Can Washing Machines Explode?

If your house runs like mine, the washing machine is working daily. But is your humble home appliance a potential hazard for you and your family?

The short answer is that washing machines explode only in extremely rare cases. More commonly, when misused, an internal malfunction or improper maintenance causes them to catch fire, which could lead to an explosion. 

This article is not trying to scare you, but understanding what causes your washing machine to catch fire and then explode might save your life or a call to the fire department. 

How Washing Machines Catch Fire and Explode

A washing machine is one of the top five appliances that can cause home fires. Here is a list of the most common reasons why a washing machine might catch fire and explode:

Installed Incorrectly

A common way washing machines can catch fire is due to the initial installation. They need a 120-volt outlet that takes a 3-prong plug for grounding the device. This plug prevents it from overloading the circuit, leading to blowing a fuse and cutting your power off until you flick the switch back in your fuse box.

Only trained professionals should install a washing machine. They can check your outlets and guarantee they are safe for an appliance. 

Damaged Electrical Cords

The highest rate of fires (26%) starts because of electrical wiring or cable insulation. A cable’s insulation is the material wrapped around the metal wires, which stops electrical leakage and preserves the wire against environmental threats. 

Before using your washing machine, unplug the appliance and check that the cord isn’t frayed, as it can cause sparks. A cable is frayed when you see the metal wire through the cable insulation. Any flammable materials around the area can ignite from those sparks. 

Faulty Parts and Vibration

Some machines come with faulty parts, which cause internal issues, and others wear out with prolonged use. 11% of fires start thanks to a defective conveyor belt, drive belt, or V-belt. 

Excess vibration can cause the internal mechanisms to spark another short circuit. In fact, 3% of fires start when loading over the washing machine’s recommended capacity. 

Regularly having your appliances serviced by a professional is the best way to prevent them from getting into a dangerous state. 

Do Washing Machines Explode Often?

One National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report in 2018 states that 4% of all fires across the United States involve washing machines. In particular, of the 620 fires directly linked to washing machines, over 44% were due to mechanical failures or malfunctions, and 42% were due to electrical failures or malfunctions like the ones mentioned.

While there is no reliable data on the exact amount of explosions per year, it is rare for washing machines to explode, and fires typically do not lead to one. However, if you notice anything unusual, contact the manufacturer. 

When a manufacturer recalls a product, they issue a warning. Check the US government website for all product recalls, and sign up for email alerts in case you miss one.

What to do if your washing machine catches fire and explodes?

I should hope not, but if the washing machine does explode or catch fire, it’s imperative to remember NOT to use water to put it out. 

Switch off the electricity if you can safely get to the power switch on your property

Contact the fire department immediately and follow any instructions the emergency operator gives. Make sure you and your family are safe first. 

Final Thoughts

Washing machines are largely safe and last long if taken care of accordingly. Find a reliable technician to look at all your appliances. Some yearly maintenance can save you a lot of time and worry. 

Remember, washing machines can explode, mainly as a result of manufacturing issues which should generate a recall of the model. Mechanical and electrical failures or malfunctions are the most common ways washing machines catch fire. When that happens, contact emergency services.

Do you have any experiences with appliances exploding? Share your questions and thoughts in the comments below.