TVs more likely to catch fire than ironsThe appliances most likely to cause fires revealed

17 September 2013


A Which? investigation has revealed that it’s not always the home appliances you’d expect that catch fire, as last year more TVs than irons caught fire due to faults, and more washing machines caught fire than ovens.

We submitted a Freedom of Information request to the government for data about faulty appliance fires and found that faulty washing machines and tumble dryers caused the most fires, followed by dishwashers, ovens and fridges. Data covers 2011 to March 2013.

Which? members can log in now to read our full investigation Is your kitchen a fire risk?, which includes the brands we felt could have too many fires linked to a type of product. If you're not already a Which? member you can sign up for a trial for £1.

Product recalls and appliance safety

If a product is a potentially dangerous the manufacturer may recall it. When we carried out a public survey we found that a quarter of people have owned a product that was subject to a recall or safety notice. The majority of people were sent information directly from the manufacturer. 

Two thirds of them then contacted the company for a repair or a refund, while a quarter stopped using the product or threw it away. A rogue 5% carried on using it. 

We showed people two different notices that manufacturers had produced about specific safety issues, to find out what action they’d take if they owned the product. When shown a notice that clearly stated the problem with the appliance, 69% said they would contact the manufacturer for a repair. For the notice that didn’t provide the same level of detail, this fell to just 46%.

Top tips for avoiding appliance fires

Products can also cause fires because of the way they are used. Here are some top tips for avoiding problems:

  • Let tumble dryer programmes run full cycle, including the cool-down phase. If stopped early there can be sufficient heat within the contents for a fire to start. 
  • Unplug or switch off any appliance that feels too hot, smells of burning or is producing smoke. Switch off at the socket any appliances that are not being used for long periods.
  • Avoid leaving items (such as shopping) on cooker tops, as these can be accidentally switched on (a surprisingly regular cause of fires).

More on this...