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Domestic Appliance Disaster

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"I'm really sorry, Mom."

Alice doesn't know how to do the house chores; maybe she's The Lad-ette and as you know, only Feminine Women Can Cook. Bob can't either; he may not be used to it because Men Can't Keep House.

Or it's because they're kids or rich people and have to experience it for the first time. Or they're clumsy, or very unlucky, and everything they do ends up in a disaster, usually. A third possibility is they were simply distracted (for instance by a phone call).

Whatever the reason, the kitchen is now a mess: dinner is burned to ashes, the oven caught fire (often because of Oven Logic), and cutlery put in the microwave made the latter explode.

It's not better in the laundry room: too much powder was put in the washing machine, resulting in a room looking like a pool of bubbles. Clothes have shrunk, and if not, their colors have changed (white laundry is now tinted with other clothes colors). And let's not talk about the iron, left for too long on a cloth, tearing a giant hole in it.

Domestic disasters can be used as an Establishing Character Moment, to show the chronic bad luck, distraction or clumsiness of a character.

Doomed New Clothes tend to particularly attract the problems tied to the laundry disasters; notably prom or wedding dresses. Add extra points when the dress is damaged only a few moments before it shall be put on, and with no replacement possible.

More rarely, the trope can be applied voluntarily, with revenge in mind. For instance an Alpha Bitch or an aloof big sister will get rid of her rival by ruining her (often expensive) dress.

Pretty much an Undead Horse Trope thanks to modern safety standards, but these were once frequent accidents until technology marched on. However, to preserve the comedic effect, the trope is still in use, even in works set in the modern day (of course, it can be justified in older construction, as these standards rarely apply retroactively).

Often related to Men Can't Keep House, Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket, Doomed New Clothes, Oven Logic, and tends to happen during A Day in Her Apron. Compare D.I.Y. Disaster, where it's not normal operation but repair that confounds the character. See also Electrified Bathtub for a lethal version.


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  • One televised commercial for Robitussin cough syrup has a mother abed with a cough-and-cold, trying to recuperate. Her daughter approaches her at one point, displaying an iron's footplate burn mark on her dress, declaring, "Mom, Dad's ironing!" She takes a spoonful of Robitussin, and recovers enough to restore order.
  • One Allstate Insurance commercial shows a married couple leaving home for vacation in a station wagon crammed with baggage. Suddenly, the wife gasps, "I left the iron on!" Her husband disputes that, but the wife is insistent. The husband reaches under his seat to produce a steam iron, and smiles in triumph. The wife, however, states, "That's my old iron." After a double take, the couple return home in time to see the fire department conduct a post-suppression inspection.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Case Files of Jeweler Richard: Richard is a Lethal Chef not only to people trying to eat his cooking, but to the poor kitchen he tries to cook in.
  • Ash has this problem in an episode of Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon when he tries to wash a shirt. He overfills the machine by adding all of Professor Kukui's lab coats, then dumps an entire box of detergent in. Naturally, this results in a laundry room full of foam and bubbles.
  • Akane Tendō of Ranma ˝ isn't just a Lethal Chef, she's a walking disaster in a kitchen, to her older sister Kasumi's dismay. The most stand-out example is the manga story (and corresponding OVA) introducing Nodoka Saotome. Akane is once again trying to make dinner to impress Ranma's mother, but she forgot to cook the eggs. So, pressed for time, she puts them in the microwave oven. The worst part is that even Ranma, who's been pretty much reared on the road, knows you should never do that, and tries to warn Akane, who is clueless. Right on cue, the eggs explode in the microwave, sending the oven door flying across the kitchen, hitting a hot water pipe — which result in everybody present getting drenched and the rest of the food being ruined.

    Fan Works 
  • A Certain Unknown Level 0: The advanced Academy City laundry machine has errors despite repeated attempts to fix it, and causes things like all of the water spewing out.
  • RealityCheck's Nyxverse: In Nyx's Family, after an accident with an inkwell, Nyx tries to wash her aunt and uncle's fancy outfits in one washing machine, and the bedspread in another, but dumps an entire box of soap pods into each machine because she can't believe just one pod is enough for an entire ink-stained load. The laundry room floods with both water and foam as a result, and Nyx herself has to be rescued because she can't see through all the foam.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Princess for Christmas
    • The "wave of bubbles" occurs in the first scenes. Six years old Maddie just wanted to wash the shirt she just stained, without disturbing her nanny. Unfortunately she's too young to have been taught how to deal with the washing machine.
    • Later on, a rare voluntary example of "giant iron hole" occurs with benevolent intentions. A maid of Castelbury castles burn the evening dress of the heroine to the fiber with her iron...Actually a pretext to buy her another, more spectacular dress for the Christmas ball.
  • Pleasantville: The male bowling club has a member, named Roy, who is asked, as a proof of the new anarchy, to show the back of his shirt hidden under his jacket. It has an iron-shaped burn on it. How did it happen? Apparently, Roy's wife was distracted because she was "thinking".
  • Defied in Home Alone. Granted, Kevin is only nine and does not even know how to pack his bags at the very beginning. However he adapts very quickly and avoids all disasters while alone.
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch: Voluntary example with destructive intentions when a gremlin puts metallic elements in a microwave. It explodes and that's exactly what he had in mind.
  • The Santa Clause: Scott Calvin burns the Christmas turkey to ashes and has to take his son to a diner. Turn out he's not the only dad to have to do that.
  • In Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, Wayne lets the dinner in the oven catch fire during his wife's day out. Cue Wayne and his sons having a meal of peanut butter sandwiches.
  • In Just My Luck, poor Ashley has just caught extreme bad luck. As a result, Jake pities her and lets her go to his flat, so she can wash her wet clothes. She inevitably turns his laundry room into a pool of bubbles (being distracted by a shirtless Jake while putting powder and being unable to find the stop button after).
  • The Color Purple: Albert has no idea how to do any household chores, but insists on preparing breakfast for his old flame Shug Avery. Thinking the (fire fueled) oven does not work fast enough, he pours too much petrol in it and the inevitable bonfire ensues.
  • In La Valise En Carton ("The Cardboard Suitcase"), the main protagonist, Linda, violently argues with her mother while she is busy with the ironing. She leaves the iron on top of a pile of clothes, and they suddenly stop when they notice that the clothes are smoking.
  • In American Hustle, Irving told his wife, Rosalyn, not to put metal (aluminum foil) in the microwave. Rosalyn didn't took his advice and did it anyway which sets the microwave on fire. Granted, the microwave is a brand new thing back in The '70s and neither Irving and Rosalyn know how it really works.
  • In Paddington 2, when doing the prison laundry Paddington accidentally lets slip in a red sock with the standard black-striped white prison shirts and slacks but decides to let it pass, figuring it won't be a big deal. In the next scene, he thinks that the new pink look of the outfits really brightens up the place, though the looks on the faces of the other prisoners say otherwise.
  • In Adventures in Babysitting (2016), Lola is distracted by the sight of a swimsuit while she was busy with launching a laundry session at the Anderson's, at the very beginning of the evening. She pours too much washing liquid in the washing machine and it release a pool of bubbles. Lola only notice hours after, while she finally get back to the home at the end of the movie. Fortunately Jenny and Katy manage to wipe it off completely (as the rest of the mess, done by the dog in the kitchen, is cleaned up by others characters) before the Andersons parents go back home.
  • Invoked and Played for Horror in the remake of The Last House on the Left: Krug gets killed by Mr. Collingwood by ramming his head through the door of a microwave oven and putting it to max power. Krug's head explodes.
  • Tombstone Rashomon: Joesephine stops ironing to play the violin in order to draw Wyatt out of his funk. However, she leaves the flatiron sitting on the shirt and, by the time she remembers, it has left a black scorch mark on the back of Wyatt's white shirt. Apparently this is not the first time this has happened.

  • Freaky Friday: 13 years old Annabel, stuck in her mother's body, has to do the laundry and has no idea on how to proceed. As a result the over packed machine releases a wave of bubbles.
  • In the Clarice Bean book "Utterly Me", Clarice Bean asks her grandfather to launder her jersey, but it shrinks down to "the size of a midge".
  • In "Sock Mischief," one of three stories in the picture book Kit & Kaboodle by Rosemary Wells, the mischievous mouse Spinka deliberately invokes this when he's annoyed that the grandmother of the kittens Kit & Kaboodle knitted socks for them, but not for him. After the socks are put in the wash on cold setting, he changes it to hot while nobody's looking, then puts them in the dryer on hot, causing them to shrink to his size, then takes them for his own.
  • In Helen Oxenbury's Pig Tale, Bertha suffers from this to the point where she's in tears while covered in mashed up fruit from the mixer. Her and Briggs struggling with appliances is mostly likely due to them being, well, pigs.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Our Miss Brooks episode "Home Cooked Meal", Miss Brooks tries to prepare a roast turkey for Mr. Boynton. Actually, Miss Brooks' friendly elderly landlady Mrs. Davis brings over the cooked turkey so Miss Brooks can pretend to have cooked it herself. All Miss Brooks has to do is place it in the gas oven to warm up. Unfortunately, the oven's automatic gas jets hadn't been connected, so Miss Brooks fills the kitchen with gas. While Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton are frantically trying to call the fire department, Principal Osgood Conklin visits Mr. Boynton's house to return his tools. Conklin can't see in the darkened kitchen, and lights a match . . . he's ultimately unharmed, just covered in soot and the remains of the roast turkey.
  • In Lois & Clark a b-plot once involves Ma and Pa Kent swapping roles. Jonathan tries to do the house chores, but among other disasters such as turning his son's white shirts pink after washing them with his Superman cape, he also tears a hole in the cape with a hot iron. note 
  • Red Dwarf: Dave Lister once tries to press his least slovenly clothes into a fit state to impress — or so he thinks — the female crew the Dwarfers are about to rescue. Discovering he has burnt an iron-shaped hole in his garment, Lister shrugs, puts it on anyway, and spray-paints the skin underneath with an almost-matching color of spray-paint, so as to conceal the hole.
  • The Goldbergs: In "Smother's Day", Barry and Erica try to make Beverly breakfast in bed after forgetting Mother's Day. Unfortunately, all they manage to do is set the kitchen on fire. Bev is touched nonetheless that they at least made an effort.
  • Explored extensively on MythBusters, whenever they looked into a myth of an appliance gone berserk because of mishandling or another cause, such as how possible (and lethal) the Electrified Bathtub could be (result: more modern appliances would probably shut down the moment they hit the water and not create a shock, but older appliances were still pretty dangerous because they lacked such failsafes) and whether or not an overloaded washing machine that had its user standing on it (trying to compact the overflowing clothes) when it went off could injure said user (the result: washing machines do not have the kind of horsepower necessary to perform said spinning when overloaded to such a level, let alone cause injuries).
  • In the episode "Burnin' Down the House" from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will tries to make a flambé but accidentally burns the entire kitchen down.
  • In The Sooty Show, when Sooty and Sweep both get given jumpers that are too big for them, they try to shrink them in the wash but use too much soap powder and the laundry room fills with bubbles. Later, they didn't shrink, so they put them in the dryer but they shrink to itty-bitty size.
  • On The Brady Bunch: episode "Law and Disorder", Bobby makes a clandestine effort to launder his good suit (after he got it covered in soot from entering a condemned house). But he poured about half a box of detergent into the washing machine, and almost drowned himself when the laundry room filled with suds. To add insult to injury, the ordeal all but ruined his dry-clean-only suit pants, as they were now, in his sister's words, "tighter than his skin".
  • On Good Eats, Alton explains in the first Man Food episode why, in earlier episodes, he eschewed the use of a deep-fryer in favor of a Dutch oven fitted with a candy thermometer. (Besides it being, you know, a unitasker.) Early deep-fryers for home use generally had a metal chassis (which would get hot), and a heating element that heated the metal, not the oil (leading to uneven cooking). They also tended to have smaller cords, which could be disastrous if the fryer tipped over. (And commercial deep-fryers, besides having many of the same problems, also had a tendency to short out circuits in residential homes because they were such energy-gobblers.) He then goes on to explain that many modern home fryers have solved these problems: many are sturdier, easier to clean, have a chassis made (or covered with) ABS plastic that stays cool to the touch, heating elements that can be submerged in the oil (instead of under the metal), and have "breakaway" cords and auto-off features.
  • London's Burning: Not surprisingly, Blue Watch have to deal with the consequences of a lot of these. Two notable examples include a spectacular fire at a restaurant during the Christmas Episode caused by a burst pipe putting out a gas burner that was left on until someone lit a cigarette, and a fire in an apartment building caused when a woman went to the main door to collect a package while ironing some clothes, only for it to somehow get knocked off the ironing board by her young child and set the carpet alight.
  • Happens on the British reality show Young Dumb And Living Off Mum. This is the first time a group of twenty somethings have done anything for themselves and they have no idea how many common appliances work. One episode has the group attempt to do the laundry. The results end up with foam spilling out of the washing machine drawer.

    Video Games 
  • In The Sims series, if a sim is not skilled at using certain appliances, then they can end up breaking them, such as the oven catching on fire if the sim doesn't know how to cook. This can easily result in death as the sims prefer standing by the oven and freaking out to leaving the building.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II, orbal appliances are still new technology to most people, and certainly to Laura S. Arseid, who grew up training in the way of the sword in the remote village of Legram. During a bonding event, she and Rean Schwarzer explore a store full of these appliances in Roer, but she gets a little too hands-on and ends up seemingly breaking an orbal washing machine and causing near-disaster with other appliances. Fortunately, the damage isn't as bad as it seems, and the owner is willing to be forgiving since they're classmates of Alisa Reinford, who is well-regarded in the town.

    Western Animation 
  • Bobby's World: In "The Big Sweep", Derek tricks Bobby into doing the laundry for him so he can go to the movies. Bobby fills the washing machine with an entire bottle of detergent, resulting in the laundry room being flooded with soap bubbles.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of The Cleveland Show when Cleveland has to take up Donna's duties. The washing machine overflows with bubbles as usual, and Cleveland is informed by a repairman that this is a common problem with his particular model of washing machine. When men are taking up household chores they normally don't and inevitably get comically overwhelmed, the machine overflows per Rule of Funny.
  • One Pink Panther cartoon has Pink lie upon an ironing board, and iron his tummy fur. The phone rings, and Pink answers it, leaving the hot iron to burn its way completely through his body and the ironing board to tumble onto the floor. Pink hops to his feet and regards the triangular hole in his midsection. Amazingly, it seems neither to hurt nor to debilitate him, being nothing worse than unsightly.
  • In a 1950s Goofy cartoon, "Father's Day Off", Goofy replaces his wife for a day. A dress gets wet and shrinks immediately. Goofy then tries to iron it, but forgets the iron on it (granted, he had to answer a phone call). The iron not only tears a hole in the dress, but also burns a hole through the ironing board, then the floor, and finally falls on Goofy's head in the room downstairs.
  • The Simpsons
    • Parodied when Homer has to cook breakfast for Mr. Burns in "Homer the Smithers". After a few failed attempts to cook a shish kebab, he just prepares a bowl of cereal. But as soon as he pours (cold) milk into the bowl, it catches fire.
    • In the "Stark Raving Dad" episode, Bart puts his red cap into the white laundry and all Homer's shirts turn pink. It leads Homer to be judged as a deviant mind at work when he wears one.
    • Two words: "steamed hams". Long story short, Skinner came up with the idea in a snap after the intended dinner with the superintendent burned in the kitchen oven.
    • The biggest example of this trope by far is in "Rome-old and Juli-eh" where Grandpa is kicked out of the retirement home, marries Selma and tries to run the house while she's at work: being senile and out of touch with modern appliances, he first mistakes a plastic blender container for a tea kettle and puts it on a gas stove, then he tries to make flapjacks with a stereo set by pouring the batter into the CD changer and he then finally decides to watch a movie by putting a VHS casette in a microwave and setting the "running time" to 2 hours. Obviously enough, when everything catches fire, he then tries to call the fire brigade and mistakes the extendable shower head of the kitchen sink tap for a telephone receiver, remarking "oh, they're already here!" when it starts to spray water on him until he finally realizes he's way over his head, grabs the baby and runs away to get help from Selma. When they return to the kitchen together, it's also revealed that he somehow managed to set the fridge's freezer compartment on fire as well.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: Ladybug once used a microwave as a weapon, when she voluntarily put a metallic box in it in order for the waves to destroy a virtual padlock. It works, but not before the oven explodes.
  • The Tom and Jerry cartoon "Push Button Kitty" sees Mammy Two-Shoes purchase Mechano, the Cat of Tomorrow to replace the ineffective Tom. Against a single mouse, Mechano jettisons Jerry with maximum efficiency and zero damage. However, when presented with a dozen wind-up mice, Mechano goes haywire, turning a row of commemorative plates into a shooting gallery, and circular sawing a mahogany coffee table in two, among other destructive efforts. Mammy is screaming for Tom to return by the cartoon's end.
  • Many episodes of the first series of Mézga család are about Geza and Aladar trying to avoid their mundane chores with household appliances from the future that are bound to go wrong.
  • Les Drew wrote and animated Every Dogs Guide To Complete Home Safety, which ends with Bumbling Dad Bernard demolishing his own house with a circular saw. The decisions that led to this event... make one wonder how he survived to become an adult. He's trying to cut some wood to level a wobbly table, and somehow manages to accidentally use a reciprocating saw to cut its own power cord. Then he goes and gets a circular saw, notices the trigger spring is broken, so he tapes it closed. He plugs it in, but it doesn't start because cutting the cord blew a fuse. Many would think of that as a lucky warning to quit while one's ahead, but he instead heads to the fuse box to replace the fuse, reads a clear warning — "15-amp fuse only" — and stuffs in a 30-amp. The saw promptly springs to life and starts shooting around the house like a TRON lightcycle, sawing clear through floors, walls, and ceilings. When Bernard's boss arrives and rings the doorbell, the whole structure collapses. Happily, Wally the dog and the couple's toddler escaped unharmed. Viewable here: [1].
  • Rugrats: In the episode "Accidents Happen", Stu puts Dil's onesie in the laundry with something else and it turns pink.
  • Darkwing Duck: In "Toys Czar Us", Darkwing's efforts to fix dinner, do the laundry, and talk to Launchpad all at once results in the laundry overflowing with bubbles and dinner catching fire. Worse, Darkwing is completely oblivious to it.
  • In "Franklin in Charge" from Franklin, Franklin tries to help his mother do the laundry. It doesn't go well, to say the least, and he ends up filling the basement with bubbles and on the ground stuck on his back/shell. He learns An Aesop about not having to take everything on his own shoulders and asking for help when necessary.
  • In "Is There A Doctor in the House?" from Arthur, Arthur and D.W. try to take on the household chores after Mrs. Read gets sick with a bad cold. It doesn't go well - Arthur causes the vacuum cleaner to start smoking by vacuuming up paper clips and other objects that are too large for it, the dishwasher doesn't clean the dishes properly because they weren't scraped first and the detergent door wasn't closed, and there's other problems as well that aren't even related to appliances, such as Kate not getting her diaper changed. Mr. Read is less than happy, especially when he discovers D.W. cut a hole in his pajamas to try to hang them, but can't grump about it too much, as he's coming down with the cold too. Fortunately, both of them turn out to be fast learners. The next day they wash the dishes by hand and are otherwise smarter in their chores, negating Mr. and Mrs. Read's plan to call in Grandma Thora for help.
  • In "Mademoiselle Mom" from Fancy Nancy, Nancy causes the overflowing bubbles variant when she does the dishes after taking over Mrs. Clancy's chores when she has a cold.
  • In the Dennis the Menace episode, "Househusband Henry", Henry is left to take care of the house while Alice leaves for the day. When Dennis tries to help Henry with his housework, he first puts too much soap in the washing machine, resulting in the house being flooded with soap bubbles. Then, when Henry tasks Dennis with watching his roast, Dennis turns up the heat, resulting in the roast catching fire. There were even problems unrelated to household appliances, such as Dennis getting stuck in a tree trying to hang up the wet laundry. All three times, Henry has to call the emergency services.

    Real Life 
  • Allegedly.... a coach at an American university wondered why the star quarterback in the American Football team (a man not overburdened with intellect who got there on a sports scholarship to do a dissertation in stacking towels) was seen to have a series of regularly-shaped burns all over his upper body. Fearing that the quarterback was into some sort of sexual perversion and therefore laying himself open to blackmail or worse, the coach took him aside for a man-to-man talk concerning how he got the burns. Apparently he'd got them while ironing his shirt. Nobody had ever told him you take a shirt off to iron it.. he'd been pressing it while on his body, "to save time".
  • In the "System 32 twitch services" video, a young Twitch user was abused by persons pretending to be Twitch help services, who among other things told him to put the battery of his computer in the microwave...and it caught fire.
  • It's not uncommon for a person who has never used a dishwasher before (especially if they are from a country where they are uncommon or rare) to use dish washing liquid instead of dish washer liquid. While you can certainly get the suds all over the floor, it can also force suds and water into the motor compartment, ruining the dishwasher.
  • Same with washing machines. During the era when they little by little replaced hand washing for private individuals (so between The '40s and The '80s), some people would use detergent designed for hand washing in the machine. Either by mistake, or thinking that it was the same than machine detergent anyway. Wrong: the result would always be the pool of bubbles.


Video Example(s):


Franklin Does Laundry

Source of the page image. In "Franklin in Charge," when Mr. Turtle goes on a trip, Franklin wants to do all the household chores to prove he can be just as responsible as his father. Unfortunately, he accidentally adds in too much washing powder when doing laundry and ends up upside-down on his shell in overflowing soap bubbles.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / DomesticApplianceDisaster

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