Fire risks in appliances

I received the following enquiry about the safety of washing machines and other appliances regarding fire risks. -

There seems to be a lot of news about washing machines catching fire and advice not to leave them unattended. We do have a smoke alarm but is there any other way of safeguarding against them catching fire?

I’m afraid fire risks in appliances are always with us if relatively rare. The advice from the Fire services is to always install a smoke alarm near to the appliance if it is left unattended, but this can be impractical if the appliance is in the kitchen because of cooking activity setting them off.

There isn’t anything you can do to prevent an appliance catching fire, if a fault is going to develop and cause a fire it will happen. The best you can do is to not ignore any leaks or any other faults if present, and don’t overload the wall socket by plugging too many appliances in. I was once advised by a fireman that the square adapters that go into a socket should also be avoided.

Make sure you always register your appliances

Safety Tip Many dangerous faults, once discovered, are the subject of safety recalls or notices. The first thing a manufacture will do if they discover a serious safety issue with one of their appliances is to contact everyone on their database. If you haven’t registered, then they can’t.

The only safe thing is to not really leave them unattended but many people can’t easily do this. My own washing machine for example is in our garage which is a separate building as are two of my refrigeration appliances. We also leave our dishwasher on in the kitchen whilst we are sat in the lounge, no one could be expected to stand and watch an appliance. At the end of the day it’s a modern-day risk we all take, and the best we can do is never leave the house or go to bed while such an appliance is running. At least if someone is around they are likely to either smell or see the smoke and be in a position to try and deal with it.

Keep fire extinguisher close to appliances

For the extra cautious I would advise keeping a fire extinguisher which is suitable for use in electrical fires to hand. I have a small home fire extinguisher in a corner of my kitchen near to the door similar to those available on 4Washerhelp Find fire extinguishers suitable for use on home Appliances I also keep one in my garage close to my Freezers, washing machine and tumble dryer.

Check Appliance Safety Notices

I have a list of appliance safety notices which I update every time I discover one. I can’t promise to catch them all but here are the ones I know about so far, which includes dangerous and potentially lethal fridges, freezers, dishwashers and cookers so check them now and keep checking this section or follow me on Facebook Appliance Safety Notice Warnings

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  1. avatarD Cox says

    Please don’t underestimate the danger of washing machine fires. I was woken at 2am by friends who had just been released from hospital after treatment for smoke inhalation; they and their 2 young children had nearly died, and their possessions were all ruined, their house needed completely redecorating. What was shocking was the actual fire was TINY; the toxic smoke had come from plastic objects above the machine smouldering. The seat of the fire was no more than 6ins across and there had been no flames.

  2. avatar says

    Thanks for your input D Cox: I would never leave a major appliance on whilst no one was at home or we were in bed. Some appliances such as fridges and freezers have to be left on unattended – there’s nothing we can do about that so we have no choice but to accept the risk. We do not have to leave washing machines, dishwashers and dryers on whilst in bed or out though, therefore doing so risks serious consequences in the name of convenience, or to save a few pounds (economy 7) which is a risk I personally don’t want to take.

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