/ Home & Energy

Update: it’s unacceptable that Whirlpool is still failing consumers

burnt tumble dryer

Our investigation shows that, one year on from announcing that some of its tumble dryers were at risk of catching fire, Whirlpool is still failing millions of affected UK customers.

Slow and poor service

In April this year, we investigated the Whirlpool tumble dryer safety issue, surveying 820 affected customers and conducting 30 mystery calls to the Whirlpool call centre posing as customers with affected machines. At that time, we found multiple failings in how Whirlpool was handling its customers.

In November, we carried out a second investigation. We contacted those surveyed in April again, as well as nearly 500 additional affected customers who had not previously been polled.

We found those with fire-risk dryers are still being forced to wait far too long, with one in five (22%) customers surveyed in April still waiting for their machine to be repaired or replaced.

A third (33%) of those who had since had their dryer repaired or replaced said they were dissatisfied with how the manufacturer had handled the situation.

One quarter (26%) of affected customers were told they would have to wait longer than six months for their tumble dryer to be repaired.

Marlon says: ‘I was contacted by email last winter informing me that it would be done in March. March came and went then another email with June as the modification month. No contact in June. Another email in August asking if I would like another tumble dryer, at a reduced price, instead of waiting for the modification to take place. After looking at the reviews of the models offered on Which, I decided I would not take up the new machine offer. So now I wait, a year on.’

One in five (22%) were told that the wait would be between three and six months.

We found widespread concern among customers, with six in ten (62%) of those we surveyed for the first time in November 2016 worried about using their tumble dryer, despite Whirlpool’s advice to continue to do so.

Potentially dangerous advice

In addition to being forced to wait far too long, we found Whirlpool giving a customer incorrect and potentially dangerous advice.

Last month, our mystery shoppers made another 30 calls to the Whirlpool call centre.

One of those callers was told that their machine was not affected. This was incorrect as we gave the call centre a model number of a dryer we knew was on the list. They even told us to throw any letters received about the safety notice ‘in the rubbish’.

On three occasions, mystery shoppers were told to contact the shop they bought the machine from for a replacement.

We also found long waits for a customer ID number that needs to be issued before anything can happen in the repair or replacement process.

Despite Whirlpool committing to reducing the waiting time for a customer ID number to 10 days, Which? found some call handlers quoting 6-12 weeks to mystery shoppers.

Which? says

Alex Neill, Managing Director of Home & Legal Services at Which?, said: ‘It is absolutely unacceptable that, one year on, Whirlpool customers are still seeing slow, poor service and potentially receiving incorrect and dangerous advice. Whirlpool’s modification programme is clearly not progressing as fast as it should.

‘Following the devastating fire caused by a tumble dryer in Shepherds Bush earlier this year, Whirlpool cannot be allowed to continue letting consumers down. It must clean up its act and sort out this mess urgently.’

Update: 12 January 2017

Today, we’ve launched a campaign to challenge Whirlpool to sort this mess out quickly. It’s now been a lengthy 14 months since the news broke that certain Whirlpool-owned tumble dryers could pose a fire-risk.

Some 750 fires have been reportedly linked to Whirlpool’s faulty dryers. Whirlpool’s repair programme is moving too slowly, so their unmodified fire-risk dryers continue to pose a potential threat to people’s homes.

In August 2016, Sharna’s home was destroyed by a Whirlpool dryer:

Last month, we took the decision to file for a judicial review of Peterborough Trading Standards’ handling of the Whirlpool dryer safety issue. As Whirlpool’s UK headquarters are in Peterborough, it’s Peterborough City Council’s Trading Standards department that’s been dealing with this matter.

This issue shouldn’t be allowed to drag on any longer and we need your help to make Whirlpool do more to prevent dryer fires.

Do you support our campaign? Have you been affected by the Whirlpool tumble dryer safety issue? What more would you like done to resolve this safety issue?

Terry says:
13 January 2017

Thank you Which for this campaign.
We could all warn and help our families, friends and neighbours prevent this threat suddenly destroying life and well being.
Somebody’s Gran may be using a Dryer in need of a service and about to catch fire. I hope that doesn’t happen.

Angus says:
14 January 2017

Like many others the promised date October 16 went past with no rectification. In December tried ringing to no avail and then tried online chat (hotpointservice.co.uk), which worked a dream. Made appointment, dryer rectified within a week.

Tony says:
14 January 2017

We have one of the listed models – having just read all the previous comments, can someone please explain what the engineer actually does to “fix” the fire hazard problem !
Have these models got an inherent, dangerous design fault ? Is it all down to user laziness ?
We always clean the lint filter and never operate it unattended, are we still at risk ?

yes I want to know what they do too. I cant imagine they will be risk free until a double sided mesh filter is put in, like there is in most other tumble dryers

I added mine to the list as it was in the number range. However as it was smoking prior to the recall I had already replaced it.
Do not expect any recompense now. Should have waited till it caught fire!

I took advantage of Whirlpools offer to purchase a replacement, which was working fine until a fuse in our junction box blew last week. I reset the fuse and everything appeared to be in order. Today when I came to use the tumble dryer it would not work. When I checked the fuse on the machine it had not only blown the fuse on the machine , but it had also blown a hole in the wallplug. I am about to pursue Whirlpool to seek a complete refund of the cost of the machine and cost of replacing the wall socket and having the circuit checked

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Almost anything can cause a dryer (or most appliances) to trip an RCD, leak to earth, dead short etc if it’s on an RCD.

If you mean it’s taking the fuse out then it’s almost for sure a dead short which would mean, usually, that some terminals somewhere have arced together for some reason.

In both cases the most common thing is some moisture on them somehow but, it can be a result of a faulty component including earth leakage.

In any event to pursue a claim with Whirlpool you will need to know precisely what the issue is and to find that out may range from fairly easy to downright difficult and involve a fair bit of testing to get to the bottom of the root cause.

Do try it on another socket as well as faulty sockets and the circuits they sit on are extremely common to come across being faulty and not the machines. If the socket looks blown then, to be honest, that’s actually more likely than the dryer being the root issue.

But you do need to find out where the problem lies before any course of action can be advised.


Kenneth and Duncan,
I got the wall socket checked by an electrician and it appears that it was the wall socket that was at fault; fortunately there was no damage to the machine or the circuit. A new wall socket and a plug to the machine has been fitted and tested.
Many thanks for your advise

I rejected a white free replacement Hotpoint about 3 month ago stating I needed a graphite unit and last week accepted for £59 a graphite replacement.
I has previously dismantled my 9 year old appliance to correct the design faults although my wife was uncomfortable using the appliance. There were 2 issues.
1) The key design shortcoming which leads to a lack of inherent safety is that the “filter” installed was NOT a filter it was a strainer . A strainer has only a single face to separate fluff from exhaust air. it is essentially impossible to remove the strainer without excess fluff dropping into the vent pipe. The safe requirement is for a “basket filter” where the fluff is trapped completely surrounded by the filter media.

2) I found on my dismantled drier that the plastic holder for the strainer did not mate with the vent pipe running from the front to the rear outlet for the vent discharge. There was a gap of about 7mm which allowed fluff-laden air to be discharged into the main body of the appliance. This would allow hot fluff to find a source of ignition in the heater or motor. Indeed an actual source may not even be necessary as the combustion may be initiated by a smoulder mechanism. I rectified this fault by sealing the vent line with high temperature duct tape around the circumference.

Thank you so very much for your appraisal of the machines innards. This is the kind of detail that surely should have been explained 12 months ago.

I could almost weep that Which? in a year of “campaigning” has failed to do this most basic of services for its subscribers. If your contention that the strainer is a flawed design is correct , and it sounds very logical, then this definitely needs attention.

Which? has a board of appointed businessmen currently and some very well-paid staff and I having the feeling that we have moved to a talking shop without actually getting into the nuts and bolts of product and having a go at manufacturers.

i agree thank you for naming the parts, one sided is a straainer and double sided a basket. no problem with a safer basket but mine has supposedly been safe to buy with a gree sticker but it only has a strainer…

What on earth is a “convo”? I presume it is an abbreviation of some sort like the execrable “app”. This sort of abbreviation nullifies the purpose of writing, which is to communicate, as opposed to obfuscate. Please refrain from being lazy.

Hi Philip,

You are indeed right; “convo” is used on this website as a shorthand term for any given article published here on Which? Conversation. The full alternative “Which? Conversation article” is somewhat unwieldy, even for those of us with proper PCs and professional quality keyboards to type on. I guess that anyone contributing from a tablet or phone will find the use of anything requiring fewer characters quite appealing.

‘Convo’ appears on the homepage, so it seems reasonable to use it. Welcome to Which? Conversation, Philip.

Hi Derek,

It would be adequate to use ‘conversation’. Your ‘solution’ is the opposite of ‘reductio ad absurdum’ – maximising to make my point appear absurd. You go on further to make my point that the use of ‘convo’ is lazy. I find the use of lazy speech devalues the perceived reliability of Which? The fact that it appears on the header, as wavechange says, does not improve that perception, and indeed does nothing to justify the use of the abbreviation.

Thank you for the welcome wavechange..

Hi Phillip

I never said the use of “convo” was lazy – just useful and convenient.

Philip, how d’you feel about contractions in general?

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If the contractions have started is it time to call the midwife?

I have never liked [or previously written] “Uni” but realise one has to swim with the tide. Some modern usage is rather amusing and opens up a whole new language with new word creations and expressions. I’ve just noticed that this is in the tumble-dryer Conversation and I can’t work out why.

I remember Tide, in a Tizer-coloured box that worked miracles on the clothes that went on the clothes line – pre tumble dryer days? But thou doesn’t have to swim with it. It looks patronising to join the latest culture when you belonged to a previous one; be proud of going to university (or even varsity), not one of the new cut down versions.

This does all seem to have gone off topic. Perhaps it is because when we get serious, and ask questions of Which? to which we get no replies, we start passing the time while we wait?

I find Whirlpool’s performance in my case perfectly satisfactory, apart from a lack of a contact number. I am a somewhat difficult customer when it comes to making appointments, as I spend around 50% of my time in other countries, up to three months at a time. I notified Whirlpool in January 2016 and was concerned as I was leaving the country on the 11th. However I received an email re an appointment and responded to that. Whirlpool made some simple and sensible arrangements. I contacted them when I returned on the number they provided. That was in April 2016. The repair / modification was done in a couple of weeks by an intelligent and pleasant person who arrived on time. He was a little brassed off by the negative publicity given to Whirlpool, and on the basis of my experience and of the somewhat hyped up tone of the coverage above I am inclined to agree with him.
I asked about the modification and he explained cheerfully and clearly. I felt it was a bit of a storm in a teacup. It was no big issue to step up the lint removal to 100% of uses, and easy enough to either switch off or unplug the dryer when not in use. I cannot remember the dates now, but it was done well before the 24th May. I took my time notifying Whirlpool of my return, so they had roughly a month of my availability before the work was done (from when I notified them that I had an affected model).
I live in a rural area of North Wales rather than in say Liverpool, and that cannot have made things easier for them.
I have noted a tendency for Which? to overstate issues in the past. I would appreciate a more measured and balanced style – and I speak as no great friend of big business, having worked in taxation enforcement during my working career.

Philip – I agree that Which? tend to overstate the issues in many of these articles.

In this article, there is a serious fire safety issue – even though it does relate to quite small risks. However, the consensus seems to be that, from unmodified dryers, the risks are higher than they need to be.

DerekP with the greatest of respect I would love for you to join my group & explain to those that have lost their homes or belongings due to tumble dryer fires that it is a small risk, what is YOU were that small risk? Plus the modification does not solve the issue, we have had members whose MODIFIED dryers have set alight 🙁

I have had an informative exchange of correspondence with BSI concerning Tumble Dryer Safety. There is an active working group already looking at addressing fire hazards in tumble dryers with a view to making a UK proposal to amend the International/European standard. Information I passed to BSI will be given to the working group, although I expect it is already well known to them.

Thanks Malcolm. Did you mention that plastics burn and melt in fires?

I suspect they know quite a lot about materials already. I passed then the UL article on fire containment which I expect they already have; UL will have raised this on the IEC committee to which they belong (and to which BSI of course belong as the UK’s representative). As I have said before, anyone can make representations.

And I suspect that if I contact BSI they will ignore my comments, like many companies and trade bodies have done in the past. My first encounter at the age of 15 resulted in the comment ‘Don’t teach your grandmother how to suck eggs’, though it turned out that I was right.

I will be very interested to learn of the forthcoming changes.

I simply cannot agree with this cynical attitude towards “companies and trade bodies”. If you cannot be bothered to approach these people you will certainly not make progress. As I said, I had, as I have had in the past, a very useful exchange of correspondence, and they are putting forward the information I sent to the working group. I have also had recent very useful exchanges with Underwriters Laboratories, and with AMDEA – the latter was a 45 minutes phone call in response to my enquiry that was, again, informative, frank and helpful.

Having had direct involvement in the past of working with standards bodies I can speak from some experience. However, if just talking about problems in these Convos is all some people want to do then that’s OK. But if you want the possibility of action, as I do, then best to do something positive. We are not always right of course. 🙂

It’s not cynical Malcolm. I cannot remember any occasion when my advice to a company or trade body has been heeded. I suspect that you speak the same language and would be more likely to achieve success.

The fact is that the current standards do not require tumble dryers and other appliances to contain fires that can start for a variety of reasons. That must be addressed.

The danger of the approach “if I contact BSI they will ignore my comments” from a respected and regular contributor is it may well put other contributors off trying. If we have information and valid views that could contribute to resolving a problem we should encourage people to make them known. My positive experience with BSI is testimony to that constructive approach. If you feel unable personally to contact BSI then you could ask Which? to do so on your behalf. They belong to an organisation – CPIN – that sits on relevant committees although sadly, I believe, Which? no longer contributes directly as they once did.

Equally, having had a response if you then feel that reporting it will be met with more cynicism it hardly encourages the constructive debate. “will ignore my comments, like many companies and trade bodies have done in the past” is again not encouraging to other contributors when, from my direct experience, companies and trade bodies do respond well to being approached with constructive and sensible enquiries.

Only by trying can we hope to achieve. Maybe it is the way these bodies are approached that determines their response.

I criticise Which? from time to time for not responding well to reasoned queries. It will not stop me trying. Nor will I stop putting appropriate questions to organisations. I hope other contributors will not be discouraged either from following this path.

As I have explained, I need to see the current standards and associated documents to be able to make useful comment. To do otherwise would, in my view, be unprofessional.

I strongly object to your reference to me making cynical comments because I am simply relating honest personal experience. I have plenty of positive experiences regarding action over faulty goods but as I said I cannot remember any occasion when my advice to a company or trade body has been heeded.

I want to encourage people to engage with others when they have a worthwhile point to make or information to request , whether commercial companies, trade organisations, public authorities, BSI…….because in my view, it is only by pursuing a relevant topic with them that you will maybe make progress. I don’t want others to think there is no point – it may well put some off trying. My experience is that you are not always ignored if the approach is appropriate in content. For those who do not want to make a direct approach I think Which? should consider comments and put a summarised version to the appropriate organisation.

Personally, I think wavechange is right to worry that the BSI committee may have already formed strong views on the pertinent topics here. If so, that will make it much harder for them to consider challenges and alternative proposals with an open mind.

My experience is that people are often reluctant to change, especially if they have experience or are deemed experts. Last year a member of the public sustained a minor injury on a day when I was in charge of an event run by a charity. No first aid was needed but the accident went into the book and the old lady made a sensible comment about how to avoid the problem in future. I was disappointed that our more experienced volunteers made defensive comments to the effect that there had not been a similar accident before. The less experienced volunteers were supportive of making a simple change that would easily eliminate that risk.

My message to the BSI committee would be that all appliances should be designed to be able to contain fire by using a metal or other fire-proof case that will deprive a fire of oxygen. Every one of the experts should be aware of what we now refer to as the ‘fire triangle’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/guides/zqd2mp3/revision/3

By that logic then you need to ban all tumble dyers and cooking products then. It’s the only way to guarantee 100% safety and I do mean, the only way.

Every one of those products requires heat to function, either to cook or dry.

Every one needs airflow to allow operation, cooling and so forth.

Every one of them has a fuel source, food, grease, fabric, detritus etc. Yes, the stuff people need to use then for!!!

You cannot eliminate any single one, not possible.

So therefore the only way to ensure absolute safety is to ban them as you cannot possibly seal the box to extinguish flames, it simply is not possible to do other than by some Heath Robinson affair to shut off air et all if an issue is detected. And that would be very expensive to implement, no way the machines would fit in the same space, no way at all and it would require constant maintenance and checking as well as professional installation as it’s not going to be a DIY thing. You’ll probably need additional legislation also and a registration scheme like Gas Safe.

And all the while you don’t actually solve the problem do you? They can still go wrong, even go on fire all you’re doing is limiting the damage a bit, maybe if it works.

But heh, if you think that’s a good idea and a reasonable response with, once more, not a scrap of evidence to support the notion, you should contact BSI yourself as Malcolm has suggested on many occasions now.


As you point out, flammable materials go into tumble dryers – including the clothes we want to dry. A solid fuel stove is not a sealed box but is obviously designed to contain fire. Likewise, a gas boiler contains flames, whether it is a balanced-flue type or traditional version. There are many options available and it is necessary to find out which is most effective and cost effective.

My view is that we should strive for improvement where reasonably practical. Considerable effort has been made to make cars safer and we have not given up because the driver and lack of proper maintenance are obvious problems.

If a tumble dryer is designed to contain fire, the machine may still be wrecked but if it can contain fire then at least the fire will not spread to the home.

I expect they are well aware, wavechange, as the London Fire Brigade are listed as being on the committee. They are also aware of the UL work on fire containment – I sent them a link some weeks ago.

As I keep pointing out, your “message” will only reach BSI if you send it to them (I’ve given a link) or if Which? pick it up from here and do the same. I am waiting to hear what involvement Which? have with BSI. I hope they do engage with them formally as a consumers’ representative.

I remain hopeful that Which? will pick it up, Malcolm, or maybe the other individuals and organisations I have written to.

I mentioned that I had spoken to an experienced firefighter. He is local said that he would be retiring within the next 18 months. We discussed the design of tumble dryers and my proposal for using an all-metal or other fire-resistant case to contain a fire. He agreed and pointed out the ‘fire triangle’ which I have since mentioned a couple of times in our discussions. I might have another go at raising my concerns with the LFB and see if they will put me in touch with the person on the BSI committee.

You may not share my views on this but thanks for not making mock of my suggestions.

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BSI committees are composed of people expert in different aspects of a subject, as opposed to we amateur “experts” – excepting Ken, or any others with direct knowledge. We can feed in comments through the link I have given direct to BSI rather than just floating them around here if we are convinced they have real merit.

However to suggest the committee has formed “strong views” without any knowledge of what they do is pure uninformed conjecture, and gets us nowhere. I have bothered to contact the committee directly and they have told me that a working group is actively looking at appliance fires; they also acknowledged the information, including UL research, that I sent them.

Perish the thought that professionals with access to lots of relevant information can do the job better than us. Bear in mind that safety standards are international documents, with many countries’ experts working on them to arrive at an agreed standard or amendment. BSI has an important part to play in that but it is only one of the participants.

Rather than spreading unsubstantiated gloom and despondency, if we want to make progress we should engage properly with bodies that work on our behalf and listen to what they say.

I keep hoping that Which? will act responsibly and effectively on our behalf. I am waiting to hear. Meanwhile I would urge anyone who has thought-through proposals to make to put them directly to BSI. Prejudging an issue is not the way.

Diplomancy is not my strong point 🙂

wavechange I have not, as far as I recall (I do have irritable moments! 🙂 ) mocked your suggestions. I have continually encouraged you to put them directly to BSI, and given you a link. The committee involved is CPL/61 who are in a position to listen to them currently, as they have an active working group on appliance fire safety. Your firefighter friend will no doubt be represented by the London Fire Brigade who can look at all their evidence and make a considered contribution. He could, of course, also contribute as an individual through the BSI portal.

I will take issue with comments and proposals I may disagree with but I don’t think i could ever be accused of mocking. “Mock ye not” as Frankie used to say (or something like that).

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The fact remains that tumble dryers have been causing house fires for years and this amateur reckons that the problem could have been addressed long ago. The firefighter that I mentioned is not a friend, just someone I overheard talking about his job. I butted in and had a useful conversation.

One of the reasons I enjoy Which? Conversation is because many people make useful suggestions even if they have no apparent expertise.

I reiterate that in general I am very glad that standards exist but in the case of fire safety of appliances, I believe that we could do better. I assume that BSI and other standards committees do not make their minutes publicly available, either in their entirety or in redacted form. Like having the standards publicly accessible online, I believe that it would be helpful to have minutes available.

I have invited you to summarise the advice contributed by various contributors and pass it on to BSI. You are already in touch with the organisation and I’m not.

“causing house fires for years”. This has been discussed elsewhere – 93 million white appliances in operation as Ken says, and what proportion caused a serious fire. And how many are down to abuse, misuse, and how many to a true faulty appliance? Indesit seems a specific design flaw, as yet unexplained, and not typical, so we cannot tar the whole appliance industry with the same brush. Not criticism, but asking for facts to see the real scale of the problem and the extent of the risk that cannot be eliminated, but maybe mitigated further.

Well-meaning and thoughtful non-experts, and experts, are free to make their suggestions known to BSI, as I keep saying. I have made BSI aware of reports, and passed on my own comments and information but others can submit their own proposals in their own words, with the appropriate supporting evidence. If you want a formal summary then please do what I have done – urge Which? to act on behalf of consumers by engaging with BSI and passing comments on.

As for meeting minutes it is important to allow them to discuss information freely and in confidence so possible outcomes are not hindered. We do not need to scrutinise their deliberations. They are people with integrity applying their knowledge and expertise to improve standards – unless anyone can show otherwise.

There are many other far more significant risks than tumble dryers.

And, as I have said repeatedly, not one that I have ever seen investigated has proven to be a failure of design. Not one. From scores of them.

That is evidence that they are not a risk if installed, used and maintained correctly as every instance I have seen is attributable to one or more of the reasons discussed previously.

So tell me, what would any safety measures do to address those issues?

And that being the case, again I ask, what problem? Where is the *evidence* of the supposed problem?

I don’t think that people understand that appliances, for the past three or four decades have had all electrical and heat source elements protected or isolated as a safety precaution therefore, in virtually every single instance of disaster there are contributing factors. The most common being the simple lack of cleaning, be that a filter or scrubbing off grease in a cooker.

Take care of them and the odds of every having an issue is so remote it’s unbelievable.

But to use yourself as an example wavechange.

You clearly care about what you invest in, you are quite obviously not silly or frivolous, you obviously research using the like of Which? and you take care of what you do buy. Case in point you’re still nursing along a 30 year old washing machine.

You are not a, by far, an A-Typical appliance user that has a problem.

I’d put forward that you cannot even possibly imagine the way that some people treat these things, with utter, total and complete contempt.

Why not, they’re cheap, easily replaced and hey, we can always blame the tools eh, that’s easier that admitting where the fault really lies in a good many cases. A thing that I’m sure everyone is familiar with.

Then you get more complex with a behavioural economic theory that postalises that you can make things too safe. That leads people into a false sense of security and potential risks are ignored.

I’d argue that domestic appliances and many other products fall into that trap, they’re too safe and then couple that with being cheap and easy to replace and it’s possible, just possible, that perhaps people don’t really give a monkey and don’t bother with the safety, it’s not important.

To me this is like people banging down the motorway at 75mph, 80mph or more, they know they’re breaking the speed limit and they know its wrong but they do it anyway. Until they see an accident or a car with a blue light bar on top then the slow down, pay attention and mind how they go. Until the sense of security and safety returns a few miles down the road and the normal behaviour is resumed.

There’s speed limit signs, gantry signs and other markings to try to get people to do as hey should but, they just don’t.

After all, it can’t happen to them right?

So the car manufacturers answer is autonomous driving, in effect take human error out of the equation. That’s great, bunch of studies say that fully autonomous driving or even semi-autnomous driving would reduce fuel consumption, reduce emissions and reduce accidents but, only if a good many cars on the road have it, greater than 30% or so if memory serves me.

Let’s ignore the cost of that for a minute and just focus on one small problem with cars there and, it’s worse with appliances as they are swapped out at glacial place…

To get to where you want to be, you need to alter legislation, adopt or invent standards, ratify them, get all the makers to agree on it, then get all the infrastructure in place to make it all work.

And that’ll only happen if it’s a good idea and a measured and reasonable response to the level of risk or the issue.

Then, it’ll take years, probably well over a decade if not two or more to actually get where you want to be unless there’s some pressing incentive that drives consumers the way you want them to go. They won’t all go out and buy new ones immediately with all the latest whizz bang safety stuff.

Or to bring it right back, almost to the topic at hand, there’s new fire regulations in California or I think it is but, basically they need to install fire suppression systems and stuff to any new build homes to try to stop fires when California decides to rattle itself to pieces. And, that’s great, adds thousands of dollars to new homes but so what, it’s all good a people are safer right?

Doesn’t much help if the whole seaboard disappears into the Pacific but we’ll gloss over that.

The big thing is, it doesn’t do diddly squat about the millions of properties that are already there made using the old standard.

But I’m willing to go out on a limb here and say the people probably won’t be too bothered about if it the roof fell off their own onto their car/s and the windows fell out but heh, at least it didn’t all go up in flames! Whoo hoo!

My point being is that any measures proposed or taken have to be proportional to the risk and you need to take into account the root cause.

If you want kitchen safety, great, install a fire suppression system for your home and make it a legal requirement, like California has but be prepared for the flack from people about the cost both initially and ongoing for maintenance.

But that will not address the thousands of machines that are installed, improperly, in garages, garden sheds, conservatories and so on… won’t help with them at all. So, you need to legislate that as well.

On balance though, with the hard empirical data that we do have (aka evidence) the actual risk of any major safety problems with domestic appliances is utterly minute. Less danger than crossing the road, literally.

I’d ask then and, I’m sure most rational people would, what is the proportional response to that level of risk and, just what price tag will you put on improving it?

Or would it not be a better use of resource to educate people? As after all, that may well prove a far more elegant, effective and efficient solution.


Kenneth – As I have said before, I share your view on the need to maintain equipment properly. Those of us living in detached houses don’t need to worry too much about what others do but imagine if you were living in a tower block and someone below had a fire in their tumble dryer or were careless with a chip pan.

In some ways we are very careful about safety. I cannot remember a time when mains sockets were not shuttered to prevent inquisitive children poking metal objects in and getting a shock. Even the old BS 546 bakelite sockets had shutters (good work by British Standards all these years ago). I’m not sure why we still allow lampholders that allow people to poke their fingers in, especially since safer versions have been available for years, but that’s just one of the inconsistencies in how we apply safety legislation.

If a tumble dryer is largely metal cased then why not design it with an all-metal case or use other materials that will enable it to contain fire? Hardly a major challenge.

Incidentally, I pensioned off my 34 year old washing machine last year when I moved house. It was still working, still looks presentable, and I might offer it to a local museum.

I remember you said I was a cracked record, Kenneth. Someone is catching up, repeatedly telling me what to do.

Kenneth – In our discussions you have compared the fire risk of tumble dryers with risks associated with cooking, driving, etc and mentioned the problem of people not behaving sensibly, and the need for education.

Let’s start with education. Having worked in higher education, I have some idea of the potential and problems, but my experience was with a group who were interested in learning. Move into the general community and things become more challenging. You can tell adults that the maximum speed limit is 70 mph and even have penalties, but the speed limit is widely ignored because the risk of being caught is small. If the maximum speed limit in the UK is 70 mph it does not make much sense selling cars capable of doing twice this speed. Maybe that just encourages people to take risks. Average speed cameras do seem to be effective but of course these are only on a small fraction of roads and probably not at accident blackspots.

Back in the home you can tell people to fit smoke/heat alarms and test them regularly. Newer houses will have alarms fitted as standard but in my experience there are many kitchens and utility rooms without alarms.

Education can help the receptive but maybe they are in the minority. It might be worth borrowing some ideas from the advertising industry to get messages to the masses. I avoid commercial TV but wonder if working safety issues into the plot of TV soap operas could get people thinking about risks in their homes. We could also look at the safety of products on the market. Why in the 21st century are traditional chip pans still on sale when deep fat fryers have been available for decades?

But back to the fire risks associated with appliances, I see making them able to contain fire as both practical and cost effective solution for reducing fires in the home. The motor industry has been using safety to promote sales of their products for years. Maybe there is scope to do the same for other household products. Our British Standards set minimum standards but I am not aware that the consumer is being encouraged to look for products with better safety standards.

For my sins, I now serve as one of the instructors on one of my employer’s safety case courses.

To help introduce the safety case building blocks of prevention, protection and mitigation, we run a group exercise where our students are asked to think about managing and/or improving fire safety in the home.

Many of our teams identify that the production of hot food is one of the more likely causes of fire; some of the teams even propose that only salads should be prepared in the home. To ensure safety, all hot food would then ether be eaten out or come from a local takeaway.

Electrical appliances (in general but not usually specifically dryers) do also attract some attention. Regular preventative maintenance usually emerges as one of the model answers for improving fire prevention (how many real homes actually do this?). I suppose the risk from dryers could be completely eliminated, either by just using a clothes line, or by by a trip to the local launderette.

In real life, we can always do more to improve the safety of any activity. However we may reach a position where the cost, time and trouble involved is grossly disproportionate to the risk averted. At this point, we would argue that the risks are as low as is reasonably practicable (ALARP), i.e. in relation to benefits from the activity involved. Because the concept of “gross disproportion” is involved, there is no magic way of telling when you reach the point of being ALARP. Judgements, and discussions are normally required.

Part of the work of BSI appliance committees will involve grappling with this issue – trying to balance differing opinions, as for instance they might receive from fire brigades on the one hand and manufacturers on the other.

My turn to be a broken record… the evidence of the need for any action is… ????

Also, as I have said repeatedly, there products **NEED** air, they need to breath so you cannot make them enclosed. If you do, they won’t work.

You need plastics used or some sort of electrical insulator for facias and controls as people can use them with wet hands, in order to prevent electrical shock risk. That *IS* part of the current standards as the risk of shock is way greater than that of fire, just look at the stats.

Just as a post of note, the 93 million appliances refers to “wet” products alone, that being washing machines, washer dryers, tumble dryers and dishwashers almost entirely.

It does not include cooking product or cooling products.

As Malcolm rightly points out, when you look at the number of instances relationally to the number of machines used every day these kind of things are, whilst regrettable and not nice if it happens to you, extremely rare indeed.

The press do make a meal of it though. 😉


I agree with Wavechange. I don’t think responsible safety engineering stops at making the product inherently safe. It should also recognise user fallibility and protect against a certain amount of abuse, misuse, failure to comply with instructions, accidental operation [by a child, for example], and so on.

We have heard all the arguments why it can’t be done. It’s time for one of the manufacturers [if, has been stated, every make has caught fire at some point] to show us how it can be done.

I am surprised the insurance industry hasn’t got involved in this problem, or perhaps it doesn’t care and just keeps raising the premiums.

I’ve watched this debate between you from a largely disinterested vantage point. But there are a couple of points which I don’t really understand (not being technically minded).

Kenneth, when you say not one that I have ever seen investigated has proven to be a failure of design. Not one. From scores of them. That is evidence that they are not a risk if installed, used and maintained correctly as every instance I have seen is attributable to one or more of the reasons discussed previously.

I’d ask you only if you’re aware that the first three links I encountered googling ‘tumble driers and design flaws’ actually identified the issues as ‘design flaws’. The reason this is important is because none of these sources has been taken to court by the manufacturer, which – if the claim were false – I would expect to have happened. The links are


I suspect the second thing about which I’m mildly curious is your emphatic conviction that these machines are inherently safe and it’s only the stupidity of users that creates the problems. The reason I’m curious about this is twofold: tumble driers are not the only appliances to reach high temperatures. So assuming this level of stupidity can be quantified I would have expected to see a similar rash of fires from dishwashers, ovens, Irons, gas stoves, gas fires and coffee percolators, to name but five appliances.

The second point is related to the design of these things, which you claim is good (see above). These days it is extremely cheap to both manufacture and fit a device which will cut current flow on sensing smoke. Might I, as a non-technician, ask if that has been considered? Presumably such a device would enhance the safety of the machines at very low cost?

Yes Ian, glad you raised that.

You do see multiple items online like that but there’s no substance in them normally, I liken a lot of them to click bait to be honest as they don’t really provide much information and, they will generally not be in a position to definitively say or claim a design flaw, often you’ll find it’s just rehashed content.

I read almost all reports from local to national on appliance stuff and it’s astounding how many articles are the same or extremely similar but then, some are syndicated so it’s the same article by the same author just reprinted.

I read all these and I have an inside track on it, more so then the reporters that write that stuff up along with a far greater understanding of the machines in fact, I’ll often be advising them. Now if I can’t say categorically there’s a design flaw, what do you think the chances a reporter can?

Even advising them though, sometimes what they write up might not be fully representative of the actuals. Let’s leave that there.

The reason virtually no court cases are brought is that on investigation normally the root cause is found, it won’t be a manufacturing defect and any case falls apart. You get the big splash at the front when there’s an incident then it quickly disappears, that’s why.

You do also see or at least I do, multiple instances a month with cooker fires, the odd dishwasher, washing machines and so on. It’s not uncommon to see a few month nor has it been for the past decade or so I’ve been monitoring them.

The best, most effective thing people can do is fit and maintain a fire alarm in their kitchen and all the brigades will tell you the same thing.

There’s a Kickstarter running now for the USA that has a “smart” control knob for cookers that employs a sensor above the cooker to switch off the hob zone but, it can’t work with an oven I don’t think and even were it to do so, by the time it works it’ll probably be too late, the thing’s already on fire.

Thing is though, it protrudes a ways off the control panel, is plastic and will probably melt on some models in use. That happens with normal control knobs just as people leave the door open when grilling when it should be closed on some models and so on.

Point being, sure you can engineer solutions to almost anything but it has to be proportional and not get in the way of normal operation or you risk creating more problems than you solve.

John, insurers don’t bother as statistically there’s not any real call to as fire incidents that are appliance related have never really been a huge issue statistically.


As Derek says, it is necessary to ensure that risks are as low as reasonably practical, taking into account the relevant factors. I expect that many of us will have considerable involvement with risk management in our working lives. It’s a continuous learning process.

Kenneth – If fascias have to be plastic for safety, why does my double oven have a metal control panel? There are plastic knobs and buttons and on removing them I see that there are negligible gaps through which fire could spread. Had the designers of Bosch dishwashers had a look at Bosch ovens they might have avoided having to recall half a million appliances because of an electrical problem behind the fascia. There are many examples of design features that have originated in one product and gone on to be included in quite different applications, and not just for safety considerations.

As I mentioned before we have gas boilers and solid-fuel stoves that are obviously able to contain fire and both can take in air and expel hot gases.

I’m yet to be convinced that it is unreasonable or unnecessary to design appliances so that they can prevent fire spreading.

Kenneth wrote: “The best, most effective thing people can do is fit and maintain a fire alarm in their kitchen and all the brigades will tell you the same thing.”

I hope most people would agree on that but there are still homes without working alarms, never mind in the kitchen. I lived in a flat for a short time in the early 80s and that had two heat sensors, one in the kitchen. The neighbour set light to a pan of fat and I was summoned to deal with the problem by a person in panic soon followed by the bell of the alarm system. The occupant of the downstairs flat told me that this was the second time my neighbour had had a fire and it did encourage me to get on with house hunting.

New houses have to have mains-powered smoke alarms but I don’t know if there is a requirement for a heat alarm in the kitchen. Rental properties have to comply with various safety legislation that does not apply to owner-occupied homes.

Early detection of fire is obviously desirable but it is well worth improving the design of products to decrease the danger of fire spreading. We are focusing on dryers and other appliances but I have concerns about other household products.

Designing appliances to serve as fire barriers and installing fire alarms both count as fire protection measures.

Fire prevention is about making sure that no fires start in the first place.

“Ussizan make jolly good dyers – whilst, on occasions, they may set fire to your clothes, the resulting fire will usually not spread to the rest of your kitchen/home. However, many consumers seem to be turning to the use of Poolwhirl dryers, whose makers claim that a properly installed and maintained dryer won’t actually set fire to your clothes.”

Thank you for that informative reply, Kenneth. I hope you don’t mind if I just ask one more question. When you say “The reason virtually no court cases are brought is that on investigation normally the root cause is found, it won’t be a manufacturing defect and any case falls apart. You get the big splash at the front when there’s an incident then it quickly disappears, that’s why.” I’m still not quite clear on exactly why manufacturers, who presumably have armies of lawyers at their beck and call to eradicate robustly any suggestion of design flaws in their products, don’t use these lawyers to tackle organisations like the Guardian, for example, on the pertinent issue. After all, not doing so can only add credence to the claims of flawed design being made, surely?

On appliance recalls, this site


is very informative.

Another useful site is Electrical Safety First: http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk You can receive information about product recalls by email.

Cooker controls are normally not mounted directly to the fascia but to a support panel behind it so the risk of spillage or condensation causing an electrical issue is at least minimised.

As I said before, apples and oranges as a comparison as there’s a lot more space in a cooker or oven to play with due to the limitations on the cavity etc. as there’s usually not a lot behind the facia. On washers, dishwashers and so forth it’s completely different.

No, owner occupied homes have no legal requirement to have a smoke alarm or much of anything really else unless works are carried out that mandate their fitting. However, there is no stipulation that they have to be maintained or tested and, from what I can gather, that’s a problem.

Ian, a thing I’ve pondered as well. I’ve never gotten a definitive answer on that.

I think it’s the additional negative press it would bring and, it’s complex at times as you can see here so you can’t get a lot across in a soundbite. But taking on the press is a nightmare for businesses as they often viewed as the bad guys regardless of what they do, whether they’re right or wrong it makes no odds, loads of people just see it as a person or group swanning about in private jets and yachts in the sun. If only and, I wish!!

The only people in that position are a very small elite, just like rock stars, actors and so on, it is far removed from what most business people experience in their career, even owners.

Therefore, even if you did prove the case, would anyone bother due to the view many people have about business?

My take is, I don’t much care and I have responded to reviews and other stuff in a truthful way as appropriate, especially where customers have out and out lied but that’s viewed negatively by some people, even when it’s abundantly clear the business was not in the wrong at all. Apparently business is just supposed to accept it when they are accused of being thieves, liars, cheats right the way up to murder or manslaughter and that’s fine, even if it’s completely false.

It’s very hard to combat that entrenched view.

My sentiment is that this is criminal, it’s slander or libel and should be addressed as my opinion just in the exact same manner that a business or a responsible person within one can be.

What’s good for the goose as they say…


Manufacturers do go to considerable lengths to make products as simple to operate as possible, with due provision for misuse and abuse. Hence the very very low proportion of problems. Given the real complexity of many devices this is an achievement.

We can never guard against every eventuality, misuse or abuse so whilst some makes may have had a small number of incidents of different kinds, it can hardly be portrayed as a significant problem – again, testimony to the way manufacturers and standards organisations have shown how it can be done.

Indesit seems to stand out as an exception in that they have admitted a widespread design flaw. Let’s hope this leads to lessons learned and even better standards being applied.

OK, cooker controls are mounted on a metal support panel rather than a metal fascia, but the fact remains that there is no plastic to burn or melt. A plastic fascia can burn or melt whereas a metal one could help contain a fire in the appliance.

Nope, told you, if you don’t know… 😉

There are insulators (obviously) either in the switchgear and/or the human interface components, i.e., the bits you touch.

Depends on the component how it’s done and that can vary depending on the implementation but the fundamental principal remains.

But a metal I do not think would have any impact whatsoever in fire containment as that’s not where the fire is going to happen, it’d be inside the cavity. The facia melting or burning is merely a symptom, not the disease.

Most reports of “my cooker/oven has gone on fire” will be spillage or grease burning in the cavity which is isolated from the electrics in most part or, it’s a burnt out switch. Dramatic perhaps but dangerous, most often not at all.


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That’s insignificant Duncan.

Ask BSI how much it is to have a product appraised and tested. You and others will likely be horrified.


Testing to safety standards is very extensive and time consuming, requires expert staff and very sophisticated and expensive laboratory facilities. Manufacturers normally only need one or two of a product range type tested to be certified so the cost is insignificant. Ongoing auditing of their ISO quality process then deals with product consistency. I have set up development and test laboratories for one type of product and know the costs involved.

Product certification can be done by laboraties other than BSI provising they are properly accredited; their is competition. Which? outsource their testing and will have first hand experience of costs.


To have a products tested as a fair number of people think happens when there’s a claim or something going on will cost thousands of pounds. I have been involved in gas fuelled products being tested (that subsequently proved fault free and to standards) that cost in excess of £3K per product.

Many of these types of products when there’s a problem can only be lab tested, it’s not possible in the field so when I see the whole “get an independent report” thing it often makes me smile. 😉

For small manufacturers or brands it is far from an insignificant cost when each product tested needs individually done in isolation, the cost can ramp up and become extremely substantial.

Even for larger manufacturers especially in a low margin environment the cost can spiral out of control, all the more so if you need to do the same thing more or less for each localised market.

It hopefully also sheds a little light on why Which? can’t check everything as they don’t have bottomless pockets to pay for it.


When manufacturers have a range of products with common features that require certification they test house will normally evaluate the range, agree the “worst case” version, test that and certify the complete range accordingly.

I agree with your comments about seeking independent test reports for an individual with a possible claim. I usually regard using the services of a repair engineer’s examination and opinion as the way to resolve (or not) an issue, if the money involved is worthwhile.

Some problems when a product fails don’t fall into the realms of extensive investigatory testing. My 3 year old fridge freezer was pronounced dead when the engineer prodded the inner skin and declared it has parted company from the insulation; Hotpoint replaced it free of charge, 2 year warranty, and remove the old one. My chairs were declared defective when one or two joints opened after 5 years use; lack of glue was the inspector’s report and John Lewis removed them all and rebuilt them; that was 10 years ago and they are still going strong (literally). My wife’s leather watch strap, integral to the watch, failed twice in three years through a glue defect; discussed it with John Lewis, agreed it was a manufacturing defect and they replaced with a new watch of our choice to the original value.

All I am saying is we should not over-complicate consumer problems. My experience is that valid complaints reasonably approached can produce satisfactory results without expense or hassle. The problem arises when a clear-cut complaint is obstructed by a retailer in the hope the consumer will simply give up. We need to address that problem in a way that is fair to both parties.

Absolutely Malcolm, I’m merely making the point that if it gets to the stag where pukka full on testing is required, it ain’t cheap by any means.

Most issues can be resolved without that and should be.


Duncan was raising the issue of the charges the British Standard Institution makes for copies of Standards, not for the testing of products. His link referenced an item on LinkedIn querying why the price was so much more in the UK from the BSI than it was in Estonia from the Estonian equivalent of the BSI for exactly the same ISO Standard, in English – that is, the identical document. The question was from the owner of a British boat-building company that needed to have copies of the relevant Standards in order to ensure compliance with them in the construction of vessels.

I have no relevant knowledge with which to address the question, and ultimately the BSI would have to justify their charges, but I would suggest the following as a possible explanation: Estonia is a growing economy and needs to build up its manufacturing and service industries; the Estonian government wishes to support its own businesses and the country receives considerable financial support from the European Union; Estonia therefore regards it as being in its economic interests to subsidise their equivalent standards organisation enabling it to publish Standards and documents at lower prices than in other countries. By contrast, the BSI has to stand on it own feet and receives no subsidy from the UK government thus the cost of publications is much higher.

One salient point arises from this though. A company that builds boats might have an output in single figures each year but nevertheless has to have a copy of the Standards so their purchase price impacts more on the production cost of their products than, say, in the case of a tumble drier manufacturer for whom one copy of the Standards would support the production of hundreds or thousands of products. Obviously, the purchaser of a luxury yacht might easily be able to absorb the cost of the boat builder’s Standards library but not all low-output companies are making high-price products, so the playing field is not exactly level. I expect there is some sort of federation of boat builders, or groups of them in places around the coast, so perhaps they could collectively acquire access to the relevant standards without infringing copyright. When the tide goes out, I think this is really something for the CBI to chew on rather than Which?.

Standards that affects products we buy or use should be publicly available. This would require a change in how their production and updating are funded. One solution would be to levy a charge on the companies required to comply with these standards. If this charge was related to the number of tumble dryers or boats sold then this would be one way of achieving the level playing field between large and small companies.

At one time, scientific journals were sold to institutions and individuals but increasingly we are moving to open source publication whereby the costs are met in other ways, meaning that the articles are freely available to everyone. A precedent has been set.

People seem to forget that it is not just profit-making businesses that benefit from international standards, but public bodies, educational, health etc. etc. as well. A look at the list of topics covered shows their scope. The costly preparation of Standards are funded by all these organisations already – they either buy them as paper copies or by online subscription to their topic groups, and usually by membership of their own country’s standards organisation – BSI in the case of the UK.

I have access to view (but not download or copy) many international standards – as have others – so in a sense they are publicly available. You might lobby your library to fund access again – I think all should. I’d suggest individuals who might make occasional use of standards for private purposes look for an access source as I did. Members of Which? who are interested might ask them to lobby for an access arrangement; maybe a restricted number of annual views could be arranged? But free standards are not likely to be on the cards. BSI is just one agent in the worldwide standards service.

I have suggested what I believe is a more intelligent approach, and provided an example of a precedent. At one time the public did not have access to information about the ingredients of the the foods but we move on because providing that information was useful to some people.

It would be helpful to explain how to gain access to these standards so that others might do the same. I have legitimate access to scientific and other journals thanks to my previous employment, but no access to standards.

Perhaps the simplest way forward is to buy international Standards from the Estonian standards organisation at much lower prices than from the BSI.

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Looking at prices of standards relevant to tumble dryers:
IEC 60335-1: Estonia Euro606.85 BSI members £153 / non members £306
IEC 60335-2-11: Estonia Euro280.09 BSI members £95 / non members £190
All BSI members get 50% off most (maybe all) publications. Membership requires an annual fee that depends upon company size. Small companies/organisations pay less than larger companies and organisations.

In a world where big government is out of fashion and where professionally produced standards are required, their production and publication costs will have to paid for somehow by someone somewhere.

Do you guys really expect nanny state to pay for this? If so, what do you expect to give her in return – higher taxes perhaps?

I cannot see any reason why concerned citizens could not get together to form some sort of club for consumers that could perhaps take out a subscription to set up a standards library for its members…

What started this digression off was an item on LinkedIn where a boat-builder said “I have just found out something outrageous about ISO RCD [Recreational Craft Directive] Standards! The Estonian Centre for ISO Standards sells ISO RCD Standards at a tiny fraction of the price that British Standards Institution charge! For example ISO 10087:2006 costs only €7.38 from EVS yet the same standard from BSI is a whopping £94.00. British Standards Institute are profiteering. This is slowing down British industry as it costs us in the UK around £5,000.00 to buy all of the RCD ISO EN standards that make up the Recreational Craft Directive and yet eastern European boat builders are at an advantage by being able to get them for around a mere £333.00“.

Perhaps Estonia favours certain industries with lower prices.

The production of standards is already paid for, Derek. British Standards are available online and getting rid of the need for registration of paid users and secure login would actually save money. Making standards publicly available requires a different way of funding. I have suggested levying charges on companies that are required to comply with a particular standard.

Many of the articles in high quality scientific journals are freely available to everyone, so anyone can access the information. In the past, libraries and individuals had to pay annual subscriptions for journals, paid to the publishing companies, or pay for individual articles. This system still operates but increasingly journals are open access and the research groups that publish their papers pay to have their work published and made freely available online. The publishing companies are still paid, but in a different way. Like many others, I was sceptical of open access publishing when it was introduced but I am now a convert. Not only are new articles freely available online but in many cases older ones are too. As someone who has published dozens of papers I hope it will not be long before all scientific articles are freely available to everyone.

“The production of standards is already paid for”. Really? Where do you source this information? And how is ongoing work, research, being paid for? Standards are continually being revised as new developments arrive, technology changes, new areas are standardised. Which? magazine contains information useful to many, many more people than international standards and yet cannot be accessed without payment. Should we subscribers continue to fund Which?’s work and then allow everyone free access?

There is free access to standards already for those who really want it. BSI publish a list of such places. Many universities and colleges will have access online, I expect. Perhaps they should be asked to open up access to interested individuals as they are supported by the public.

However, this has departed from “tumble dryers” and maybe should be the subject of a separate Convo where Which? might also provide some assistance. We have a situation with Whirlpool that has been very ineffectively dealt with by all parties. What should be done to help all affected owners get speedy and effective repairs, replacements or refunds?

You have already explained how production and updating of standards is currently funded, Malcolm. As you are aware, the standard for a tumble dryer, for example, it not a self-contained document, so it is necessary to refer to other standards – for example the procedures for testing fire resistance of plastics. The manufacturer of a tumble dryer may be paying for access to the standards they are required to comply with, but these costs are passed on to customers. I don’t want to deny the public access to standards that are relevant to their health and safety. Subscription to Which? is entirely different.

The reason I am discussing standards related to tumble dryers is because the current standards are clearly inadequate. I became aware that tumble dryers could cause fires back in the early 70s. The Whirlpool models appear to be a greater fire risk but it is very obvious that appliances need to be designed to contain fires that can start for various reasons.

I once had to deal with a fire in my parents’ TV. That was back in the early 70s, but it demonstrated the need for mains-powered electrical goods to contain fire. Having learned from the experience I decided it was wise to put my home-made metal boxes in all-metal cases. At work I insisted that our engineers used all-metal cases for large and small custom-built equipment that we built for research purposes.

My reason for labouring the points I have made is to help raise awareness of the inadequacy of current standards for dryers.

What evidence, solid data and not rhetoric or opinion, is there that demonstrates the standards are inadequate?

On design issue if it’s hinged solely on this one issue does not, in my opinion, demonstrate that at all.

Then you go back to, if the product like many/most is not maintained correctly then problems are inevitable and potentially dangerous, in some cases extremely so. However, that applies to a huge range of things from cars through to a lawnmower.

Or is it acceptable that standards are altered in a knee-jerk reaction to a single incidence?

Or is it that people need to be educated to maintain products?

Or forced to maintain them though legislation such as MOTs for cars to ensure that they are indeed safe and maintained correctly?

There’s no harm in looking to make products safer at all but, be careful what you wish for as you have to look at all the factors in the round.


The fire services keep records of fires attributed to appliances etc. The information is readily available, either publicly or on request. I did this when I was investigating whether heat pump dryers were a safer option.

There is no doubt that lack of care by users is a major factor but why not design appliances so that they can contain fire?

I see the Whirlpool issue as an opportunity to look at the general problem of inadequate design and standards.

Many years ago, workers lost fingers and arms as a result of unguarded rotating machinery. Action was taken to deal with the problem. At present we cannot stop drivers injuring themselves and others on our roads but I see no reason why we cannot contain fires in white goods.

And again, what evidence is there that the standards are inadequate?

The fact there are fires, perhaps with the frequency of them does not constitute evidence of a design or failure isn standards, merely that fires happen without giving causality most often. It does not demonstrate or represent anything more than this.

You will also see the figures don’t even break it down into brand, age as well as cause.

In other words, largely useless and not what I’d regard as evidence of much anything really.


You may wish to know this information but surely the higher priority is that all appliances on sale are designed to contain fire. As far as I know, there is no requirement for this in the current standards.

The point I am stressing and will continue to do so as it’s logical and common sense is, where is the evidence that would mandate that to be necessary?

So far as I can see, there is none.

If there is no evidence to support it then the chances of anything being adopted to protect against a problem that does not exist is, zero. Therefore, a waste of time chasing it down.


Fire in domestic appliances is being considered by the standards organisations and I know that the UL proposals I posted much earlier are in the “pot”. No doubt if they have merit the standards will reflect them.

It must be remembered that standards lay down the minimum standards of safety for manufacturers and others to achieve. There is absolutely nothing to stop manufacturers including safety features that exceed these – quite the contrary. So let us not blame “standards” which have done so much to make safer products, and are continually being revised as knowledge and experience dictates and as technologies develop and emerge.

Once again, I fully acknowledge the value of standards, and not just those relating to household goods. I used to have a large file of standards, mainly devoted to ASTM documents. I first consulted British Standards over safety issues back in the 70s when I was a research student. I am not blaming standards but focusing on the need for changes to make our lives safer. Once again, I acknowledge that in many respects standards have improved over the years.

Candidly, in a sales environment where consumers are demanding lower and lower prices and manufacturers are in a race to the bottom due to that the chance of them adding anything they are not forced to is minimal. All the more so if has no or a detrimental effect on sales.

If standards mandate or consumers demand it, they will comply and provide.

If not, they won’t.

Rudimentary economics.

You can apply the same train of thought to most any new products for sale.


Agreed Kenneth. This is why standards are so valuable; they set safety standards below which manufacturers. for example, cannot go. Protection for us all. Were it not for them, we could (would) have unsafe products deluging us from all over the world and most consumers would not know – until the inevitable happened.

We do need to ensure products are properly policed so that those from cheats, fraudsters, and others who pretend they comply with EU rules by using false certification and CE marks are intercepted. Trading Standards’ job, I believe but only if they are properly funded can they do their job properly and protect us.

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Losing your home in a fire is bad enough. Is it impractical or very expensive to design appliances that are able to contain fire and modify the appropriate standards to make this a requirement?

I wasn’t debating the morality of it Duncan.

You could flip that and say, is it morally okay that consumers demand products that are so cheap that manufacturers are forced to produce lower cost goods because as sales migrate to low cost ones from Turkey, China or wherever they’re banged together established higher quality brands are absolutely forced to do so or die.

So morally then, who’s right, who’s wrong?

My take is that there’s fault all around, including from legislature but that’s merely my opinion. I do think that laying the blame or trying to at the door of any one party is at best foolish. Most probably just plain dumb really.

I say this as you have a free market economy so anything is open to free and fair competition or at least, that’s the general idea although in practice mileage will vary. But you’ll always have one sweat shop or another, someone that’ll cut corners, cheat the system or use whatever advantage they can to cut down on price and, as one does it all are then forced to do so in order to compete in such a market.

Which is why I have said that companies should not and never should be allowed to operate completely free of any ground rules. That’d be a recipe for disaster.

But how do you control imports from low cost producers? Who monitors that? Who enforces that goods meet the standards? The advertising and advertisement claims?

Right now that’s more than a little broken.

So if there’s no enforcement then what’s the point of trying to legislate? It’s a pointless exercise as, you can legislate till the cows come home all you like, if nobody enforces it then you’ve accomplished what?

And if they all don’t adhere as it’s unworkable, what do you then do?

So in practical terms then then morality has nothing to do with it so far as I’m concerned as morality does not ensure a free and open market, it does not ensure safe product, it does not ensure consumer protection, it does not ensure safe products and it does not ensure legislation and standards that anyone wishes.

Far as I see it, a discussion on morality is merely another way to blame any one party for whatever suits an agenda. It’s not a factual or tangible thing really.


I don’t suppose the manufacturers have gone out of their way to make their products unsafe, Duncan, but they have to respond to market forces. Unfortunately, in this instance, the deficiencies have been discovered in service instead of during testing. Whether the testing was adequate remains to be seen. So much depends on the behaviour of the user that better pre-service testing would not necessarily have revealed the problem because, obviously, it would have been carried out in conformity with the user instructions which mean that the lint filter would have been cleared before every test cycle. A lot of this comes down to what the manufacturer knew, and whether, therefore, they were knowingly negligent or deceitful.

It is good to raise the issue of cheapness because the lower the production costs the lower the quality of the components and possibly even the assembly. I am doubtful whether buyers are conscious of this and understand the potential risks. In the Shepherds Bush fire it was found that serious mechanical failure had occurred leading to deformity and partial detachment of the lint filter and an excessive accumulation of fluff which was able to enter the heater chamber [I am relying on memory here – I cannot locate the LFB investigation report to which Wavechange provided a link]. I would have thought the machine would have been jumping around a bit but perhaps the owner thought they could get one more load through it before having to afford a replacement or a repair [almost certainly impossible but generating a service call charge nonetheless].

Indesit had a reputation for relative cheapness but their models were not necessarily unfit for purpose – they just could not be expected to last so long as others, especially in households generating above average use. I would not have included the Hotpoint or Creda brands in that assessment since I thought they had a better reputation, but perhaps they were just minor and cosmetic variations of the basic Indesit appliance and sharing the same design.

There is ample evidence that many people in the UK will buy the cheapest appliances they can find, and there is a healthy second-hand market. As I suggested earlier, I suspect the Indesit and related models passed all the necessary tests. But we live and learn, and through product development and volume sales, even manufacturers at the bottom end of the market will improve their products and make them safer if they can.

Machines that are flogged to death, overloaded, and never cleaned will break down, and if there is an inherent fire risk that will be exacerbated with catastrophic consequences. Science and engineering will have solutions to this potentiality and it is urgently necessary to find them and apply them.

It would be interesting to consider what we would be saying if Whirlpool had not bought out Indesit and the fires had continued; it is possible the company would have imploded and left everyone who had bought one of their tumble dryers with no remedy. But were the directors aware that they were sitting on a ticking time-bomb and wanted to get shot of the company a.s.a.p. ? How much did they tell Whirlpool? What due diligence did Whirlpool carry out on the products in addition to the financial performance of Indesit? I don’t suppose any of this will come out in the judicial review process because that is an examination of Peterborough City Council’s actions rather than Whirlpool’s.

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I don’t subscribe to that in large part Duncan.

I’ve worked with these companies and I am fond of saying something about organising an event in a brewery, they couldn’t.

They are stocked full of disparate departments all fighting for survival, that are filled with people covering their own backsides and trying to keep their own jobs. Organised enough do do that most of them are not.

All they do with stuff like this is lurch from one crisis to the next.

They do affect policy and do lobby but what effect they have is debatable.

But sure, there’s plenty conspiracy theories about it all and if that’s your bag and you believe it all then I wish you all the best with it but, actual solid evidence of anything you suggest happening in the appliance industry I have not seen sight of.

John touched on a far, far more interesting questions that I and others have been asking also. Who knew, when, what did they do about it? Was it even picked up on as a problem as most would be viewed as mistreatment or, is it maybe an advertising stunt gone wrong?

I suspect that nobody will ever know the full truth of it.

However rather than smoking men in darkened rooms plotting the ripping of of consumers, I’d liken it more to the Keystone Cops!


There is an awful lot in what you are saying, Duncan, but – for me – the question remains: How do we get from where you say we are to where you think we ought to be?

In our personal lives the Ward household has to deal with Big Business because the alternative has been virtually wiped out. We bank with Mutuals, we use small traders wherever possible, we buy in local family shops whenever we can, we make purchases last, we avoid multi-nationals and products made abroad if possible. But at the end of the day, for our regular requirements, at an affordable price, we have to trade with Big Business.

Thanks, Wavechange. Trying to keep abreast of three or more free-running Conversations on essentially the same topic is becoming a bit of strain!

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No problem Duncan, but I can assure you that at least in my field and anything connected to it, I am indeed very familiar with world events. I kinda have to be given I report on them!


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Duncan, might I suggest a career in politics to you as you seem more focussed on a political debate than one on products or consumer rights. 😉


Tumble dryers seem to have faded away in this conversation. May I suggest a separate Convo, if Which? want it, on politics and big business (personally I don’t ). Return this one to its original aim of how we might get a better deal for Indesit et al owners and perhaps how we, and others, could improve dryer safety? I am not innocent when it comes to deviation, I admit.

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There was no need to read anything into it Duncan, merely an observation of the political tone.


John, we have asked this question in other tumble dryer Convos. What is the real problem with these defective dryers, what is the solution being used, could indesit have known and hidden it from Whirlpool. Answers to the first two should be quite straightforward to determine. Which?, to my knowledge, have not either looked for or passed on the information.

I have also asked whether Indesit et al dryers passed the relevant International Standard IEC 60335-1 and 2-11. Easy to take a machine that has been identified as needing remedy and have it tested.

The point raised by the London Fire Brigade about a badly worn spindle that may well have caused the drum to deform and allow lint onto the heater raises the question possibly of durability and cost reduction inevitably leading to poorer quality components. You get what you pay for. What you don’t want is a failure of this kind to lead to potentially catastrophic results

My objective would be to learn from the defects and see if they could be dealt with by amendments to the standard.

Indeed Malcolm but I would make a few points specifically in respect to the LFB report:

Had the fault in evidence not been there or cured sooner this may well not have happened.

Had the dryer been maintained it likely would not have happened.

Had the dryer been modified sooner, it would probably not have happened.

Had the dryer been inspected as part of a maintenance schedule, like servicing your car, this would in all probability not have happened.

Several things, in my opinion, could have easily averted this and yet none happened for whatever reason.

TD bearings/shaft wear is a very common problem and it’s just wear and tear, nothing can be done as they are mechanical devices so they will wear out and fail ultimately, this is inevitable. You can increase the risk there by high use levels and overloading or drying heavy items (lots of towels being a favourite) but there is no way to avoid it.

The problem with no maintenance schedule of course is that this kind of problem creeps up on you as its incremental to a degree so it is all to possible the owner didn’t even know or realise there was a problem until it was too late.

Hence my comment that regular maintenance or checking is very likely to eliminate more risk at less cost than any other solution.

People that are aware, know how to check stuff there’s no problem as they’ll suss it but many people and I suspect that would prove to be most, wouldn’t.


Cars are subject to MOT testing which will usually detect wear of components before there is a serious risk to the user or other road users. In contrast, tumble dryers are unlikely to be inspected unless a problem arises and wear could go undetected. Other faults could increase fire risk, including damage to filters and incorrect fitting. The only sensible solution is to assume that a fire could happen and try to contain it so that the damage is confined to the dryer.

I guess that a worn tumble dryer bearing would result in noise or vibration, but agree with Kenneth on the value of servicing of appliances.

Your like a broken record on this fire containment thing. 😉

It won’t happen.

Cost is too high, number of instances too low, means monumental cost to change production and that would be passed right onto buyers.

And, if there’s no call for it other than from the UK, highly unlikely to happen or even be looked at.

I also fail to see how it would be all that far removed from what is already in place.


Most domestic appliances are worked until they die, I agree. No maintenance except by a few owned by people who think about such things. I’d try to pay sufficient money to get a machine built properly with decent quality components. I’d like to see part of Which?’s evaluation to look at this, as well as repairability, so consumers have better information on which to base their decision.

Underwriters Laboratory in the US have looked at fire containment. I don’t know whether the principle has been proven and how many appliances comply, but fire statistics due out this year might shed some light on it. I am also not yet convinced about the practicality, but retain an open mind and have asked BSI – they are looking at it.

Would a lower temperature heater not help the fluff combustion problem? Longer drying times of course but if we take the possibility of fire seriously it could be an option. But you cannot sensibly prevent people sticking a knife into a live toaster to extricate a bit of stuck teacake can you? Anytime humans interact with machines can lead to a disaster when they don’t think.

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I think you might be over-reacting, Duncan. Kenneth Watt has graced these Conversations for many years and the occasional sparring with other regulars takes place. No offence was intended and none taken I should think. At least Kenneth closed the remark with an emoticon. You might also have missed the irony. It is often Kenneth who goes on like a broken record with his responses to other contributors but he is an expert in the field of large domestic appliances and knows the industry inside out. You also need to bear in mind that many of us do not have the time to constantly keep up with the ebb and flow of Conversations so cannot always spring to the defence of anyone who might be criticised. In my judgment no defence was necessary on this occasion. The sense of fair play and manners is not an exclusively English trait and so far as I can see it is alive and well on this site – I have previously described it as the best kept etiquette on the net.

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I do appreciate the support I have received from Duncan and John in this and other Conversations and I hope I have been respectful even if our views differ. Apologies to everyone who thinks I’m a broken record.

Duncan, as from Oscar Wilde, “sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but the highest form of intelligence”.

I would think that wavechange and others will see I often use humour to lighten the tone. Obviously you don’t agree or see it and that’s fine.


Thus far I haven’t contributed, since I know know nothing about mechanics, tumble driers or industry in general. But I agree that Kenneth’s dismissal of Wave is a actually unacceptable, even were it correct. I do know that new electrical installations now have to have a fire-proof box around the breakers, so presumably these things do change and they do happen.

I appreciate a bit of humour, Kenneth. I have enjoyed your technical input in the past few years and hope you will make an input in more of our discussions. I do, however, suggest you reconsider your views on the fire safety issue. Consider your car and the number of safety features in the design. The white goods industry has a bit of catching up to do, in my view.

I have considered it, a lot.

This sort of thing rears its head every now and then in the industry and, usually, there’s some sort of outcry over safety, durability or whatever and it will usually prove to be little more than a storm in a teacup. With good reason.

The reason is that the numbers of instances are utterly insignificant. I completely accept to people unfortunate enough to be caught by one of these sorts of events is far from nice but, the same could be said from those affected by an accident, fire, plane crash, terrorist attack and lots, lots more that you have a far greater probability of experiencing in life than a major incident with any appliance.

To put that in perspective for you:

The other day I published a story from AMDEA citing YouGov numbers indicating that there are an estimated 93 million wet and dry appliances in use in the UK. That sounds about right for the 27 million homes in the UK.

Every year those products will run billions of cycles.

Yet a mere few instances produces all this copy, discussion and derision.

Simple arithmetic tells anyone with an ounce of common sense that major problems with appliances are absolutely tiny in number. I have said before, there is a higher probability of being killed falling out of bed than by an incident where an appliance is to blame and, that is a statistical fact, not rhetoric or opinion but a solid, hard fact.

Safety is extremely good on appliances, far, far greater than many people likely realise.

Looked after, maintained it may be possible to say without a lot of doubt that the danger posed by modern large appliances is virtually zero.

Not looked after however then, like many things such as cars you cite then sure, they can be dangerous of become so and, as was noted, many people run them till they die with no or little maintenance or care and, that will give issue.

Case in point, the Shepherds Bush incident.

Clearly the machine had a fault in evidence, it was there when it failed and that, if not the outright cause certainly proved to be a major contributing factor.

It would make no odds what a manufacturer did (within reason), it would not have avoided the owner not taking enough care of the product to ensure safe use. I say that as, on investigation I have yet to see a single instance where the appliance, design or manufacture was at fault for any similar instance from scores and scores of them.

So to go to the claims about manufacturers putting people’s lives at risk, clearly this is a complete nonsense, total codswallop. The numbers prove that beyond any doubt.

Could appliances be made still safer, of course they could, no doubt about it.

Are the measures you’d need to take to achieve that and the associated costs justified? That’s a debate but in my opinion based on the *facts and data* in evidence, no it isn’t.

Are there strong enough measures in place when there is an issue, such as a recall, in my opinion no there isn’t.

Are the machines of sufficient quality, another debate but only marginally a safety issue as, the data already show that there’s not a safety issue.

Were I selfish and had self-motivated reasons I could use this sort of incident to claim all sorts of things, as many do and have done but I’m not. I use data, facts evidence and come to a reasoned conclusion, it’s a sort of scientific approach if you will as you need to consider all the available information in order to reach a conclusion and, if evidence dictates through change or new information comes to light I or anyone may well need to change that conclusion.

I have no love for many of the brands out there, many of them would be more than happy for myself and the team to shut up and go away so I’ve not a single reason to defend them, quite the reverse in fact. Only the other day I was threatened (again) by a major manufacturer over libellous remarks as they called it, which proved to be a false claim as the comments were in fact truthful.

So when I get the vibe that I’m protecting big business I do chuckle as that is so far removed from the truth it’s unreal.

I know that, as I have said before, because I have a grasp and understanding of the appliance industry that most people will never have from so many angles than there is no way on God’s Green Earth that manufacturers or legislators will alter the standards (other than perhaps the odd tweak hear and there) substantially over such a small number of instances on a limited run of products. It simply will not happen.

You might get a nod in some regard to fire safety but, major change, not a hope of it.

Quite simply, there is no evidence of a risk great enough to justify it and as I also said, be careful what you wish for as any change will bring consequences along with it and until you see what’s proposed it’d be impossible to even guess at what they might be. The danger being, you end up doing more harm than good through good intentions.


Thanks Ian. My surveyor alerted me to the plastic-cased consumer unit in the house I was contemplating purchasing last year. It is no longer permitted to install these in new installations or as replacements. Here is an IET article about the new requirement: http://electrical.theiet.org/wiring-matters/55/consumer-units/index.cfm One way of achieving compliance is make the case and other parts of the consumer unit of non-combustible material and the other is to enclose a plastic consumer unit in non-combustible material. One of the explanatory notes says: “Ferrous metal, e.g. steel, is deemed to be an example of a non-combustible material.” The article makes a very important point about the need to provide seals where wiring enters because gaps can allow fire to spread.

Applying similar principles would greatly improve the fire safety of dryers and other appliances.

Thanks for supplying the link to the technical article on consumer unit enclosures. My electrician drew attention to this when carrying out some alterations. It seems we have gone from metal to plastic and back to metal in quite a short space of time. Overall i think metal is preferable – I have seen a plastic consumer unit with the drop-down door hanging off because the closure has snapped off and another with a large chunk broken out of the base part. It all reinforces the point of having a metal enclosure for any appliance that has a greater susceptibility to fire. An alternative might be the automatic release of a fire suppressant throughout the internal cavity at a certain heat level or flame indication. Whatever it takes something will have to be done. I am surprised the manufacturers are prepared to accept what Whirlpool is having to undergo. The cost of their modification and replacement programme would have paid for the redesign and re-engineering of the appliances at the manufacturing stage several times over.

The professionals involved in dryer safety are looking at fire containment in domestic appliances. I think this point has been made so many times already. Why don’t we see what their deliberations come up with?There are many plastics that are fire resistant – some thermosets for example – so it is a question of choosing materials fit for purposes and applications. Aircraft and upholstery are largely built of synthetic materials. Your house may well contain a lot of flammable materials including wood. I wonder where this ends?

Standards change and improve all the time. When something is dangerously unsafe then an item should be withdrawn and replaced, or modified, but most changes simply say it is better now to, say, install a consumer unit encased in non-flammable material such as metal rather than other materials in new installations. “Greatly improve” is unlikely to be the case as the incidence of dangerous occurrences is very low, just as with domestic appliance fires. I’ll be interested to see what the experts on the working groups propose to improve the fire resistance of domestic appliances.

John – Older consumer units (fuse boxes) were metal or bakelite – a plastic material that is more resistant to burning the more recent CE-marked plastic ones that are in many homes. I have still to have mine replaced but have checked for signs of overheating and the security of the connections.

I don’t believe that it would much to go back to producing metal-cased tumble dryers and other appliances. Commercial systems for automatic fire suppression are readily available but generally intended for larger spaces than the inside of a domestic dryer. A carbon dioxide bottle (as used in extinguishers) connected to a sealed plastic tube inside the case of a dryer would discharge carbon dioxide when the tube is melted by fire. That’s one solution but if the dryer is in a metal box the fire will simply go out when the oxygen is used up. The advantage of the fire suppression system is that can avoid damage to the appliance.

Keep in mind that load capacity is a large concern to buyers, often a primary reason for the purchase. You have limited space, as I have said previously and in a heat pump dryer especially, there would in all probability be no space to fit a suppression system that would be effective. In others, a diminished capacity would be the result as well as a healthy price hike.

From a consumers point of view, reduced capacity, increased cost and possibly the requirement for fire inspection checks as you must have legally for such systems in a commercial setting may prove too much to bear.

And all that effort for how many instances? Are they really that much of a danger to public safety as to justify that level of attention?

Not that I care, I don’t sell them only bits for them.

But a better bet for fire suppression would be for cooking appliances where the number of instances of fire are far greater. Yet that is completely ignored.

But wavechange, please I implore you to heed earlier comment I made, all dryers have a metal drum, metal shell and metal rear panel. A few have a plastic lid but that’s not as common as a metal one is. The facia is plastic yes, it needs to be for electrical safety and there’s a smattering of other plastics but really there’s not that much plastic in a dryer at all. Certainly not enough to cause concern in my view.

You can’t seal them, impossible to do as they need airflow to operate. You need air in and air out in every single case, no way round it.


I was responding to John’s remark about fire suppression, Kenneth – not advocating it. I appreciate the shortage of space and having installed a Firetrace fire suppression system to protect expensive machinery, I am aware that these systems require maintenance.

An all-metal case would contain fire in a dryer or other appliance. I looked round a large Currys store a couple of months ago and all the washers and dryers seemed to have a plastic top apart from a small Indesit model. It may be that the plastic was backed with metal. I do hope so.

The fascia does NOT need to be plastic. For example, my ovens have a steel panel with plastic knobs and buttons. I have no problem with plastic lids and fascias providing they have a metal backing to contain fire. Air flow can be dealt with, as I explained previously.

A cooker is a wholly different proposition on the use of space and airflow, apples and oranges, totally.

To even put the two forward as being remotely similar is a grave error to make. Totally different in design and execution.

Pull the knobs off your oven or cooker, you’ll find that they are plastic behind a metal facade, to protect against heat transfer (debatable) and provide electrical protection. Behind that there’s a bunch of stuff done in such a way as to accomplish those ends also.

But the bit in use, the actual cooking cavity is almost always completely separated from the electrical control system as there’s the space to do that, there’s not in many products.

On a dryer, washer etc, the electronic boards and switchgear have to be mounted directly to the front facia for space and to isolate them from moisture/heat sources as best possible. Also keep in mind these are wet products, there is moisture so electrical insulation is a primary safety driver in design in that regard.

So yes, they do need to be made from an insulating material and that’s why that they are and, always have been.

I don’t mind the odd jolt of 240VAC but it’s not pleasant and most people won’t like it one bit, if they survive it so I’m guessing that’s a far greater risk than fire and there’s no way I would ever suggest abandoning electrical safety for the tiny fire risks. No way, it’d be complete madness in my opinion to do so.

Lids on freestanding products, regardless of what, will be plastic trimmed (electrical safety thing) and have a formica or wood composite work surface as some people do still use them as a worktop, hence the name. Less common these days granted but, still happens.

Lids on pure dryers will be the same or metal. All the rest of the case as I have said time and time again, will be metal with some plastic bits as appropriate used, where appropriate.

That very dense wood, fibre or formica is extremely resistant to fire, I’ve seen them literally toasted on the inside yet still complete on the out with no visible damage. To really make them go takes an incredible amount of heat over a long period so, switching those to metal would in all probability make no difference at all or, very little.

Put it this way, I have seen numerous washer dryers toasted with the facia melted to a molten mess and the worktop still intact.

Hence I can confidently tell you that changing that for metal will in virtually all cases make not one jot of difference.

It may look like plastic to the untrained eye but, it is not.


I am referring to metal cases because they survive fire, unlike plastics that melt or burn and allow fire to spread. If other materials will contain fire, that’s fine. Introducing a long overdue requirement to contain fire would mean that this can be tested.

Circuit boards can operate fine at low voltage (your laptop and phone are examples) and there are various ways of protecting electronic and electrical circuitry against water. There is no need to have mains voltage in the fascia and Bosch could have avoided the recall of half a million dishwashers because of a number of fires in fascias.

Comment re circuit boards is not correct, sorry I need to correct you.

There is a power switch there, that has to have mains or it’s a really that switches mains away from the facia, another point of failure and brings other issues.

Ditto, you need to switch mains carrying components such as the main motor, heating element, often drain pump and so on that are relay switched on the board usually these days but, importantly, there is still and completely unavoidably, mains at the control panel on most.

You can take that away but you need some space to house the control board, another wiring loom and you introduce the possibility of moisture or lint in dryers, shorting that board that now has mains low down most often. It’s not a solution, a bit like shifting the chairs on the Titanic really, you only move the problem around, you don’t really solve it.

Mounting the boards on the outer top is dodgy, they can get hit and are susceptible to spillage onto the machine unless it’s well sealed and, even then some people douse the things at times. Many a machine has been deemed BER (Beyond Economical Repair) due to a spilled cup of coffee blowing the board but, there’s far worse can happen, damp environments etc, installation in stupid places and so forth.

Thing is that the appliance industry is a very mature one, they’ve been doing this for many decades and a lot of this stuff has all been seen before, discussed and looked at. Hence he reason that the machines are so safe these days. Any change without a radical alteration in use or what the intent is is likely to be incremental at best.

Of more concern is the shoddy quality we see and the machines that we can’t even understand are getting sold they’re so bad. Or the “claims” that turn out to be more wishful thinking that factual. Or the lack of spares. Lack of support.

But then, if there’s nobody to police it and they get away with it…


I don’t need correcting when I’m not wrong, Kenneth. 🙂 Solid state relays have been used for decades to allow low voltage circuitry to control mains voltage motors etc. Car manufacturers manage to produce electronics that is protected from salt spray under the bonnet, even if it took a few years. That’s harder than protection from a cup of coffee. It’s a while since I’ve done consultancy work for industry but I might be able to provide some simple advice. 🙂

Why not look at ways of making progress rather than reasons not to?

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