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Has your washing machine glass door shattered?

Exploding washing machine

Which? Convo community members have helped us uncover hundreds of cases of exploding washing machines. We’ve now talked with experts to find out why this is happening.

We first covered exploding washing machine glass doors on Which? Conversation in 2012, and the response was overwhelming. Almost 100 different commenters reported that their machine’s door had shattered.

Combining those comments with reports from a variety of other sources, we were able to unearth 280 reports of washing machine, washer-dryer or tumble dryer glass doors cracking or shattering.

Most interestingly, 41% of the reports we uncovered were about Beko machines, much higher than Beko’s market share (between 10% and 20%). You can read more about this in our online news story, with in-depth analysis in the May issue of Which? magazine.

‘280’ might be a tiny number compared with the tens of millions of washing machines in UK homes, but the potential danger posed by a shattering glass door is huge. And for those whose machines have exploded, it can be a traumatic experience. Rhona told us:

The stories that washing machine owners shared with us were crucial to our research – so please do continue to share them, as we want to keep investigating this issue.

Why washing machine doors explode

There’s no single clear and obvious reason why these glass doors are shattering. We’ve talked to several experienced repairers, who all agreed that it’s likely to be a combination of factors.

Hard items left in the wash, such as coins, belt buckles or even metal buttons, can hit the glass door at high speed and weaken it over time. The advice here is to put items which have metal parts in a laundry bag before adding them to the wash.

Over-filling the machine can also put excessive pressure on the glass door, with Which? Trusted Trader Chris Talabi telling us: ‘A good rule of thumb is that when you close the door, the clothes should fill up two-thirds of the porthole’.

And under-filling could be part of the problem too. Neil Howieson, secretary of the national trade association for domestic appliance repairers (DASA), told us:

‘Some people tend to wash large or heavy items such as bath mats and large towels on their own. These types of items are extremely heavy once wet. Without other items in the drum to balance them out, the machine might not work as it should.’

Changes to washing machines may also be a factor. Washing machine doors have tended to get larger in recent years, which not only means they’re more prone to being hit, but the larger surface area can make the glass more likely to break. Higher spin speeds can also cause items to hit the door with greater impact. Chris Talabi doesn’t use his machine at anything above 1,200rpm, for example.

Then there’s the fact that washing machines are cheaper than ever, which could have affected the quality of glass doors. However, without testing old doors against newer ones, we can’t be sure about that.

What can be done about exploding machines?

Unfortunately, solving this problem isn’t as simple as making unbreakable glass doors.

One possible solution that several repairers suggested was for manufacturers to add a plastic layer to the door, which will keep glass in the machine if it explodes. Bosch, LG, Miele, Samsung and Siemens have introduced this on some of their newer models and we believe that other brands should consider doing the same.

And there’s another solution which would be even safer – eliminate the door altogether. Old-style top-loading washing machines – which have a hatch in the top of the machine instead of a glass door – have been the norm for years in the USA. Could they become more widespread here? The repairers we spoke to didn’t think so, and the top-loading models we’ve reviewed have tended to be unimpressive.

Would you be more likely to buy a washing machine if it had a plastic cover over the glass window? And would you consider buying one without a window at all?

To keep informed on safety issues, we recommend you register appliances for free on registermyappliance.org.uk. It’s run by the manufacturers trade body, Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances.

Comments
Guest
Jackie Rossouw says:
26 May 2017

I have an AEG front loader washing machine – we use this machine for our clothes only (we have a LG top loader that is abused with all the pets linen etc) – in other words our AEG was handled with kids gloves. My machine is 9 years old – but its predecessor (also an AEG) managed to get to well over 16 years before we “retired” it from service and donated the machine to a friend of mine.
The AEG self destructed at the beginning of this month (May 2017). I heard this continual crashing sound coming from the scullery and I raced indoors thinking it was my epileptic dog having a seizure. There was glass, hot water and steam all over the scullery floor and I had to switch off the machine at the wall. We were incredibly lucky that no one (human or pet) was walking by when the machine exploded ! I was quite dumbfounded by my find.
I have contacted AEG to report this matter – frankly an exploding glass door is shocking and an unacceptable safety hazard. The initial reaction from the AEG representative I spoke to was “but it is 9 years old” and after a promise of sending someone to our house to investigate or take away the machine for testing – this was 21 days ago and I have not heard from anyone since. I wanted feedback on the cause of this ‘self destruct’ because I am not going to throw money at expensive repairs only for the door to explode again.
Clearly AEG do not care about safety / quality service (the only reason we bought the AEG product in the first place).
Why have a glass door anyway? Really this needs to be revisited.

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Guest

A neighbour has a modern AEG that has a transparent ‘plastic’ shield across the concave glass window in the door. But I agree with you that no window on the washing is required.

Guest
Samantha Thompson says:
24 August 2017

My beko washing machine door exploded earlier this evening whilst in the final stages of a wash, luckily none of my 4 children or the family dog were near at the time. It was still spinning with glass everywhere out and in the drum, I had to stretch over the broken glass to turn it off. Very dangerous and scary. Have contacted beko via Facebook and twitter and watchdog. Have yet to receive a reply from beko.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
25 August 2017

Which model was it Samantha? And how old?

Data can be useful in seeing whether even amongst Beko machines some are worse than others. It may be that a class action is desirable.

Which? staff – What is the data from the 2015 Connect survey into major appliances and incidence of shattered glass in doors

Guest
Samantha Thompson says:
25 August 2017

Hi Patrick, it was a WMB81241 LB approximately just over 3 years old. I had to ring them this morning and they are sending out an engineer next Wednesday (30/08/17) I have to keep the damp clothes for them to look at 😩

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
26 August 2017

Thanks Samantha. A quick search does not reveal much but then as people often do not quote the machine type it is rather dispiriting. The actual replacement glass is quite cheap reading the online parts company beloved of Curry’s etc Partmaster

Beko WMB81241LB Door Glass – Porthole at @ £20.00

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Guest

Is it time to push manufacturers to offer washing machines without glass doors? The problem of glass breaking without warning has been reported for a wide variety of machines and may be a consequence of the move to higher spin speeds and bigger door.

John Ward has mentioned a machine with a protective shield over the door glass and that is a step forward, but getting rid of the glass would be better. At least this could be offered as an alternative.

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Guest

This has been looked into many decades ago Wavechange , in the days of CRT TV,s . Due to implosion/explosion of the tube to the danger of the owners special BUILT IN safety screens were fitted to all TV tubes . Now consider this that nearly 60 year old technology is superior to the 21st century products . There again they used to be made in Britain didn’t they ? ( I have ALL the factories listed ) now its the land of Built to a Price where profit comes before public safety. . These old tubes were tough not easily to brake the front screen and many were scratched in use . I have changed very many tubes and rejuvenated them .

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Guest

I’ve still got a Mazda data booklet that describes Fenbridge Guards, Duncan. 🙂

There were various ways of protecting people from the danger of implosion of old CRT tubes and monitors. Old TVs were ‘twin panel’ and had a flat sheet of toughened glass mounted in front of the tube. Later the manufacturers moved to installing a stout plastic sheet on the front of the tube, clamped onto the rim. That might be a possibility if a washing machine door glass was convex rather than concave. It would not be practical to have plastic on the inside because the aggressive laundry detergent would make it opaque.

Laminated glass, as in car windscreens, uses a layer of plastic between two layers of glass. That is very effective at protecting drivers from shards of glass, but it may not be possible to construct a laminated glass door because of the shape.

Sooner or later, someone will be seriously injured and the manufacturers might sit up and think, but why wait until this happens.

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Guest

In his introduction, Matt says: “One possible solution that several repairers suggested was for manufacturers to add a plastic layer to the door, which will keep glass in the machine if it explodes. Bosch, LG, Miele, Samsung and Siemens have introduced this on some of their newer models and we believe that other brands should consider doing the same.”

Does anyone have any information about this? Maybe Which? could give us an update.

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Guest

You can layer film onto glass to contain it if it breaks. Used in lighting in the food industry for example on case a glass tube should break. Needs to be on the outside of the washing machine door as plastic is not very resistant to abrasion. Could be included in the Which? features along with guarantee length and repairability in general. Miele are offering 10 years on some washing machines.

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Guest

Anyone who has suffered breakage of a washing machine door might be very interested in improvements in design. Transparent plastics are not renowned for good physical properties and would be likely to be subject to gradual attack by laundry detergent as well as abrasion.

Here is a video showing a machine with a plastic shield on the outside of the glass: http://www.espares.co.uk/advice/careandmaintenance/how-to-replace-the-door-shield-and-glass-bowl

I had hoped that my Miele machine would come with some form of protection for the glass door, but it did not.

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Guest

“Transparent plastics are not renowned for good physical properties and would be likely to be subject to gradual attack by laundry detergent as well as abrasion.”

Polycarbonate, aka Lexan, is actually remarkably tough. It is used to make motorcycle crash helmets and, in its transparent form, visors and safety spectacles. It does tend to scratch easily but can be coated to resist this.

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Guest

Polycarbonate would be fine as a protective outer shield because of its toughness, but no use whatsoever as an alternative to glass for the reasons I have given.

I would love to see washing machines without a glass door, at least as an option.

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Guest

“I would love to see washing machines without a glass door, at least as an option.”

I bet that would not be commercially viable, now that we’ve all got to like watching our clothes go round and round. Let’s face it, it’s more interesting that most daytime (or nighttime ) TV.

BTW- how exactly would laundry detergent attack something like polycarbonate?

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Guest

Polycarbonate lacks resistance to abrasion, so would loose its clarity. Although you have to ask whether this would matter? If the main aim of a window in the door is to ensure it is empty of water (before opening the door), total clarity is not essential.

I have had no success finding out much about glass doors. Two ways to make glass strong – toughen it and thicken it.

To toughen it you heat it to near softening point, chill the surfaces with air and this puts then into compression. Very resistant to impact and thermal shock. However, it is difficult to toughen deep moulded glass effectively – Corning used to do it in the UK. It requires specialist equipment and high quality glass as far as I remember.

Making a thick moulding gives it inherent strength, but not so good at resisting thermal shock – a change from hot to cold water for example.

There seems to be no standard covering these windows, other than an impact resistance test. I’d be interested to know how the windows are made and processed.

If you don’t want a window door, you could opt for a top loader.

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Guest

“Polycarbonate lacks resistance to abrasion, so would loose its clarity.”

For motorcycle visors, that problem was tackled a few decades ago, by the addition of harder surface coatings.

When I was a user of polycarbonate projectiles in railguns and two stage light gas guns, we were advised to anneal those projectiles after final machining and prior to use, but neglecting to do that never caused us any apparent problems.

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Guest

I don’t believe that polycarbonate would withstand extended use with laundry detergents. Back in the 70s our research students were advised not to put polycarbonate centrifuge and ultracentrifuge tubes in the machines used for washing glassware. I have seen tubes damaged when the advice was ignored. If polycarbonate or acrylics were up to the job then I don’t think we would still have glass doors.

At one time polycarbonate was expensive and used only for specialist products but now it is cheap enough for plastic pub glasses for use outdoors. The landlord of a local pub challenged us to break a one of the plastic glasses when he had the first delivery a few years back.

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Guest

Derek asks how a laundry detergent would attack polycarbonate.

Here is a chemical compatibility chart for a variety of plastics including polycarbonate (PC): http://sevierlab.vet.cornell.edu/resources/Chemical-Resistance-Chart-Detail.pdf It outlines in general terms the way in which plastics can be damaged by chemicals. Not knowing the formulation of laundry detergents I cannot be certain, but as the table shows, there are many chemicals that affect it, particularly at higher temperature. Many use fabric conditioners and these will remain at the end of a wash cycle.

I could be wrong, but if polycarbonate was OK for washing machine doors, surely manufacturers would have adopted it by now.

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Guest

http://msdssearch.trinseo.com/PublishedLiteratureSTYRONCOM/dh_0928/0901b8038092856b.pdf?filepath=nonauto/pdfs/noreg/857-02401.pdf&fromPage=GetDoc
Table 12 gives some detergents.

I can’t find reference to moulded polycarbonate windows for washing machines. Can anyone? It would be very attractive to manufacturers because the whole door could then be moulded to save much of the assembly. There are abrasion-resistant coatings for plastics, including polycarbonate – spectacle lenses, safety glasses, machine guards. visors….but would they stand up to the continual abrasion from wet fabrics? Can anyone dig out useful information?

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Guest

There are references to plastic door bowls for tumble dryers on the web.

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Guest
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Guest

These presumably fit on the outside to retain any broken glass and would not be subject to the wear from wet washing. White Knight and other tumble dryers list a plastic door window, but White Knight washing machines describe the window as glass. I am sure Kenneth can tell us whether any washing machines use plastic windows..

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Guest

Dredging through old links I found this page on the Whitegoodshelp website: https://www.whitegoodshelp.co.uk/washing-machine-door-glass-danger/

It shows two breakage patterns. Toughened glass is the type that explodes, often as a result of minor damage, and produces large numbers of small pieces that are unlikely to cause serious injury, and ordinary glass that will not explode but produces dangerous shards. Having looked at other photos posted online.

It’s interesting to read the comments at the end of the article. The oldest one suggests contacting BSI.

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Guest

I did contact BSI about tests for glass “bowl” windows. Another case where, given Which?’s position, it would be good for them to be directly involved with BSI to see what standards apply, what the extent of the breakage problem is, and how it might be dealt with. This is an international standard so amending it would require a consensus; but equally the other participants would be looking at their own evidence to arrive at a pragmatic solution. Nothing can (usually) be made perfect, however.

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Guest

I am not sure how the number of cases of glass breakage could be estimated. There is no requirement to report door glass breakage and few cases seem to result in injury, so it might be difficult to quantify the problem.

On the basis that breakage has been reported for a wide range of machines, both cheap and expensive, it seems likely to me that the move to faster spin speeds is the main reason that door glass breakage has emerged as a problem.

Maybe Which? could push BSI to make it a requirement to fit guards to contain broken glass in event of breakage, especially since this is being done with a few models. Guards would not prevent glass going into the drum and damaging fabrics, door seals and possibly other internal parts. I will be very impressed when the first manufacturer produces a front-loading washing machine without a glass door.

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Guest

The standard would need amending, and as it is a European standard that requires the agreement of all the contributing standards organisations, as I said above. Manufacturers could be asked to provide an external plastic shield in the meantime as an option. However their would still be complaints about damaged machine internals and clothing.

This topic would benefit from more detailed investigation. The Convo says “ 280 reports of washing machine, washer-dryer or tumble dryer glass doors cracking or shattering.“. Roughly 0.0015% of machines of all ages in households, I would guess. We need to kinow more about what can cause them to crack or shatter – how much is down to a glass defect, badly fitted glass, consumer misuse or abuse.

One useful bit of info that could help is “41% of the reports we uncovered were about Beko machines, much higher than Beko’s market share”. So we should look at Beko’s glass window design and where they are sourced and manufactured. That might point to factors that increase the breakage chances. Poor manufacture and quality control, and poor quality glass, for example might be found that would help in eliminating a cause. But we would not be able to draw any conclusions without someone doing that investigation.

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Guest

As I have said before, I would like to see products designed to cope with minor abuse. I wonder how many people who have a broken washing machine door glass would report it.

I would prefer Which? to push for action to be taken rather than devoting resources to investigating which makes are better than others, since it is a general problem within the industry. The fact that some models are fitted with plastic guard means that some manufacturers have recognised there is a problem.

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Guest

To make a justified change you need good reason. That requires investigation to try to determine why a problem happens; then you can examine the root cause. When 41% of glass door failures are down to one manufacturer that is a good place to make a start.

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Guest

We know very well why glass breaks and we have both explained the reasons in Conversations. Maybe Which? should draw attention to models that do have protection next time they do a review on washing machines.

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Guest

We don’t know what causes the glass to break, nor why one manufacturers has a substantially higher number of breakages than the others. Knowing the cause can lead to better solutions. When we have more knowledge we can decide whether a cure or a sticking plaster is the best solution – in my view. Even both perhaps :-).
Another solution might be to incorporate a metal mesh in the glass moulding to contain any breakage, as in wired window glass.
Someone perhaps could explain why we have glass doors in the first place. Maybe a start would be to ask the manufacturers.

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Guest

A glass door can be useful to see problems such as excessive foaming or unusual water level. My new machine has a design fault and, occasionally, gel capsules get stuck in the door seal even when placed at the back, so detergent is sometimes still being released when the machine is rinsing. Detergent residues on clothing might not be good for those with eczema or other skin conditions. Door seals of this design seem common but I have not watched other makes and models to see if the same thing happens.

Regarding washing machine doors, I would be surprised if any manufacturer makes their own.

Guest
Jill Buchanan says:
13 September 2017

My Beko machine WM85135LM made a funny noise spinning last night. Next thing I heard was breaking glass. Thought vibration had made a glass fall off worktop but discovered the machine door had shattered. Glass on floor and in machine. Clothes inside were shredded. Called Beko first thing today and offered engineer visit for 27th! Now been given cancellation for some time on 19th. I’m concerned and unhappy particularly after hearing reports of it happening to others.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
13 September 2017

Seems to me that where there is physical danger from machines then they should be a required automatic report. Therefore fires, exploding glass should be registered by the company with an authority – problem a centralised Trading Standards department.

These reports to be public – and obviously checkable by the complainant that the logging has been done by, in this case Beko.

The Australians do have a system rather like this and Voerwerks [?] has been dobbed in for not following the procedures.

11 August 2016

Consumer group CHOICE welcomes the ACCC’s decision to officially investigate Vorwerk, the manufacturer of Thermomix, over safety concerns and mandatory reporting requirements but is concerned about the company’s ongoing failure to release vital safety information to the public.
“While we welcome the ACCC’s official investigation into Thermomix, we believe it is unacceptable that companies have the power to prevent vital safety issues and injuries caused by their products being made public,” said CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.

In May 2016, CHOICE raised Thermomix safety concerns with the ACCC through Australia’s first mass incident report. CHOICE’s report found 83 incidents with TM31 and 4 incidents with TM5 machines, with at least 18 people needing medical treatment after being injured using their Thermomix.

“Our report highlighted how Thermomix tried to downplay the national recall of its flagship product and detailed numerous cases of the company playing hardball with consumers’ rights after they received severe burns caused by the failure of their TM31 machine,” Mr Godfrey says.

“Companies should not be allowed to run roughshod over basic consumer rights such as the right to a timely refund for a product of unacceptable quality.”

CHOICE’s mass incident report also raised concerns around Thermomix’s compliance with mandatory reporting requirements, noting that the supplier should have made at least 10 mandatory notifications to the ACCC.

“If Australia’s product safety system was more transparent, it’s highly likely this investigation by the ACCC around a company’s compliance with reporting requirements would not be necessary,” says Mr Godfrey.

“It is deeply concerning that vital information about the number and nature of injuries caused by products like the Thermomix TM31 continues to be hidden from public.

“Because these reports are confidential, independent advocacy organisations like CHOICE have no way to confirm whether or not companies like Thermomix are complying with their legal requirements.

“Companies can choose to let the ACCC release this important information but instead Thermomix is playing hardball and gagging the regulator, forcing them to keep a lid on these safety reports despite the public interest in having this information,” Mr Godfrey says.

Media contact: Tom Godfrey, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson:

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Guest

This surely follows on from the proposal to have a central register of the purchasers of certain products, so recalls can be effective. Part of the role of whoever administers such a register would be to log problems with products and decide when there are sufficient instances to require an investigation and possible action. This should be accessible to all of us, both to supply information and to look at what has been reported on specific products. I cannot see a better organisation to do this than a revitalised and properly resourced Trading Standards, operating the system at national level with local Trading Standards as one of the conduits for feeding in information.

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Guest

That “funny noise ” Jill could be one of the spring tensioners breaking that hold the drum in place . If so its not the standard glass breakage referred to on this convo but a fault in a manufactured mechanical component.The glass itself costs £18 . The drum shock absorbers are £11 your model seems to have a lot of door problems.

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Guest

The machine is full of large and small fragments of glass. Even replacing door and whatever caused the ‘rattle’ I wouldn’t be happy about using it. Will be interesting to see what engineer says.

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Guest

@mclear The image in the introduction is frightening. So much so I wonder how contrived it is. would Which? like to tell us the origin of this picture – is it fact or fake?

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Guest

I wondered about the source of the photo when the Convo was published. I did not find it in the Shutterstock catalogue but others have the same distinctive orange surround. Whatever the source, it has a good visual impact. Matt left Which? earlier this year.

I find distinctive images useful for remembering what is in various Convos.

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Guest

A pity it doesn’t show what really happens. But still………