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The History of Hot Water Bottles

Written for Just Bedding by Claudia Vilches.

Woman holding a hot water bottleOn a chilly winter night, getting into a cosy bed which has been warmed with a hot water bottle is a homely pleasure for many of us. If you've ever found yourself wondering what the original hot water bottle looked like or who invented this common household item, read on and discover all you need to know about the history of the hot water bottle.

What is a hot water bottle?

The term hot water bottle is used to describe a container which holds hot water and is usually used to add extra warmth to beds, usually in cold weather. Some people also use a hot water bottle for pain relief, as the warmth can help to relax muscles and provide comfort.

Bed Warmers

The first bed warmers were invented in the 1500s and used hot coals from the household fire to generate heat. Unlike today's hot water bottles, these early designs were made of metal, which had to be removed from the bed before retiring to sleep as they could cause severe burns. With long handles and a heavy, often ornately detailed copper warming pan, the original bed warmer was hard work to use and fairly dangerous. Now, these bed warmers are most often used as rustic wall decorations especially in European country homes.

Stoneware Hot Water Bottles

Bed warmers dropped out of fashion with the invention of the stoneware hot water bottle Made from hard-wearing earthenware or stoneware which conducted heat beautifully, these bottles were oblong shaped with a stopper at the top to prevent leakage. Of course, these hot water bottles were heavy, and could be broken if dropped accidentally. Stoneware hot water bottles came in a huge variety of designs and are valued as collectible antiques today.

The Rubber Hot Water Bottle

The biggest revolution in hot water bottle design came in 1903. Croatian inventor, Slavojub Eduard Penkala patented a thick rubber hot water bottle which would provide warmth without the risk of burns. His simple, efficient design remains almost unchanged today and has kept countless people of all ages and nationalities warm on cold nights.

The Latest Hot Water Bottle Innovations

Despite the efficacy of the rubber hot water bottle, designers are still seeking ways to improve the features and usability of this handy object. Shop for a hot water bottle today, and alongside traditional rubber bottles, you'll also find gel-filled pads, and wheat or cherry stone stuffed cushions which can be heated in the microwave. You can also find hot water bottles made from PVC or latex, so that even those people who have rubber allergies can enjoy that extra touch of warmth at night. You can also find a great variety of hot water bottle covers, so that you can match your your bedding or even cuddle up to a cute teddy bear while generating extra warmth!

What type of hot water bottle design is your favourite? Would you switch to an antique bed warmer?

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