Think you can believe those fantastic claims you hear on early morning TV? Think again. The Good Housekeeping Institute reviewed some popular infomercial gadgets and found that some lived up to their claims, while others fell flat.
BUY NOW: $50,
A clean dryer is a safe (no fires!) and efficient one. You're probably cleaning the lint filter screen after each use but don't forget the exhaust vent. Lint Lizard is one of the best informercial products out there. Its long plastic tube and attachments slip onto almost any vacuum cleaner hose, sucking out dust and getting into crevices better than a plain ol' vacuum can alone. (Remember to thoroughly clean out the dryer and dryer vent of lint several times a year and clean the lint screen after every load.)
The Good Housekeeping Institute broiled, roasted, steamed and more, and this infrared oven did best on baking cookies, air-cooking frozen fries and dehydrating beef jerky. On average, it was 50% faster than an oven if what was cooking required preheating, but our "waved" burgers lost more juice and released less fat than broiled ones. Plus, forget about using it to reheat.
Buy instead: This Air Fryer from Black and Decker () was the top in our test.
BUY NOW: $20,
The popular cleanup rag claims to hold 12 times its weight in liquid, and at first, it went above that, holding 13 times in our test. But after 10 launderings, it lost some absorbency. It sucked up cola from carpet well, but didn't remove wine stains completely. On hard surfaces, it absorbed spills better when used dry (a wet one dripped and left liquid behind). It was also good for cleaning electronics, but we found that air drying and using regular towels worked better at drying sweaters and blotting wet dogs. It's not a bad cleaner; just don't expect miracles.
About 20% of the time, eggshells splintered into the raw eggs and/or some of the yolk slid through the separating attachment (not shown) and into the whites in our bowl. When eggs were hard-cooked, the squeezing required to break the shells often tore the delicate eggs inside in half.We never thought cracking eggs was a problem that needed solving — and this contraption doesn't change our minds. Save your money!
Buy instead: The Nordic Egg Boiler () lets you boil up to four eggs at once in the microwave.
BUY NOW: $5,
The GHI used the pen-like applicator to put a clean sealant on car-finish scratches of varying depths. It camouflaged the most superficial marks, but if the scratch removed the paint (not just the top gloss), the sealant did little to hide it. Plus, if you aren't careful to wipe off the excess before it dries, you could be left with an even more obvious line, like clear nail polish, over the scratch. If you're really bothered by light scratches, it's worth a try. But if you're covering a deeper ding or a nick, this pen won't "fix it."
BUY NOW: $19,
The Good Housekeeping Institute filled this plastic caddy with spice jars (as well as medicine bottles and office supplies, as suggested in the ad), and placed it in a cabinet and measured to gauge its space needs. Standard spice jars fit, but larger, five-inch-tall ones don't, and it had to be extra careful when swiveling so stacked mini jars didn't topple. It's four inches wide, but requires extra inches of clearance in order to pivot — not the total space-saver it claims to be. If unevenly filled, the holder can tip, and the thin plastic feels flimsy. It's useful for standard spice jars or other small items, but if you don't mind that it's a bit wobbly.
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Testers used the 2.5-pound dumbbells for half an hour a day, three days a week, and others try it following the instructional DVD, which promised results in six-minute workouts (it was actually nine minutes, by the way). Those who followed their own longer routine achieved slightly better toning results than those who followed the DVD's advice. Nonetheless, many women found the convenience of a shorter routine appealing, particularly those who hadn't done upper-body exercises in the past. The exercise physiologists they spoke to, however, seriously doubted that the Shake Weight could increase muscle activity by 300% over regular weights, as claimed. Arm-workout newbies may see results, but veteran exercisers won't find the routine particularly strenuous.
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This device easily connects a regular phone to a USB port on a computer and lets you make and receive local and long-distance calls in the U.S. and Canada for only $19.95 a year. But there are a few hang-ups: Sound quality varies widely, and in order to make and receive calls, the computer must be on and connected to a high-speed Internet service. Also, 911 calling may not be as reliable as with a landline, so you'll want an alternate phone service in case of emergency.
What a mess! This liquid rubber sealant claims to stop leaks fast, but even after three coats, the treated items (a flowerpot, bucket, hose, etc.) still sprung leaks — and forget about sealing a screen door, as shown in the ad. It contains hazardous ingredients and lacks proper safety instructions. Do not try this at home.
Buy instead: They tested Flex Tape () with ; it's a great substitute to hold something together in a pinch, despite some exaggerated claims.
BUY NOW: $17,
The adhesive product promises the strength of super glue with the convenience of tape. Use it to tack a slipping rug to the floor, repair peeling linoleum or build a scrapbook; it's also great for almost anything that needs a removable fix (say, anchoring an outdoor tablecloth during a barbecue). It's less successful on fabric, porous materials such as brick, and any object that may be subjected to a lot of force (a plant hung from the ceiling or a mug handle, for example).
Total Pillow isn't as dreamy as the infomercials claim. Reviews from consumers and Jordan Metzl, M.D., a sports medicine specialist at The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, were mixed and one pillow tested split down the seam, releasing microbeads (a potential choking hazard for young kids). Dr. Metzl rated the pillow average for neck and lumbar support but below average for aligning the neck and spine.
Buy instead: The Cabeau Evolution Memory Foam Travel Pillow ($40, amazon.com) is a similar option that offers more support than a traditional U-shaped pillow.
BUY NOW: $32,
The Good Housekeeping Institute hasn't formally tested this go-go-gadget arm, but the Cleaning Lab is confident that this reaching aid will stand up to its promise of grabbing where you can't reach, aiding in changing light bulbs and picking up far away trash.
Both men and women complained its sleeves were too long and it took a lot of adjusting to stay comfortably covered. The brushed-polyester material didn't shrink after five washes, but the material quality is cheap — it will pill. You can get a far better (sleeveless) blanket somewhere else.
Buy instead: It's not sleeveless, but this blanket from JC Penney () is super soft and easy to keep clean.
BUY NOW: $17,
The Groutinator is an abrasive block that claims to restore the look of grout and concrete stained by dirt, mildew or hard water. A few testers liked that they could skip chemicals or tools and clean even the thinnest grout lines, but here's a major downside: The block needs sharpened every several time to clean an entire shower, leaving a mess of blue dusk in its wake. The cleaning process isn't as effortless as the infomercial makes it seem — prepare yourself for some arm-fatiguing scrubbing. In the end, most of our testers still preferred cleanser and a brush.
Buy instead: Clorox Scrubtastic () won't require the muscle but does the same thing.
Easy Feet claims to clean and massage feet from heel to toe. Testers thought the bristles felt nice, but others complained that they'd banged their feet on the plastic arch. A few worried they might loose their balance if they tried standing up and walking in them, and several reported that the pumice stone fell out. Only 30% of testers said they'd continue using the product — and none felt their lives were incomplete without it.
Buy instead: The Amopé Pedi Perfect Electronic Foot File () was a favorite in a Beauty Lab test for eliminating users callouses in a single use.
BUY NOW: $19,
This chopper claims to save prep time and evenly chop up your veggies and fruits — and it's the truth! We think it's definitely worth purchasing, especially if you don't have the best knife skills.
The knife sharpener claim to be the best money can buy, but the Good Housekeeping Institute found it to be more like one of the worst. The sharpener broke away from the suction cup before they could even test it, making its use potentially dangerous. Paring, chef's and utility knives honed on the tiny contraption became only marginally sharper. All the bragging about how it can turn a credit card into a razor-edged tomato slicer is quite unlikely.
Buy instead: The Chef's Choice Pronto Pro Diamond Hone Manual Knife Sharpener ( $68, amazon.com) is one our Good Housekeeping Institute favorites.
The Good Housekeeping Institute asked women to wear-test these much-buzzed-about pants that claim to look like denim, but feel like PJs. Reactions were middling at best. Most felt that the jeans ran small, the waist-line lacked "give" for easy pulling on and taking off, and the fabric was too heavy to sleep in. As for the denim's durability, our Textiles Lab was similarly disappointed: The dye rubbed off and onto one tester's white blouse during wear. The jeans also faded a lot and shrank some after washing. They're not the worst pants, but you can do much better by shopping in stores for a good fit, feel and style in a pair of stretchy jeans.
Buy instead: These () are more durable and cozy than other flannels.
These slippers, filled with natural linseed, claim to keep warm for up to an hour (after being placed in a "bootie bag" and microwaved for one minute). Testers noted that the footwear stayed toasty about 45 minutes. (BIG WARNING: As the instructions state, overheating could cause the booties' cover to ignite. Never use the booties should if you have circulatory, lower-leg or foot issues or certain other health problems.) The slippers offered warmth, but little foot relief; testers reported too-tight fit and discomfort while standing and moving. Some noted seed leakage, too. Oof.
Buy instead: These Land's End Suede Moc Slippers () are super comfortable thanks to the faux-fur lining and built-in cushioning.