BOCA RATON, Fla. - There’s growing concern that an appliance inside your home could hurt you.
Hundreds of people are coming forward claiming their dishwashers caught on fire and some of them are now trying to prevent a similar situation from happening to you.
Richard Steffer said he’s lucky his family was home and not sleeping when they started the dishwasher in his Boca Raton home.
“You don't want to think about how bad it could’ve been had we not been here at the time and it could’ve been a fire,” Steffer said.
“There was all of a sudden just black smoke pouring out of the top of the dishwasher,” he said.
Steffer’s wife quickly opened the dishwasher door to cut off the power.
“To be honest, I didn’t feel comfortable having one in my house after that point,” Steffer said.
The Contact 5 Investigators quickly learned Richard’s not alone. We’ve seen and heard similar dishwasher complaints across the country.
Click here for complete details on the Scripps dishwasher investigation.
From Kansas City, where a homeowner claims his dishwasher caused thousands of dollars in damage, to Detroit to Phoenix.
To see where many dishwasher complaints have been reported nationwide and to hear from owners and see video clips about what happened, click here.
Fire investigation reports we obtained don’t zero in on a specific cause but they do show a potential problem. Some homeowners and investigators have blamed dishwasher fires for damage and even a death in Oregon.
It’s an issue that spans the nation, with dishwasher fires in almost every state, including Florida.
If you'd like to take a look at individual dishwasher complaints, click here for our online searchable database.
“This isn't suppose to happen, you're not suppose to have to be worried about something blowing up on you in your house,” said Steffer.
Between March and November of 2011, more than 260 complaints related to dishwasher incidents were logged with saferproducts.gov , a public websites run by the federal government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of those, more than half reported smoke or flames.
While a few hundred potential disasters were made public in that online forum, our investigation uncovered the CPSC knows of more than 1,600 reported problems with dishwashers in the last five years. Those complaints simply aren’t shared with the public, unless you ask to see them. In 80% of those cases though, consumers reported a fire.
We had questions about what brands are mentioned in those cases. The CPSC won’t tell us until it gets permission from the companies involved. The Contact 5 Investigators have been waiting for six weeks. While the government isn’t pointing fingers at any brand, some consumers are.
They’re posting on blogs like kitchenaidfire.com which has dozens of complaints.
‘This is a dangerous issue, a serious safety and health concern,” said attorney Charles Fax.
The Maryland attorney filed a lawsuit against Whirlpool, a Michigan based company, which makes KitchenAid, Kenmore, Maytag and Sears brands.
Fax is representing eleven people who said they’ve had serious damage from fires in dishwashers made by Whirlpool, which has until February 15th to respond to the lawsuit.
His clients not only want compensation, they want a recall because of what they consider a product flaw.
“This design defect in the control unit causes the wires inside to overheat and eventually burn,” said Fax.
It’s an alleged defect some consumers believe exists in Whirlpool machines, which account for about half of the dishwasher complaints on saferproducts.gov.
But consumers have reported fire and smoke in other brands as well, including Frigidaire.
While that company doesn’t have as many complaints as Whirlpool, fire investigators believe a fire in or near a Frigidaire dishwasher killed an elderly woman in Oregon.
Consumers have also complained on saferproducts.gov about Bosch and GE in smaller numbers.
“I just cut my losses and went and got a new unit,” said Steffer.
Steffer didn’t feel comfortable repairing his KitchenAid dishwasher. Instead, he bought a new one right away, a different brand.
“It was disappointing, you spend the money, you feel like you're buying a decent product and I was really surprised that it was far from it,” said Steffer.
The Whirlpool Corporation sent a statement stating it “builds its dishwashers with, among many other state of the art safety features, components that turn off power to the electronic control board in the extremely unlikely event that the control board begins to overheat.”
NEXT PAGE: Read the complete statement, along with statements given by GE and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.