Could your washing machine or fridge be a fire risk?

Are your appliances dangerous? And how can you protect yourself?

Washing machine fire (stock photo)

Millions of us are at risk from dangerous appliances in our homes - and we're completely unaware of it. So how can you find out if the white goods in your kitchen have been identified as risky?

See also: The Great Fire of London - 350 years ago but still a risk

See also: Tumble dryers cause almost one fire a day


A Study by Which? a couple of years ago, found that an average of 4,000 house fires are caused by faulty household appliances every year. Washing machines were identified as the biggest risk, followed by tumble dryers and then dishwashers.

In some cases, these are older items that break down in a way that causes them to overheat. It's not something any of us can know about in advance, and we can only hope it happens at a time when we're around to spot that the fan in the fridge is running very loud, or the washing machine smells vaguely of burning.

In other cases these fires take place in appliances that are working perfectly, but are the result of a mistake or an accident. It may be, for example, that somehow water has dripped onto a socket, or an oven has been left on by mistake.

Recalled

At other times, however, these are faults that have been there from the outset. They have been identified by the manufacturer, who has issued a recall, but millions of people have never found out that their white goods could be a fire risk. Recalls are surprisingly common. There were 61 electrical gadgets recalled in 2016 alone.

The manufacturers have a handful of ways of getting in touch to let you know an item is faulty. If you registered your details when you initially bought it, they can write to you direct and tell you there's a problem. Otherwise they have to rely on posters put up in the stores which sold the item, adverts in newspapers, and online notifications.

Worryingly, according to Electrical Safety Fire, only between 10% and 20% of faulty items are ever returned - leaving millions of dangerous items in homes around the UK.

The system is so bad that the government published a report in February last year into it. It called for a new safety body to co-ordinate recalls, and a government website to bring them all together. Unfortunately, since then, nothing has been forthcoming.

What can you do?

Whenever you buy anything electrical, it's vital to register your details with the manufacturer as soon as possible. It may seem like a hassle, but it's by far the easiest way to ensure you are informed of any problems.

If you didn't do it immediately, and you've lost the paperwork, you may still be able to do it through the Register My Appliance website, which has a section for older items.

It's also important to check the recalls lists. There's one on Register My Appliance which shows recent recalls. Electrical Safety First also has a great tool that lets you enter details of your products, and it will check recalls since 2007. If you have anything bought before then, it's worth checking the manufacturer's website for details.

You can also sign up for alerts from Electrical Safety First, so you can keep on top of any new recalls.

Finally, to keep you safe from older appliances malfunctioning, or fires as a result of accidents, it's essential to have smoke alarms in place - and to test them regularly. In the kitchen, many people have smoke alarms that go off whenever the toast is burned, and as a result they have had the batteries taken out. It's essential these are replaced with heat sensor alarms - which only off when the temperature rises suddenly. These will only go off in the event of a fire.