Can Washing Machines Set On Fire? (causes, risks & how to stay safe)

Washing machines can catch fire and there are more washing machine fires every year than you realise. This surprising information is backed up by the UK government. 

Who published a report which includes the information that during the 2021/22 period there were 509 reported fires caused by washing machines. That’s around 10 every week!

It sounds odd when you think about it, how can an appliance that fills up with water catch fire? But the reality is there are plenty of washing machines that have caught on fire with devastating results.

There are many reasons for washing machine fires and even though some would have you believe they’re mainly down to user error, this is not usually the case.

It’s important that you understand the risks involved with using washing machines for the sake of you, your family and your home. Keep reading for all of the relevant information.

What Causes Washing Machines To Catch Fire?

There are many reasons that can cause a washing machine to catch fire and many times it’s not down to the user. In recent years, there have been a number of manufacturers that have had to recall their washing machines due to safety issues caused by faulty manufacture.

The main causes include;

  • Motor Fault
    If the motor in the washing machine develops a fault it can start a fire inside the appliance which can then cause serious consequences to your home.
  • Damaged Belts
    If the drive belts become damaged and begin to wear out, they can cause the appliance to overheat which can potentially cause an internal fire.
  • Blocked Drain Pump
    If the drain pump becomes blocked it can cause the washer to overheat which can then cause a fire to break out internally.
  • Faulty Wiring
    Wiring faults in the washing machine or in the wall socket or even the circuit breaker can easily cause a fire to break out.
  • Leaking Hoses
    If one of the hoses of your washing machine develops a leak, the water could spray onto some of the electrical components which will cause them to short out. Which can lead to a fire breaking out internally.
  • Vibration
    Overloading the drum of the washer can cause considerable vibration. Too much vibration can cause electrical components to short circuit which can then cause them to catch fire.
  • Frayed Electric Cable
    The power cord which connects the appliance to the power supply needs to be intact. If it is frayed or damaged in any way, it can cause sparks which can  cause fire.
  • Poor Installation
    If the appliance wasn’t installed with the correct earth connections the appliance is liable to cause a fire or electrocution.

How Common Are Washing Machine Fires?

As we saw earlier, the average amount of fires caused by washing machines in the UK in the year ending 2021/22 was around 10 per week. In 2019, Whirlpool recalled 500,000 washing machines in the UK due to a risk of fire.

This type of fault was caused by a faulty component and shows just how easily your washing machine can pose a serious threat. Added to which, due to the many plastic parts on a modern washing machine, if a fire does break out, it will spread at an extremely fast rate.

What Should You Do If Your Washing Machine Catches Fire?

What To Do If Your Washing Machine Catches Fire

If the worst was to happen and you notice sparks or smell smoke coming from your washer, keep calm and do the following if it’s safe to do so:

Disconnect The Power Supply

If you can safely get to the plug socket, remove the plug or trip the circuit breaker. However, do not attempt this if you need to get near the fire at all.

Starve The Flames Of Oxygen

If you can, use a fire blanket or a wet blanket to cover the appliance to prevent the flames from spreading. If you do not have a blanket you can use bicarbonate of soda. However, you should never use water to try to put out an electrical fire.

Use A Fire Extinguisher

If you have a fire extinguisher, use this to extinguish the flames. If you cannot get the fire under control, contact the fire service as soon as you can.

You can do this in the UK by phoning 999, once you have done all you can, get out and stay safe.

What Can You Do To Prevent Your Washing Machine From Catching Fire?

Washing Machine

After reading this article to this point, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s not safe to even own a washing machine. And whilst you have no control over manufacturing faults, there are several things you can do to ensure you and your family have clean clothes and stay safe.

Washing Machine Safety Tips

To prevent your washing machine from catching fire you should;

  • Never overload your plug sockets or extension cables.
  • Follow all installation instructions for your machine.
  • Fit a smoke alarm in the same room as your washing machine and ensure the battery is changed frequently.
  • Keep up with current news concerning your particular washing machine (product recalls or warnings, the brands website, local or national press).
  • Investigate any burning smells coming from the area around your washer. Switch the appliance off immediately if you smell any burning and contact the manufacturer or a technician to investigate further and make your machine safe.
  • Never use the washing machine unattended. Don’t put the washer on and then leave the house and never allow it to run overnight.

Don’t Have Nightmares & Don’t Panic

It seems that washing machines can and do catch fire. However, there are thousands of washers in the UK that have never caused any problems. There’s no need to panic unnecessarily, just be aware that there’s the potential for problems.

As long as you have taken all relevant precautions and never leave the washing machine running when there’s nobody at home, you should be fine.

However, it might be a good idea to keep a fire blanket close by just in case and always be vigilant. If you smell fire, or suspect your washer could be overheating, switch it off immediately and get it checked by an electrician or technician.

SEE ALSO: How Long Do Washing Machines Take To Wash Clothes?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to leave the washing machine on overnight?

It is not safe to leave the washing machine or any other electrical appliance on overnight or unattended during the day. There is always the potential for an electrical component to spark, short out and/or catch fire.

What can cause a washing machine to catch fire?

Washing machines can catch fire due to; faulty power cables, a faulty motor, faulty wiring, excessive vibration, a leaking hose, incorrect installation, a damaged drive belt or a blocked drain pump.

How many washing machines catch fire in the UK?

In the UK in the year ending 2021/22, there were 509 fires caused by washing machines.

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