/ Shopping

Have you bought a product that hasn’t lasted?

Ever ended up consigning a product to the bin because it’s given up the ghost after no time at all? We want to hear about your experiences.

We’ve all felt the frustration of products not lasting for five minutes at some stage, and as you may have seen from our work around Black Friday, we want to help you spend your money wisely and reduce the massive amount of waste that ends up in landfill every year. 

That’s why in lots of areas that we test, from outdoor solar lights to pushchairs and mattresses, we test to see how durable an item is to ensure you won’t have to replace it sooner than you should. You can find durability star ratings on a number of our reviews and our Eco Buy recommendations on products that tick all the boxes when it comes to longevity, energy use and repairability.

A waste of money

Every year we also ask you about dozens of products that you own, including boilers, cars and laptops, so we can identify common problems as well as estimate the average lifespan of different brands to help you shop smarter. After all, who wouldn’t want their washing machine to last for fifteen years rather than just ten?

Personally I’ve felt frustrated at wasting money on fitness trackers and smartphone chargers, and speaking to colleagues, USB cables and wired headphones are two examples of products that often seem to break far too quickly.

Have you ever bought something that didn’t last long enough? It doesn’t matter if it was expensive or cheap, because value for money isn’t just based on the minimum purchase price, but on the maximum efficiency and effectiveness of the item.

Let us know in the comments below and we’ll take your top ideas to a public vote to help us prioritise what products we investigate next.

Comments

I bought a SAD lamp for a friend that developed a flicker and ended up in the bin. It’s important to make sure such lamps are Medically safe and have UV protection before buying.

Before halogen lamps were phased out in favour of LEDs it was common to see desk lights without a glass cover to absorb UV light emitted by the halogen capsule. The burn risk is obvious but apparently these lamps could emit sufficient UV for reflected light to be harmful as a result of extended use.

When products don’t last long we can be quick to blame the manufacturer but in many cases the user may be to blame. Have a look at the photo in Alison’s introduction. It shows a connector that would be used to charge an iPhone. The reason that the cable is frayed is almost certainly because it has been bent repeatedly, rather than a faulty product. I have not found this problem with chargers because I have seen damaged cables and handle mine very carefully.

We can all make mistakes. Today the lights on a handheld magnifier started flickering and I found that the batteries were well past their marked date and one had started to leak. I had accidentally put in a pair of old batteries to check that the magnifier worked and forgotten to replace them. Fortunately I was able to clean the contact and put in new batteries, but the problem was my own fault.

I absolutely agree that we should fight for products that last longer and are repairable at an economic price, but it’s worth checking to see if we are responsible for premature failure.

I would like Which? to focus on the economic repairability of the products it tests. It’s no good if spares are available but the cost of repair could exceed that of buying a new product. Tips on how to maximise the life of products would also be useful. For example, handle charger cables carefully to prevent wear (and the risk of fire) and try to avoid using a washing machine at the maximum spin speed, which places stress on various components.

Hi Alison – I am delighted that Which? is now looking at product durability (including support for phones) into consideration when producing its recommendations. My approach is to buy well known brands of electrical products from established companies rather than trying to save money. Chargers need to be safe and I don’t want to test the smoke alarms!

By handling connections gently rather than tugging on the lead, and trying to avoid bending the leads close to the connector you can extend their life greatly. Apple has had enough of my money and I don’t want to give them more for an expensive cable.

I very much support ‘Right to Repair’ but it does not help the consumer if the cost of parts make it not economically viable.

It’s encouraging that Which? does not recommend cordless vacuum cleaners without user-replaceable batteries. I would like to see mobile phone manufacturers go back to selling phones with replaceable batteries.

One of the reasons given for using non-replaceable batteries in phones is that it makes them less water-resistant. Water damage to phones was such a problem that manufacturers placed tell tale indicators inside so that they could avoid claims related to water damage, because that would count as misuse.

Those who sail can buy a VHF radio that has a replaceable battery pack AND is submersible, so it would not be impossible to make mobile phones that would withstand British weather. They would not be quite as slim.

I did replace the battery in my nearly five year old iPhone 5s but had to use a third party replacement because Apple will not supply spares. It worked fine to start with but after a couple of months it failed. All the main brands of smartphone have followed Apple with non-replaceable batteries. 🙁

All my phones, including a smart one, have replaceable batteries (they are getting on a bit!). None of them ever suffered water damage. A couple of friends did suffer a problem, in both cases keeping their phones in a jeans back pocket and dropping it down the toilet.

Watches have replaceable batteries and keep water out.

I suspect this is manufacturers chasing fashion rather than function. A pity if so as it is detrimental to consumers.

I’d like to see all products with batteries to have to have them replaceable, even if through an expert outlet. While on batteries I would like to see much more encouragement to use rechargeable batteries than single use to reduce waste.

Chargers falling apart? I don’t like the sound of that, it could lead to dangerous LIVE parts being exposed which could KILL someone, and it could be someone’s extremely precious young child! Especially as many of todays mains powered chargers rectify the AC mains input and then charge a capacitor to the peak value of the mains voltage which is about 340 volts, absolutely deadly which is all the more reason why they MUST be thoroughly strongly built, but far too many are not, especially if they’re counterfeit, and another danger I’ve had with some AC adapters, and it could easily happen with chargers too, is insulation failure between the live primary side of the circuit and the secondary low voltage output causing the output to become dangerously live which again is a seriously life threatening danger which is another deadly serious reason why our authorities must do more to get counterfeit devices, which are often not made to any required standards, out of our country and do everything they can to stop them getting here in the first place. And the mains voltage capacitors in chargers and AC adapters etc. can remain charged up to the peak voltage long after being unplugged which is another serious reason why they must have thoroughly well made casings. And I’ve got an old laptop power supply unit which is obviously counterfeit as it has a very flimsy plastic case which has long since fallen apart exposing deadly live parts, but luckily it’s electronics have also failed badly too so it won’t be getting used any more, but how many more are out there just waiting to kill someone? And what about disabled and elderly folk with poorer dexterity? That’s another reason for stringent construction standards.

I’m surprised about the short lifetimes of LED lamps which I have bought over the last few years from several suppliers. The electronics that power GU10 lamps seem quite often to fail far sooner than the expected lifetime. Is this due to a limitation on the number of times that they can be turned on and off, perhaps, rather than total time turned on?
MR16 lamps also seem to fail well short of their planned lifetie, but here it would be interesting to know whether this might be due to the quality and power rating of the transformers. (Yes, I know that they must be LED compatible ones, not just leftovers from halogen lamps!)
Perhaps Which? could ask members to log all new LED lamp home installations with a view to collating reliability information on brands in a few years time. I’d be happy to do that.

Which? does not test many brands and types of LED lamps but their results have generally shown that those tested were reliable. The tests include switching the lamps on and off many thousands of times.

You are right in saying that the electronic components in the base of LED lamps are often the cause of failure, and that is mainly due to the heat produced by the lamp grilling components such as capacitors.

Expecting to see premature failures I kept the receipts for every single bulb I bought and stored them with the packaging. That was over five years ago and not having a single failure I have disposed of the receipts, so I could not now respond to your survey! Maybe I have been lucky but I have not bought from internet suppliers or from pound shops, but I did experiment with cheaper lamps from supermarkets etc. and only used dimmers intended for LED lamps as you have done with the transformers.

There is a long discussion about failure of LEDs in this Conversation: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/led-light-bulbs-ikea-tcp-life-span/

Which? say they no longer test light bulbs. There are too many. AGM 2021.

This might shed a little light on why Which? has stopped testing certain products: https://www.which.co.uk/about-which/testing-and-research/5830/why-we-test-what-we-test

If I had a problem I would go back to the retailer with my receipt. Which? has some useful advice: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product

Hmmmm – “The in-depth (and expensive) nature of testing means it’s crucial that we invest our time and resources where they’ll be of most benefit. And so we regularly review the product types that we test. This review process can cause us to decide to stop testing certain things, usually because consumer interest has declined or even that a product type has become obsolete.

In the last year we’ve stopped testing a number of small product categories, including hairdryers, bathroom scales and drones. We keep the reviews of these products on our website until we feel the information we provide is becoming out of date and at that point remove it so that we don’t provide inaccurate recommendations.

But as part of the same review process we also consider products that we feel we should begin testing and so in the last year have started reviewing electric bikes and wine coolers.

Well, drones I could agree with but are bathroom scales and hairdryers of no interest or obsolete? As for electric bikes, yes they have current relevance but why are wine coolers so important? And should they be expending (our – members’ subsriptions) precious resources testing expensive items like £600 coffee makers?

Just a personal thought.

A good way of getting subscribers more involved would be to invite us all to make suggestions for products to test, or by asking them to votes on a list of products. The invitation could be in the magazine and on the website, with postal comments as an option.

We need more subscribers and it would help to find simple and inexpensive way to gain support.

They have tried this. They have also presented us, occasionally, with a choice of 3 or 4 from memory.

They have indeed done this occasionally but what I would like to see is this done routinely.

With resources being limited and a huge variety of products available perhaps we could be the opportunity of being asked whether we would prefer Which? to test LED bulbs or a product that has not been tested before. There are all sorts of ways of getting us more involved.

Even if Which? no longer tests LED lamps, perhaps it would be worth running a survey, as suggested by pdfisk.

Well, then. Memory notwithstanding, isn’t this exactly what we have been saying for, oh, I don’t know–30 years???

I wonder…what Which? clearly needs is a body of volunteers, willing to work to the same, clearly defined parameters, to do certain clearly defined testing on a regular basis. Now, where could such a group possibly be found? Let me think…

In response to a question at the 2020 AGM that asked about the promised improvement in Member engagement:
” Which? did tap into member experience and knowledge regularly. There were a number of ways in which members fed into the work of the organisation, including the Which? Connect Panel, feedback surveys and the Have Your Say programme, as well as Which? member social media channels which had really taken off this year, and Which? Convo which he noted had received over 31 000 comments in the past year. Mr Caldicott explained that member expertise and experience shared across all these channels did feed into magazine articles and online content, and into ideas for forthcoming magazines and campaigning work. He commented that Which? was always looking at what more can be done in this space. Mr Caldicott recognised, however, that with particular regard to Convo, that member participation may not be as visible as it could be and explained that, in the following year, the aim was to improve feedback and to find better ways to balance staff contribution with member engagement.

I’m not sure the concept of member engagement, as some propose, is understood by Which?

Maybe this is a better place for this discussion? https://conversation.which.co.uk/which-membership/which-discussion/

Be careful when using LED lamps with dimmers, as some LED lamps are not dimmer compatible, and those that are tend to be a bit more expensive which could lead to more cheaper non compatible ones failing prematurely simply because some customers either don’t read the labels properly and don’t see the warnings or just think they can use whatever bulb they want and just use the cheaper ones simply because they are cheaper in which case they only have themselves to blame. And it might also be helpful if the warnings about compatibility were printed in larger print for those of us who are a bit older. And of course there’s different generations of dimmers, and some of them, especially older ones might be too basic and aggressive for LED use which can also lead to early bulb failures, and possibly the dimmer too in some cases. And of course if LED bulbs were made anything like properly then they wouldn’t get so hot and grill their components which far too many of them do. I think that’s what led to the monarch of dubai insisting on the lamps for his country being made to run cooler, but try finding any like them here in the UK, or anywhere online. And of course there’s bound to be some out there somewhere claiming to be like those in dubai but which would only be cheap counterfeits and no better than ours here in the UK, or even worse or even seriously unsafe.

You are right in saying that it is essential to use the correct type of dimmer for LED lamps. They should be labelled as compatible with LEDs or described as ‘trailing edge dimmers’. Discussion of this and other pitfalls can be found in another Conversation: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/led-light-bulbs-ikea-tcp-life-span/

The ‘Dubai lamps’ are more efficient and less stressed than normal LED lamps so should last longer, but the manufacturer, Philips, chooses not to make them generally available and any that can be found online could indeed be counterfeits.

But where Dubai them in the UK?

@apotter – Hi Alison – Any chance of getting some feedback on the ‘sticky plastics’ problem I have mentioned below?

Thanks Alison. It’s really good to have some feedback from Conversation authors. 🙂

@apotter, thanks Alison. My recollection was that during the LED lamp tests a number were found to be dangerous. And reports in Convos seem to show that not all LED lamps are equal, particularly lifetime.
I understand that the number of lamps precludes comprehensive testing. However, as they are such a widely-used consumer item, I would have thought it appropriate to test those available in high street shops, such as Wickes, B&Q, JLP, Wilkinsons and such like so we can know where to buy reliable products.

@apotter, alison, It could be worth contacting the British Plastics Federation to get information on plastics that become sticky. I have only one product that has developed this, a cheap Chinese solar powered radio that has been left in my greenhouse for a few years. I do not know how extensive this problem is. Which? Connect could help establish whether it is a problem worth spending time on.

It doesn’t matter how many discussions take place, LED lamps should last almost forever with only a slight deterioration in light output. I have got some that are fifty years old and still going strong. The trouble is that many manufacturers over-drive the lamp in order to exceed the light output advertised by their rivals and thus boost their sales. Another problem is insufficient attention to quality control. LED lamps might be designed properly, the materials specified correctly, and the testing regime adhered to when Made In Britain but if a foreign manufacturer decides to scimp on any of these things then the result can be an inferior, possibly even dangerous product. I’ve seen and heard of this happening numerous times, and the only way round it is to improve quality control even if it means checking every one that arrives on our shores. And then refusing to pay for the duff ones of course!
I have seen some LED lamps where the conditions of use (that the customer is supposed to abide by or else the guarantee no longer applies), printed on the packaging in a tiny font that was unreadable in the supermarket, that are almost impossible to adhere to. Such as switching on and off only once per day, only allowing them to run for up to seven hours continuously, and more. Even worse was an asterisk on the front with no footnote; the only reason I could find for it being there was to make me refer to a stupid symbol on the back that looked like a decorative flower where all the ridiculous conditions were. Needless to say, I didn’t buy any.
A well-known name is no guarantee of quality, so don’t rely on it. Many of the ‘old’ companies have sold out to foreign companies in some way that entitles the buyers to continue using the old logos. Even my two favourite distributors of electronic components are now a mere shadow of what they were only a few years ago.

Many thanks to the Which? team for the work on sustainable headphones. I bought a cheap pair of over-the-ear wireless headphones which worked rather well until the non-replaceable battery failed after barely a year. Fortunately they didn’t have to be thrown out as they were supplied with a wired plug-in option.

From the heady days of its first launch Which? has seen a steady increase of items that have come to market. Today instead of a Russell Hobbs or Swann Kettle, there are a hundred or so on sale. The humble Hoover, Electrolux and Goblin vacuums are now competing with a large number of corded and battery models from many manufacturers. Televisions come in all sizes but when Which? started out they were black and white from Echo, Pye, Philips and Grundig (if you were posh.) The point is that Which? can not now carry out its prime function of testing products and leading consumers to the best on offer. It therefore diversifies into general consumer issues, which are less expensive to research and “opinionate” about. Having said that, there is an extensive list of laptops that have been reviewed, and the kettle and toaster have a wide coverage, though it is probably difficult to keep these up-to date. Which? is not now the automatic go-to for best buys.
It is probably better to see Which? as a consumer champion in areas that it considers worth championing, and a selective product reviewer within its financial means.
I don’t often find a product that breaks down as soon as it is bought. Perhaps I’ve been lucky in my purchases and maybe use them less frequently than other households. A few years back I ordered a rice cooker which arrived without its switch. Cheap screwdrivers and spanners are cheap for a reason. A reciprocating power saw was fairly useless -though well made, and an electric carving knife, (many years ago), didn’t carve. Sucking hooks that hold things on walls, tend to loose their suck and fall off. Vacuum bags for storing clothes have all lost their vacuum in a few weeks and have expanded. I won’t buy any more. Modern weedkillers don’t kill weeds. Those that do poison the ground.

I have been trying to think of products that have not lasted well and nothing much comes to mind. In my experience I have been happy with goods I have purchased. I am not convinced by the theory that modern goods are less reliable. Vynor’s post above reminds me of my parents’ Ekco TV that had numerous repairs over the nine years before it was replaced. The problem, as I see it, is that many products are more complex and difficult to repair at an economical price, even assuming that spares are available.

I am unimpressed by the Karcher pressure washers and am now on my fourth, though that was a free replacement under the two year guarantee. I’ve stuck with the brand because I am able to use accessories from the defunct machines and also other brands don’t seem much more reliable. I have realised that the three failures have been over 18 years, so maybe I should not be too disappointed and the company did provide a free spare part for the first one I owned.

I have not mentioned various products that have failed prematurely and been replaced free of charge because that can happen with any brand.

I had to buy a new wristwatch because the resin case on the old one started to rot after only five years. I would have bought a new one with a steel case but they weren’t available, so I am now expecting the resin case on the new one to go the same way as the old one. Yet these are not cheap wristwatches and the company has, or had, a good reputation.
My dad’s (may he rest in peace) nearly 100-year-old Smiths wristwatch still keeps reasonable time so long as I remember to wind it up every day, and the case has not rotted away. It is probably still waterproof but I am not going to test it…

We have seen numerous reports in Convos of products that have failed early, primarily from people having difficulty getting appropriate action to put things right.

There will always be occasional “rogue” products from all manufacturers that fail early due to some exceptional defect. However, we need to ensure that, in general, products last a decent length of time. This is to some extent linked to price. It does not follow that a cheap product may not last as long as a more expensive one because cheap may simply be a basic product. But often it is down to cheaper components being used that will not be as durable – for example, bearings in a washing machine. We can check the quality of components such as this, the temperatures components run at, the quality of design and build. If this were done when reporting on a product consumers would be better able to assess value for money.

Product life can often be unpredictable. Very simple items may have a predictable life but many household products contain many components and random failure of one of them can render the product useless.

We may be able to extend the life of a product by treating it more gently. For example, avoiding regular use of the highest spin speed of a washing machine will prolong the life of motor brushes and bearings and the bearings and seal behind the drum. Likewise, minimising the use of the self-cleaning function of a pyrolytic oven will help prolong the life of the heater.

It is very easy to unintentionally abuse household appliances and shorten their life. For example overloading or under-loading of a washing machine can wear the bearings and an unbalanced load can allow water to escape through the drum seal, resulting in bearing failure. Poor installation can cause problems, for example failing to provide sufficient ventilation around fridges and freezers can result in a reduction in the life of the compressor.

There is a distinction to be made between unpredictable failures caused by “random component failure” ( where a component is faulty or out of spec) , by misuse, by poor installation, as examples and the expected service life profile. A good manufacturer will design a product to achieve a required life distribution for particular conditions of use, which will depend upon a number of factors – such as quality of components and their operating conditions, proven design techniques, quality control, appropriate prototyping and testing.

This is why we see products from different sources having different reliabilities, and why some critical products – aircraft, for example, medical devices – are particularly reliable. This does not happen by chance. Various techniques are used to achieve this.

Aircraft and medical products are in a different league to household products. 🙂 I suggest discussing this with experienced service engineers and I expect that they will confirm that product failure can be very unpredictable.

We are supposed to be discussion products that have not lasted and I’m struggling to think of examples.

I was discussing the principle, and there are plenty of explanations on the web. This is about the general distribution of product life, rather than exceptions. When we talk about whether a product has “lasted”, we can talk about unexpectedly early failures, and I mentioned the reports in other Convos of these, and whether a particular product in total does not have acceptable life – generally does not last as long as we should expect. Quality control – the care a manufacturer takes – will have a profound effect on the proportion of early failures. Standards often embody tests to ensure acceptable life. For example, we thermally tested sensitive components in products under more than the most extreme conditions they would experience in service to ensure they would meet the their expected lives.

Aircraft and medical devices were simply used to illustrate the ability to make reliable products, not by chance but by design, with particular attention to avoiding early failures. We don’t want aircraft to suffer a failure in the air, nor a pacemaker to stop working.

As the intro says ”That’s why in lots of areas that we test, from outdoor solar lights to pushchairs and mattresses, we test to see how durable an item is to ensure you won’t have to replace it sooner than you should. ”. This is what decent manufacturers do to establish that the design of a product is durable, to improve existing products and embody knowledge in new designs.

As discussed recently, the increasing range of products available means that Which? has to be selective about what to test. Dismantling a washing machine to remove the bearings and have their quality assessed would be extremely expensive and scrapping the machine.

I suggest that it would be better to get information from service engineers who have experience of what goes wrong with different makes and models to identify weaknesses and to carry out better surveys than the current Which? Connect ones. Rather than just asking the age of a washing machine, find out if it is used twice a week or twice a day.

We are supposed to be discussing products that have not lasted.

Service engineers can, indeed, supply information on faults when they have examined machines. The information needs to be accumulated formally so that conclusions and recommendations can be made. What they will not individually be able to do is put failures into the overall context.

Dismantling a washing machine is “extremely expensive”. I don’t think so. A bearing, for example, can easily be identified. Certainly not expensive compared to the costs involved in doing proper lab testing. Can’t be resold? The residual cost of a used machine may not be that high but in many cases the machine will be suitable for resale when simply examined internally.

I think rather than putting down attempts to see how we can get useful information for consumers to make good choices we should be prepared to see how best that information can be obtained. Having experience of manufacturing, testing and product reliability is useful. I have supported using service engineers, collaborating with other consumer groups and testing organisations, accelerated testing as manufacturers and some consumer groups like test.de use.

Time to move on. 🙂

Aircraft and medical devices also cost quite a bit. But the question of testing to establish MTTF could be done by volunteers. Still expensive, obviously, but perhaps not so much as dismantling entire machines, almost certainly a day’s work for two experienced engineers.

One paragraph in Alison’s header intrigues:

“Every year we also ask you about dozens of products that you own, including boilers, cars and laptops, so we can identify common problems as well as estimate the average lifespan of different brands to help you shop smarter.”

The main problem behind this approach is that it uses questionnaires designed to produce answers that are easily collated to produce meaningful statistical information. This, I believe, is what Which? sees as using ‘volunteers’. But those same volunteers could do a great deal more. All they would need is a little encouragement and some good training.

The big question then becomes why doesn’t Which? make good use of the resources available to it?

According to the AGM response it thinks it does 🙁

It would be interesting to pursue how using volunteers would best be used to help Which?.

Removing the casing from a washing machine to look at components would not be difficult. We must remember that these same products – washing machines as an example – are used throughout Europe where there are many consumers’ associations reporting on products. I would have thought sharing the work on key products would be an efficient use of resources if valuable information can be gleaned. Test.de run accelerated life tests on washing machines; is this reported by Which?

Phil says:
4 December 2021

Dismantling a washing machine is “extremely expensive”.

I’m afraid it is. They’re not designed to be easily dismantled and drum bearings in particular have been made difficult to access and replace.

I think their is a big difference between an economc repair to a washing machine with combined drum and bearings, and just examining one to see what components are used. I really want to know the quality of a product I buy.

I’m not aware that Which? have ever tested appliances for reliability and lifespan; it is simply impractical to do so. Firstly, they would need specialist testing rigs that simulate thousands of operations in a compressed timescale. Secondly, they would need to have a representative sample, not just one appliance to test. Thirdly, unlike manfacturers’ own test labs, the product is already on the market and consumers want to know whether to buy it or not. Now; not in six months or a year or ten, when it has been tested to destruction. Maybe that is one of the reasons Which? stopped testing outdoor paints.

I believe the best way to improve product reliability is to leave it in the hands of the manufacturers, by ensuring that poor quality costs them money. There should be minimum standard warranty periods, based on a targetted service life. We have seen how energy labelling and pollution controls have made manufacturers change and improve their products to meet more stringent targets. If a company can’t meet the standards set and make money, then they are in the wrong business.

I agree, Em. I also feel that retailers have a part to play in seeing that good products are supplied.

We have always started the process of buying a major appliance with a visit to a reputable physical store such as John Lewis to see what makes and models they stock. Their after-sales experience will guide them as to which brands will prove to be the most reliable and perform satisfactorily for their particular segment of the market. Different stores with a different customer base might have other considerations to take into account in their brand selections. This is not fool-proof, but a useful starting point. Using Which? reports to assist choice is also valuable but we are more interested in the editorial content about products [explaining how they work or any particular technical advantages and disadvantages in the functioning of a whole class of products] than in the analytical test summaries and price comparisons of individual models which can never be bang up to date.

The sales staff in stores that concentrate on a limited range of manufacturers or products are likely to have a better knowledge of their stock than might be found in a warehouse on the ring-road where, so far as the staff are concerned, it is just so many boxes to shift, and as part of their volume sales and profits business model the retailer is locked into big forward purchase contracts based on heavy discounts. This could be one reason why a certain appliance retailer consistently fails to meet customer expectations. At the end of the day we have to remember that the staff in the stores are still on a selling mission, possibly with bonuses attached, so it is best to count up to ten and consider the information received from various sources before making a buying decision.

Hi Wavechange – here goes: Wristwatches, ‘Joggers’ MP3 players, TV aerials, TV sets, microsoft operating systems, set-top boxes, electric kettles, microwave ovens, lawn-mowers, desk fans, old Mini rear sub-frames, routers (pronounced ‘rooters’, not ‘rowters’, they are two very different things), how many more would you like? Plus, how about ladies’ hair-dryers that need a trivial rewiring job because the outer jacket on the mains lead has split where it enters the dryer? Can’t be done because the manufacturers have used tamper-proof screws down deep holes, and although I have a screwdriver that fits they seem to have glued the screws in as well as tightening them.

Very true, John Ward. I prefer to buy from shops, but if the item I am after is expensive or expected to last a reasonable time I find it on the internet first, on a site such as Amazon, and read the reviews. I start at the low-scoring end and work my way up as far as I think necessary just to get a picture in my mind of common failures, the number of dead-on-arrivals, etc. A recent purchase has been an electric kettle. I found that on studying the pictures they all seemed to have the same mechanism inside because the controls were all in the same position no matter what shape the main body was. On reading the reviews, most of them had failed in the same way.
Having no choice except for appearance I bought one with a 2-year guarantee whereas most of them only had 1-year guarantees if that. It came from a local shop, so no problem if it fails after what seemed to be the usual 15 months or so.

Hi Luke – I can identify with some of these problems, especially the challenges of carrying out repairs and general poor design. 🙁

In her introduction, Alison is looking for suggestions for products that Which? could test.

Dehumidifiers seem to last for far less time than the equivalent refrigerator/freezer technology.

Since 1997, I have worked my way through three Ebacs. I am now on my second Meaco Platinum 20L Which? “Best Buy”. The first one failed to make any impression on humidity levels just outside of its 2 year warranty. That’s an average life of 5 years across all five units.

Meaco online tech support said the room (a cellar) could be too cold. Funny that – must be showing its age, because it managed to extract up to a litre per day for the first two years of operation. Meaco offered to “take a look”, if I shipped it at my expense, but wouldn’t repair it free of cost, or would give me 20% off a replacement.

I bought a new one from John Lewis, but have done nothing with the broken unit yet because of Covid lockdowns. More waste cluttering up the house.

[Moderator: this comment was originally posted in our discussion about protecting customers who use online marketplaces, but was moved into this discussion as per the request of the contributor]

Oops! Meant to post this under “Have you bought a product that hasn’t lasted?”

My family had an Ebac dehumidifier in their basement laundry room and that became ineffective. I wondered if the compressor had lost gas. I will be interested if you find out the reason for the failure because I have heard of similar problems.

The advice from Which? and elsewhere seems to be to use a desiccant dehumidifier in cool surroundings.

I bought an Aquadry dehumidifier for the house in Cornwall
30 years ago that did an excellent job of keeping the damp away when it was unoccupied, but it has never worked in the present house. It is brown wood effect and square in shape and on wheels, so I put it in the conservatory and it is now a very attractive lamp table supporting a beautiful multicoloured Tiffany Lamp. Lovely on a dark wet dreary day like today.

Waste not want not 🙂

I have been very disappointed with the lifetime of Which? Best Buy Champagne, once the cork has been removed.

Indeed. The ‘best before’ date will no longer apply after opening. 🥂 🍾

If you can resist consuming a bottle of fizz at one sitting you can, apparently, hang a teaspoon in the bottle mouth. I just pop in a bung.

Personally, I’m happy with many fizzy wines that do not cost as much as champers, such as Cremant de Loire. Bubbles can obscure a pretty unpleasant liquid, as we find with those drinks that are driven by fashion such as Prosecco.

They’re all unpleasant, Malcolm. It’s the alcohol that does it. (I’m very much in the minority here so there’s no need to disagree! The rest of you will continue to enjoy your favourite tipples.) When I’m feeling inventive, it is amazing what can be done with some fruit, selected vegetables chosen spices and a blender. The beverage can be hot and mulled or chilled and fruity. I’m also fit to drive when I want to.

I’ll drink to that Vynor 🙂

I find straightforward tonic water a very pleasant and refreshing drink. It reacts well to “additives” such as cucumber, a slice of grapefruit and other citrus, mint and suchlike. Worth experimenting when, at 60p a litre, it is around 1/50 the price of lower cost champagne.

As the more exploitative drinks manufacturers have shown; almost everyone likes fruity alco-pops. It’s a shame they can’t make them without the alcohol.

Although I cannot contribute much on products that have not lasted, I think it would be worth Which? looking at the problem of plastic products that have become sticky within a few years of purchase. Here is an example of a small John Lewis radio that I bought mainly to use when away from home:

The radio still works fine but the casing is sticky, with the exception of the base, which is protected from light. If I had had children, maybe I would be less concerned about sticky item. 🙂 I’ve seen plenty of other examples of household items that have become sticky within a few years, including expensive binoculars. The problem is seen with non-slip or soft-touch plastics. Another of our regular contributors on Which? Conversation has a larger sticky John Lewis radio, but the problem is not confined to one brand. It’s a problem that is unlikely to be identified when testing products because the plastic degrades in light, even when not exposed to sunlight.

There is plenty of advice on how to deal with sticky plastics but none seem to offer a permanent solution.

I now know to try to avoid products with soft-touch or non-slip plastics but the offending radio was bought online because there is no local John Lewis store. When buying online, there is unlikely to be anything in the product description that would help identify the potential problem. I wonder how many products are discarded because of deterioration of plastics. My advice is to keep them out of the sun or bright light but they can deteriorate even if kept in the dark.

I have kept a radio that I was given for passing my O-levels in 1967 and although I no longer use it because it does not have FM never mind DAB, but the hard plastic has not deteriorated.

Thermosets are unlikely to have this issue. Plasticisers are used in thermoplastics and may be part of the problem if used inexpertly. I have suggested to Alison that it could be worth contacting the British Plastics Federation to see if they can give relevant comment.

My radio has a thermoplastic case and the outer surface is coated with a thermoplastic elastomer to give it a rubberised feel. The sticky plastic problem is very common and affects expensive brands of SLR cameras. In some cases the rubbery film can be peeled off.

The deterioration of the rubberised coating is a chemical process, accelerated by light. I did post one or more links in The Lobby more than a year ago but forgot to bookmark this information.

The sides of the radio look scruffy as a result of being carried around, as well as being sticky. Unfortunately, manufacturers’ guarantees and statutory legal rights exclude cosmetic defects.

Nick says:
6 December 2021

Kids Amazon fires! They seem like a good deal but they really are poor. They start slowing down almost as soon as the kids start using them and then begin to get buggy and freeze a lot after 6m to a year. I’ve bought 3 for my 3 kids over the last 3 years. Only 2 still remain operational, as one completely gave up the ghost. I recently bought my oldest child a chrome book as a replacement for the fire that broke and so far so good.

Mr Gareth J Daniel says:
6 December 2021

We have regularly had problems with electric steam irons that break down or prove to be faulty in some way within just a few months of purchase. This is despite buying well-known brands from supposedly reputable suppliers. We even opt for somewhat more expensive models on the basis that they might just be more reliable but sadly this has not been our experience. The manufacturers and suppliers should both take more care to provide equipment that is properly fit for purpose and which is both durable and therefore sustainable.

Can you say what goes wrong with your irons, Gareth?

Guess what, I’ve got a British made Hoover steam iron from 1973 that still works, how about that?!

Crusader – That is impressive but I’m not sure if mentioning an iron that has lasted for nearly 50 years is really appropriate in a Conversation about products that have not lasted. 😉

There have been several Convos about old household products. Naturally I have chosen the oldest one: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/were-older-products-built-better/

The iron. at nearly fifty years and counting, has to be included because there are too many items like it to class it as a spurious reading. Likewise, you have to include items that are dead on opening the box, thus having lasted no time at all. And if a manufacturer knowingly sends out an item that has failed the in-house test specification then that item has to be assigned a negative value for how long it lasted.

Especially with a steam generator iron, I think we must accept that mains electricity, a heating element, hard water, high pressure steam, corrosive metals, brittle plastics and portability is never going to be a happy combination.

Much as I would like all products to last for 10 plus years, I find that a leaky water tank (possibly dropped or mishandled) or a frayed cord does for most of my irons within 5 years, irrespective of any actual faults developing.

I do have a Victorian cast-iron iron that is used as a doorstop. Perhaps we should just re-use broken 21st century irons in the same way to improve product sustainability.

I would hope that selection of appropriate materials would allow a decent working life. I’m on my second steam iron in over 40 years. I have had to replace the flexible cable of the present Philips iron four times, but that is not a difficult job.

I don’t put water in my steam iron but iron clothes etc. when damp, straight out of the washing machine. This avoids the need for use of purified water or dealing with limescale.

Maybe I should use a defunct Karcher pressure washer as a doorstop.

Much as I enjoy mending things, the unreasonable cost of small appliance spares and shipping makes many repairs uneconomic. To take your example wavechange, a replacement power cord of suitable length for an iron with a moulded plug would cost the best part of £10 with shipping. (I don’t think saving £2 by using a rewireable phenol plastic plug top is a good idea for an iron, as they are constantly being plugged, unplugged, dropped and risk getting cracked. ) A cheap Which? “Best Buy” iron is £25.

I had a 10+ year old Kenwood Chef that packed up in April 2020 – just when I needed it most – which I think requires some new motor brushes. Not willing to take the risk of something else being wrong with it when UK stocks were about to run out due to Covid / container shortages / Brexit / etc., I bought a new one off the Kenwood website. Availablility went down and prices rocketed up by 30% shortly afterwards and are still more than 15% higher than what I paid for it.

I would willingly repair the old mixer to give it a new lease of life, but a new set of brushes would cost me over £20, and being electrical, I couldn’t even give it away to a charity shop. Besides, I still use the old stainless steel bowl and a new one is another £90. At least Kenwood never changed the base design and I now have four in my collection. Q. Who needs 4 Kenwood mixer bowls? A. I use 3 of them batch baking 2kg of bread every week.

If you see a door wedged open with an old Kenwood Chef, it is probably mine. Happy New Year!

Speaking of 13 Amp plug tops, I saw this on the Internet:

Why is plastic a good material for an electric plug?

Electric plugs and switches are made of plastics because they are more safer [sic] than other materials like iron,copper etc which conduct electricity which is very dangerous while switching plugs so switches and plugs are made of plastics.

Look out for those unsafe iron / copper plugs on Amazon Marketplace!

I think the earliest plug tops were ceramic, weren’t they? It has good insulation properties. The next generation of plugs were made of Bakelite but while that material is non-conductive of electricity it is brittle and could shatter if dropped. Other plastics took over from the 1950’s onwards. Some plug tops these days seem too thin to me but many appliances come with moulded rubber plugs which are presumably very safe.

They earliest plugs were wood or ceramic, but that was before the familiar 13 amp BS 1363 plug appeared in 1947. Bakelite and subsequent thermosetting plastics are brittle and impact resistant plugs, conforming to BS 1363A were eventually produced. Rubber plugs have not been produced for years and modern plugs are made of thermoplastics. Moulded plugs are always made of thermoplastics and will not break if dropped. I have a rewireable plug on my iron and reuse it when replacing the flex when it starts to wear.

Em – I see that the delightful advice came from Quora, perhaps not a ‘Best Buy’ for finding reliable information. 🙁 At least with Wikipedia there is a good chance that someone will come along and correct dodgy information.

The rewireable plug on my iron is undamaged and can be reused when the flex is replaced. New heat resistant flex is fairly readily available, but not with a moulded plug fitted.

It should be easy to establish whether the brushes on your Kenwood Chef are worn out before it becomes a door stop.

Very likely wavechange. Basically, the motor doesn’t come on. If I rotate the drive spindle slightly, and then switch it on, the motor “kicks” and stops. Looks like poor brush contact with the commutator to me.

But then the stuffer box is cracked and needs replacing. The planet hub is sloppy from years of kneading dough; repairing this mixer ain’t gonna save the “planet”. I want to keep the stainless bowl.

Maybe I should just patch it up with some cheap brushes off eBay, use it as a mini-cement/plaster/grout mixer and post on Tiktok as a novelty. I’m sure the blender would be good for stirring paint.

@wavechange – re: Quora. It wasn’t even the “safety” aspect that made me smile, but the fact that a plug made of copper would be totally useless for its intended purpose.

I wonder if there is similar post along the lines of:

“Why are fire extingishers filled with water? Because water is more safer than petrol … “

Maybe the Quora contributor had encountered a metal-faced switch or socket where the back-box had not been earthed. It’s more safer to do the job properly.

If one of the brushes has stuck in its holder that will also cause the symptom you have describe. If other parts are in poor condition it’s not worth trying to save. I have a Kenwood food processor that could do with a new drive belt but the plastics have deteriorated and the once white case is now beige. It’s around 25 years old and I will replace it when something fails.

The most safest sockets are made of copper and fed with plastic wires.

Blomberg LDV42244 dishwasher. Purchased last year and already faulty. Worst kitchen appliance I’ve ever bought. Most expensive at £300 per year of use 🙁

Nigel says:
31 December 2021

I bought a Philips Steam generator Iron model HI5914 in Nov 2018 for £129 , it has stopped heating up and the only way to get it repaired is by returning it to Philips at a cost of over £50 including delivery and return. Given that it has hardly been used over the 2 years due to home working I consider this to be poor reliability. I have written to Philips but the usual ‘brick wall’ reply. Local repair options don’t seem to exist either. Your may wish to consider this experience in your review which doesn’t provide star rating for reliability

The one that has always bothered me is light bulbs. They stopped us getting filament bulbs and CFLs came in, promising longer life and lower electricity consumption, but to my eyes they cost me overall because they are THAT MUCH more expensive to buy and DON’T LAST anywhere like as long as predicted. Now CFLs seem to have disappeared and LEDs are the big thing – and they are expensive to buy as well and don’t seem to last as long as predicted.
I know – it’s the ‘how long is a piece of string’ question – where / how the bulbs are used can make a difference, but I’m talking about the lights in my lounge that are switched on/ off literally twice a day (so don’t suffer much stress in that respect) and get the most condensed usage. I’ve just replaced all the LED lamps in my lounge after they failed within 15-17 months of installation, so it’s likely that they lasted 3000 hours at most under the very-least-stressful usage possible. The other lights that are only used for minutes each day may seem to last a long time, but I don’t think any of those have ever operated for longer than 100 hours, let alone 1000 hours (and as for promises of 10000 hours, dream on…).

Most of my LED lamps that I have purchased are nearly six years old and I had my first failure two days ago. Surprisingly it was one that is little used compared with others of the same make and type.

Unlike old fashioned light bulbs, LEDs can stand frequent switching on and off. When Which? tested them they used far more switching cycles than they would be likely to experience in the home.

I suggest buying branded replacements from a local shop and keeping the receipt so that you can ask for replacements if they fail within a year or two. You are certainly due better luck.

Another one that bugs me (having talked about light bulbs) is electric kettles. Being cost-conscious I used to go out and spend £5-10 on a cheap unbranded kettle which came with a 12-month guarantee. I think most people expect their electrical goods to last a while past their guarantee period, but I swear that I had two of these cheap kettles in succession which failed on the 366th day of my ownership. Then I went out and spent more than £10 on a kettle which DID last longer per pound spent. Lesson learnt! The key factor was having a higher power rating – kettles rated at 2KW don’t last as long as those rated for 3KW. We live and learn!

It would be worth making a claim against the retailer if a kettle fails just outside the guarantee period. I expect that you would be offered discount on a new kettle or a partial refund. It’s worth trying. I suggest avoiding unbranded kettles which may not comply with safety regulations.

(Dr) Pedr Jarvis says:
13 April 2022

We build steam locomotives, to the same basic design since 1872.
The 1872 one fell into disuse in the 1930s.
We built one in 1879 that is still working.
We built another in 1885 that retired and is now in the National Railway Museum at York.
But we built one in 1979 that is now so worn out that it is cheaper to build a new one. It is at the back of the shed in ah, disgrace.
We built another in 1992 which is doing fine.
The new one to replace that of 1979 is well under way. It is to bear the same name as that of 1872. Well, we have a name-plate….it is over the bar….
I don’t know anybody else who has built machines to the same basic design for so long.

[Member E62925]

Stuart says:
25 April 2022

Purchased a Eufy wireless doorbell and camera system in the 2020 black Friday deals. Finally got around to installing the equipment in January 2021. Part of the set up is a device they call the ‘Homebase’, essentially it acts as a hub for the cameras to connect to your local network to allow recording, viewing etc. After 15 months use, the homebase has failed rendering the entire system useless. I’ve contacted Eufy (making sure I mentioned the consumer act 2015 and pointing out that a reasonable person would not consider a 15 months lifetime of a device satisfactory) and they have been less than helpful, offering me a paltry 15% discount on my next purchase. Not sure where to go next

Hi Stuart – Here is advice from Which? https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product-aTTEK2g0YuEy

After six months you may have to prove that the product is defective, which may involve paying for an independent report about the nature of the problem. Your claim is against the retailer and not the manufacturer of the system. Best of luck.