For warm feet at bedtime, try a hot water bottle

Sub zero weather sent me to the storage closet for a sleep aid I hadn’t needed in months — a hot water bottle, First thing I noticed was the pale pink of the upper side, while the underside was still the vibrant rose it had been when I purchased it at a drugstore half a dozen years ago.

Since when did the colour of hot water bottles fade? Since factories began skimping on rubber, that’s when.

My next surprise was the bottle’s refusal to fill with water. Turned out the two inner surfaces had fused. In all my years using hot water bottles I had never experienced this phenomenon before. By grabbing a handful of each side I was able to pull the two layers apart and fill the bottle with hot tap water.

The next day when I wanted to hang the bottle upside down to fully drain, I found it lacked the customary reinforced hole like a shoelace eyelet in the bottom flap intended to suspend it to dry out or for use as an enema bag.

In my mother’s time, before commercial laxatives and stool softeners, Mom would swish a bar of hand soap in warm water to create a laxative, fill the bottle with the soapy water, then attach to the open end of the bottle a length of tubing fitted with a clamp to close off the flow midway if desired, and a nozzle at the free end. Suspended upside down the bottle’s soapy contents worked its gentle magic on the laggard innards of the reluctant patient … invariably one of us kids.

The active ingredient cost pennies, and was always at hand; no call for a special trip to a store to buy an expensive six month supply.

What to do to drain a bottle with no means to suspend it upside down?

My immediate thought was to fetch the hole punch from my retired shop tools. With that I could have cut a perfect hole in the ample flap of extra thick rubber where the factory should have predrilled one.

Instead I resorted to an unsophisticated pioneer move. With a spring-action wooden clothespin I clamped the flap of the hot water bottle to a metal clothes hanger and hooked the hanger into the wire soap dish holder in the shower. No muss, no fuss.

Like so many items that were routinely used in most homes when I was a kid, they baffle some of today’s society.

When I googled “hot water bottle” rudimentary questions popped up, such as

1. What are hot water bottles used for? They can provide soothing warmth for certain aches or pains. In my arctic world they pre-warm my mattress and blankets where my feet will go.

How do you prepare a hot water bottle for use? From my nursing school days I remember being cautioned to leave some empty space in the bottle and to squeeze out all the air before screwing in the cork.

Otherwise undue pressure could cause leakage.

I also learned that in 2013,Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia together accounted for 72% of the natural rubber produced in the world from the Hevea tree.

I once read a book about comic writers training their imaginations to see a common item as something funnier. Googling “hot water bottle” I hoped but failed to dredge up the name of the comic writer who, gazing across a rubber tree plantation in Thailand, pictured a harvest of hot water bottles.

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