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Child Protection Features in Washing Machines - CHOICE # 412

  • 2011.02.15

Washing machines with child safety protection features are obviously a choice deserving serious consideration for households with young children.

Last week, a 16-month-old toddler who tumbled into a turned-on and yet unattended top loader washing machine, suffered head injuries and was in serious condition. The incident raised concerns of the potential drowning hazards posed by impeller type top loader washing machine.

The February issue of CHOICE magazine will point you the way to the choice of washing machines which come with child protection features. A Consumer Council study covered 10 models of washers and washer-dryers (4 washer-dryers, 3 front loaders, 1 European top loader and 2 impeller type top loaders) with prices ranging from HK$2,780 to HK$7,689.

Amongst them, the Council found 8 models equipped with automatic door lock, a safety feature by which the door / lid of the washer is securely locked and cannot be opened in any way while in operation - until the washing cycle is completed.

The remaining two less expensive impeller type top loaders were fitted with alarm which has to be activated by the user. Of these 2 models, one will not stop operation and set off the alarm until the lid is opened for 5 seconds, while the other uses a "beep-and-drain" protection design - the machine will "beep" and if the lid remains open for 10 seconds, it will come to a halt and the water inside the washer will be drained off automatically.

The Consumer Council urges manufacturers of impeller type top loading washing machines to refine the child protection design by ensuring the alarm be activated automatically when the washer is in operation. Ideally, the lid should also be locked during operation.

The study also included the results of safety tests conducted by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department.

Four samples were found to be in compliance with the tests conducted in accordance with the international IEC safety standard.

However, 1 sample failed in the temperature rise test -- the temperature of a wire connected to the clothes-drying heater exceeded the limit set out in the standard during the cycles of 90℃hot water wash with tumble drying. Moreover, the sample's heater was not properly earthed. The other 5 samples had room for improvement in marking and instructions.

For the safe operation of washing machines, consumers are advised to observe the followings:

  • Do not install washer outdoors to avoid raindrops or dripping water;
  • Electricity consumption of washer is high, so never share socket outlet of washer with other electrical appliances;
  • Do not overload the washer or dryer;
  • Do not use excessive or inappropriate detergents;
  • Remove all coins and keys from clothes before washing;
  • Do not dry clothes with down, plastic, latex or rubber like materials in a washer-dryer;
  • Never spray inflammable chemicals such as insecticide in the vicinity of an operating to washer.

For households with young children or toddlers, consumers should take heed of the followings:

  • Choose washer or washer-dryer with the automatic door locking safety feature;
  • Never leave children unattended to play around the washer;
  • Teach them not to get inside the washer;
  • Always activate the child protection design of the washer;
  • Never place short stools close to the washer;
  • Close the lid of the washer after use.

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