Hot under the collar over washing machine mould

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Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q My 20-month-old Hotpoint washing machine has developed a problem with black mould on the rubber door seal. Hotpoint won’t replace it under guarantee because they claim it’s not a fault. They want £104.99 to replace it. When I protested, they reduced the charge to £79.99. I’m reluctant to accept it because I believe this is a machine fault. Can you advise please?

BA (e-mail)

A My postbag is beginning to bulge with similar complaints about washing machines. They develop a nasty smelly residue of black slime and mould in the dispenser drawers, around the door seals, and in the filter compartment. If the build up becomes serious, black deposits are left on the washing when it is removed.

Hotpoint/Indesit are not the only manufacturers to prevaricate about this problem when faced with customer complaints. They argue it’s not a problem with the washer and brazenly insist that users fork out astronomical sums for replacement parts or take out costly service plans.

It seems to me it could be argued that a laundry appliance that soils clothes rather than clean them is not in law fit for purpose. Hotpoint get around this little technical difficulty by rightly claiming if the mould does not appear within six months of purchase, then it’s up to the user to prove fault. Defensive, but not at all helpful.

The problem is compounded by two factors.

The reluctance by manufacturers to be up front about the problem, and the growing tendency to make machines designed for low temperature washes and detergents.

Before the development of low temperature detergents and fabric softeners, bleach was a major ingredient in washing powders and liquids.

Bleach inhibits the growth of mould, and high temperatures destroy it. We therefore have the inevitable perfect storm with modern laundry machines, as a combination of lower wash temperatures and the absence of bleach combine to assist the active development of mould spores.

I venture to suggest appliance manufacturers are not really motivated to put a warning in their instruction books about mould growth.

But regular user maintenance can easily prevent it. The detergent drawer and filter should be removed once an month and washed in water containing a small amount of domestic bleach. An old toothbrush is ideal for getting into the nooks and crannies. Similarly, the door seal should be regularly treated. After each wash cycle, leave the door and detergent drawer slightly ajar, and run at least one hot wash cycle every six weeks.

Q I’ve heard that BT is putting up its prices for line rental and phone calls. How easy is it to switch providers?

TH (e-mail)

A BT is about to impose a second hike in prices this year. If you want to dump them without penalty write to them within 14 days of receiving notice of the increase.

Switching is a piece of cake. Just tell your new service provider.