Washing Machine Fires: 10 Reasons They Happen

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: January 6, 2020

A leaking washing machine ruins laundry day. It soaks the floor and wicks up into the walls.

As bad as that sounds, imagine the damage you face after a washing machine fire:

Flames burn up the laundry room, spread smoke through the house and stain everything with layers of soot.

This major appliance disaster happens in homes all across the country every year.

10 Ways Washing Machines Can Catch on Fire

Most homeowners are surprised to learn that a washer can go up in blazes. The brands installed in our laundry rooms are usually well-built and reliable. However, they are large, electrical appliances.

Leaking hoses can short circuit electrical wiring

These are the 10 most common causes of washing machine fires.

1. Faulty wiring generates sparks and ignites cable insulation.

2. Drive, conveyor or V-belts wear out, overheat and start fires.

3. The main motor or motor capacitor malfunctions and ignites a fire inside the washer housing.

4. A drain pump becomes blocked and results in the washing machine overheating.

5. Electrical components short out due to excessive vibration from an overloaded tub.

6. Electrical connections on the circuit board fail and overheat.

7. Frayed or worn electrical cords throw sparks and start a fire.

8. Aging wires in wall outlets create dangerous washer fire hazards.

9. Leaking hoses spray water that short circuits electrical wiring.

10. The washing machine wasn’t properly grounded when it was installed.

4 Steps for Safely Dealing With a Washer Fire

If you see sparks or smoke coming from your washing machine, quickly assess the situation.

Make sure you have a clear exit, and then follow these four steps.

1. If you can safely reach the outlet, unplug the washing machine.

2. Smother a small fire with a blanket, or douse it with baking soda.

3. Using a Type C extinguisher, put out a larger fire with the P.A.S.S. technique.

4. Have the fire department check affected areas for hot spots that could reignite.

CAUTION: Never try to put out an appliance fire with water. It might be your first reaction, but mixing water and electricity puts you in serious danger. Water is never an effective way to extinguish an electrical fire.

6 Basic Washing Machine Fire Precautions

Treat the washing machine with the same care you give all your electrical appliances. Keep it clean and in good operating condition.

These six simple precautions also help minimize the risk of clothes dryer fires.

install smoke alarm in laundry room

1. Install a smoke alarm in the laundry area.

2. Don’t overload outlets with additional plug-ins.

3. Immediately investigate any burning smells coming from the washing machine.

4. Follow recommendations in your owner’s manual for safe washer operation.

5. Have the washing machine checked once a year by a certified technician.

6. Pay attention to appliance recalls that affect your brand and model.

Double Down on Safety

When your washing machine starts showing its age, double down on safety precautions in the laundry room.

Bad things can happen to new models too, so test the smoke alarm several times a year, and replace its battery annually.

If the worst happens, our fire restoration professionals are ready to respond 24/7 across Chicago and the suburbs.

Regardless of the fire’s size or the extent of damages, you can count on us here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba.

Give us a call at 773-647-1985.

How many home fires are started by washing machines?

According to the National Fire Protection Association, washers and dryers are responsible for more than 15,000 home fires every year. Most washing machine fires are caused by faulty wiring and bad cable insulation.

Is it OK to leave the house while my washing machine is running?

Don’t assume the water in a washing machine will minimize a fire that might start while you’re away. Stay safe by making sure the washer and all other appliances in your home are turned off before you leave the house.

Who should I call after a washing machine fire?

Even a small washing machine fire impacts your home’s water and electrical systems. Bring in an experienced restoration contractor who can accurately assess damages and recommend a licensed plumber or electrician as needed.

How can I get rid of smoke odors after a washer fire?

Smoke odor and soot removal are part of the fire damage mitigation process. Restoration technicians use special products and techniques to eliminate odors throughout the house including the HVAC ductwork.