Whirlpool is set to recall hundreds of thousands of washing machines over the risk that they could catch fire.

The US firm said as many as 519,000 washing machines sold under its Hotpoint and Indesit brands could be recalled.

It told owners of appliances bought since 2014 to contact Whirlpool immediately to see if their washing machine is one of those affected, and stop using them if they are.

But people who have tried have been struggling, and anger is building over the lacklustre response to people calling for help.

Whirlpool said it was working at "full speed" to prepared to officially begin the recall in early January.

Whirlpool vice president Jeff Noel said: "We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience and concern this may cause to our customers, particularly over the Christmas period, but we hope people will understand that we are taking action because people's safety is our top priority."

Why are Whirlpool recalling Hotpoint and Indesit washing machines?

Whirlpool is based in the US

Whirlpool the problem was with the door-locking mechanism of these machines.

That's because when the heating element in the washing machine is activated, in some "very rare" cases part of the door lock system can overheat, posing a risk of fire.

Whirlpool said its safety team found the problem, adding that "no serious injuries have been reported".

Noel said: "This is an issue we inherited from buying Indesit Company, but as the new owner, it is our responsibility to keep our customers safe.

"We are recalling these products because it is the right thing to do for people's safety and we will do whatever it takes to put the situation right for our customers."

It was also keen to point out that it was only Hotpoint and Indesit machines that are affected - not Whirlpool branded ones.

Which washing machine models are affected?

The Hotpoint WMFUG 742 P UK.M washing machine was on the list of those to be recalled

The problem is with models manufactured between October 2014 and February 2018.

These are the models Whirlpool said had the problem:

Have you got one of the affected washing machines? Let us know on [email protected]

Where to check the make and model number of your washing machine

Both codes can be found inside the washing machine's door as well as on a label at the back of the appliance.

You can then check if your washing machine is one of the ones at risk by visiting https://washingmachinerecall.whirlpool.co.uk or calling 0800 316 1442 free where an adviser can help you check your model and offer further information.

The online site includes an online model checker tool as well as a full list of model numbers.

But people have reported problems calling and checking their machines.

Fiona Bradley told Mirror News: "Website has crashed and I’ve been on hold on the phone for ten mins and no one is answering."

There were also problems when people did get through.

Neil Cloughley told Mirror Money: "Not only does the phone line and website for this issue, not work, but when you speak to a customer service agent as I just did, she point blank refused to check my serial numbers as I had advised a repair was done ."

"Despite my concern that the model may now be recalled, along with my washing machine, she read out a pre-set script and refused to answer why she would not check the serial number."

What if you need to keep using your washing machine?

Indesit Innex XWA 81252X W Washing was also one of those affected

To completely remove the risk associated with the use of affected models, Whirlpool told owners to unplug their washing machines and not use them.

If you absolutely have to use them, Whirlpool said you should only use cold water cycles of 20C or lower as this "significantly reduces the risk".

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What are Whirlpool doing about it

All affected customers will have the choice of either a free-of-charge like-for-like replacement washing machine, or a free-of-charge in-home repair of their existing appliance.

Under the replacement option, Whirlpool said it will collect and dispose of your washing machine and deliver the new one free-of-charge.

Whirlpool is also taking steps ahead of the recall to speed matters such as doubling its call centre team and upping its engineer workforce for repairs - as well as increasing production at its washing machine factories for people who want replacements.

It also said it would write directly to all registered owners of the affected appliances in January.