Many of us enjoy the simple pleasure of using a hot water bottle to warm our sheets in the wintry months. The cosy feeling of slipping into bed with a hot water bottle is something the majority of us take for granted without knowing anything about the long history of the humble hot water bottle. Well, you’re about to find out.
From humble beginnings
The hot water bottle was invented over 500 years ago in the early 16th century, way back in the middle ages. This was of course prior to the invention of rubber in the 1800, and the ancestor of our modern-day water bottles were simply metal containers, or ‘bed warmers,’ which warmed the sheets by holding hot coals inside them. These were made of materials such as brass or copper which would of course burn the skin if touched unlike their contemporary counterparts, so medieval hot water bottles were wrapped in soft cloth.
From around 1875 in Britain hot water bottles using rubber were commonplace, and in 1903 Croatian inventor Eduard Penkala patented the modern design which is manufactured with PVC or rubber. This marked a big shift in the evolution of the hot water bottle as they could now be kept in the bed overnight instead of having to be removed like earlier versions. Hot water bottles soared in popularity thanks to being easy to use, cheap and an effective way of keeping the bed warm, becoming especially favoured in colder European countries where the weather could be freezing even outside the winter months. The humble, cloth-wrapped pan of coals had now evolved into a global hit, and could be found in homes, hospital and hotels all over the world.
Decline and rise
Hot water bottles saw a decline in popularity in the late 20th century, in-part due to the abundance of central heating and better-insulated homes making them less necessary. Electric blankets now seemed like the more modern alternative to the hot water bottle, and the product itself began to look outdated and old. A resurgence in popularity was on the way, however, and hot water bottles have made a comeback in recent years. Hundreds of covers in countless different materials have made the hot water bottle more comfortable to hold, and a plethora of different designs, shapes and styles have made the hot water bottle the perfect stocking filler. The hot water bottle is one of the best surviving products around; not bad for something over 500 years old!