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How dangerous are your home appliances?

white goods

9,754 fires have been caused by white goods in the UK since 2014 according to The Sun. That’s 10 fires-a-day. In light of these numbers, how can the product safety system be seen to be working?

Figures revealed by The Sun show that nearly ten fires a day are caused by faulty white goods products. With numbers like that, thousands of households are being potentially put at risk.

It’s clear that the government needs to stop dragging its feet and put in place a product safety system fit for purpose.

Fire-risk machines

According to The Sun’s data, in the three years from 2014, 9,574 fires were caused by white goods including washing machines, tumble dryers and fridge-freezers, resulting in at least five deaths. The real figure is likely to be higher as only 30 out of 51 fire and rescue services responded to The Sun’s freedom of information request.

The number of fires caused by white goods indicates failures in the product safety and recall system.

But this is just one market. White goods don’t include all of the electronic items sitting in your living room, under the stairs and in your garage or shed.

Product safety system

Sadly, the government doesn’t appear to be listening. In fact, the Consumer Minister, Margot James, said: ‘There is a robust system in place if faulty products need to be repaired or replaced.’

But we know that the system is failing and this has been amply demonstrated by the long-running Whirlpool-owned fire-risk tumble dryer saga.

As some of you will know, we first started talking about this in 2015, when it was reported that around 750 fires were linked to some Whirlpool-owned Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Proline and Swan tumble dryers. And then last year we had the news that a tower block fire in Shepherds Bush, which left 50 people unable to return to their homes, was started by an affected fire-risk dryer.

Despite us challenging Whirlpool to step up to sort this mess out it has so far failed to issue a full product recall on the fire risk tumble dryers, or even publish a comprehensive list of affected models.

Our CEO, Peter Vicary-Smith, explained here on Which? Convo last month that both Whirlpool and Peterborough Trading Standards have failed to act quickly and in the best interests of consumers. Meanwhile, the Consumer Minister is failing to use any of the enforcement powers available to her and fix this problem now.

A broken system

Our current product safety system is heavily reliant on a local approach to a national problem that involves global companies. What’s more is that local trading standards, who currently deal with product safety problems, are not set up to handle this.

And when something does go wrong there’s currently no single source for information where consumers can find out about the recall or safety issue.

We know this system isn’t working. When these issues were last debated in Parliament in April, the Consumer Minister praised Whirlpool for managing to register almost 40% of affected machines for repair or replacement almost two years after the issue came to light, as this exceeded the industry standard of 10-20%!

Do you think Consumer Minister Margot James MP was right to say the product safety system is robust?

No (97%, 582 Votes)

Yes (3%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 597

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Robust response?

Just let that sink in for a moment. Potentially millions of fire risk tumble dryers remain in homes and that is considered a positive outcome. Thousands of fires are caused by faulty machines every year and the Minister responsible has publicly called the current product safety system ‘robust’.

This isn’t acceptable, and that’s why we’re calling for an urgent overhaul of the UK’s product safety system.

Are your concerned about the safety of your home appliances? Do you enough is being done to protect us from dangerous products? Should the government take action and revise the product safety system?


Thanks very much for this Conversation, Peter.

I wrote to Margot James about my concerns about fires caused by household goods. I did not receive a personal reply but was told that the government was looking at the Amdea system, where this trade association encourages members of the public to register their products.

It seems OK at first glance and many manufacturers of white goods are members of Amdea, but what about all the other electrical products that are recalled? What about children’s toys, car seats and all the other products that may be subject to recall? It’s not just white goods we need to look at.

I’m not keen on companies mixing up the safety issue with marketing, data collection (market research) and competitions. I registered the purchase of a small electrical item and looked at the lifestyle questions, one of which was what was my annual income. The irresponsible behaviour of some companies has put many off registering their products and obtaining information about recalls.

What we need is a way of registering purchases that will avoid the possibility that data could be misused. DVSA does this for cars, so that if there is a recall for my vehicle, I can be promptly informed. I have benefited from this and so have many people I know.

Details of recalls are added to the EC Rapex database: https://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumers_safety/safety_products/rapex/alerts/?event=main.search

I suggest registration of goods at the time of purchase and to make it a requirement for all retailers to pass on the information to a government body responsible for informing us if our products are affected by a recall.

It is vital not to ignore goods in rental properties or those bought secondhand. I suggest that in addition to the responsibility of retailers, we all have the opportunity to inspect our list of possessions online so that it can be checked and items added, or deleted when disposed of or sold or given away.

I very much welcome an overhaul of consumer safety and the active participation of Which?

My greatest concern is the run down of Trading Standards by successive governments, so we now have counterfeit and dangerous products on sale and if consumers report problems there may be little chance of action. If Which? does not take this up, I don’t know who will.

A number of us have, in previous Convos, proposed that all major appliances should be compulsorily registered at the point of sale so owners can be contacted if a general fault is uncovered. It will require a system establishing to hold data and to automatically contact affected consumers, but the benefits are clear (well, they are to me). My personal suggestion is this should be given to National Trading Standards to operate, with local trading standards in future being required to take information direct from the public, and other organisations, to provide information on serious faults. It will require funding and, again, a levy on the sale price could be used. Has Which? lobbied Margot James about this?

There a 23 million or so households, each with probably 3 major appliances, so the reported incidents amount to around 0.0015% of households and 0.0005% of appliances. Some of these will be inherent appliance faults, some will be misuse and abuse. I am not underestimating the seriousness of any fire, however caused, but the way figures are portrayed can be misleading. As fires have causes other than from appliances – cooking, smoking, candles and so on – I would also like to see sprinklers mandatory in at least multi-occupation buildings, and possibly in all domestic kitchens.

We have discussed elsewhere work being done, and proposals made, for improving fire safety in appliances. But I don’t know who is actually taking these proposals and putting them to those who can act on them, if they prove of value. I’d like to see reports on progress at the international committee responsible for the safety of domestic appliances.

The low number of five deaths arising from over 9,500 fires started in domestic appliances is a tribute to the building regulations and the prompt and effective responses of the fire and rescue services, not as a result of careful and conscientious design by the manufacturers. It is not a marketing facet so it is not a high priority despite what they say. And as this article so rightly makes clear the government has a major responsibility to the UK’s citizens which it is shirking. I really do hope Which? will go on the warpath over this.

Although there were other causes for the spread of the fire, it was initially reported that the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower started in a fridge-freezer and that as a consequence over eighty people have lost their lives. This should weigh heavily on the consciences of those who say the the present safety system is good enough. I appreciate that there might be all sorts of explanations for how the fire started and the public inquiry will go into that but if ever there was a good time for the government to take a responsible initiative it is now, and not wait for the right political moment which I suggest is what is in their minds to do.

It is a good prompt for appliance registration, although in this case we do not know how the appliance fire arose – whether a product fault, abuse, misuse, or whatever. I think a far more worrying issue is the way this tragedy seems to have exposed a severe weakness in the building regulations or their application. It has cost, in one event alone, more than 15 times the deaths attributed to appliances in 3 years. I await the outcome of the investigation in the hope that it will explain what happened and how, and how such tragedies can be minimised in the future.

Here is an official list of white goods that have been recalled: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/household-appliances-recalled-due-to-fire-risk

Several years ago I recall reading that around half a million Bosch/Neff/Siemens recalled dishwashers had not been accounted for and long after publicity about the Whirlpool dryer problem, some people only became aware that they had a machine that should have been replaced or modified.

Are they really that dangerous or is it that some people use them in a way that causes danger Many things are dangerous If not used as they should be Do you follow the instructions carefully every time

Something that has concerned me for a while is the same product with multiple brand names.

As an example, search for 1260w mixer on Amazon and you see the same product with 3 different unknown brand names.

Owner reviews say they are made in China. How do these products conform to safety regulations? If one of these products was found to have a serious fault, who would be ultimately responsible? How do you recall a product when it has multiple brand names and product codes?

alfa, if a product such as this is marketed in the UK (as opposed to an individual buying it off the web and importing it privately) then the product has to meet UK (European) safety standards. If it does not, it is being marketed illegally and the European seller is responsible and can (should) be prosecuted.

There are Chinese sites where you can choose a product and they will put whatever brand name you want on it.

Checking on one site I find what looks the unbranded 1260w mixer and even what looks like a KitchenAid.

If I was considering buying a mixer, a quick check of the product and company address tells me not to touch it with a bargepole. One of the ‘company’ addresses has a number of other companies all operating from the same trading estate unit ranging from web design, laundry and distribution.

The question is are how are these products vetted as safe? Who checks they are legal?

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The appearance may not be a useful indication that two products that look the same have much in common. For example, two similar cars may be quite different: petrol or diesel, large engine or small, and many other differences. Counterfeiting and copying are common too, and the more expensive the product the greater the temptation to produce lookalikes.

Duncan regularly warns us about products from China for good reason, but many well established companies have products made there. It depends on how careful the manufacturer is in checking that goods do conform to the appropriate standards. Having said that, I do share your concerns, Alfa.

I have noticed this sort of thing for a long time Duncan.

If buying something from a company I have never heard of, I check them out first. Occasionally something just doesn’t look right and I delve a bit further. Company name, number, directors, addresses, google maps, etc, can all uncover quite a web. A product apparently sold by several companies all turn out to be from the same company. A company address looks like a deserted building or can be a missing number in a residential road. Other buildings only exist as postal addresses for many companies who otherwise have nothing to do with them.

I once uncovered a product being sold on ebay. It was sold by different sellers in many countries with the contact details always in a different country to where the product was sold. But all the sellers had one thing in common – the VAT number registered in the Netherlands. I informed ebay but they did nothing about it even though sellers had a lot of negative comments.

These things are all meant to deceive us but who checks up on them? Who can we report them to? The Chinese site claims their products have the necessary accreditations but are they genuine?

It’s very common to sell products under two or more names. I bought two small inverters, one branded Nikkai (the manufacturer) and the other branded Maplin. I have not dismantled them but I suspect that the only difference is the label. Many manufacturers sell the same or very similar products under different brands for major retailers. Occasionally the retailer does mention the manufacturer, but that is the exception.

I have no idea about the legality of what you have uncovered, but it does sound suspicious. Trading Standards should look into safety issues but might not be interested in a suspected problem. I have had a couple of problems with Amazon not taking responsibility for products sold by their Marketplace traders.

One simple way of dodging problems with Amazon and their marketplace traders is to just not use them.

A lot of these inexpensive Chinese made products can also be purchased from UK shops. As I see it, buying there helps to secure employment for UK residents and sorely needed tax income for UK government.

Also, many of these shops won’t mind if you want to carefully examine the product before you decided whether or not to buy it.

And, if you do have a problem with a product, you can just take it back to the retailer for a refund.

I have been avoiding Amazon for years for a variety of reasons, one being that I don’t think it’s healthy to have giant multinational companies.

Detailed product information is usually available online these days, but looking at goods in shops and asking questions can help. If in doubt I would ask the retailer about the suitability of a product and on a couple of occasions I have returned products when advice has proven incorrect.

I have never taken a recalled product back to a shop because the manufacturers have made arrangements on the few occasions that I have had an affected product.

I agree with not using Amazon and I will always buy locally or anywhere else if I can.

I bought a kettle off Amazon as an identical replacement for one where the lid had broken. That kettle with the same brand name and product code had a non-standard filter and caught fire – luckily causing no damage. So lesson learned in not buying electricals from Amazon.

A High Street retailer with one shop will find it much harder to avoid taxes than an on-line retailer trading under various names and giving various addresses.

The thing is though, where do you draw the line between fakes and products produced for multiple brands?

I think all products should state the factory where the product was made. If smelly kettles had a factory code, then maybe the source of the problem could have been found and remedied. Factory codes could still be fake of course, but it would be a start in accountability.

We need Trading Standards more than ever with more and more dodgy practices being uncovered.

Providing information about where products are made could also act as a deterrent against dodgy practices, so I support your suggestion.

This Convo is as good as anywhere to push Which? to take up the issue of the current inadequacy of Trading Standards. Which? has had contact with Peterborough Trading Standards, which is the Primary Authority dealing with the Whirlpool tumble dryer case. A few of us recognise the failings of TS, which appear to be mainly down to underfunding, but it’s not an issue like nuisance calls, banks and energy companies, where there is considerable public pressure to take action.

I think we will need an active and effective Trading Standards/Consumer Protection system more than ever post-Brexit; developing the service and investing in it should be one of the dividends of leaving the EU.

Thank you to everyone for your comments on this. Peter is on holiday at the moment so thought I would jump in (@wavechange I’ll be sure to pass on your thanks to him on his return). I know there were some questions about what Which? has been doing on this and wanted to update everyone. We have been meeting with parliamentarians to make the case for fundamental reform of the current regime. This includes reviewing the role of local Trading Standards and creating a new national body for consumer product safety.

Just last month we published a policy paper on this which I wanted to point people to if they are interested: http://www.staticwhich.co.uk/documents/pdf/strengthening-the-consumer-product-safety-regime-467301.pdf

As has been said earlier, this is a good review of the current situation. It would be good to see a supplement where “Which?” make a specific proposal, to seed a debate, on how we should register particular “higher risk” products such as household electrical domestic appliances, who should operate the system and how information can be fed in, retrieved and automatically passed to affected consumers, and how it could be funded. Non-expert government needs to be given specific proposals that can be developed. Plenty of relevant proposals have been made in Convos.

Thanks Colum. I do hope that Which? will push for a comprehensive solution that will help those in rented homes and owners of secondhand products. Which? has made some significant contributions to public safety over the years.

I worked out the risks, I think it fair to say this isn’t a high one.

Working on the assumptions that there’s there’s roughly 27 million homes in the UK each with a conservative average of around 3 appliances per home meaning that there are probably at least 90 million in use daily in the UK alone.

Add up all the fires as is being reported in the media, all the attributed appliances and you get a risk of 0.00095% over that two year period and, if you have that per year, it’s less than half of one thousandth of a percentage point.

Us them all, including ones that could be a total non-event, bering failures, motors, belts burning, food on fire and so forth and you get it up to 0.01064% in two years, half it for one.

In short, so low it actually points to appliances being ludicrously safe things overall.

I’d have thought there were most pressing and important issues to deal with. But please, don’t let little things like facts get in the way of a good story. 😉


I agree with the risk analysis. However, as has been pointed out, deaths are involved and if the risk of an appliance, say, causing a serious problem can be mitigated sensibly (which is what risk assessment entails) then it is a step forward.

Indesit dryers illustrate the problem I believe we should be addressing. With a compulsory registration system a large proportion of those with dryers that have an admitted flaw in their design could have been contacted with information and instructions on what to do. As it was everyone was fumbling in the dark relying upon adverts and people taking notice, apart from the wholly incompetent way Hotpoint and Peterborough dealt with the problem.

When an appliance fails we must not automatically assume there is a major problem – fault, misuse, abuse happen. But popular hue and cry can take over. Is there any evidence from other users that the model of fridge-freezer recently linked to the fire is in anyway defective as a product? Do we yet know why it caught fire? But if such incidents are reported – through Trading Standards say – and the cause verified, feeding this information to those who develop safety standards can lead to improvements. We must continually learn.

Perhaps a more important part of the role will be for a central body to uncover illegal products and prosecute the importers and distributors. Whether fake products, with fake certification, or illegal 2 pin plugs, we need deterrents.

A great deal of effort has gone into making cars safer and for good reason, given the number of accidents. As I have said at length elsewhere, I see opportunities to make white goods safer and to allow for the fact that users do not always follow the instructions carefully.

I think the statistics researched by The Sun and then regurgitated by do not distinguish between (i) appliances with design faults, (ii) appliances with sound design but manufacturing faults and (iii) life-expired appliances that have been “run till failure”, i.e. worked to death, until the appliance caught fire, in those particular cases.

Better product recalls ought to help with items (i) and (ii) above, but won’t help much with item (iii).

People don’t always pay attention to audible or visual indications that not all is well, and continue using appliances, cars, etc. I was once on a bus and the driver did not heed strange noises or the smell of hot oil. I went to have a word with the driver and saw that the oil pressure light was lit. He said that he would get it checked when he was back at the depot – and soon after the engine seized. The bearings of a tumble dryer might fail and be ignored, but why not design the machine so that if a fire does start it is contained and will not set the room on fire?

They are.

In so far is reasonably practical and cost effective.

Old ground, retreading.


What price human life and suffering? I don’t recall anyone mentioning the firefighters, who put their lives at risk.

Sadly, people won’t pay for it.

If you want to raise the standards…. oh wait, we’ve been here before, over and over, round and around and it all comes back to, change the standards.

There’s no point complaining and not doing anything to change the standards and to do that you need to effect change on international legislation.

And what about the policemen and women, NHS workers, scaffolders… lots of professions carry a certain amount of risk, the fire service is not unique in this and I respect them all, not just a select group.


ICYMI: The London Fire Brigade put out a statement yesterday warning that there may be more deaths from fires started by faulty white goods if the government does not introduce safety recommendations made some 12 months ago. Here’s the story as it appeared in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/aug/21/london-fire-brigade-calls-for-urgent-action-on-electrical-goods-safety-tumble-dryer

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Services and Products, had this to say on the subject:
‘The current product safety system is broken and potentially putting people’s lives at risk. The government must put consumers first by creating a national body to lead on product safety and a ‘one-stop-shop’ to provide information and advice on dangerous products and recalls.’

And that’s a fine and noble sentiment I’ve no truck with at all.

Practicalities of it I do.

For a start, who’s to foot the bill for this system? Ultimately it will land with consumers who are also taxpayers so one way or another, we’d all pay for it.

Next, even if you do register all these products and, that’d be a Herculean task as you’d need to encompass almost anything with a plug on it, how do you then notify people?

I’ve been involved in several large scale recalls and the number of owners that completely ignore repeated warnings even when it’s a very real and present danger is just staggering as, it didn’t suit them to do anything about it.

That is of course, if they bothered to register in the first place.

If you want retailer to do it, they will want paid for their time. Can’t say I blame them as my staff don’t work for free and it would be wholly unreasonable to expect them to take on those additional efforts for free. All the more so if any responsibility is passed to them, which could lead to a sharp rise in insurance premiums. And, that’d just get added to the price tag.

Then to pass that over to an entity that is expected to keep all this data safe and secure, man it all, maintain it all, track it all requiring goodness knows how much infrastructure in terms of premises, IT, staff and all the rest. To accomplish that would cost many, many tens of millions of pounds to establish and likely many tens of millions to maintain every year.

Those many, many millions of pounds have to come from somewhere.

Or you do it on the cheap and accept that the data will leak, it might not work very well, marketers will get it, it’ll not be properly run and probably it’ll die off in time. Even at that it’d likely cost a small fortune.

Essentially there’s no easy way.

I get the system for recalls is broken to non-existent and I get that something needs done about it but what makes practical sense is highly debatable at best.

Simply calling on government to provide a “one stop shop” with no clear direction on what, by who, how, when and how much is probably going to prove utterly pointless and extremely likely to be completely ignored.

Meanwhile some organisations, even supposed “charitable” ones may well be circling like vultures to provide an answer for a pot of gold.


The London Fire Brigade were listed as being members of the BSI Committee that deals with the safety standards for household electrical appliances. Which? could be on this same committee. A wide range of other bodies are. So they should be in a position to contribute to and influence the standards that apply to domestic appliances, and make public their concerns if their expert views were not taken into proper account.

We have international standards governing the safety of household electrical appliances, and currently UK and international groups working on the specific topic of fire in such appliances.

As Kenneth has pointed out, the incidence of fires, considering the number of appliances and the number of households, is very small. And we don’t know what were caused by inherent faults, misuse or abuse. But we need to make sensible efforts always to improve product safety.

I am currently much more concerned about the fire safety of buildings, after the revelations following the Grenfell fire. Have the same headlines been raised by the LFB about what seems to be a failure of building regulations, or those specifying building construction and materials? Have the LFB not been aware of these deficiencies over the years. It was this failure, for causes yet to be revealed, that lead to so many deaths – far more than domestic appliances have caused.

I have suggested sprinkler systems should be installed in at least the kitchens of multi-occupant buildings. Fires start for all sorts of reasons – including cooking, candles, smoking, mischief – and I’d have thought the aim should be to tackle the fire automatically, whatever its cause, to prevent harm to other residents.

We have in these Convos proposed a compulsory registration system and I, for one, have asked Which? to comment and make specific proposals as to how such a system could be brought into operation – driven by Trading Standards for example.

I’m a little tired of hearing the description “broken” attached to so many topics. What I want is to see positive proposals made to mend the breakage, or put something better in its place. Is Which? working on this?

Compulsory registration at point of sale.
Levy on sale price to fund the system.
Notify by email, text, or post.
If the consumer ignores it, that is their responsibility. (However, if they do and their appliances causes harm to others they should be open to legal action).
I propose Trading Standards as one example of a suitable provider. I’d like to see their role rer-established and strengthened.
Data protection or consumer protection? Which data is going to be a risk?
I would have though a university could put its talents to good use by putting the software together – and maybe even hosting the system?

Until we make an attempt to establish a system, nothing will happen. We do not have to do everything at once; start with those products that pose the greatest known risk. Major kitchen appliances for example.

Perhaps the risk of invalidating insurance by continuing to use a recalled appliance might be an incentive to act promptly.

In reverse Malcolm….

I don’t think that large domestic appliances (LDAs) are the greatest risk by an order of magnitude from what I’ve read the greater danger is power adaptors, extensions and so on along with the perennial favourites like smoking et all.

Focussing on a small incident and low risk group seems, well daft really.

I doubt the uni’s will want to know.

Data is valuable for marketing, someone will want it and, will pay for it. It is a security risk an especially if online.

TS, agreed.

Legal action, likely legislative change and to prosecute someone who’s home got destroyed (or partially) as well as a neighbours or whatever is likely not going to be viewed well, yes we know you lost everything and a family member but we’re going to prosecute you anyway but it’s okay, your insurance will cough up. Does’t play well in The Sun etc I expect.

But there’s another thing, why is home contents insurance not compulsory as, if the damage from the minimal amount of instances were covered you’d likely not see much on this at all?


If people even have it, see above.


I would not exclude the possibility that a university might take on software development and even run an experimental recall system, but it’s not the role of universities to maintain a database.

The problems with adaptors, chargers, and the like seem to be mainly due to dangerous counterfeit goods, or to misuse.

I would have agreed with that – and in the main still do – had it not been for the Indesit problem. Here we have a huge number of potentially dangerous machines, seemingly through a design fault, that should all be rectified or replaced to protect the public. Yet we cannot, because we do not know who owns many of them. So the danger cannot be substantially removed. This points to the need for a means of communicating safety problems that need remedy directly to as wmany of the owners as possible. It will not be perfect – owners who ignore, secondhand sales, for example- but it will be far better than we have now. hopefully it will be a little used system in “anger”.

I take your point about the small devices; are these “legitimate” – properly tested and genuinely safety marked or are they grey imports? If they were compulsorily registered then we’d be able to deal with the problem before it got out of hand and, hopefully, prosecute the UK or European distributor if fakes were involved.

Do universities not operate enterprises? Perhaps they could. Which? do……….might be more profitable than India or mortgages and rather appropriate to part of their aims? Direct involvement with product problems found from manufacturers and consumers could enhance their reports. 🙂 I’d still favour trading standards; they’ve a good role to rebuild.

It’s more about buildings and life insurance if there were a fire, i’d think 🙂 It is the others who are affected as well as the “perpetrator”.

in 2015/6 out of 31367 dwelling fires, 4328 were caused by faulty appliances and leads, but 16343 by misuse of equipment and appliances, carelessness, placing articles to close to heat, and other accidental causes.

I’d suggest tackling the fires automatically – sprinklers – would be the first defence that would tackle 100% of the causes – particularly where your negligence (16343) might impact on innocent parties.

Unless anyone can provide evidence to the contrary, I believe that a heat-pump dryer is a safer alternative to a condenser or vented tumble dryer, both of which contain a heater operating at very high temperature. One of the concerns about the latter types is that a build-up of lint can come in contact with the heater as a result of failure to clean the filter.

Heat-pump dryers are now widely available. They are slower and more expensive but use less power.

When I was a young child we had an electric fire with exposed elements (there were no RCDs to help protect agains electrocution in the 1950s) but these were phased out in interests of safety. Maybe it’s time to think about consigning condenser and vented tumble dryers to the museum.

There’s some truth to that but it’s a bit misrepresentative to say that heat pumps use less energy as such and expect massive savings as you point out, they run a lot longer so there’s a degree of natural drying taking place.

It turns out that this whole physics malarky has something to do with the energy used to heat to evaporate a set amount of liquid. I’m not an expert but all that physics stuff kinda makes sense. 😉

Oh and then there’s the extra energy, water and raw materials used to make them. The additional carbon burnt transporting all that extra “stuff” and all the waste at end of life. Not to mention the butane gas used that’s highly flammable and nobody wants to repair as, it’s hard, fiddly and costs a fortune to be Gas Safe Registered.

Then on top of all that you have to rely on users cleaning them religiously or they block, use more energy, take longer and die.

Atop all that, you’re asking people to pay a 100-300% premium for all that.

Not what I’d call a great plan all things considered and overall, whole life considered, I’d wager you’d be talking a few percentage points of difference in overall energy use over that whole life.

I know it sounds great on paper but out in the real world and for sure they are, so far at least, safer but somehow I just don’t see that as a cure for tumble dryers.

The best tumble dryer there is is a bit of rope and some pegs. Perfectly safe, never goes on fire and uses no energy.


But you also have to look at how reliable and safe conventional tumble dryers are. Around 0.003% were involved in fire incidents. However, safety improvements are always good. But no reason to discard them. As many incidents were caused by washing machines. More by candles (2x), smoking (13x), electrical distribution (16x,) cooking (36x). Far more important candidates to address first, I would have thought.

Ken – I think we can agree on the benefits of drying outdoors, weather permitting, but it’s difficult for those without gardens or living in flats.

Many spend a fortune on holidays, cars, entertainment and so on. Compared with a few decades ago, white goods are pretty cheap.

I said that heat-pump driers use less power, not that they would offer massive savings.

Malcolm – In earlier Conversations you have suggested having tumble dryers that operate at a lower temperature would be safer. That’s what heat-pump dryers do, and they are widely available. If other dryers that operate at lower temperature come along, they might offer the same advantage and be simpler/cheaper. Car manufacturers seem to have had a more positive attitude to safety, at least in my opinion.

I did – lower-temperature conventional dryers seem safer – in principle. But whether we would accept longer drying times is a factor. If there are around 15 million dryers in use, some very old, some no doubt in poor condition, the number that catch fire or cause their content s to catch fire is a very very very small proportion. There are many other causes of fires, some far greater than dryers, and whilst we should improve design to mitigate such events You could ban chip pans, and save 4 times as many incidents, But that would not not help the vast majority. A blanket solution is more effective.

I think more effort should be spent on dealing with the outbreak of fire from any source – nearly 17000 a year down to, essentially, carelessness. 16500 more than tumble dryers. Sprinklers would deal with many of those before they caused too much harm. Particularly where you have many neighbours – in blocks of flats for example.

I don’t know whether bare elements were banned or whether manufacturers realised that silica-sheathed elements were safer in electric ‘fires’ but by the 60s the dangerous heaters had been phased out. How long will it take for the same to happen with condenser and vented tumble dryers? If there is a safer solution then let’s adopt it – in my view. Statistics showing how safe products are will not comfort those who lose their homes in a fire.

I am not opposed to sprinklers but even if they were introduced in all new housing, unprotected homes could remain for a long time. Many homes still have fuse boxes rather than circuit breakers and RCDs. I have a chip pan but don’t trust myelf, so I make soup in it.

You have pointed out how reliable and safe conventional tumble dryers are. I hope you are still keen to have a mandatory recall system.

Ken – This page on the Which? website gives information about drying time for different types of tumble dryer: http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/tumble-dryers/article/how-to-buy-the-best-tumble-dryer Heat-pump dryers don’t look too bad as long as you choose a good one.

Heat pumps are used to heat homes (particularly where no mains gas is available), for air conditioning and of course in the humble refrigerator.

I am aware.

The trouble with all this stuff is often that all that is really looked at is the energy consumption at point of use, not the whole life impact which often paints a totally different picture.

And, to get back the additional cost to buy a heat pump dryer in normal domestic use in energy savings will often never happen as the life of the products is shorter than the payback time.

The initial headline grabbing “Save 70% Of Energy Costs” is not the whole story by any stretch.


I fully accept that. My reasoning is that a dryer without a high temperature heater is probably a safer design.

Safer perhaps but at what cost? And, not just the raw financial cost of it, the environmental impact as well.

We’re seeing these dryers scrapped early as they are extremely difficult to work on, forget DIY repairs as that ain’t happening for most people and they are also full of very expensive complete units, especially the heat pump units that when they fail can be 50% or more of the new cost. People just bin them.

As an example I had a customer write one off a few days ago from a “German” brand, needed a heat pump unit that was over £300 and the machine was a little over four years old and cost about £700. The owner couldn’t DIY it and probably wouldn’t risk the £300 that the unit was in fact the problem but the maker wanted over £100 just to look at it.

There’s also hybrids about now, LG do at least one, that have a heater as well as the heat pump in it as people bemoan (greatly) the time that they take so, that just brings back all the same old issues once more.

So looked at as a whole, I really don’t see this as a magic bullet type solution by any means. In most cases it doesn’t even make financial sense in all honesty.


Thinking about environmental issues, which we should, surely a MUCH higher priority would be to address the problem that manufacturers of white goods can and do turn out a great deal of cheap products that are destined to have a short life and may not be economically repairable.

Your example illustrates that buying expensive products is a bit of a gamble unless you have a long guarantee or an affordable extended warranty with fair terms & conditions.

At work we had -80°C freezers, high speed centrifuges and ultracentrifuges, and high capacity ice-flakers, all of which were expensive to repair using the manufacturers’ agents. The local refrigeration engineers managed to carry out most repairs at reasonable prices. I’m not sure if they would tackle domestic heat-pump dryers but I would certainly ask.

Yes it is indeed a higher priority at least in my view it is.

But it’s much harder to achieve, doesn’t get media headlines, will take time and it seems nobody really seems to care all that much.

Partly as it’s usually a one-off here and there with most people not bothering to make much of it, they just accept it and go buy another rubbish cheap product to replace the one they binned. I believe and, it is only my opinion, that people in general have gotten conditioned in a way to accept that’s just how it is probably as many of the day-to-day products they use are cheap throwaway items. The idea of trying to repair it and all that hassle and inconvenience is simply unwanted, even if that isn’t the truth of it.

But it’s very unfair to tarnish merely the appliance industry with that brush, look at any. From furniture, to cars, to electronics, gardening equipment… it’s just how the world is now.

So in order to alter that, you need to make huge changes to the way that people think and behave and that’s not an easy thing to do.

Altering legislation isn’t easy but, it’s a whole heap easier than altering the thinking of a generation. But if you go down that road simply insisting on some sort of warranty isn’t the answer and, were I in a position and of a mind to do so as a maker, I’d get round that in a heartbeat. That’s easy to beat.

If you want robust methods, that’s hard.


As I have said before, a start would be to encourage consumers to look for decent guarantees, but legislation is the ultimate answer and the sooner we start the better. I’m going to leave it there for now because this Convo is supposed to be about safety.

I learned about a new government portal about recalls last year but I don’t recall posting a link: https://productrecall.campaign.gov.uk/#BQyHgRTkqTFFuDDs.97

Some data on tumble dryer fires obtained from London Fire Brigade last year. Sorry about the format.

2016/17 (up to 06/11/2016.)
Spin dryer
Tumble dryer – Condensing (added as new category from 1st November 2014 )

Tumble dryer – Standard
Washer/Dryer combined
Grand Total

Without information about the relative numbers of each product in use it’s difficult to interpret these data. I had hoped to obtain data about fires involving heat-pump dyers but either none were recorded or they are included with condenser dryers.

Phil says:
23 August 2017

During my time at Which? in the early 90s I did a fire safety project and all the fire brigades we contacted were unanimous that tumble dryers were the leading cause of house fires (followed by fairy lights). What proportion were due to design or manufacturing faults I don’t know, I suspect the majority were down to misuse, overloading etc.

Whatever the make of dryer or washer dryer I would never run it overnight or when I was out of the house.

The same goes for fairy lights.

Recent Government statistics for England show the recorded causes of domestic fires for the years 2011 – 2016, From those data the mean number per year are:

Total Accidental 29666
Faulty fuel supplies 2349
Faulty appliances and leads 4761
Misuse of equipment or appliances 10836
Chip/fat pan fires 1987
Playing with fire 262
Careless handling of fire or hot substances 2859
Placing articles too close to heat 3366
Other accidental 3217
Unspecified 31

Fairy lights and tumble dryers are not counted specifically, but would be counted into both “Faulty appliances and leads” and “Misuse of equipment or appliances”.

From these data, it seems that a better product recall system might be able to eventually reduce the instances of appliance fires by a few thousand per year or by up to about 5% – 15% of the current total.

Hi Phil – I would be interested to know if your project work with Which? was the reason for not running dryers overnight. The fire services regularly advise against leaving appliances on at night.

Phil says:
26 August 2017

I think it pre-dates that. Certainly advice to switch off TV sets goes back decades.

From the conclusions and recommendation section of the recent Which? document (Colum has posted a link above):

“Fundamental reform: a centralised approach
Most of the weaknesses identified with the regulatory framework could be addressed if there was much stronger independent oversight and centralised expertise that would provide sufficient challenge to company responsibilities for ensuring safety – and crucially, ensure effective action when a safety problem is identified.
There are a range of options for how a national consumer product safety body could operate and international experience can be informative in designing a new model.
The key features of such a body would be:
 Independence from those it regulates
 A requirement to put consumer interests first
 Transparency in how it operates
 A pro-active approach to market surveillance
 A centre of expertise on product safety
 Ability to identify potential trends, gather intelligence and co-operate with
international partners
 A duty to directly communicate and engage with consumers to ensure they are aware of safety issues.”

It might be interesting to discuss these points.

Might we start with some productive discussions on how to fund these benefits?

It seems to me that the primary beneficiaries will be householders whilst the secondary beneficiaries will include domestic insurance companies (who stand to gain via lower costs for remedying fire damage).

So do we all want “something for nothing” or should we be prepared to pay somehow?

That’s a good point. The costs will ultimately fall on the taxpayer and consumer, so it’s important that we get good value for money. It’s all very well suggesting mandatory product registration, but perhaps it would be best to start with white goods and add specific classes of products such as portable electric heaters, on the basis of past problems.

I would hope that a national body would be able to identify some common weaknesses and suggest how they could be addressed, which would save time and money for everyone.

One of my concerns is that the cases of plug-in power supplies, chargers and other items are usually held together with some sort of adhesive, replacing the screws used in earlier designs. I have had three items affected by this problem in the past two years and perhaps all that is needed is to inform owners to check that the casing is firmly held together. Perhaps it would be better to require manufacturers to go back to using screws – either with or without adhesive. That could save expensive recalls.

Market surveillance is mentioned and I would hope that a national body would be able to make use of information about problems to identify potential problems, so that relevant products can be examined and appropriate action taken if necessary.

Cost should not be an issue. The consumer will benefit, and should pay for the system directly through a levy at the point of purchase.

The Which? document is good, but falls short in not making a proposal for a working system. I’ve proposed Trading Standards as the custodian, possibly contracting a university to put the software together, and a levy to fund it. Others may have alternative solutions. But while we talk just in vague terms….we’ll talk forever. Government needs help to put proposals together. It usually contacts a “consultant” company at huge expense to do its thinking for it. No need to. Listen to consumers. I’d like a specific proposal put together by Which? to get this moving.

Cost is a very big issue. We can all make our suggestions but the debate and plans need to be made by those who are well informed. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to comment on draft proposals. I was disappointed that this did not happen in the case of the smart meter roll out, where many of us feel that the benefits to the consumer have been outweighed by the costs.

From my point of view, the most important thing is that Which? keeps us well informed of progress and the opportunity to comment.

While you and I are keen on a mandatory registration system, what should it cover?

I do so hate to point out the obvious Malcolm and I’m not doing anything other than that but cost is of course an issue as, nobody has the cash to set this sort of thing up. In my view, it’s the first issue and the most fundamental that would need looked at regardless of what anyone wanted to do.

I mean government doesn’t have any money, we know that all too well, all we need to do is watch the news to see that. Plus they’ve much more to be going on with presently than this which, statistically, appears as a minor issue if it gets to that level more likely viewed as a non-problem. Therefore government will just let the market sort itself out.

TS et all have no cash and if anything, that’s being eroded. They can’t get funding from government as they don’t have any.

Which? couldn’t fund it. They’ve got a declining audience as well.

Manufacturers won’t.

Retailers just won’t.

Brand owners won’t want to know.

So that leaves you with a levy to build funds and the only way you’d get that is through legislation and that’d take years and would be challenged in court, I can 100% guarantee it would be. So you need the funds for a legal scrap as well that will almost for sure end up in the highest court in the land.

Finding a kind soul that will front untold tens of millions into a pot that offers no ROI is extremely unlikely to happen.


Some think the government does have unlimited funds. However, it will find money to set up necessary services, and with Indesit and Grenfell (maybe wrongly, but the latter regrettably highlights an issue) there is pressure and the govt. has recognised this. It has said it does not want to run the system but acknowledges one is needed, and therefore by implication that it will have to provide the funding to set it up.

The levy will just pay for registration and running costs plus, I would hope, sufficient to begin to fund better Trading Standards. They should be taxpayer funded, but if purchasers registering appliances chip in, I have no problem with that. Whatever method of funding is chosen, the customer or taxpayer will end up carrying the cost.

What I do hope is that it will not outsource it to one of the disreputable service companies that fail miserably to meet their obligations; all they will be interested in is a ROI.

And that’s the point I was making earlier and in the trade forums as well, it will be passed to a commercial business or a supposed “charity” and they will look to profit from it, without doubt.

If they’ve got to pour millions into it or resources then they will be looking for some sort of ROI, if commercial least 20-30% or it’s not worth doing and even that’s conservative.

Then you’ve got the monumental problem of getting everyone to comply which, I know might sound easy but, in practise it really isn’t. Even advertising it would cost a mint.


It is very sad that it has taken the Whirlpool problems and Grenfell Tower incident to bring product safety to widespread public notice. I would like to capitalise on this and see action, not just listen to a hundred and one reasons why things cannot be done.

I will restate this once more, with feeling…

There is not a shred of evidence to demonstrate that Hotpoint or the fridge freezer alleged to be central to the Grenfell incident is indeed the culprit. In fact there’s several suggestions as to cause.

This has been very widely misreported and even blatantly stated on mainstream media that it was the cause but, there is no evidence to support that and if I were Whirlpool, I’d be considering suing some of them as these reports are 100% false.

Until the inquest is completed and there’s actual evidence to support a conclusion I think it best to leave that one be.

The dryers well, we’ve been over that and my own view of all that is that was a stunt that went very, very wrong for Whirlpool.

I had this discussion a while back, it’s all well and good calling for action but, what action, by whom and who’s paying for it all?


As we have said many times. What is Which? doing to actively move this important consumer issue forward? I recognise the value of their report, but it is quite wide ranging. I think we need to focus on it a chunk at a time otherwise it will all look too daunting. That should be, in my view, those electrical appliances that are most at risk. We should put forward possible practical ways of setting up and operating the system necessary. A bit of hard work for someone – but some suggestions have been made already.

I totally agree about Grenfell, and was disappointed that Which? publicised this in a Convo. Grenfell was a failure of the building – or so it seems.

I’m very glad that Which? publicised the Grenfell Tower incident. It helps make the public aware of the consequences of multiple failings in consumer protection in our country and since a fridge-freezer has been suggested to be the source of the fire, it is easy to see the value of householders being notified of products that need urgent attention. That’s not implying that the actual FF was faulty and that model had not been reported as a problem prior to the incident.

I wonder how many fires and other accidents are as a result of products that have been recalled. Some have bandied about figures but no account is taken of ‘near miss’ incidents, for example when a house fire has been averted by prompt action of someone present at the time.

Kenneth wrote: “There is not a shred of evidence to demonstrate that Hotpoint or the fridge freezer alleged to be central to the Grenfell incident is indeed the culprit. In fact there’s several suggestions as to cause.

This has been very widely misreported and even blatantly stated on mainstream media that it was the cause but, there is no evidence to support that and if I were Whirlpool, I’d be considering suing some of them as these reports are 100% false.”

The handling of the earlier tumble dryer modification/replacement following the issue of a safety notice and Whirlpool being forced to revise its advice to those who had affected dryers still waiting for attention is well known. I suspect that if Whirlpool considered suing the media they would do their tarnished reputation even more harm.

This was a Hotpoint fridge freezer, not an Indesit, and so far their has been no statement as far as I am aware as to how it came to “catch fire”. What was wrong was to suggest, as Which? did ‘If it turns out that faults in this fridge-freezer caused the fire to start at Grenfell Tower, this raises serious questions about the safety of these products.. I rather see that as unnecessary scare mongering. As in maybe causing owners to worry, without any evidence that they should.

Both are currently owned by Whirlpool and the company has a widely publicised notice inviting owners to contact them: https://www.hotpointservice.co.uk/fridgefreezer

This obviously provides publicity and I see this as a responsible action that gives the company the opportunity for worried owners to find out more. At present there is nothing to suggest that the fridge-freezer in question is a greater risk than other FFs, though I can see opportunities for manufacturers to design appliances that can contain fire.

The suggestion that the FF in question was the source of the fire came from a witness statement and was well publicised before Which? made the comment you have quoted, so I don’t think Which? do deserve criticism.

Appliances that contain fire are of little use if the source was not internal within it. 😉

And you see all the stuff about ventilation requirements in virtually every handbook you can find? Well, you need ventilation as many products require it in order to function therefore closed off and sealed machines are technically and physically not possible as I have said before many times.

Continually restating that sealed products that contain fire are top of the wish list will not in any way change the laws of physics.

Many need to draw cool air in and expel warm or hot air, there’s no getting around it.


I presume that you are saying that appliances cannot have a metal casing that would contain fire. I disagree. Let’s take the example of a fridge or freezer because they are left running unattended and need to be as safe as practically possible. I expect that the sides are steel. The door is bound to be steel in order to have something to stick fridge magnets to. Unfortunately, the top, back and base may not be steel and might not contain fire. Make all the case of steel and a fire should go out once the oxygen has been depleted. I learned that at school. Having a condenser on the rear panel does not affect the ability to contain fire as long as the connecting pipes do not pass through unnecessarily large holes.

To allow cooling without affecting the ability to contain fire is not difficult. Think of a modern fan-assisted condensing boiler. The fan is within the flue but the fan motor is separated from hot corrosive flue gases. A similar principle could be used for appliances. Heat exchange helps remove surplus heat without fans, as in fridges where the condenser is within the sides of the case.

I know you disagree but disagreement doesn’t alter facts or physics.

On a fridge there’s perhaps three or four possibly sources of ignition depending on the design or specification.

A condenser fan motor, compressor safety device, electronic PCB and perhaps a start/run capacitor. That’s it.

Fan motor other than a little plastic, no combustable parts or materials.

Overload/klixon, ditto.

PCB, ditto.

Capacitor, ditto.

So all in all, there’s next to nothing to cause any concern. Sure if one goes and it’s really bad you’ll maybe get a bit of smoke but, that’s about all you’ll see, you would not get open flames.

And this is where knowledge of them and my being able to tell you this comes into play as, unless evidence can be provided to the contrary 99.9% of all supposed “fire” incidents I have ever seen on a domestic refrigeration product have been as a result of ventilation problems and/or installed in such a manner as to cause danger and/or other factors such as items fallen onto these items and/or them not cleaned, covered in flammable dust etc.

So the whole premise of the danger being down to product design is, in my view, a fallacy. Like the whole plastic back debacle with LFB, it’s a red herring.

And, as demonstrated in the above explanation your school hood days should also have taught that, if there’s not anything to combust, it won’t unless you alter the circumstances.

Hence my comments on several occasions that when I see one accused of causing some sort of fire I am immediately extremely skeptical of the claim, check out the model and/or range, see the layout and what’s in it and by extension, what can go on fire, what is combustable.

In most cases there is very, very little.

The condenser pipework is ordinarily sealed using a resin or putty like substance that’s non-flammable as the pipework and cabinet must be able to expand/contract as required. It is inert and carries no danger.

The gas, even R600a is in minute quantities in domestic units, perhaps a max of about 50g in most normally. Less than many a cheap disposable cigarette lighter.

Many “plastic” although correctly resin backs are now non flammable or flame resistant.

I hope I have adequately demonstrated what I suppose I would reluctantly admit being an expert on this topic to some degree, I know precisely what causes issues, how and what can be down within reason to prevent danger. The short of that is, without incurring huge bordering on punitive costs to consumers, not much.

Metal backs will not prevent any fires at all. It might slow them a bit if there is an incident but that’s the best it’d achieve as, by the time a resin back or the foam starts to burn the kitchen and surrounding units will already be ablaze so, it’s a pointless precaution in my view. An unnecessary cost that ultimately accomplishes little if anything.

Enhancement to safety, virtually none.

On most other large domestic appliances you can apply almost the same logic and on most ultimately arrive at the same conclusion.

So all the calls for metal backed fridges and so forth will cost the public a pretty penny and not enhance their safety one jot in most if not all instances. Therefore, in my view a pointless thing to push for and a notion that the industry would likely dismiss out of hand for the reasons as above.

Unless of course someone can provide hard evidence to prove otherwise?


I don’t see much point in continuing this discussion. Incidentally, I do have some knowledge of chemistry and physics. ‘Resin’ is a term commonly used for plastic. You know as well as I do that there have been recalls because of the risk of fire in refrigeration appliances. I’m not sure how having an all-metal case would result in near punitive costs.

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Thanks Duncan. The first link did not work, but this seems to be the URL: https://www.consumerreports.org/home-safety/how-appliances-catch-fire/

If I could be bothered I might challenge a few claims made in this Conversation. Here is one: “The gas, even R600a is in minute quantities in domestic units, perhaps a max of about 50g in most normally. Less than many a cheap disposable cigarette lighter.” A similar statement is made in one of the comments on the Consumer Reports article. I took a lighter, filled it up and the total weight was 18g. Most of the weight is plastic.

Should have read, “Many containing less…”, I knew what I meant. 😉

But I urge you to look at these tests again, look especially at the heat source. It is not in any way, shape or form a realistic test. You would severely struggle to recreate that out in the real world, if it were even possible. Especially so if you are looking at the appliance in isolation with no other external factors in play then I’d say this was more or less impossible to happen in the way shown.

Therefore insofar as I am concerned that is a totally bogus test that is little more than scaremongering. Why the LFB have done that I can’t speak to.

But I reiterate once more, other that this bogus test there is zero evidence, not a scrap to say that a metal back on a refrigeration product will enhance safety at all.

To say stuff like that is, to me, like saying all garden huts should be metal as if a fire starts wooden ones burn easier, it’s just completely stupid. Pointless as you’re not addressing the problem, merely treating the symptoms an even that’s debatable.


The USA report linked to says “Refrigerators are one of the leading causes of kitchen fires after ranges and microwaves. Consumer Reports analyzed appliance fires in a 2012 report, “. It might be in the USA, but apparently not in the UK – at 214 they come below dishwashers, tumble driers, …….cooking appliance 8256.

It is disturbing to see a picture of Grenfell Tower burning as part of their headline “A Hotpoint refrigerator is blamed for the fatal tower fire in London”. No mention of the allegedly flawed building structure that otherwise would have resulted in no fatalities, and probably no injuries.

Yeah I get that there’s these sorts of reports and stats banded about and to be honest I put little stock in them as, insofar as actual investigation goes, they’re usually very lacking.

They often don’t stand up to scrutiny but do make for good press.

To demonstrate what I mean you have claims made like that but no details.

What you have is a fire incident report, that’s what they work off to compile this stuff and that could be a false alarm, could be a burning pan, grill pan fire, belt smoking, burnt out mains filter, dust… whatever. The point is you’ve got not a clue why the fire services were called only that they were and that it related to X, Y or Z product or reason.

You have zero evidence that demonstrates any danger at all.

But where the press etc get a hold of these numbers they’re often on it like a rash, even though the backing for some of the claims being made is flaky to downright dodgy.

The like of the LFB say they have XXX incidents due to X, Y, Z products but completely fail to explain the severity, reasons or even rank them at all. All you know is, they turned up and did something or, at least turned up, maybe if they’re not just counting phone calls only in there and you don’t know that either.

So be it here, the US or anywhere I urge great caution when looking at this sort of data as you will find if you scrutinise it that it may well not be representative of what you might assume at first glance it to be.


I’d just like Which? to think a little more carefully in how they word statements.

May has been inactive on many things, it comes down party support for big business.

From today’s news. According to research by Which? there are at least 236 fridges and freezers with flammable plastic backs on sale, representing nearly half the market.: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41336234

Even if flammable plastic backs are being phased out, there will be many fridges and freezers that have them.
How were they permitted in the first place?

This is, to me, a complete and utter nonsense.

I have brazed units with a Turbo Torch and had sustained heat on insulation for a blooming’ blowtorch and it doesn’t set alight.

It is not as flammable as is being purported by the media by a long way and I am extremely disappointed that Which? do not appear to have researched this and found that out as, so far as I can tell, this is merely a bid to grab media headlines.

Maybe that’s why in the depths of all of it it is said, it’s not really a concern.


What, to solve a problem that isn’t really a problem even as alluded to in that BBC article?

I read it last night and was very disappointed that such tripe has been made the national news and it’s also got a few factual errors on it as well as misinformation.

I can just imagine it, some people sat in a meeting room thinking, “Right here’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to get some press out this whole Grenfell thing and make a splash as it’s free advertising for us and nobody gets hurt by us shouting about it, even if it’s not true or really a problem. We’ll make out it’s a big safety issue and that people will die because of it”

As the old press adage goes, if it bleeds, it leads.

Yes, I am that jaded about what people see in the media as, just like this, stuff in my orbit that comes up I see this kind of capitalisation of headline grabbing garbage all the time.

This is poorly researched scaremongering in my view, no more. For an organisation as respected as Which? to pull this is just terrible.

All this does incite fear and trepidation in people that do not understand such things or, as many probably do not, pick up that the chances of them ever having an issue are almost about as remote as a tornado destroying a home in the UK.


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Thanks Duncan. It’s not just loss of life but people losing their homes because of products that could be made safer (at little extra cost) that concerns me.

We can avoid using washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers when we are out of the house or overnight but fridges and freezers are on all the time. It is surprising that flammable plastic backs were ever allowed.

Now that Which? is concerned about the fire safety of fridges and freezers, maybe they will look into the risks associated with the use of plastics in the cases of appliances in general.

The safety of household Fridges and freezers is dealt with in the European Standard series EN 60335. I have quoted from it before, but those who have access to it, including Which?, could examine its requirements. Section 30 deals with “Resistance to heat and fire” and 30.2 begins “Parts of non-metallic material shall be resistant to heat and the spread of fire”. Tests are specified that such parts must pass.

Let us debate this issue factually, and if there are defects in standards then explore them sensibly and logically. But using statements such as “We’re calling for manufacturers to reject inadequate current safety standards and immediately stop making non-flame retardant plastic-backed fridges, freezers and fridge freezers.” and “flammable plastic backs seems to be against what the standard says.

Why try to drive a debate with misleading information? Resistant to heat and the spread of fire is what the standard requires. Is it claimed that 236 models fail the international safety test? If so, Which? should support that.

It looks as though there are fires in less than 0.001% of fridges/freezers of whatever age, whether caused by an appliance fault, misuse, abuse or other event. Probably a sign that the safety standards have been effective. No reason not to improve them, far from it, but no reason to generate panic reports. Imagine what might be the case if there were no safety standards?

Incidentally, this is not a “British Standard” as such. It is a requirement that we adopt European standards into the British system automatically, and without revision, unless we have particular national characteristics to consider. BSI contributes to the development of international standards and is one of many countries that develop them to reach an agreed form.

It would be better for all of us if Which? engaged with BSI by joining the relevant committees. It could then keep us properly informed, and act as a conduit for Members’ and Convo contributors’ comments and “good ideas” into the international standards system.

wavechange, have you read the European standard about plastics in household electrical appliances? I know you’ve read the extracts I have given. Why continue to use the emotive term “flammable plastics” when it clearly states that non-metallic materials should be resistant to heat and the spread of fire?” I know it makes for good headlines, but let’s keep this informative.

If the standard needs to be changed then I’m all in favour, and I hope that the international standards working groups that are currently looking at this will take events and responsible comments into account.

Kenneth I understand your feelings but your negative response to the positive action taken by Which? to protect members of the general public from a recurrence of another Grenfell, suggests to me that you are putting your own interests before that of consumers.

In a previous post you answered “no” to my question ‘can a machine catch fire when not in operation’. In fact it is possible for a tumble dryer to ignite due to (a) serious fault in design, (b) power surges, which can occur following outages and (c) switching it off during its hot mid-cycle if it malfunctions or if you have to leave the house before the cooling cycle kicks in.

In light of the vast amount of evidence put forward by members of Which? community members and also members of The London Fire Brigade, on the inadequate fire safety and the lack of operational information of white goods on sale to members of the general public, maybe the time has now come to work together to ensure all domestic appliances are safe to install in people’s homes and they are suitably informed of possible design flaws when contemplating buying new.

The photos that I have posted show evidence that plastics have burned or melted and are therefore unable to prevent spread of fire. If you have an alternative explanation, I would be interested to hear it, but please avoid personal criticism.

I have read the relevant parts of the standard and have seen no specific requirement for plastic parts of the CASE to be resistant to heat and spread of fire.


I have no vested interest at all, none whatsoever.

I couldn’t give a monkey as I don’t make appliances and don’t sell appliances. So, I’ve got no horse in this race at all.

All I want is people to have facts based on proper solid evidence and not meaningless opinion and rhetoric that is often factually untrue. Simply so as people aren’t needlessly panicking over what is an almost inconsequential issue.

And there is not a scrap of evidence to support many of the assertions being made, I’m really sorry to say so as bluntly but there just isn’t.

Some photos of burnt out cars, huts, appliances, sofas are not proof of any design flaw or failure in safety standards at all, all they do is show some damage and, what? It does not tell you the cause, it does not tell you how, it does not indicate an issue at all.


What personal criticism? I have tried to make factual input, including what the current standards say. I also understand you have access to these standards Whether they are adequate or otherwise needs exploring.

The standard refers to parts of non-metallic materials under the “Resistance to heat and fire” section with specific exceptions that does not include the enclosure. Where does the standard exclude the “case” from this requirement?

However, in view of Which?’s statement I have contacted BSI for their input on this, preferably as a response to Which?. I hope it produces an informative reply so we might proceed on the basis of fact, rather than conjecture or possible mis-information. If the standard is seen to be defective and should be improved maybe we will then be in a better position to suggest and discuss changes ?

I would like to see expert input to discuss these comments so we properly understand the situation. I have said before that work is in progress on fire in household electrical appliances and I expect the sorts of comments made here and elsewhere will be in their minds when deciding what changes need to be made. If Which? were part of this (maybe they now are) they could keep us informed and reduce the speculation.

Beryl, I’m sure Kenneth can defend himself but he is far from negative. It is enormously useful to have someone commenting who is directly involved with the products concerned, and we should heed the information he provides. Calling that “negative” is unfair and I hope does not put Kenneth off contributing in the future.

We need contributions from the whole community – experts and non-experts alike. We need to examine what is provided and try to see a way to make improvements. We? I would hope that Which? would fulfil that role.

The fire services are represented on the national and internal committees for appliance safety, along with many other experts, and I’m sure their input will be as respected as anyone elses’.

Malcolm – You stated: “Why continue to use the emotive term “flammable plastics” when it clearly states that non-metallic materials should be resistant to heat and the spread of fire?” I take that as personal criticism, since the photos show that plastics have not survived fire. Either the standard is inadequate or there is a problem with compliance. What other explanation is there?

Please explain to me how some burnt plastics leads you to conclude there’s a problem with th standards?

As BSI and the collective EU agencies don’t think so or, do you know better than the collective experts in the field?


I don’t propose to continue with this, wavechange. Enough has been said. I simply want to see facts presented ( as well as opinion) which is why I have asked both Which? and BSI questions about materials, and their uses, in this context.

As an almost irrelevant aside, we have a 1 in 18 chance of being hit by a tornado in the UK…

the chances of them ever having an issue are almost about as remote as a tornado destroying a home in the UK

But would some insist we should have homes built to withstand them, just in case? Risk assessment, which not only includes the consequences of an event but also of its likelihood, is the technique normally used to assess solutions.

Malcolm, I don’t consider it “unfair” to put the interests of the safety of members of the general public before ones own interests, and yes Kenneth has already responded to my post.

Please refer to the second paragraph of my (Today 11.53) post which fairly and squarely questions information submitted by “someone directly involved in the products concerned” which, as I understand is one of the main objectives of Which? Convo’?

Let’s put the interests of consumers at the forefront of this particular debate and work together to find a positive solution to prevent the loss of more innocent people and spare a thought for those who happen to reside in high rise apartment/flats still awaiting replacement non-flame retardant panels on the exterior of their homes.

Kenneth wrote: “Please explain to me how some burnt plastics leads you to conclude there’s a problem with th standards?

As BSI and the collective EU agencies don’t think so or, do you know better than the collective experts in the field?”

As Malcolm has pointed out, the standard states that non-metallic materials should be resistant to heat and the spread of fire. The photos relate to appliances claimed to be the cause of fires and if the plastic has burned away or melted it is not going to be able to prevent spread of fire.

As I have explained before, I am keen that Which? should look into appliance fires. I don’t believe that I have made any false claims.

Edit: This was not intended to be a response to your comment, Beryl, but to one of Kenneth’s posts. Sorry.

BSI are looking in to appliance fires along with other international groups. I hope Which? will work with BSI on this topic.

Beryl, I don’t know any commenters here who have their “own interests”. They are simply expressing their views, from different standpoints, for us all to consider.

Hello, to clarify why we’ve done this, we’ve taken the precautionary position after evidence from London Fire Brigade indicated that the risk of a fire spreading is greater with non-flame retardant plastic backed models.

Our advice to those who already own one of these models is that refrigerator fires are rare and as such we’re not calling for a full product recall. Our July 2015 research into government fire data found that only 7% of fires caused by faulty appliances were caused by fridge-freezers, fridges or freezers.

Based on the evidence, we believe that non-flame retardant plastic backing material presents a safety risk due to its potential to allow an existing fire to spread – it isn’t the cause of fire itself – and future models should not be made in this way.

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I’ve been interested in these machines but not encountered one so far. The two models tested by Which? last year are rated as Don’t Buys on the basis of performance. I think we have a greater chance of success in making high quality specialist equipment than everyday household goods where price is so important and we are competing with the likes of China.

Miele manufacture in Germany, Austria, Romania and China. Bosch in Germany, China, Malaysia, Hungary and the USA. There is no reason why the UK could not manufacture similar products in the UK, using other countries as suppliers. Robotics can offset labour costs. It is good innovative design and investing in production facilities and quality that could be the road to success. China will not always offer cheap labour, as their own economy continues to grow and their people demand more wealth.

Brexit sounds as if we will need real wealth creators – manufacturing – to grow as services – largely financial – will diminish. That will mean capitalising on our innovative talents, encouraging R&D and manufacturing, and finding ways of getting the UK public to invest some of their savings in supporting these ventures, but longer term not just to make a quick quid.

It is a pity that Ebac are not succeeding. They seem to get the costs and pricing right but not the technology. It is also a pity, I think, that we reward Dyson for his business when most of the work is done in Malaysia. Given the price and profit involved manufacturing could have been done in the UK for the greater benefit of our UK economy.

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Pamela Petty was ousted a couple of years back if I recall but, long gone.

Not enough known about Ebac, seem to be very insular on service, info and parts so I don’t know much and very, very little feedback from the trade on them as yet.


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Welcome back Kenneth. Your interjections have been missed. Do you sell spare fan blades? Alfa needs some 🙂

I think these companies want you to think that their products are manufactured in Germany. I have a new Bosch hedge trimmer and GERMANY appears in block capitals, but on closer inspection it was made in Hungary. At least it is a member of the EU, rather than China.

It’s difficult for the UK to compete in white goods manufacture because we provide safe working conditions for employees, have to import materials and have to comply with legislation to minimise pollution of our small country. I think I would rather that the UK was known for high quality design, education and training rather than assembling washing machines.

If you look at, for example, Miele and Bosch websites they will tell you where their factories are. However, I really don’t mind where a product is made from a functional point of view. I didn’t buy a Miele dishwasher because it was labelled “Made in Germany”; in fact I haven’t looked to see where it was made. I bought it in reviews and Miele’s reputation. I just want it to be durable, to work well, and to be an acceptable price. What I am expecting is the design, innovation, quality, performance to be what I expect of a decent manufacturer. I have many products made in China that have stood the test of time.

However, from a nationalistic point of view I would like to see more staple products made in the UK, and ones we can also export. I believe we are quite capable of doing that. Labour is no longer a determining factor in many products, it is investment in production techniques.

EU countries have to import materials, have stringent safety legislation and restrict pollution, yet they manage. So can the UK.

I didn’t go anywhere Malcolm, I just didn’t have anything to add. Or not that would prove productive.


Malcolm – The websites don’t show what proportion of goods are made in the different countries. That information might be useful. Ask yourself why companies moved out of the UK for manufacture of staple goods and what has changed since this happened to now make this a more realistic possibility. I carried on buying UK-made goods longer than most people.

Lack of investment, labour disputes, were a contributory factor. The motor industry was a prime example We now have a thriving manufacturing sector making cars. We need to change our attitude to investing in manufacturing and other productive businesses.

However, I would not buy a British unless it was good enough.

Here is a website that does show what you might find useful

Thanks for the link, Malcolm. I still think it is better to focus on achieving a high reputation for quality goods – as Japan did in the 70s – rather than trying to produce everyday products made to a price.

I’m not suggesting we make goods at the cheap end of the market. There seems plenty of scope for “sensibly” priced and premium products.

If boosting the economy is a priority then it might be better to focus on software design and security of computer systems. I understand that this is quite profitable and with news of major security problems appearing regularly then there is certainly a market for products and services.

Perhaps we should continue the discussion elsewhere because we are well off-topic.

Well, this Convo has been about appliances but if you want to discuss the economy vis a vis services as well then why not start a new Convo or use The Lobby perhaps. It would certainly be topical.

I’m not quite sure where to put this story. I heard a chap I know recounting a recent incident when his coffee maker started smoking when he was out of the room and by the time he went to investigate it was in flames. Being a firefighter he dealt with the fire and disposed of the machine outdoors. It was encouraging to hear that he had checked for recalls, both on the Trading Standards website and from another source available to the Fire Service. Unfortunately, I could not persuade him to contact the manufacturer.

I don’t know what others would do if they had something go on fire or have another safety issue, but I would start with the manufacture and Trading Standards.

Incidentally this is the same person who confirmed to me several years ago that he has experience of incidents where the plastic cases of white goods have gone on fire.

I have previously recounted my 2 small appliances that caught fire:

– a 30ish year old Toshiba food processor. The casing held back any flames while I picked it up and threw it outside.

– a kettle. I believe this was a fake Russell Hobbs bought off Amazon. It was my second kettle of the same model. It had the wrong filter for that model that a local electrical store said was impossible.

Both occurred in my presence so I was able to deal with them and throw them outside before the fires got out of hand. I didn’t think about contacting the manufacturers or Trading Standards at the time, but on reflection I should probably have reported the kettle.

Funny you should mention the plastic casing catching fire. Only yesterday, hubby took a timer off the wall and the back looks burnt.

I certainly remember the kettle and the photos you posted. I’m not convinced it was a fake kettle, Alfa. I’ve tested pieces of plastic removed inconspicuously from the casing plastics of white goods and small electrical and all have burned rapidly, the amount of smoke varying. I’ve just tested the base of a Russell Hobbs kettle (the bottom of the kettle rather than the detachable power base) and that burned merrily with little smoke.

If anyone wants to confirm the use of flammable plastics in electrical goods they could carry out tests outdoors, obviously taking safety precautions including not breathing the smoke which could be toxic.

The blackening behind the timer could just be dirt deposited as a result of warm air rising over a long period.