/ Home & Energy

Kitchen appliance fires: why are manufacturers slow to recall?

Fire

In the past year around 3,700 appliances have caught fire because they were faulty. Have you been affected by a faulty washing machine, fridge, tumble dryer or dishwasher?

We submitted a Freedom of Information request to the government for two-years’ worth of data about faulty appliance fires.

We found that faulty washing machines (14%) and tumble dryers (12%) caused the most fires, followed by dishwashers (11%), ovens (8%) and fridges (7%).

Find out what to do if you own a recalled appliance in our guide, including dishwashers, washing machines, tumble dryers and fridges.

Graphic showing risk for appliance fires

Is your kitchen a fire risk?

So, is enough being done to ensure the products in our homes are safe? The law states that all appliances must be safe and that if something goes wrong manufacturers should take action, such as implementing a recall. If a product recall is required, manufacturers generally try to contact customers directly (as long as they have the contact details) as well as publicising the issue more widely.

However, we think that some manufacturers have moved too slowly. Your safety must be the priority, which is why we think manufacturers should act fast to recall products as soon as they realise they’re faulty.

One Which? reader told us about a faulty dishwasher fire that caused £58,000 worth of damage to their home. Although the manufacturer had started to contact faulty dishwasher owners prior to the fire, it didn’t have her details and the public notice was released after the fire. We had also highlighted the potential issue with this dishwasher a year earlier in Which? magazine.

Moreover, our research has found that a quarter of us own a product that’s been subject to a recall or safety notice. This means that many are sitting in people’s homes, either because they don’t take action or because they’re not aware the products have been recalled.

What do you think should be done?

When we asked people what they thought should be done to improve things, suggestions included a central database for all recalls, and for manufacturers to collect contact details for use only if there’s a safety issue.

We want the government and manufacturers to do more to analyse and share the data they already collect on appliance fires in order to help reduce the thousands of fires caused by faulty products.

What do you think should be done to improve things? Have you owned a faulty appliance? What did you do?

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Has your car suffered a problem that merits a manufacturer recall

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Comments
Member

The first thing that should be done is to discourage anyone from leaving appliances other than fridges and freezers on when unattended, especially not to go to bed when they are in use. Secondly, everyone should have a smoke alarm in their kitchen. If making toast causes a problem, use a kitchen alarm or give up eating toast – that could even save your life.

Manufacturers should make fridges and freezers in such a way that they cannot catch fire. The compressor is already sealed in a metal case and it would not be difficult to do the same with other electrical components.

Perhaps 3700 kitchen appliances catching fire per year is not a huge number, but other home electrical appliances are also the cause of house fires. It beggars belief that manufacturers should put powerful electric heaters in plastic cases, for example in fan heaters and kettles and do not make nearly enough use of inexpensive safety devices such as thermal fuses.

Member
TuxWang says:
19 September 2013

>discourage anyone from leaving appliances other than fridges and freezers
>on when unattended, especially not to go to bed when they are in use

What turn off fridges and freezers when we go to bed or go out? Then what;s the point of fridges and freezers?

Don’t leave dish washers & washing machines alone but not fridges and freezers

Member

I said other than fridges and freezers.

Member

A sense of perspective may help. Roughly 18 million households in the Uk so assuming they each have a fridge, an oven and a washing machine that will give 54 million appliances and say a further 6m for tumble dryers and dishwashers means a total of 60m.

Divide that by 3700 and the chances of it happening per appliance is 0.00616%.

One think that perhaps Which? may have found is whether there are figures for age of the actual appliance, a common cause, and how much has the householder been responsible for the fire. This last being very interesting as I have seen some amazing neglect of operating requirements in terms of space around appliances. How many people clean out their tumbledryer as required.

Given the figures it may be possible to say this is looking at the problem without the benefit of the of the figures for fires caused by other appliances like TV’s , PVR’s etc; and indeed causes in general.

I do agree that it would be helpful if there were a central registration point available for people who care and that Which? should occupy this space. Accurate information from members and relevant information to them. Surveys on long-term reliability could now be highly accurate and Which? members could feel that they are being more proactive.

Member
t manly says:
21 September 2013

Please qualify, you state in October issue that Hotpoint dishwashers DWF3 range are potential hazards—however having contacted Hotpoint they stated not the case only FDW models affected—–can you please qualify as I want to ensure complete safety of products..

Member

Hello,

We were analysing fire brigade data and looking for any anomalies and we identified the fact that there were as many instances caused by the DWF3 range it hadn’t recalled as the ones it had. However, model numbers often aren’t recorded and most fires aren’t forensically investigated. Likewise the number of fires connected to any brand or appliance isn’t very high. So unfortunately only Hotpoint can comment on the real level of risk. We did however, ask it about these models to try and get more understanding and this is what it said:

‘We believe it is difficult to compare relatively small numbers of incidents against market share and draw these conclusions. Hotpoint’s assessment of the DWF3 dishwashers found the risk was “very low.” As only a small number of these are still in use we concluded repairs weren’t necessary. Customers with any questions should call us on 0844 822 4224.’

All I can suggest you do is to continue to raise any concerns with Hotpoint and establish if you have one of the models it carried out the risk assessment on, that it mentions in its response. If we gain any further insight we’ll let you know.

Member
Member

Sorry, replied to wrong post. That isn’t a reply to t & Alice

Member

Hotpoint is now repairing the affected DWF3 and DC26 dishwashers free of charge. Click here for more information:

http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/advice/advice-recall-item.cfm?id=307136

Member
Ian01 says:
28 November 2013

Given the current costly calls campaign I am surprised to see Which? promoting a costly phone number!

Member
Robert says:
23 September 2013

I have got a microwave that didn’t actually catch fire but corse a fire it is a microwave grill type of applyance I was cooking and jacket potato on the set program when the heat coming out off the back ventilation holes set fire to a calendar that was on the wall at the back

Member

I was sitting at my computer this evening and I heard my washing machine going,which I thought was strange as I hadn’t turned it on. I went to check and it was on fire the machine door was open and it had switched it self on. It was on fire around the door locking mechanism luckily I had small fire extinguisher that I used after I had turned off the main switch. I am going away for month next week so dread to think what could have happened if it happened while I was away.
The Machine is an Indesit PWDC 8125W

Member

That’s a worrying report Christopher. It’s also a good example of why it is sensible to turn the power supply to appliances [except fridges/freezers] off before going away and to close room doors at night and when absent to delay the spread of fire. It also reinforces the recommendation to have more than just one or two smoke detector/alarms in a house; they need to be where a fire can start.

Member

I wonder how many have a fire extinguisher to hand, as Christopher did. Household appliances are the cause of many fires: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2015/06/which-reveals-the-home-appliances-most-likely-to-catch-fire-406053/

Smoke alarms in kitchens are not popular in kitchens because of they can be set off by cooking, but that’s where they are needed most. There are smoke alarms that can be temporarily muted, but they need to be accessible to do this, even if that means siting them in an accessible place rather than on the ceiling. I have two within reach, and can mute them or take them out of the kitchen.

Member
Dollene says:
21 July 2017

I have had 3 condenser dryers and none of them have caught fire.
I don’t know if ours was good machines or not but a lot of it is common sense.
Every time I use the washing machine or tumble dryer I always empty fluff and water in condenser dryer and the filter at least once a month and when I dry towels I do it after them as a lot of fluff comes from them.