/ Home & Energy

Is your Whirlpool tumble dryer a fire-risk?

It’s been three years since we first published our concerns with Whirlpool’s tumble dryer safety fault affecting five million of its machines in the UK, yet we still have serious concerns with the company’s handling of the issue.

Our concerns centre on two key aspects of the modification programme, rolled out by Whirlpool in response to the safety issue:

Firstly, we were extremely disappointed to learn that, according to the company’s latest estimate, there could still be up to 500,000 at-risk (unmodified) machines in homes across the UK.

This means thousands of people with potentially dangerous products that they use every day in their homes.

These machines need to be found. Whirlpool must identify and make safe these fire-risk appliances as a matter of urgency. Do you agree the company should be doing more to reach affected customers?

Modification concerns

Secondly, since we first uncovered concerns with the modification in April 2018, we’ve heard from Whirlpool customers who have told us that they have experienced issues with their supposedly made-safe, modified dryers, including fires and smoke.

In some cases, the customer has provided evidence to us suggesting that the problem was caused by the same issue that the modification was designed to stop.

It’s worth emphasising at this point however that, given unmodified machines are an established fire-risk, we would still urge people who are yet to have their dryer modified to contact Whirlpool and arrange to have the fix applied to your appliance.

We’re publishing the concerning stories that people have told us they have experienced involving modified dryers producing flames, smoke or burning smells, because we want the regulator, the Office for Product Safety and Standards, to look into these cases as part of its ongoing inquiry and to swiftly establish whether the modification is fit for purpose.

Nine months on from the launch of the inquiry, we’re yet to see any progress. Should it really be taking this long to resolve a serious safety issue?

Check your machine

In the meantime, if you’re unsure about whether your machine requires the fix, you can check using the free-to-use Which? tumble dryer checker tool.

If your dryer has a green sticker on the inside of the door towards the top (either on the door itself or the door rim) or on the machine’s back panel, it’s not part of the safety alert or has already been repaired.

If it doesn’t, you can check whether your appliance requires the fix by entering your machine’s model code into our tumble dryer checker tool.

We’d be keen to hear from you if your model is one of those that requires modifying to understand what more Whirlpool and the regulator could be doing to reach people.

If your appliance has already been modified and you see any signs of smoke, burning or fire when using it, you should report it immediately to the manufacturer.

If this is something that you have already experienced, I’d be hugely grateful if you would be willing to share your story in the comments below.

If you would prefer to do this confidentially, please contact us at conversation.comments@which.co.uk

Comments
John Charles Brown says:
5 July 2019

I posted the comment immediately above, but you will find that the web link supplied has been curtailed. The following one should work.
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/FOR-KARCHER-VACUUM-CLEANER-32MM-EXTRA-LONG-CREVICE-TOOL/131551866847?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

Jenny Luke says:
9 July 2019

My original Hotpoint drier was replaced with a new one in 2016. It has a green spot on the back but I am still wary of using it in light of recent information. I never use it at night or when I am out of the house. I still don’t trust it. I had a Creda drier for more than 20 years previous to this and the fluff filter was in the door so no danger of fluff dropping on the heater. Why on earth did they change it to an inferior system? I don’t know whether to register it again or not? Any advice?

John Charles Brown says:
9 July 2019

Jenny,
I would say “register, so they have a legal duty to contact you with any warnings”. Buy an extra-long crevice tool as I recommend in the post above yours. Use it “every 3 months” as they (now?) say in their manual, available on the web. My tube to the outside just pulls away from the wall duct, allowing me to get the tool into the 1 foot duct pipe to the outside, from the inside. If yours does not, modify it (plastic bits from Wickes or B&Q. I found a lot of lint inside there, and I am sure not all of it could be removed from the outside.
I am going to get my smoke detectors working again before I use the tumbler during the night (cheaply, on Economy 7).
It is, as you say, scandalous that our old tumblers were quite safe, and they recently made modifications to make them unsafe. But in my opinion, that’s the EU. They regulate everything that gets money into their salaries, and ignore the safety of the general public.

John, what part has the EU played in making tumble dryers unsafe?

John Charles Brown says:
9 July 2019

Malcolm, most electrical items have the Euro symbol on them and something like “confirms to EU regulations”. Some things from China do, and some don’t.
So the EU is pretending to apply regulations to these products. Well, it didn’t work with the tumbler driers, did it?

John Charles Brown says:
9 July 2019

“CE marking is a certification mark that indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area (EEA). … The CE marking is the manufacturer’s declaration that the product meets the requirements of the applicable EC directives.”

The EU requires many products to conform to EU regulations, usually including EU (ENs) and international safety standards, before being legally put on the EU market. Such products should be tested to show conformity, which at least should be indicated by a CE Mark. The testing that supports this mark should be fully documented in a technical construction file and available for examination. It is the distributors’ responsibility to ensure this CE Mark is properly supported. Some, maybe many, products will also carry a mark and certificate number when they have been fully tested for compliance with a standard by a recognised national laboratory (such as BSI’s). The Kite Mark is an example of this.

One problem is that rogue or incompetent distributors will not check the CE Mark documentation properly, or at all, so they will distribute non-compliant products as we see from Which? tests (smoke alarms, CO alarms, children’s “slime” recently). Another problem, certainly in the UK, is that the authority appointed to protect consumers by policing the market, Trading Standards, is inadequately resourced and funded so cannot do its job properly. Still another problem is we appear not to penalise these distributors adequately when they are discovered – perhaps if the fine was like that for the BA data breach we might feel more comfortable.

Reputable companies generally behave well. It is the delinquent companies who exploit this system.

As for Indesit tumble dryers I have asked Which? a number of times whether these have been tested for compliance with the safety standard EN 60335-2-11 but they have not replied. It may well be that the dryers did meet the standard but longer-term use revealed a design defect that allowed a gradual accumulation of lint/fluff near the heater. There is an international working group examining the safety of certain domestic electrical appliances, including tumble dryers. I expect this is on their agenda.

A new (2019) tumble dryer standard has been issued by the IEC, (from which standards ENs are usually derived for use in Europe). I presume at some point this will appear as an EN, but we do not have to simply take it as it is; the EU can add it’s own requirements and modify the document if felt necessary for local use. Bear in mind the EU standards organisations, including BSI, will have contributed to the preparation of the IEC standard. Which? are on the BSI committee and may know what changes this standard brings with it.

The EU sets the regulations. These are delegated to each member state to apply, by their Market Surveillance Authorities – UK Trading Standards in our case. If we want proper consumer protection we need to pay for it by resourcing Trading Standards to do a proper job for us.

John Charles Brown says:
9 July 2019

Here is my picture of the duct through the wall, with the ending of the pipe from the tumbler shown at bottom left. It looks as though the installer has glued the outside duct onto the pipe, or else bought the two as one unit, so it cannot be efficiently cleaned from outside. But pulling the connector off, as here, makes it easy to vacuum out the duct. I think I used a screwdriver from the outside on each little slit in the duct terminator.
The connector is fixed to the pipe from the tumbler, using duct tape. I had to use that on the connection to the tumber as well, because the protruding pipe is only about 1 cm in length, and “s******g” the pipe in does not seem to work.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Hdxmjw32rElOwIVNXZLOXaXS0S7dTcCR/view?usp=sharing

Thanks for posting the photo, John.

You are right to be concerned because if lint and fluff accumulate in the vent of the dryer this restricts air flow and fire can occur if it comes in contact with the heater, which operates at a high temperature. I expect that your duct/hose is plastic or light-weight corrugated aluminium tube, neither of which would contain a fire.

In the US and Canada it is a requirement (UL standard introduced around 2006) to have metal duct/ or flexible hose on ‘clothes dryers’ as tumble dryers are generally referred to. UL also require dryers and washing machines to be able to contain a fire. We are well behind in our safety standards.

As far as I know – but you may know differently – the US uses the international standard IEC 60335-2-11 but UL requirements may also be used in some states. I do not know if a fire-containing enclosure, such as UL reported on a few years ago, is mandatory throughout the US.

UL sit on the international committee that draws up the safety standard. If they have evidence of a significant improvement in safety then I expect that to be part of the deliberations.

I’d question the statement “we are well behind in our safety standards“, with due respect to your motives, without getting expert input. Which? could perhaps contribute? “We” is all of the EU and much (most maybe) of the rest of the world.

Dryer fires still seem to be a problem in the US – “Facts about home clothes dryer fires
2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss.
Failure to clean the dryer (34 percent) is the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires.
“!.

I’ll be interested to see the latest international standard.

The last time I checked, a third version of the UL 2158 standard had been proposed and that contained an additional test related to fire containment. I do not know which US states use which standards.

Duncan Lucas drew our attention to this website: https://www.electrical-forensics.com/Dryer/ElectricClothesDryers.html It refers to UL 2158 being harmonised with a Canadian standard and goes into detail about the problem of lint accumulation. From this and other sites it appears that vented dryers are most popular in the US and Canada. I recall posting a link that indicated that dryers must have metal ducting/vent hose to meet insurance requirements.

Even if improved safety standards are introduced people can carry on using existing equipment. It would be very interesting to know if requirements for fire containment are effective.

thomas hughes says:
12 July 2019

Subject: whirlpool dryers
dear news people I wish to inform you that I am one of the people caught up in the appalling whirlpool scandal I bought one of their rubbish dryers, , they denied it was one of the affected ones for a very long time ,then sent me a letter saying yes mine
was affected ones, and that they were going to send a engineer out to modify it ,I just said I want my money back they said no. eight months i waited and a man came and I state with him in my kitchen I was curious as to this modification the man drilled the back of my machine of used a cloth to wipe the fluff away and put the back on ,wow I said is that it is this what I have waited all this time for he said sorry yes ,its a cheap fix for them he said as it only costs then the company a 5 pence rivet to replace the back panel .I was very angry at this and could not believe it the cheek .I said to him how was this going to make me feel safe knowing that these machines are catching fire all over the country and mine has had nothing done to it he shrugged his shoulders .I got on to the company they said i have now been took of their books so to speak as my machine had now be modified seriously this is what i have had to go through sometime later the Manchester started to smell of burning and so I throw it out into the garden were it is to this day I have not got any dryer now and cannot afford a new one I paid them good money and they ripped me off I could of ended up like them poor people who had lose everything they don’t care look at all the money they have had millions please now this as well a engineer who worked for whirlpool when and told his story to the mail daily mail and admitted that he only takes the b back off—–

Rachel MacKay says:
12 July 2019

I also own one of the models listed on Hotpoint tumble dryer recall list. But my has been modified after chasing the company for quite a long time. After reading stories and watching This morning seeing that modified tumble dryers are also catch on fire, I can’t believe that I can’t ask for a refund or an exchange as whirlpool corporation declares my machine safe. Whirlpool should be recalling all models.
I don’t feel safe using my machine.

Yvonne kerry says:
13 July 2019

I have an indesit condenser dryer which is affected and registered nearly 4 weeks ago for someone to come out and fix it. I have just phoned whirlpool to find out what is happening and to request a replacement, to be told that I should receive an email by the 22nd July 2019 which should give me options of what I would like them to do. This is shambolic that they leave people hanging like this. I cant go back to the retailer as my family bought me this dryer as a present and have no receipt.

Rosalind Hunt says:
16 July 2019

I have an affected tumble dryer which has been repaired. However, now reading some of those repaired dryers have caught fire, where do I stand? I remove the lint fibres from the filter each time I use it, but sometimes there is a burning smell. What am I supposed to do?
Why can’t our Government ever stand up for its own citizens against these huge businesses, protect its citizens and put our safety first? There are so many instances of businesses being more important to them than Joe Public. Cladding to high rise buildings is the worse examples of this, but the problems with the Whirlpool dryers could affect even more families and their lives and homes

shernn glynn says:
22 July 2019

I have had my tumble dryer modified. And less than a year the fuse blue and I smelt burning and melted the plug socket. Where do we stand in this

It’s not possible to be sure, Shernn, but the problem is likely to be due to a poor connection in the socket or the plug. A dryer uses a lot of power and any high resistance connection will cause heating and eventual failure. Even if the dryer is using more power than it should, the fuse should ‘blow’ without causing overheating. It’s important that the socket is replaced before it is used again.

Peter Moseley says:
27 August 2019

We have had the offer from Whirlpool on the options open to us. The ‘free’ condenser drier is wider than our existing drier and so would not fit our utility. Perhaps the ‘free’ offer is deliberatly ‘oversized’ so that customers would have to pay the £99 and Whirlpool recoup some of the costs? Our drier has been working fine with the infrequent use it gets so we don’t see why we should be paying out because Whirlpool designed an unsafe product. We don’t feel inclined to have a repair job either that might not be risk free.

It would be worth contacting Whirlpool to see if they will provide a slim drier. I expect that they have offered a standard size dryer because these are more popular.

Peter, this is a narrower machine from Indesit, with a 4kg capacity.
Indesit IS41V 4Kg Vented Tumble Dryer – White – C Rated

• 4kg drum capacity – great for small households
• Dimensions (cm) – H67 x W49 x D48
https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/tumble-dryers/indesit-is41v-white
There are very few small dryers; most are nominally 600mm wide.
It was Indesit who were responsible for the design of the affected machines. Whirlpool, probably unwittingly, inherited the problem when they took over Indesit.

Michael Fosbrooke says:
16 September 2019

I had one ‘repaired’, after which the back panel, that covers the heating element, didn’t fit snugly so hot air leaked from the back of the appliance. Then the element deteriorated and shorted… When this happened, it overheated and began burning the fluff that had accumulated since it was ‘repaired’. Do not use these devices unattended!

Martyn says:
23 September 2019

After reporting my dryer to Whirlpool and getting confirmation I have waited over 5 weeks for my options for repair, replacement etc. I can’t wait any longer what can I do?

martin williams says:
24 September 2019

Just been offered exchange dryer only can have white not grey has anyone else had this problem because I think if you bought s grey one you should receive a grey one I Hotpoint told me it’s only white being offered 😡

That seems unreasonable, Martin. I suggest you speak to them again and if they cannot supply a grey model, push for a refund.

When you enter into a contract to buy something you are buying it on the basis of what you asked for , if that is not forthcoming they have broken the contract and you have every right to reject it and demand a full refund as Wavechange says.
If buying a red car would you accept a blue one ?
An offer of acceptance implies an agreement to sell you the product as you have stated you want— not what they want to give you –Contract Law (England ) .

In this case Whirlpool are offering a replacement for a failed product. If it is available in grey to match the failed one then I believe they should replace like for like, although if they do not have a grey one available I don’t believe they are legally bound to provide one.

Depending upon the age of the appliance the refund offered may be significantly less than the cost of a replacement.

I don’t have an Indesit dryer. In view of all that has been said over the years about the “repair”, I wouldn’t touch a repair as a solution. I would look at the ratings of tumble dryers marketed by Whirlpool as a potential replacement before accepting one. I note that they all carry a “safety” warning in the Which? reviews https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/tumble-dryers/article/recommendations/which-dont-buy-tumble-dryers accompanied by the note “The safety alert concerns versions of this machine that were made before October 2015. Models made after this date are not affected by the issue.“. As, presumably, many or all of the dryers listed are now “safe” (unless Which? know differently) it seems unhelpful to label them in this way, 3 years after the problem.

The reason why Which? recommends we don’t buy Hotpoint etc. tumble dryers is because they handled the safety issue so poorly and has even questioned whether modified dryers are safe to use. From the Which? website:

“Hotpoint safety alert
At Which? we’re committed to giving you all the information you need to make an informed choice about the products you buy and this includes telling you about how companies handle safety issues with their products. We have identified that this product comes from a group of companies that we believe has previously handled a product safety issue poorly (though the issue affected tumble dryers only).”

I am aware if the likely reason. I think that is the wrong way to tackle product reviews – penalising the company for its actions rather than simply assessing and presenting its current products. Posting “safety alert” against a product – as far as I know the products listed are not unsafe – is not the same as labelling “customer service alert”, which is what we should be warned about.

As I also said, I would not touch a modified dryer. I don’t believe anyone – Whirlpool, Trading Standards, OPSS, Which?, examined the remedy in an objective way. Before being released there should have been a full and independent examination of the proposed remedy and confidence established that it would provide a long term solution, not just a short term fix.

Charles Johnston says:
9 October 2019

I have an LG Tumble Dryer and on sensing a burning smell I opened up the rear of the appliance to expose a 1KW/h heating element where several layers of lint had built up.

The lint was scorched and since this area is enclosed it seems that the lint escaped through the array of perforated holes in the rear panel of the drum assembly.

LG has refused to acknowledge the fire safety risk and I am taking things to the next level.

Charles that sounds like the exhaust which is intentionally there on their dryers , if it is blocked it can end up burning the actual grill as well , it is recommended that lint should be cleaned out –here is some advice on this –
http://www.fixya.com/support/t25468545-lg_dryer_started_smoking_as_lint
a clogged ventilation system also slows down the drying due to lack of fresh air .