26 Things that can set your washing machine on fire

what causes a washing machine to catch fire
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Washing machine fire is not unusual. However many of us are yet to witness one.

To prevent having a first person experience of this urgly event, it is good to know things and events that can trigger it, and to avoid them.

Some washing machine fires are the result of production error. Usually affected appliances are recalled by their manufacturers. This is not the focus of this article.

In this article, we’ll consider user’s induced washing machine fire.

In no particular order, here is a detailed list of 26 things or actions that can set your washing machine on fire:

S/No.Washing Machine Fire Starters
1Sharing a wall socket with other appliances.
2
Using a power strip or extending the power cord.
3
Using a different electricity rating than the recommended specifications.
4Presence of foreign substances on power plug terminals and contact points.
5Inverting power plug connection.
6Grounding your washing machine to a gas pipe, plastic water pipe, or telephone line.
7Running the washing machine in a location where gas may leak.
8Do not use an electric transformer. • This may result in electric shock or fire.
9Using a damaged power plug, damaged power cord, or loose wall socket.
10Using a twisted or tied the power cord.
11Placing a heavy object on the power cord or inserting the power cord between objects, or between a the appliance and a wall.
12Pulling the power cord when unplugging the power plug.
13Overlooking strange smells and noise from the washing machine.
14Washing garments contaminated with gasoline, kerosene, benzene, paint thinner, alcohol or other inflammable or explosive substances.
15Unplugging the washer while in operation.
16Replacing the fuse with one of a different rating and material.
17Loose water supply hose comes loose.
18Leaving the cable plugged in for a long period of time without being used.
19Leaving your washer on during a thunder or lightning storm.
20Operating your washing machine without removing foreign substance that accidentally enters it.
21Using the washing machine with drain issue.
22Placing combustible objects on the appliance.
23Spray volatile material such as insecticide onto the surface of the appliance.
24Using dry cleaning detergent on your regular washing machine.
25Attempting a repair, dismantling or installation by yourself.
26Using detergents that contain solvents.

Table of Contents

Point 1 –

Sharing a wall socket with other appliances

what causes a washing machine to catch fire

Have you seen a dual socket wall socket? Don’t be fooled its the same electric wire feeding the two sockets. 

What it translates to is: two loads in one supply wire.

Sharing a wall socket with other appliances can result in electrical overload.

An overloaded live wire is a time bomb. Overloading increases the heat produced in a electric wire. When the heat increases beyond the wire’s tolerance limit, it goes up in flame.

Fires from external source like  a connecting wire is a major source of washing machine fire. And a major culprit is adding more appliances to the wall socket.

Point 2 –

Using a socket extension, power adapter or extending the power cord

what causes a washing machine to catch fire

Increasing connections in an any electric connections increases the point of failure.

It’s a simple formula. Every connection added is an extra point of failure.

Another problem is the actual joining of the cord. If you’re soldering the wires together, there is the posibility of a poorly soldered point.

If you’re manually ‘DIYing’ the connections, that is, tying the cable together, this is a bigger safety hazard.

A poorly joined extension can result in heat or fire sparks that can set washing machine on fire.

A power strip can heatup and eventually melt.

Alright, for the record, washing machine manufacturers advice directly connecting the appliance to a wall socket. 

No extension, no cable joining, no nothing.

Just washer power cable to the wall socket.

Anything different from this is an invitation to washing machine fire outbreak.

Point 3 –

Using a different electric rating than the recommended specifications.

Power, voltage, frequency, and current are region and device specific.

For example, the U.S domestic power grid, produces 110v – 120v, and runs on 50Hz frequency.

The UK and some of former colonies of the kingdom uses 220v -240v and 60Hz frequency.

If you buy a device built for the U.S market while living in Australia or the UK for example, you’ll only be courting trouble.

Frequency: The number of complete alternations per second of an alternating current

The next option is to use some for of converter or power stepdown.

Remember point 2, it is better to run a washing machine without a converter or some extra connection of sort.

Point 4 –

Presence of foreign substances on power plug terminals and contact points

what causes a washing machine to catch fire

Do you know that dust help in the production of rain? 

This tiny guys are able to do so, thanks to their ability to conduct current.

Dusts are a good conductor. 

When dust, metal debris and other contaminants build up on power plug, they can conduct electricity across plug pins and cause a short circuit.

Also, they can lead to tiny sparks in wall sockets that can lead to bigger fire.

To prevent, always clean your power plug. At least once every month is a good practice.

Point 5 – 

Inverting power plug connection

what causes a washing machine to catch fire

Look at the picture above. That is how a washing machine’s power plug should be connect to a wall socket.

The plug should be positioned such that the plug’s cable is running downward.

Even when the plug is coming from a higher position, like in the image above, the plug must be connected this way.

The exception is if your socket connection is inverted.

Failing to connect the plug this way can damage your cable and potentially result in electric shock and a fire.

Point 6 –

Grounding your washing machine to a gas pipe, plastic water pipe, or telephone line

This point goes beyond washing machine fire. You can literally set the entire house on fire if you connect your washing machine ground to a gas pipe and telephone line.

And connecting it to a plastic water pipe can lead to electric shock.

Well sometime, a bad electrical installation can leave you with wall sockets with no ground wire. Or the ground wire is not connected to the house’s earth.

It can be tempting then to ground the washing machine to the nearest metal, irrespective of it’s purpose. This can lead to explosion, fire and shock.

For more information about earthing or grounding and how it relates to washing machine, kindly see this article

Point 7 –

Running the washing machine in a location where gas may leak

Electric appliance and gas leakage are never friends because of the possibility of fire outbreak.

Installing your washing machine in an area with gas pipes and gas valves is courting trouble.

The possibility of this happening is slim. But if your house is one of the few with gas pipes running overhead in some locations, you’re better installing your washer in a different location for fear of washing machine fire.

In the event of a leakage, do not touch the appliance or power cord and do not use a ventilating fan. 

This can lead to a spark, a fire, or worse still, an explosion.

Point 8 – 

Point 9 –

Using a damaged power plug, damaged power cord, or loose wall socket.

what causes a washing machine to catch fire

This is to all the DIYers. Using a damaged plug, cord or loose wall socket can set your washing machine on fire.

The above image is a live picture of a DIYer at work, and the connection is live as at moment of snapping.

A damaged plug, cord or socket can still transmit electricity.

And you may be tempted to keep using it that way. But these connections can result in sparks, overheating and a fire outbreak.

Point 10 –

Using a twisted or tied the power cord

what causes a washing machine to catch fire

There are times when a householder might be tempted to tie the power cord. In most cases it is to reduce the cable length when the washing machine is too close to a wall socket.

Other times, it is done in error.

Whichever the case, using twisted or tied cable can damage the power cord, resulting in loose cable and partial contact. 

Which in turn can cause a washing machine fire.

Point 11 –

Placing a heavy object on the power cord or inserting the power cord between objects, or between a the appliance and a wall.

Placing a heavy object on your washing machine’s power cable can lead to breaking of the power cord. 

This is usually done in error, when washing machine cable is too long and touches the ground.

This can lead to electric shock and a fire. 

Concerted effort should be made to ensure heavy objects are not placed on extended power cables.

This also applies to sandwiching the cable between two heavy objects or the washing machine and a wall.

Practically any space where the cable can be smashed and damaged.

Point 12 –

Pulling the power cord when unplugging the power plug.

what causes a washing machine to catch fire

Where do you hold the washing machine cable when you want to unplug it from the socket?

Do you unplug by pulling the cable or the plug?

Pulling the cable seem to be the easiest thing to do. At least that’s how some householders view.

In truth, pulling the plug from the cable will damage the plug. Which can result in electric shock or a fire.

The right way to unplug the washing machine, is to hold it by it’s head, i.e the plug head and gently pull out of the socket.

Point 13 – 

Overlooking strange smells and noise from the washing machine.

Many washing machine fires does not start suddenly.

Often times there are warning signs such as a strange smell. This can be the smell of smoke, a burning plastic or some other burning smell.

Other times, it might be a strange grinding noise.

Of course washing machines do have certain noise during normal operation.

The idea here is something out of the regular.

These signs are and indication of a fault that can result in a fire, or are the initial stage of the actual washing machine fire.

Ignoring these can lead to a full ledge fire, that will consume the whole appliance and might be difficult to manage.

If you observe any of these symptoms, 

  • Unplug the power cord immediately and 
  • Contact your washing machine’s customer care.

It is important that you do not operate the device until you confirm from a professional what the issue is, and you verified that it is safe to use.

Point 14 –

Washing garments contaminated with petroleum products or other inflammable or explosive substances.

If you work as a mechanic or other engineering fields, you’ll be in regular contact with gasoline, kerosene, benzene, paint thinner, alcohol etc. Hence it is normal have for some of your laundry, especially work clothes to be soiled with these substances.

The sad truth is, petroleum products do not dissolve in water. Actually gasolene can combust in water.

As such washing garments contaminted by petrol products in washing machine can result in fire.

Many users forget metal objects in clothes pockets during laundry. Most of these are collected by the emergency drain filter.

Washing these items in a washing machine can cause sparks. 

When sparks meet with petrol-soiled garments, instant combustion takes place.

This is one example of washing machine that starts from inside the washer itself.

To prevent petrol induced fire, soiled clothes should be hand washed. Using a large amount of detergent will help to dissolve some of the petroleum.

Point 15 –

Unplugging the washer while in operation.

what causes a washing machine to catch fire

Do you have a need to stop or rather pause your washing while it’s running.

You can stop or pause the washer using their respective buttons. But no matter what you do, never unplug the washer from the wall socket while it’s still running.

If you do so, you’ll likely produce some sparks. The worse is when you need to re-plug the appliance.

It can produces enough spark to set the washer on fire.

In the event of an emergency, and you need to stop the washer from the switch, always ensure you switch off the wall socket first.

The idea is to disconnect power from the device before moving the power plug. Doing otherwise can set your washer machine on fire.

Point 16 –

Replacing the fuse with one of a different rating and material. 

In the event of a blown fuse, it can be dfficult finding the exact blown fuse type to replace the damaged one.

The temptation to replace the blown fuse with one of a different rating or material can be harmful.

Others simply resort to shorting the fuse with copper wire.

Truth is, it works just fine… until the next power surge.

Shorting a fuse with copper, in most cases, increases the current tolerance. So in the case of a surge, the fuse does not break, the entire current passes through the plug to the washing machine.

This is the perfect recipe for washing machine fire.

Do not use a fuse (such as copper, steel wire, etc.) other than a standard fuse.

Point 17 –

Loose water supply hose

If the water supply hoses comes loose due to poor installation or some other factor, it is important that the washing machine be turned off, and the power plug unplugged from the wall socket.

Failure to do so can result in electric shock and fire.

Point 18

Leaving the cable plugged in for a long period of time without being used

Washing machines

Point 19-

Leaving your washer on during a thunder or lightning storm.

Electrical installations are at constant threat from lightning and thurders.

A plugged in appliance is a suitable grounding point for lightening. Therefore manufacturers suggest unplugging your washing machine during a thunderstorm. 

This will disconnect your appliance from the house’s wiring.

Even with the presence of a building’s earthing system, and different thunder arrestors, no appliance has guaranteed protection.

To prevent washing machine fire during your thunderstorm you should unplug it from the wall socket.

Point 20 –

Operating your washing machine without removing foreign substance that accidentally enters it.

Lemme explain this a little. The detergent drawer is used to apply detergent, shampoo and other washing solutions to the washing machine.

Well, children can also use it to send all types of foreign substances into the washer. From coins, to ring, nails and other metals.

Operating the washing machine with these substances stuck in the washer can result in electric shock and a drawer.

If you’re aware of any metal or other substances that are stuck in the washer, kindly turn of the appliance, unplug it from the wall and call a technician. Another suggestion is to contact your washing machine’s customer care support.

Point 21 –

Using the washing machine with drain issue

Drain problem is a common fault in washing machine. 

And while it can have different causes, it has one symptom it shares in common: Flooding.

Unfutunately some drain flooding does not pass out of the machine. You might only observe it in the tub.

If excess water is seen in the tub or drum, it is likely that the bases containing the drain pump, water heater and other appliances is also flooded too.

Using the washing machine in this condition can result in electric shock and a fire.

If your washing machines does not drain, simply

  • Turn it off, 
  • Remove the plug from the wall and
  • Call a technician.

No matter what you do, never attempt to fix the issues with the power cord plugged in.

Point 22 –

Placing combustible objects on the appliance

what causes a washing machine to catch fire

Romantic candle light evenings are good, especially for lovers, but your washing machine should not be used as a candle stand.

Placing combustible objects like, 

  • Lighted candles
  • Lighted cigarettes, and
  • Combustible chemicals

on your washing machine, can set it on fire.

This is especially so if your washing machine is in the kitchen.

Placing hot frying pans with boiling oils is a brewing trouble.

If the washer is in the kitchen, it is wise to place it a few feet from the cooker. This will reduce the reflex of placing hot cooking objects from it, or even having it close to your gas cooker. 

Point 23 –

Spray volatile material such as insecticide onto the surface of the appliance.

Do not spray volatile materials on the washing machine.

This might sound obvious, but what do you do, if your washing machine has a bad smell due to mold or mildew, I guess you spray some scented spray on it. 

Or how about spraying insecticide when fumigating your home.

Spraying any combustible material, even with a good motive can set your washer on fire.

This includes using thinner, alcohol or similar cleaning agents to clean the washing machine.

As a general rule, irrespective of its use, any spray that is stored in a pressure can is potentially combustible.

Point 24 –

Using dry cleaning detergent on your regular washing machine. 

Do you not that not all washing machines can dryclean?

If your washing machine is not specifically labeled for dry cleaning, using dry cleaning materials on it can set it on fire.

Even garments contaminated with dry cleaning detergent can spontenously combust and ignite due to the oxidation of oil.

Point 25 –

Attempting a repair, dismantling or installation by yourself

what causes a washing machine to catch fire

To all this DIYers in the house, here is a caveat emptor:

attempting a repair or dismantling on your washing machine as an unqualified technician can set your washing machine on fire

Well, all repairs on washing machines should be done by a qualified technician your washer’s product support.

Anything other than this can void your warranty.

But that’s not the big issue here.

The real issue is, it is easy to miss one safety rule and ruin all your work. 

For example you can forget to unplug your washer from the wall, that can cause a shock or a fire.

The fire and accident possibilities is big for an DIYer, so it is better to pass repairs to the experts. 

Several hours watching Youtube videos or reading blog posts does not make one a certified or qualified repairer.

Point 26 –

Using detergents that contain solvents

This is similar to drying cleaning detergents, except even regular detergents not labelled: drying detergent can still contain solvent.

Using this types of detergents can lead to release of poisonous gases and risk of fire and explosion.

Conclusion

Washing machine fire is real.

Some of its causes is out of your hands. So there is  not always something you do stop it.

But the vast majority are user related. So it is important to thoroughly understand what you do or not do to prevent this accident.

Aside from the loss of your washing machine, washer fires can set the home ablaze leading to injury, loss of property or even worse.

By all definition, this article is not an exhaustive list of washing machine fire causes.

If you read this article and discover other important points there were not mentioned, you can drop it in the comment below.

Maybe that one point might prevent the next washing machine related fire.

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