Could your washing machine or dishwasher set your house on fire?

Household appliances cause thousands of fires a year: how can you protect yourself?

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Smoke stained cooker in kitchen after fireImage #:    72984054License type: Royalty-freePhotographer: Michael BlannCollection: D

Malfunctioning household appliances like washing machines, dishwashers and cookers have been responsible for an incredible 12,000 house fires in the last three years. An investigation has revealed that faulty appliances have led to massive destruction, injuries and even deaths. It means that it's essential to check whether your appliances are safe.

Which? discovered the scale of the problem in a Freedom of Information request about fires between 2011 and 2014. It found 12,000 fires had been caused by appliances that were either faulty, incorrectly installed or improperly maintained.

Washing machines were the most likely to cause a fire - in 14% of cases. They were followed by tumble dryers at 12% and dishwashers at 11%. This is particularly alarming as so many are left on when the household goes to bed so they are unaware of a fire starting.

Protect yourself

It highlights how important it is to have appliances installed by someone who knows what they are doing, and not ignoring warning signs from appliances that start to show maintenance issues. However, the consumer association also pointed out that in many cases the appliances were actually known to be faulty, and had been recalled by the manufacturer. The problem is that the recall system doesn't work.

Manufacturers ask people to register their new appliance when they buy it, so they have a record of where all their appliances are. That way, if there's a dangerous fault, they can get in touch with all the owners and let them know.

Unfortunately just one in three customers bother to do this - partly because they think it will open them up to a deluge of marketing - so manufacturers have no way of getting in touch. They issue recall notices in shops and newspapers, but if you don't happen to see them, you could be unaware that your white goods are potential death traps. As we reported at the end of last year, this means that 90% of recalled items are never taken back to the manufacturer.

This latest report emphasises how important it is to register new appliances. For items already in your home, you should also check the Electrical Safety First product recall page.

Emma Apter from Electrical Safety First adds: "We're working with manufacturers to improve the recall system but in the meantime we urge everyone to do anything they can to look after themselves, whether that's registering a product when you buy it or keeping an eye out for recall notices. We'd also encourage everyone to use our free online checker, to see if you have any recalled items in your home today."

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