Exploding Washing Machine Doors
Every so often we see reports in the media about washing machine door glass allegedly "exploding" with accusations of poor safety and reduced costs leading to failures that would never have happened in the past but, is that really true and is this the risk that the media portray it to be or, is it something completely different?
If you ask the engineers that see these machines you get things like Martin from Enterprise Repairs telling us that, "Well I'm totally flummoxed over this, as in all the donkeys years fuff in' about with washers I have never come across a shattered door glass". Martin has been in the trade for over forty years.
Likewise, many of the other repairers are completely at a loss with many never having seen or even heard of such things proving that it isn't just us that are a bit surprised by this. The vast wealth of experience, seeing countless thousands of washing machine failures over decades in our forums and not a single voice saying that this is an issue. Weird eh?
So, why is it a mainstream media news story then that looks quite sensational?
Our original news article on exploding washing machine doors can be found here
But this is a story that, every now and then, just flares up. Dies. Then flares up again.
How The Exploding Glass Story Started
From what we can gather Andy over at Washerhelp had a thread running about washing machine door glasses failing from 2008 that appears to have been vindicated in a comment made by Which? who, by the way, have declined to comment on the matter any further.
For some reason this seems to have been picked up by the Daily Mail and published online, probably because the headline "Beware of the exploding washing machine doors! Safety alert over Zanussi, Bosch and Hoover after after glass shatters for no reason" gets attention.
The media then picked up and ran with the story contacting Andy and others looking for comment.
Meanwhile Which?'s only comment to date appears to be, "This hasn’t happened to any washing machines during our lab tests, so we have been unable to observe it in laboratory conditions and follow up with a proper analysis.
But going through the accounts, there are theories ranging from hair cracks in the glass, or even that the glass is just thinner than it used to be."
Nobody has managed to recreate this under test conditions, anywhere. Which would only serve to point further to this issue being use related rather than quality related.
The Actual Risk Of A Door Glass Failing
Now, given the headline, you could be forgiven for thinking that there has been a sudden rash of washing machines with exploding door glass bowls up and down the country and that you and your family are in imminent danger of being seriously injured by flying glass. But, actually, that's not really true.
Let's look at some actual statistics and put this supposed risk into context for you.
There are an estimated 30-40 million washing machines in use in the UK domestically every day. The average number of loads per year is 250-270 so, we'll use the lower of both estimates to make th erisk most probably look artificially higher than it ought to be.
This means that, daily, there are about 20.5 million wash cycles done in washing machines across the UK. Or, 7,500,000,000 a year and, that's the low estimate.
52 door glass failures in four years isn't looking like a reason to panic from more than 29 billion wash cycles.
Even just from the number of machines in the field (on the lower numbers) it is a failure rate of 0.000173333% although, it is almost certainly even lower than this number. If you work it out by wash cycle the risk is so low as to be almost completely irrelevant.
In other words, the actual risk of this ever happening to you are so incredibly infinitesimally low it beggars belief as to how it has been sensationalised in the way that it has been by the mainstream media.
Scared By A Door Glass
It is important to point out that, whatever the cause of a door glass popping on a washing machine or even a cooker or oven, it frightens people.
We feel that this is a natural response to something that people, quite rightly, do not expect to happen on any appliance and we feel sorry for anyone that's gotten a good scare when it has happened but, it can and does happen but, it is extremely rare. And, there is usually a logical explanation for the failure even if it might not be obvious at the time it happens.
Bear in mind that the evidence is in a million pieces and the true cause may never be detected.
We don't think that any manufacturer would be unsympathetic or dismissive about such a failure, as they usually are not over any failure, but it is after all is said and done, just a failure. It just so happens that it is highly visible, involves sharp bits and is often impressively dramatic.
What Causes Door Glass To Fail
When this all broke we started looking into glass in general and we have uncovered some interesting facts from glass manufacturers and other sources.
It turns out that spontaneous failures of glass is not uncommon and is almost always attributed to microscopic scratches in the glass weakening the structure and integrity of the glass panel. It can happen on windows, mirrors, car glass panels and all manners of glass, so far as we can gather, almost any piece of glass can shatter. It appears that this is not a problem that is exclusive to washing machines or ovens.
In fact, images like those to the right are common when explaining how scratches on a piece of glass can severely weaken the glass structure.
There may well be some people that may disagree with our assessment but, if you get something metallic between the door seal and door glass in the washing machine, especially if it is being forced there by a large load and then spin it around at upwards of 1400rpm, it' sgoing to severely score the door glass in some cases likely almost cutting into the glass. the only washing machine that we know this cannot happen on is the ISE due to the way it is constructed.
In turn, will severely weaken the door glass all the way around the circumference and quite possibly, much like a car windscreen with a crack in it, only a small amount of force would be required to make the glass shatter completely.
We think that, like the car glass, that even a temperature differential might, in some cases, allow the glass to shatter through stressing the glass.
The odds of a washing machine being overloaded, having unsuitable items in it and so on utterly dwarf the odds of this happening with no reason.
Washing Machine Door Glass Quality
One of the reasons that we've seen being mooted for these failures is that washing machines are cheaper and that the door glass isn't as good a quality as it used to be.
It's a fair point and quite likely very true but, if that were the case we would expect to see a far higher failure rate than we do and, from around the globe and not just in the UK. We don't.
It is therefore logical that this probably isn't the reason. It could well be a contributing factor in such failures and cannot be completely discounted but, it doesn't seem a likely candidate for being a "smoking gun".
Washing Machine Door Glass Size
The other commonly mooted explanation is the door glass size could be a problem.
This is also very true, door sizes on washing machines have increased in the past few years as it helps with load capacity ratings and is a sales feature with the blurb that a larger door means easier access. Unless you happen to be a bunch of cynical field service technicians, then we see it as more area to get scratched and damaged in some way knowing what we know and having seen some of the things that we've fished out of washing machines over the years we would expect damage.
Add to this the fact that the glass is larger and could be easier to smash in the first place and you might have a recipe for this in there.
Again though, we don't think that this is a "smoking gun" as there simply aren't enough instances or evidence to point in that direction.
What We Do Know About Washing Machines
Here's what we do know.
We know that people overload their washing machine with laundry. A lot.
We know that people put things in the washing machine that should not be there. A lot.
Knowing that these are extremely common it is reasonable to assume that it is far more likely that these are the cause of such failures rather than a problem with the manufacture of the washing machine's door glass bowl.
What we think is happening is a number of things that more than likely contribute to this happening and, we would say, that it is actually surprising that this doesn't happen more often than it does.
Overloading You Washing Machine
We believe that this is very likely a major factor in washing machine door glasses failing since, as we pointed out, having too much laundry in the washing machine will "force" items against the door glass and that is very probably going to damage the glass.
Left unchecked that damage will probably worsen over time and ultimately the door glass may shatter. It may well not even be in use, a change in temperature, a sudden bump or such could cause the glass to simply fail.
we would recommend very strongly that you do not overload the washing machine and you can find general information on that subject here.
Foreign Objects In Your Washing Machine
The next top tip is to carefully check that pockets are emptied or that things are not accidentally placed in the washing machine when you load it, in the trade these are known as "foreign objects". We know it's a pain when you're in a hurry but it could save you a lot of money and even from wrecking your washing machine totally.
We have pulled out nails, coins, chargers, cables, chef knives, cutlery, toys, phones and a whole bunch of things that we don't want to talk about on a family friendly website! It is utterly amazing what ends up in some people's washing machine.
The example in the photograph is of a repairer who runs the Find My Recycler website, who got a machine in as scrap from a customer that thought that their machine was beyond repair. He pulled out over £19 in change from the filter of the washing machine and it worked perfectly.
This is so, so common and costs the public a fortune and, not just in the change that they lost but in buying new washing machines when there was no need to.
Buy A Better Washing Machine
Since this has happened to Miele washing machines as well as much lower priced models from Beko, LG, Zanussi and others, you could be given to think that buying a better quality washing machine will not help here but that likely isn't true.
The fact is that higher quality washing machines tend to attract customers that are not afraid to voice and articulate their surprise at such a failure and, likely to be a lot more annoyed given that they paid a lot more for their washing machine in the first place. It is understandable that owners would feel a little let down if this happened and, more so given the nature and fright it can give people.
What it doesn't mean is that all of the above doesn't apply.
As the author of this article, in twenty five years of being in this industry, I have seen perhaps a handful of cases where a washing machine door glass has been smashed and usually that is through either some kind of abuse or, the far more likely scenario, where the door hinge or frame snaps and the door falls off. That doesn't happen on high quality washing machines very often, in fact I struggle to recall a single instance.
The odds are extremely low of this being a problem on a high quality machine and, the odds of more likely failures are massively reduced. It is still worthwhile investing in a good machine and please don't allow yourself to be scared into thinking otherwise.
Complete Washing Machine Door Glass Story
When you see the complete story about washing machines and supposed "safety risk" supposedly posed by the door glass, especially from a statistical and technical viewpoint such as in this article, you can perhaps understand that it just isn't the massive risk that is being portrayed by the media. In fact, you have more chance of being struck by lightning several times or winning the lottery several weeks in a row than this happening to your washing machine.
Even allowing for that and the outside chance that this just happens without any real reason, the odds are strong that it will have something to do with use.
In short, we'd say not to worry too much about it.
We'd worry more about a cheap washing machine disintegrating internally or something in the machine causing untold damage rather than your door glass getting smashed by some unseen force.