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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

Which? sits on a BSI committee that deals with the safety of electrical appliances. It might enquire on the incidence of failures of glass doors to see whether there is something that could be added to the international standard. It could also ask its European sister consumer groups about the incidence of glass breakage to see if it is a significant issue among their users.

We have had a number of reports over the years in Convos, but has anyone collated the numbers to see if any particular manufacturer stands out? If they do it could be worth including the information in their product reviews, or even making them “don’t buys”.

M.M. says:
27 April 2019

Hi!
Thank you for making me fear my washer from now on! lol (jk)
Well I never experienced an exploding washer door before but I’m having another problem that’s making me think I will soon experience that as well. I own a Kenwood 7kg Superspin 1400 (unfortunatley made in Turkey). It’s been a while since it starts to tour the house on its own when I turn it on! I used to fill it to the level the guy who installed it told me, which is filling it with clothes until I can still slip my hand easily on top of them all. For my dancing washer problem I went to other professionals and they told me that I need to fill the washer more and that a 4cm free space on top of the clothes should be enough. I tried once and it didn’t work. The washer still was roaming around in the kitchen. Now I’m about to try filling it more for the second time and I’m nervous that the glass might shatter. I live in an apartment with mean neighbors which makes dealing with such possible messes much worse.
I truly wish they added the plastic layer or made the glass unbreakable one way or another. I’d definitely pay the extra bit for that. The idea of a glass door that’s holding plenty of soap and water back in a kitchen full of electrical wires and wooden cabinets, breaking is horrific to be honest. And if I have a choice I’d NEVER get a top washer like the ones in the US. The front ones that all other countries use are way better, for the environment as well, it’s just that until they make the glass unbreakable, this will be a con to such machines.

B. Jones says:
14 May 2019

Last September (2018) we bought an AEG waher dryer,model L7WEE965R 9.for our daughter.Last night at 10:00pm whilst the machine was nearing the end of the wash cycle the glass door exploded. My dughter isolated the power and tried to open the door but it remained locked. trying the emergency opening tab proved ineffective.
I am now prepairing to negociate with Currys.Not very confindent of the outcome.

I can’t imagine how scary that must be, not to mention frustrating!

Good luck with Currys. If you need some guidance, here is our page on consumer rights around faulty products.

https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product

Doug Black says:
28 July 2019

Brand new Beko washer drier, BANG! Door exploded! Glass everywhere, luckily one of the models with the plastic door shield, but what a mess inside!! Called Beko and they didn’t really seem to give 2 hoots saying a week for an engineer to take a look (its exploded, not much to look at but glass all over) thumbs up to AO the retailer, callled then and they are delivering a replacement tomorrow.

Jayne Hartley says:
5 August 2019

Just had this same experience – Beko washing machine door which was open and hadn’t been used in over a day – suddenly and without warning exploded showering me and the kitchen floor with shards of very sharp glass. Because I was wearing a thick dressing gown none cut me (got a teensy splinter in my foot a day later). Beko sent an engineer but say because it is out of warranty (6 year old machine) it is none of their business. They won’t even arrange to disconnect it and recycle it – I will need to either do it myself or pay someone.
I would have thought this serious enough for Beko to arrange to retrofit a plastic film over all their washing machine doors to prevent it from killing someone. If my pets or a toddler had been in front of the door it would have been a much more serious outcome.

Please can you post a photo, Jayne? The fact that the door has exploded implies that it is made of toughened glass. Toughened glass is used for many products (e.g. car side windows, shower cubicles and washing machine door glass) because it typically produces small pieces about the size of a pea when broken rather than long sharp shards.

As Doug mentions above, there are some models of washing machine with a shield to contain broken glass. Maybe one day we will be able to buy machines with a metal door.

Hi Jayne, thanks for that interesting post and good to hear that you survived without major injury.

As a retired safety engineer, I think Beko are correct to say that they have no obligations to hand out free repairs for old washing machines (e.g. in accordance with the Consumers Rights act) but, that said, I do not think there is any set time limit to their potential legal liability in regard of dangerous products (i.e. in accordance with product liability legislation, as per EU Directive 85/374/EEC on liability for defective products, aka the Product Liability Directive).

For more information, see this website:-https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/w-013-0564?transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default)&firstPage=true&bhcp=1

This might also be an area that Which? Legal could help with…

Here’s a somewhat complacent industry view of the problem, see:-https://www.ukwhitegoods.co.uk/help/fix-it-yourself/washing-machine-washer-dryer/3529-washing-machine-door-glass-failures

Clearly, if these washing machine glass failures are producing sharp and potentially hazardous shards, then they’re aren’t made of proper toughened safety glass.

As the linked trade article shows, it easy for manufacturers to become complacent about this kind of problem, by attributing the failures to either fair wear and tear on older machines or user abuse.

The manufacturer has no responsibility for repair or other remedy unless the machine was bought directly rather than via a retailer.

I think you are right that a manufacturer cannot place a time limit on their liability for dangerous goods and that it would be useful to have this confirmed by Which? Legal. In Jayne’s case, the machine is six years old and unless it could be shown that this model had a significantly worse record than other washing machines it seems unlikely that the manufacturer will act or would be held responsible.

I suspect that what has happened with Jayne’s machine is that the glass has been gradually damaged by abrasion (e.g. by metal zips) and by repeated contact with hard objects (e.g. buttons and maybe the odd coin) and has eventually failed explosively as a result of energy stored when the glass was toughened.

Malcolm Richards says:
5 August 2019

It is difficult to thermally toughen a deep glass moulding, like a washing machine door, because you have to raise it to its softening point before chilling, which takes it to the borderline of distortion. It requires, in my experience, specialised equipment to do it successfully. If it is not taken to a high enough temperature then the toughening process will not be optimal and instead of breaking into small safe-edge glass fragments, larger and sharper shards will result.

If you collect such large sharp fragments then this indicates inadequate toughening. If you live in England and the appliance was up to 6 years old then you should be able to claim via the retailer as this would show a fault that was present when new. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 would then require the retailer to provide a repair or replacement (your choice, unless one is more disproportionately expensive to the other). The CRA is of no help after 6 years.

I think the key issue here is how the door glass strength was intended to be achieved in the first place. If it was by thermal toughening and the door produced dangerous shards of glass, then the door was not properly toughened. It is irrelevant whether you damaged the door through abrasion from zips, say. If it failed unsafely then it failed the contract requirements and a fault existed from new.

If the door was simply moulded of sufficient thickness to provide strength, not toughened, then I’d suggest you have no case. However it should not “explode”, but simply crack and break. The fact you say it exploded suggests it was (partially) toughened.

We have had a number of reports of door glass breakage, and my impression is a number concerned Beko. @abbysempleskipper, Abby, it would be useful if Which? investigated the requirements for washing machine door glass safety (BSI) to see how people with breakages can best be advised.

Stef says:
16 October 2019

Just sat watching tv, and thought what the bloody hell, washing machine door exploded. Beko was her maximum of 2 years old

Nina says:
1 November 2019

Another Beko here. The glass door in our Beko washing machine exploded into hundreds of shards. Glass went everywhere including the worktop and the clothes in the machine were shredded. Customer service disinterested. Going to try and complain further up but I will probably be fobbed off. Not sure who else I can contact in view of how unsafe it was. Any advice appreciated.

Phil Rust says:
19 November 2019

Another Beko washing machine here, put it on for a drum clean and some minutes later it exploded. Less than 2 years old. Continued to spin whilst spitting out water and grinding the glass.

BEKO machines seems to be the main culprit , from reports in Convos. It suggests their quality control is inadequate or they use a poor supplier. BEKO machines figure in Which? Best Buys. In view of glass problems perhaps they should be labelled by Which? as “don’t buys because” as was done to Whirlpool tumble dryers and plastic backed fridges?

I would prefer the option of a metal door, which would not only eliminate the problem of glass breakage but help contain fire in the event of electrical failure. Some washing machines have a guard to protect the user if the door breaks, but that will not prevent fragments. of glass damaging clothing in the machine, the door seal and other components.

Glass breakage seems extremely rare in most washing machines, as do washing machine fires. “41% of the reports we uncovered were about Beko machines,” says there is a problem here that needs dealing with, or warning about. Glass can be coated to retain fragments in case of failure.