8 Steps to Take When a Product Is Recalled

A homeowner's comprehensive guide to identifying and resolving product recalls safely and efficiently.
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Product recalls are a key part of consumer safety, indicating that a safety or quality issue is present. This issue must be significant enough that it warrants the product being removed from the market. Recalls can occur in a number of home improvement categories, from yard tools and kitchen appliances to electronics, furniture, construction materials, cleaning products, and home safety devices.

Recent product recalls can be initiated by the manufacturer voluntarily after discovering an issue, or they may be mandated by The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which is responsible for product recalls in the United States. The organization issues hundreds of recalls every year and regularly updates their product recall page. Once a recall is announced, notifications are typically sent to consumers who have registered their products.

While the recall notice usually provides information on why the product is being recalled, and the steps consumers should take, you may still have questions about what to do when a product you own is recalled. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll outline everything you need to do from the moment you learn about a recall until it’s resolved.

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Confirm Your Product’s Involvement

Side view of new tire with designation of week and year of tire production, tire marking

When you learn about a product recall, the first step is to verify that the recall applies to your product. You can typically do that by checking your product’s serial number or model number and comparing it with the information given in the recall notice. For example, if you own a generator that’s been recalled, you would need to locate the model number, which is often found on the bottom or back of the appliance. If you ordered a product online, you can also check the product’s model number on the website on which you made your purchase.

Establish the Risk Level

Overloaded electrical circuit causing fuse to break

Once you’ve confirmed that your product has, in fact, been recalled, it’s important to understand the nature of the defect and the risk involved. Consumer products can be recalled for a number of reasons that vary in severity when it comes to the safety risks they pose. For example, if a particular model of a yard tool like a leaf blower is recalled due to a faulty switch that can cause it to overheat, this poses a significant fire hazard.

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Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions

Woman looking at the instruction

Every recall notice should come with instructions from the manufacturer on the actions that consumers should take. These instructions will be tailored to the specific issue at hand in order to ensure consumer safety. The following are some of the steps that the manufacturer will likely recommend.

Stop Using the Product

Close-up, personal perspective image of human hand of a man plugging an electrical cord into a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) electrical outlet on the wall in a domestic room, September 12, 2019

Most recall notices will instruct consumers to stop using the product in question straight away. It’s important to take this recommendation seriously, as most products are only recalled when they pose a safety risk. For example, if an electronic device is recalled due to the risk of electrical shock or fire, it should be unplugged immediately.

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Contact Customer Service

Craftsman calling colleague on the phone asking for instructions

The manufacturer should provide a dedicated customer service line for those impacted by the recall. When you call, have your product’s information handy. On this call, you’ll have a chance to ask any questions about the recall and clarify the steps that the manufacturer recommends. The customer service representative may also arrange for you to receive a replacement product or a refund at this time.

Get a Replacement

Casual man shopping at an electronics store and talking to salesman

When a product is recalled, many manufacturers will offer to replace the item at no cost. This may be arranged over the phone or by visiting the retailer with a proof of purchase and the recall notice. In some cases, the manufacturer will send the replacement item directly to your home. In some instances, you might be required to return the faulty item in order to receive the new model in exchange.

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Dispose of the Product Safely

Mature man standing in the office and holding basket with e-waste, smiling at camera.

While in some cases, the manufacturer may want the product to be returned to them, in other instances the defect is significant enough that you will be asked to dispose of it immediately. The recall notice should provide details on how to responsibly dispose of the recalled item. Some items—like paints and strong cleaning products—may contain hazardous materials and should be taken to a hazardous waste disposal facility.

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Get Free Repairs

Young Woman Looking At Repairman Repairing Dishwasher In Kitchen

The product’s manufacturer may offer to repair rather than replace the item in question. In this case, they may send a technician to undertake the job, ask you to bring the item to a service station, or may send you a repair kit so you can complete the repairs yourself. In the case of large appliances, like a stove or washing machine, the manufacturer will most likely send a qualified repair person to your home.

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