Heat pack and hot water bottle safety requirements under the law and what to do if you have a concern.
This page includes information on:
- heat packs
- hot water bottles
- your consumer rights
- how to report a product safety concern
- advice to be a savvy consumer
A heat pack (also known as a wheat bag/pack) is usually a fabric bag filled with wheat or another grain, which is heated in the microwave and used to warm parts of the body.
Heat packs can cause burns and fires if they are poorly designed, badly manufactured or used incorrectly.
"Read and follow the directions that come with each heat pack to limit the risk of injury and fire."
Risks and injuries
Heat packs can be a fire risk when:
- overheated in the microwave. Monitor heating and do not heat it for longer than instructed
- reheated before it has fully cooled
- used to warm bedding because the bedding material traps the heat.
Burns can result from heat packs:
- being for longer than the time specified by the manufacturer
- being heated and placed on or in bedding
- being reheated before being allowed to cool properly
- ageing, causing fillings to dry out and become combustible.
Don’t risk fire and injury, follow our tips to stay safe.
There are currently no mandatory safety requirements for heat packs in Australia. To reduce the risk of burn injuries and house fires from heat pack, we joined Standards Australia to launch a voluntary safety standard.
The standard (AS/NZS 5116:2016) is for heat packs that contain organic filling and include products aimed at children, such as plush toys with a removable heat pack. It specifies safety conditions for the heating instructions, design and manufacture of a heat pack.
Suppliers and retailers are strongly advised to adopt this standard and we recommend consumers only buy heat packs that comply with it.
If a manufacturer makes therapeutic claims about their heat pack (for example, ‘relieves muscle aches and pains’), the item must be listed on the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
Hot water bottles
Hot water bottles are used for easing pain, for warming a bed or parts of the body. They are made from either rubber or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and filled with hot water. For this reason, they can be very dangerous if not used correctly.
"Use extreme caution when using hot water bottles around children and elderly people."
Risks and injuries
Hot water bottles can cause burns:
- when they are being filled
- when hot air is expelled
- when they are is in direct contact with the body, and
- if they leak or burst.
Hot water bottles often result in third degree burns and require skin grafts. The burns happen gradually, and many users cannot feel the damage until it is too late. Don’t risk it, follow our tips to stay safe.
Did you know? The skin of younger and older people is often thinner and more delicate and vulnerable to more serious burns. Diabetics are prone to burns to their hands and feet while using a hot water bottle.
Hot water bottles sold in Australia must adhere to the mandatory standard outlined in the Trade Practice (Consumer Product Safety Standard) Hot Water Bottles Regulations 2008.
This means hot water bottles made from PVC or rubber must:
- meet performance requirements for structural integrity, stopper leakage, strength of seams and pressure resistance
- be labelled with the warnings:
- ‘WARNING – HOT WATER BOTTLES CAN CAUSE BURNS. AVOID PROLONGED DIRECT CONTACT WITH THE SKIN’
- ‘Do not use boiling water’
- (for a hot water bottle designed to be completely filled) ‘This hot water bottle is designed to be completely filled’
- (for a hot water bottle designed to be partly filled) ‘This hot water bottle is designed to be partly filled’
- (for hot water bottles made of natural rubber) ‘This hot water bottle is made of natural rubber’.
Your consumer rights
As a consumer, you have the right to expect that the goods you buy are safe.
Australian Consumer Law requires safety standards to be met before certain goods are sold. These standards include:
- the way the good is made
- what it contains
- how it works
- the tests it needs to pass
- whether any warnings or instructions need to accompany it.
Individual suppliers who breach Australian Consumer Law can be fined up to $220,000, while corporations can be fined up to $1.1 million.
How to report a product safety concern
If you are injured or require urgent medical assistance, don’t delay - contact your GP or call 000 immediately.
If you become aware of an unsafe situation or item, whether or not anyone has been injured:
Be a savvy consumer
Using a heat pack safely
- Heat packs should have clear heating instructions: Always follow the directions and do not overheat.
- Lay the pack out evenly in the microwave: This will help prevent hot spots.
- Do not put a glass of water in the microwave with the heat pack: This has little effect in fire prevention, but it can result in scalding.
- Do not place the heat pack directly onto exposed skin: It may cause contact burns especially in the very young and the elderly. Caution should be used if the heat pack is a plush snuggle toy.
- Do not use as a bed warmer: Your bedding can prevent heat from escaping the pack, causing it to ignite.
- Do not reheat or store the pack until it is completely cool: The pack should be cooled first on a non-combustible surface, like the kitchen sink.
- Monitor for signs of deterioration: If you notice a burned or charred smell, or if it’s deteriorating or scorched, don't keep it. Leave it in the kitchen sink to cool down and then throw it away. Replace your heat pack when needed.
- Be cautious with heat packs sold at markets, fairs and similar sellers. Make sure they come with heating instructions. Ask if the heat pack meets the voluntary safety standards.
Using a hot water bottle safely
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Never fill your hot water bottle with boiling water: Leave the water to cool a little before using. If the water is too hot for you to touch then it is too hot for the bottle.
- Do not sit or lie on a hot water bottle: The pressure may cause it to leak or split.
- Discard any hot water bottles that show signs of wear or ageing: Ideally you should discard your hot water bottle at the end of every winter season and buy a new one.
- Only buy hot water bottles that are well made: They should have a good seam to keep the water in, a properly fitting plug and a large opening so they can be easily filled without injury. They must have the compulsory labels above.
- Use a cover or wrap the hot water bottle in a towel before using it.
- Use the bottle to warm your bed and remove it before you go to bed.
- Never leave a hot water bottle in a cot with a child.
Browse our Product safety section for more information on a range of product types including baby and children’s products, gas and electrical goods, and other consumer items.
The Product Safety Australia website is managed by the ACCC and has lots of information on product safety and national recalls.
Go to Kidsafe NSW for information to help make your home safe for young children.
Suppliers can find out more about their responsibilities on the selling safe products page.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Call us on 13 32 20 or submit an online enquiry.
Who enforces Australian Consumer Law?
The following agencies enforce provisions relating to consumer goods and services:
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
- NSW Fair Trading, and
- other State and Territory consumer protection agencies.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is responsible for financial products and services.