What Are Considered “White Goods” In The UK?

If you’re just setting up your first home, you’ve probably come across the term “white goods” possibly for the first time in your life. But what are “white goods” and does it mean all of the things you buy for your new home need to be white?

No, of course it doesn’t, “white goods” is a kind of umbrella term for all large domestic electrical appliances. If you want to know more about “white goods” keep reading.

In this article we look at “white goods” and answer many questions you might have about them.

What Are White Goods?

The term white goods is given to all large domestic electrical appliances in the UK. Large appliances termed as white goods include;

  • Washing Machines (including washer dryers)
  • Tumble Dryers (including vented, condenser and heat pump models)
  • Refrigerators
  • Freezers
  • Fridge-Freezers
  • Dishwashers
  • Cookers (including Ovens, hobs, ranges and stoves)
  • Air Conditioners
  • Microwaves

As you can see all of the items listed above are too large to carry around and all need to be connected to either an electrical supply, water supply (or both) or a drain or vent.

And that sums up white goods really, they’re electrical appliances that are too large to carry around from room to room. They are almost all large appliances that cannot be easily moved.

Why Are They Called White Goods?

It might seem a bit odd to you when you consider that fridges, freezers and cookers are all available in a variety of colours, why they’re classed as white goods?

It all goes back to when these appliances first became popular. Back then they were all only available in white. Which is where the term white goods came from.

Back then nobody had ever heard of a fitted kitchen with colour coordinated appliances. All large kitchen appliances were white, take it or leave it.

Jump forward to today and the original term has stuck, so even your red fridge is classified as white goods.

What Are Other Names For White Goods In The UK?


Probably due to the fact that these appliances are now available in so many colours, retailers and manufacturers have had to come up with different descriptive terms for them. These include;

  • Kitchen Appliance
  • Large Appliance
  • Domestic Appliance
  • Large Electrical Appliance
  • Large Domestic Appliance
  • Large Electrical Goods
  • Major Appliance

However, it’s not the same elsewhere in the world, other countries have different terms for white goods which include; 

What Are White Goods Called In The Republic Of Ireland?

In the Republic of Ireland white goods are referred to as;

  • Home Appliances
  • Kitchen Appliances

Although some still refer to them as white goods.

What Are White Goods Called In The US?

In the US they call white goods;

  • Major Appliances
  • Large Appliances
  • Home Appliances

What Are White Goods Called In Canada?

In Canada white goods are referred to as;

  • Home Appliances
  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Kitchen & Home Appliances

What Are White Goods Called In Australia?

In the land down under, white goods are still sometimes called white goods only more often than not, it’s spelt as one word “whitegoods”. They also use the terms;

  • Home Appliances
  • Household Appliances

What Are White Goods Called In New Zealand?

In New Zealand they use the terms;

  • Whiteware
  • Whiteware Appliances
  • Appliances
  • Laundry Appliances
  • Kitchen Appliances

What About Bathroom Furniture?


You could be thinking that toilets, baths, bidets and showers might also be considered white goods because in most cases they are white in colour. However, these items are known as “plumbing fixtures” or “bathroom fixtures”.

The most notable difference between white goods and plumbing fixtures is that white goods typically need some form of power (gas or electricity) to operate whereas plumbing fixtures only need to be plumbed into the water supply and drainage system.

Then there’s the fact that plumbing fixtures can’t be moved and used elsewhere. This might be something of a struggle with fridge-freezers and cookers, but it is possible. 

Whereas toilets and baths etc would be extremely difficult to move and set up elsewhere.

What Are Brown Goods?

This is where it can become confusing, because we now know that large household appliances are classified as white goods. But that leaves us with smaller electrical appliances like TVs, PCs etc.

These are known as brown goods because when TVs and radios were first invented they were always supplied in a brown wooden or bakelite casing. Over time the colour of the casing changed, but the name stuck.

Which Items Are Classified As Brown Goods?

As more and more smaller electrical appliances became available they all became classified as brown goods these include;

  • Radios
  • TVs
  • PCs
  • Toasters
  • Coffee Machines
  • Electric Kettles
  • DVD Players
  • HiFi Systems
  • Lamps
  • Vacuum Cleaners

This can be confusing because some items classified as brown goods can also be classified as black goods. These include any item that originally was sold encased in a black surround.

Items like PCs, Stereos and even some TVs are often classed as black goods. But in general terms any smaller electrical item that can be easily handled due to its lightweight, is considered to be brown goods.

SEE ALSO: Does A Tumble Dryer Use Water?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is classed as white goods in the UK?

In the UK items classed as white goods include larger household appliances like cookers, fridges, freezers, washing machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers and any other large appliance that relies on electricity or gas to operate.

Why are Fridges etc called white goods in the UK?

Many large appliances are called white goods in the UK because when they were first introduced they were all only available in white. That was long before the days of colour coordinated kitchens, nowadays appliances come in a range of colours but are still referred to as white goods.

Why are small electrical appliances known as brown goods in the UK?

Smaller electrical appliances are known as brown goods in the UK because when they were first introduced, they were all encased in a brown outer casing typically wooden or bakelite. Items like wireless receivers (radios) and early TVs were all brown coloured and the name has stuck.

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