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Which appliances cause the most fires? The answer may surprise you

whirlpool moldy washer settlement laundry room with washing machine and dryer
ChiccoDodiFC/Shutterstock
What poses some of the greatest fire risks on your house? Appliances, and we’re not just talking about leaving that pot cooking on the stove overnight. Or that George Foreman grill. Or a welding torch.

UK-based watchdog group Which? found that washing machines posed the greatest danger to safety among appliances in Great Britain, causing 14 percent of about 12,000 fires caused by appliances in that country between January 2011 and March 2014. Tumble dryers came in second at 12 percent, and that makes sense considering the heat and lint. Dishwashers (11 percent), cookers (9 percent), and fridges (7 percent) rounded out the top five in Great Britain. The usual suspects — toasters and grills, microwaves, electric blankets and irons — finished lower in the list.

Which? says the figures show the inherent dangers of products that mix electricity and water, as water leakage can cause a circuit board fire.

Each year in the United States, there are approximately 9,600 residential fires involving appliances, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA).

Appliances are much more complicated today, and with their sophisticated circuitry more can go wrong. Consumer Reports says that while most appliance fires are caused by misuse, it found that 23 percent of appliance fires were caused by the device itself. Many fires start during the night or when no one is home.

Stuart Lipoff of IEEE says the wiring in an appliance can become an antenna picking up electromagnetic interference that may cause the appliance to turn on.

“It’s shocking that some everyday household appliances can pose such a danger — washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers are often the appliances we leave on overnight or as we leave our house,” Which? executive director Richard Lloyd wrote.

Now we’re seeing connected appliances with smartphone apps that can send you updates, though one has to wonder if a text message from your washer would say, “Help! On fire!” Or if an app would still work if an appliance overheated. Manufacturers may also be concerned about the liability of including such an alert if it were to malfunction.

In the United States, the leading cause of appliance fire was a failure to clean the appliance.

The USFA has some tips for fire prevention:

Clothes Dryer

  • Clean lint filter before or after each use
  • Do not operate the dryer without a lint filter
  • Remove accumulated lint around the drum
  • Annually clean lint out of the vent pipe
  • Gas dryers should be inspected by a professional to ensure the gas line and connection are intact and free of leaks

Washer

  • Avoid overloading the machine
  • Make sure the machine is properly grounded

If you are looking to prevent these kinds of problems, take a look at our collection of the best lint traps.

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