What Are Considered “White Goods” In The UK? (easy explanation)

If you’re just setting up your first home, you’ve probably come across the term “white goods”. 

“White goods” is a kind of umbrella term for all types of large domestic electrical appliances. These include essentials like refrigerators, washing machines, tumble dryers, and cookers — essential parts of daily life.

In this article, we’ll find out more about what “white goods” means, along with brown and grey goods, their importance, types, and the questions surrounding them. If you want to know more, keep reading.

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 what white goods in a house are; they’re electrical appliances too large to carry from room to room. They are almost all large appliances that cannot be easily moved.

SEE ALSO: What Is A Heat Pump Dryer? (and how do they work)

Why Are They Called White Goods?

Why are fridges, freezers, and cookers generally classed as white goods, despite their variety of colours?

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 on the white goods list.

What Are Other Names For White Goods In The UK?

open washing machine door

White goods, now available in many colours, have led retailers and manufacturers to adopt new descriptive terms. 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; 

CountryTerm Used
Republic of IrelandHome Appliances
Kitchen Appliances
Some still refer to them as white goods
United StatesMajor Appliances
Large Appliances
Home Appliances
CanadaHome Appliances 
Kitchen Appliances
Kitchen & Home Appliances
AustraliaWhitegoods (spelt more often as one word)
Home Appliances
Household Appliances
New ZealandWhiteware
Whiteware 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 generally 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?

Smart TV

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: What Is The Quietest Kettle?

What Are Grey Goods?

Grey goods are branded appliances sold outside the manufacturer’s authorised distribution channels. While they may offer lower prices, grey goods often lack the manufacturer’s warranty in the UK, meaning support or repairs could be challenging. 

Additionally, these items might not meet UK standards or plug types, raising compatibility and safety concerns. Distinguishing between genuine grey market items and counterfeit products can be tricky.

When considering grey goods, it’s important to research the seller’s reputation, verify product authenticity, and understand warranty and return policies. Utilising the internet as a resource for customer reviews and ratings will be helpful in your decision-making.

While grey goods can offer savings, shopping for them carefully and with knowledge is important because of the risks involved.

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 such as 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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