The story then developed..
A few years after the article was published it started to attract comments from people experiencing a different, but more dramatic danger. Reports started to accumulate of spontaneously exploding door glass. Most reports were of the glass “exploding” whilst on a wash cycle but several reported the glass exploded when the washing machine was not even in use. However, the 52 cases reported in the press have accumulated over the last 2 and a half years so this remains a rare phenomenon at the moment.
Don’t confuse two separate “exploding washing machine” issues
There are two totally unconnected issues, which unsurprisingly are getting confused or fused together. This article is talking about the door glass alone exploding, sometimes spontaneously when not even in use. The other issue, which had national press coverage last year is when the washing machine itself explodes from the drum out. The revolving drum splits apart during high spin and mechanically explodes through the plastic outer tub and plastic lid as well as the control panel and door. This is a known issue related to specific brands and is covered in my Washerhelp article here – Washing machines exploding: What’s going on?
Back to shattering door glass
I’m not entirely happy using the word explode because it sounds sensational but as the word is used by people experiencing this problem it needs to be used. Some have even described it as being like “a bomb”. This picture is of a Beko washing machine, who so far have the highest reported cases – though they are one of the most common UK washing machines. The consumer who sent it me wrote, “I dread to think the outcome if my son had been in front of the machine at the time!” and of course the concerns over children have been mentioned by several others.
So what’s happening?
Although the exploding washing machine issue mentioned above has a precise explanation, the exploding door glass problem doesn’t. Manufacturers so far have tended to fall back on blaming customers. They say large metal buckles or buttons on some laundry, or leaving coins and other metal objects in pockets are causing the door glass to take hits, which is weakening them. Whilst I have some sympathy with this explanation, and for all I know it could be the common link in all cases, I have to say that coins, bad loads and metal parts on laundry have always been present. Not only that, but they always will be. Therefore it’s hard to argue that washing machine door glass should not be strong enough to cope with extremely well known incidents. It’s also worth noting that in the past, this did not happen despite the (mis)use of washing machines being the same, and this is a relatively new phenomena presumably caused by something manufacturers are doing differently. Possible explanations are -
- Maybe the door glass is thinner and/or of poorer quality than in the past
- Maybe there is a flaw in the manufacturing process
- Maybe doors and their glass are larger now, and therefore weaker because quality hasn’t increased to take it into account
- Maybe the larger drum capacity has changed something which is allowing the revolving drum to hit the bottom of the door glass more often and/or more harshly
- Maybe this as always happened, and is in actual fact extremely rare but just feels more common because the Internet allows people to find others with the same problem
I feel the answer is probably one or a combination of the possibilities in this list. The last one should be borne in mind, though with over 30 years experience I have to say I had never come across exploding door glass before until recently.
Isn’t it the user’s fault anyway for leaving coins in pockets or washing laundry with metal buttons or buckles?
It may or may not turn out to be related to user misuse. If it is, my question is why have washing machine door glasses only recently started to shatter in such dangerous ways? What has changed recently which is allowing this to happen? It’s more likely to be something related to manufacture than related to what people are washing unless a sudden recent change in washing habits has occurred. It may well turn out to be a combination of user misuse and something that’s changed in manufacture. However, the onus is on manufacturers to make products that pre-empt predictable user misuse and not allow dangerous consequences to occur when their customers do totally predictable things.
Here are the door glass tallies so far -
The latest added up numbers are -
Beko 18 | Miele 8 | Hoover 4 | Zanussi 4 | Bosch 3 | LG 3 | Samsung 3 | Hotpoint 2 | Candy 2 | Not specified 2 | John Lewis 1 (John Lewis washer made by Zanussi) | Ignis 1 | Tricity Bendix 1 | AEG 1
There are usually more cases reported in the comments that are only added to this list every so often. Out of the 53 cases reported so far, 15 have said the washing machine was not in use at the time.
Why the fuss?
I’m personally trying to keep things in perspective but at the same time I know it’s a genuinely serious safety concern. If the door glass was shattering only when the washing machine was on that would be one thing, people could just keep out of its way when it’s running. But the main reason people, and the media, are concerned is because of the reports of spontaneous shattering, which means there’s the fear of it shattering at any time no matter who is in front of it. The reports of this particular phenomenon number only 15 and they are of course only anecdotal, but unless all 15 people are lying this puts the sensational spin on it I’m afraid.
What’s the solution?
Until a definite cause is proved it’s difficult to know what needs to be done. The main expectation is that the door glass needs to be made thicker, but there’s currently no proof of that. One improvement that should help is if manufacturers placed a plastic cover in front of the door glass making it double-glazed though it would need to be designed like this from the off. This was done by Hoover for many years going back to the 90s although it was done more for thermal protection. If a see-through plastic cover is fitted inside the door at the front it should protect anyone from exploding glass although it would be better if the glass didn’t explode at all.
Although this still appears to be rare, enough reports have come through of the glass shattering whilst the washer isn’t even on to be taken seriously so it may be best not to let kids play around washing machines until this issue is hopefully resolved.
Remember, this is only 50 odd cases reported out of millions of washing machines and only 15 claim the washer wasn’t running at the time so the odds of it happening at all – never mind someone being in front of it at the time – should be very low. If you are concerned enough to need to do something, you could try hanging a thick towel over the door when the washer is not in use in case it helps prevent or limit any glass flying out, and keeping children away from it especially when it’s running.
(More views on this subject from another experienced engineer : Ken Watt runs UKWhitegoods and is an experienced appliance engineer. He has written an article giving his views here – Washing Machine Door Glass Failures)
Do you have any photos of your exploded door glass?
If your washing machine door glass has shattered or exploded please send photos so I can put them on this article as examples. Contact me using my contact form I can then reply, and you can attach the photos to my email reply.
Related article For article on actual washing machines exploding go here – Washing machines exploding: What’s going on?
Here are all the previous comments on this topic from my original article – Original comments