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.