/ Home & Energy

What’s smoking in your kitchen?

Toaster fire

Which kitchen appliances do you think are the most likely to catch fire – cookers, ovens or toasters perhaps? It’s actually faulty tumble dryers and washing machines that come out on top. Does this come as a surprise?

The new Which? TV ad gives a humorous look at what life could be like if appliances turn bad – the dangers of dodgy dishwashers, faulty fridge-freezers and bean-firing coffee machines emphasise the importance of buying machines that have been independently tested and rated.

Thankfully, occurrences of young couples being attacked in their own homes by appliances on the rampage are rare. But while we all assume that modern appliances are safe, there’s a serious message – some appliances do literally go up in smoke.


Looking for information about car recalls? Find out how to report a fault and the cars we think should have been recalled in the UK in our guide to car recalls.


Fridge-freezer fire furore

It’s perhaps unsurprising the furore that surrounded the news last year that some Beko fridge-freezers had caught fire. Thousands of you flocked to our website for advice and the Conversation was one of the most commented in 2011. Craig was concerned:

‘I ended up spending £550 on a new Bosch, money well spent for the peace of mind.’

Carol was cut off:

‘I have one of the affected appliances and have verified online, only to be informed to phone helpline, then they cut you off after a recorded message – very frustrating.’

Ipoolad thought Beko did its best to deal with the situation:

‘What more can be expected?! They have thrown every resource possible at resolving the issue.’

But Beko is not alone in facing safety scrutiny from consumers. According to government figures, in 2010/11 almost 6,000 appliances or their electrical leads caught fire due to faults. And this number could be even higher.

Thousands of appliance fires each year

It’s estimated that 70% to 80% of fires, normally the smaller ones, are dealt with by homeowners themselves, rather than calling out the fire brigade.

Which? submitted Freedom of Information requests to all fire services in England to find out which kitchen appliances are catching fire, and 40 responded in total.

The data reveals that the companies that hit the headlines could just be the tip of the iceberg, and that the problems could be greater than they appear. The data also includes many different common makes and models – for example, Bosch has issued a safety notice about specific dishwasher ranges.

And the numbers show that it’s not necessarily the appliances you’d imagine that are most likely to catch fire. While cookers and ovens cause many fires due to misuse or accident, it’s actually tumble dryers and washing machines that are more likely to catch fire due to faults.

Something is burning

This data isn’t definitive –  makes and models aren’t always recorded and there are many appliances for which the cause of the fire is never identified because they are too badly burnt. In most cases there’s no absolute certainty, as the fire brigade often only gives its opinion on the suspected cause.

Given that it’s impossible to guarantee the safety of all appliances, what do you think should be done? Should manufacturers have to tell us each time they’re alerted to an appliance fire or would that cause unnecessary panic?


I have only just noticed that the toaster in the picture at the top of this Conversation appears to have a two-pin plug attached. I presume it’s been like that since April 2012. Perhaps Which? really does have a blind-spot over this problem.

I have yet to buy a product with a two pin plug attached. I do have an assortment of two pin travel plugs that have accompanied me on my worldly travels.

I remember as a child having a two-pin, one bar electric fire. Which my father had wired incorrectly (!) with the live feed not being cut off, as I discovered one day. Life was so much fun back then.