it has completely cooled – which can be up to two hours after initial heating
  • After use, leave to cool in a safe area, on a noncombustible surface
  • Do not store a wheat bag until it is cold

Back in March I wrote a blog outlining some simple fire safety tips you can take to reduce the risk of a fire, and to protect yourself should a fire start in your home, why not check it out and refresh your memory.

Gary Seekins is Anchor's Fire Safety Advisor.

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