Whirlpool Says Millions of Its Dryers Could Catch Fire, Here’s How

Clothes dryer controls

The UK government is urging appliance maker Whirlpool to recall as many as half a million clothes dryers due to a fire risk that was discovered in 2015.

The issue originally affected over five million units, which includes those “manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015 and sold under Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Proline and Swan brands,” according to a risk statement from the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).

The fire risk is caused by lint (tiny bits of fabric fibers) accumulating around the rear drum seal, which is made of felt and closes the gap between the drum and rear panel. That lint then falls into the heating element housing and gets dangerously close to the heating element, eventually getting hot enough to ignite.

A typical heating element inside a clothes dryer
A typical heating element inside a clothes dryer.

The good news is that Whirlpool designed a modification to fix the issue and immediately implemented it into the manufacturing process, but the OPSS notes that there are still hundreds of thousands of units in homes that need to get the modification fitted into their dryers.

Over an 11-year period, there have been at least 750 fires that were caused by this defect. That sounds like a lot, but that’s crumbs compared to the 3,000 dryer fires reported every single year, the leading cause being failure to clean the dryer of lint buildup.

Most lint gets caught in the lint trap, but a small percentage will make it past the trap’s mesh screen and get caught inside the dryer and the exhaust vent. These areas get extremely hot when the dryer is on, causing excess buildup of lint to ignite.

To prevent this, it’s a good idea to not only keep the lint trap clean, but also to clean out the exhaust vent tubing every few months and even take off the rear panel to clean the inside.