can a washing machine catch on fire?

Posted by smol on

Many of us know about the dangers of tumble dryer fires (often caused by a buildup of fluff) and it’s now common knowledge not to leave them running unattended (or at night). The fires can be devastating and government figures from 2019 and 2020 show there were 668 tumble dryer fires in the UK.

BUT did you know that tumble dryer fires were closely followed by washing machine fires? Amazingly, in the same year, there were 624 fires caused by washing machines in the home!

hot topic.

What’s more, Whirlpool recalled over 500,000 of its Hotpoint and Indesit machines for posing a fire risk across that same time period. So it seems washing machine fires are more common than we’d think.

But what on earth is causing them?

top 10 causes of washing machine fires. 

  1. Faulty wiring can create sparks that set fire to cable insulation.

  1. The V-belts (also called drive belts) can wear out and overheat.

  1. A faulty main motor or motor capacitor can create a fire inside the appliance.

  1. Blocked drain pumps can cause overheating.

  1. Overloaded machines can vibrate, short circuiting the electrics, which is a fire hazard.

  1. Faulty electrical connections on the circuit board can cause overheating.

  1. Frayed electrical cords can throw sparks and start a fire.

  1. Old wiring in your wall can create a fire hazard.

  1. Leaking hoses that spray water can short circuit the wiring and that poses a fire hazard.

  1. Machines that are improperly grounded with no earthing outlet can be dangerous.

prevention is better than cure.

So let’s look at what we can do to ensure we aren’t dialling 999 in the middle of the night!

basic checks. 

Always ensure you are using the right fuse for your washing machine. You should also make sure it has a British or European safety mark on it when you buy it. If your appliance is second-hand then get it safety checked by an engineer. 

Another important check is to look whether your machine is on the list of recalled products. The UK government has a page here where you can check for recently recalled items. If you have a brand new machine you should also make sure you register it so that the manufacturer can contact you in the future should your make and model undergo a safety recall. 

energy to burn.

If you can remember to unplug your washing machine when it’s not in use this will help to reduce the risk of a fire.  

It’s also important to keep the power lead away from any leaking water and NEVER overload your electric outlets with too many plugs.

And if you do ever smell burning coming from your washing machine, turn it off at the wall if it’s safe to do so and investigate what is happening at once - you might just prevent the situation from becoming much worse!

What to do in the event of a fire.

If the worst does happen… try not to panic.

Hopefully your home has working smoke alarms that you have tested regularly. This should mean you’re alerted as soon as any smoke forms from the washing machine.

no water! 

Firstly, never try to put out an electrical fire with water. Water conducts electricity and you could be electrocuted. Use a fire blanket or powder fire extinguisher that can be used on electrical fires. If you have neither of these you can also use bicarbonate of soda.

cut the power. 

If the fire is small and it is safe to do so - switch the machine off at the wall and unplug it. Sometimes just turning off the power is enough to stop small fires getting worse. However, if there is fire obstructing your path and the machine or if you feel at all unsure then do NOT do this.

get help.

The most important thing with a fire is to get yourself and your family out of the house as soon as possible. It can take just five minutes for a home to become fully engulfed by a fire so you need to act fast. 

Do NOT waste time collecting any belongings, just leave via the nearest exit and then call 999 and ask for the fire brigade. Do NOT go back into your house until the fire service has said that it is safe to do so. 


Of course, household fires are far more likely to be caused by unattended cooking or faulty heaters BUT it’s good to be aware of the risk that our washing machines can pose. A few simple precautions could cut the risk dramatically and having a fire extinguisher or fire blanket is a great addition to any kitchen.

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