I-TEAM: Investigating exploding ovens across the country

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 9:24 PM EDT
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EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Exploding ovens. It happened to an Evans woman when she used the self-cleaning cycle as directed. Puzzled, she reached out to the I-Team.

And the I-Team found it’s been happening for nearly a decade. With all different brands. All over the country. I-Team’s Laura Warren pressed consumer watchdogs to ask: Why aren’t you being warned about this, too?

Alicia Baker was just trying to clean her whirlpool oven when she got an even bigger mess.

“All of a sudden I heard something that sounded like the oven had been dropped from the second floor. That kind of boom. But also with shattering glass,” she said.

Surprising because nothing was cooking...except the oven itself.

“My husband was running around trying to figure out what it was and all the sudden I hear ‘our oven exploded,’” she said.

Alicia had turned on the self-cleaning option for the very first time after Googling instructions.

“When I heard the oven exploded, I was in shock because I had never heard of that before,” she said.

So, she went to Google again.

“When I Googled it after with the added oven exploding, self-cleaning mode, there were other stories out there happening with different brands,” she said.

She also took to Facebook and was surprised to see people in her friend network responded saying it happened to them, too - her friend writing her Kenmore “Was just on bake, and the glass blew out all the way 15 ft. into the dining room.”

The I-Team found story after story online not just with Whirlpool and Kenmore but with Bosch, KitchenAid, and others. The I-Team reached out to the consumer product safety commission after we found numerous complaints on their website. One dates back as far as 2011.

Oven glass exploding from a Jen Air stove, a Thermador, and an Electrolux, all while on self-cleaning mode. But the I-Team found the agency has issued no warning or recall despite a decade of incidents. We reached out and asked for an interview two weeks ago and received no response.

David O’Brien has made being a glass exert his business for 35 years and owns O’Briens Glass in Martinez. He tells the I-Team he would never use the self-cleaning mode on his own oven.

“I do not. I do not think that’s wise at all,” he said.

Why? Because he paid attention to the glass type on his and noticed it was tempered glass.

“Tempered glass is a safety glass. The safety [part] of it is it withstands a lot more of a hit,” he said.

But, tempered glass is not designed to withstand high temperatures.

Whirlpool told the I-Team they use tempered glass on their ovens. Online we found oven manufacturers across the board are using tempered glass.

“If you get a piece of tempered glass too close to anything over 480 degrees, it’s going to shatter,” he said.

Whirlpool told us, “The self-cleaning cycle for ovens is extremely hot between 800-850 degrees. Ovens with self-cleaning cycles are designed with extra insulation to help handle the heat.”

Online GE Appliances documents their setting at “880 degrees Fahrenheit.” That’s nearly double the temperature O’Brien says is safe.

In 2015, A non-profit called the Safety Institute issued this request to the consumer product safety commission to investigate oven door failures. Even pushing for a recall of the Kenmore model 790 ovens based on more than 300 reported consumer complaints since March 2011.

We also found a possible class action suit that emerged on in August of last year reading “Attorneys are not limiting their investigation to a single brand or manufacturer....They’re looking at Kenmore, GE, Whirlpool, Frigidaire, LG, KitchenAid, and Electroluz ovens among others. As the oven doors may have all been manufactured by the same company or companies.”

The I-Team reached out to Whirlpool in Alicia Baker’s case. A spokesman tells the I-Team, “Whirlpool Corporation is committed to providing safe products for our consumers” and “In the rare event glass does break, Whirlpool Corporation ovens use tempered glass, or similar ‘safety glass,’ designed to break safely inside the oven cavity.”

In its own analysis, the company says glass can shatter “for a variety of different reasons,” listing things like damage during shipping or installation or “accidental impacts” with cookware.

Alicia says a replacement oven was $1,400. An expensive lesson she doesn’t want you to have to learn the hard way, too.

To help avoid glass breakage Whirlpool suggests: Do not close the oven door if the racks are not fully inserted into the oven or when bakeware extends over the rack. Do not set objects on the glass surface of the oven door. Do not hit the glass surface with bakeware or pans or any other objects. Do not wipe down glass surfaces of the oven until it’s cooled.

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