Infomercials make some pretty amazing claims, but how much can you really believe? The Good Housekeeping Research Institute took a closer look at some popular products seen on TV to see if any live up to the hype.
1. Edge of Glory
$11 + $7 S&H
The Pitch: "The best knife sharpener money can buy!"
The Truth: More like one of the worst. The sharpener broke away from the suction cup before we could even test it, making its use potentially dangerous. Paring, chef's, and utility knives honed on the tiny contraption became only marginally sharper. An electric sharpener did the best job, though we even saw significant improvement with a standard manual handheld sharpener. The product's claim to turn a credit card into a razor-edged tomato slicer just didn't cut it.
The Bottom Line: Edge of Glory is anything but sharp.
2. Hot Booties
$15 + $15.90 S&H (two pairs)
The Pitch: "Long-lasting, soothing heat to treat your feet!"
The Truth: 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. (FYI: As the instructions state, overheating could cause the booties' cover to ignite, and the booties should not be used by those with 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.
The Bottom Line: Give these the slip. "Not enough of an advantage over regular slippers," said one tester.
3. Total Pillow
$20 + $16 P&H for 2
You asked: Does it really work?
The Pitch: "The amazing versatile pillow that cradles you in comfort?"
The Truth: Review from consumers and Jordan Metzl, M.D., a sports medicine specialist at The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, were mixed. While some testers liked how "soft" and "compact" the pillow was, others commented that it was "too small" and "tricky to twist." One pillow split down the seam, releasing microbeads, a potential choking hazard. Dr. Metzl rated the pillow average for next and lumbar support but below average for aligning the neck and spine.
The Bottom Line: If conventional pillows have let you down, Total Pillow might be worth a try. But it's not as dreamy as the infomercials claim.
4. Lint Lizard
$11 + $7 S&H
The Pitch: "Removes dryer lint in hard-to-reach places!"
The Truth: To keep your dryer running efficiently and to help prevent a fire, it's critical to get rid of lint from inside the filter chamber and the exhaust vent. Lint Lizard does exactly that: Its long plastic tube and attachments slip onto almost any vacuum cleaner hose, sucking out dust and getting into crevices better than the vacuum can alone. Though corners and tight spots proved a challenge, Lint Lizard left us impressed. (Remember to thoroughly rid the dryer and vent of lint several times a year and to clean the lint screen after every load.)
The Bottom Line: The best infomercial product we've tested - it really works! This is one lizard we like to have lounging around.
5. Easy Feet
Two for $15 + $16 S&H
The Pitch: "Cleans and massages feet from heel to toe. It's like a pedicure every day."
The Truth: We tested Easy Feet in the lab with consumers. While feet could be washed without bending down (a main product claim), a user had to lean over to apply shower gel and again to remove the bulky product from the tub floor. It also slipped a lot when suction-cupped to bath surfaces both in the lab and in the testers' homes. Some testers thought the bristles felt nice, but others complained that they'd banged their feet on the plastic arch. A few worried that they might loose their balance when using it standing up. Several reported that the pumice stone fell out.
The Bottom Line: Only 30 percent of testers said they'd continue using the product - and none felt their lives were incomplete without it.
6. Fix It Pro Repair Pen
$10 + S&H
The Pitch: "Repairs car dings, scratches and nicks on contact."
The Truth: We used the penlike applicator to put a clean sealant on car-finish scratches of varying depths. We found it was able to camouflage the most superficial marks - but if the scratch removed the paint (not just the top gloss), the sealant did little to hide it. And if you aren't careful to wife off excess before it dries, you could be left with an even more obvious line, like clear nail polish, over the scratch.
The Bottom Line: If you're really bothered by light scratches, it's worth a try. As for a deeper ding or a nick - this pen won't "fix it."
$10 + $7 S&H for two
The Pitch: "Stains vanish instantly!"
The Truth: 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. In the lab and in testers' homes, Groutinator proved great at removing nail polish, good on coffee stains, and just OK on dirt, mildew, and rust; it didn't do much for driveways or garage floors. It needed to be resharpened every several times to clean an entire shower, leaving a mess of blue dusk in its wake. (Have vacuum on hand.)
The Bottom Line: The cleaning process isn't as effortless as the infomercial makes it seem - it requires some arm-fatiguing scrubbing. Most testers still preferred cleanser and a brush.
8. Ninja Kitchen System 1100
$159.80 Free S&H
The Pitch: "Create all of your favorite recipes with just one touch of a button!"
The Truth: We tested the Ninja for its ability to replace a blender, food processor, mixer, and juicer, and to make "creamy" ice cream. It crushed ice exceptionally well, ground coffee beans and chopped onions evenly, and made a consistently smooth, if grainy, smoothie and margarita. It kneaded pizza dough and beat cookie dough, though not as easily as a mixer would. It blended frozen fruit, ice, and cream, making a soft frozen mixture, but not ice cream. Also under par: Our attempt at salsa resulted in barely chopped onions and pulverized tomatoes, and we found juicing fruit made fruit puree instead of juice.
The Bottom Line: The Ninja Kitchen System 1100 is a good stand-in for a blender or mini-chopper. But for its price, you could buy one of each of those, plus a hand mixer.
9. Flex Seal
$20 + $10 S&H
The Pitch: "A liquid rubber sealant [that] stops leaks fast!"
The Truth: What a mess! 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.
The Bottom Line: Do not try this at home.
Related: The Top 100 TV Shows Of The Year
10. EZ Cracker
$10 plus $7 S&H
The Pitch: "Crack eggs, separate egg whites, and strip shells from hard-boiled eggs in seconds...no mess, no fuss!"
The Truth: We used the EZ Cracker to crack and separate four dozen eggs. Our finding: It's not so eggs-cellent. About 20 percent 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 in half the delicate eggs inside.
The Bottom Line: We never thought cracking eggs was a problem that needed solving - and this contraption doesn't change our minds. Save your money!
11. Nuwave Pro
$150 plus $30 S&H
The Pitch: "Enjoy healthy and delicious food in just minutes."
The Truth: We broiled, roasted, steamed, and more. This infrared oven did best on baking cookies, air-cooking frozen fries, and dehydrating beef jerky. On average, it was 50 percent faster than an oven if what we were cooking required preheating. But our "waved" burgers lost more juice and released less fat than broiled ones. And forget about using it to reheat.
The Bottom Line: Only worth it if you don't have an oven.
12. Swivel Store
$20 plus $16 S&H
The Pitch:"Space-saving. Just slide and swivel!"
The Truth: We filled this plastic caddy with spice jars (as well as medicine bottles, and office supplies, as suggested in the ad), 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 care must be taken when swiveling so stacked mini jars don'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, this unit can tip, and the thin plastic feels flimsy.
The Bottom Line: It's useful for standard spice jars or other small items if you don't mind that it's a bit wobbly. Its website (buyswivelstore.com) forces you to get two - you can't refuse the "free bonus," and you have to pay for its shipping, too. Find in stores instead.
$10 plus $7 S&H
The Pitch: "The strength of super glue. The convenience of tape!"
The Truth: We used these little double-sided-tape - like strips to bond 14 materials, including metal, plastic, wood, and fabric. Most stuck together impressively well, even if they got wet or cold. And it's all true: UGlu doesn't make a mess or stick much to skin, is simple to peel off, sets with no need to clamp, and is generally more user-friendly than the other alternatives. But its strength claims are exaggerated, and in our tests its bond weakened in high temperatures.
The Bottom Line: UGlu is great for tasks like tacking a slipping rug to the floor, repairing peeling linoleum, and scrapbooking, as well as 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).
14. Shake Weight
$20 plus $10 S&H
The Pitch: "Get strong, sexy, sculpted arms...in just six minutes a day!"
The Truth: Testers who used 2.5-pound dumbbells for half an hour a day, three days a week, achieved slightly better toning results than those who used the Shake Weight with its instructional DVD - which actually clocked in at nearly nine minutes, not the promised six. 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 we spoke to, however, seriously doubted that the Shake Weight could increase muscle activity by 300 percent over regular weights, as claimed.
The Bottom Line: Arm-workout newbies may see results, but veteran exercisers won't find the routine sufficiently strenuous.
$39.95 plus $6.95 S&H
The Pitch: "Make and receive local and long-distance calls in the U.S. and Canada for only $19.95 a year."
The Truth: The $40 device easily connects a regular phone to a USB port on a computer and lets you call as advertised (the first year of service is included; it's $19.95 per year thereafter). 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; you'll want an alternate phone service in case of emergency.
The Bottom Line: All problems aside, this is a fine, well-priced choice for a second line.
To see how other infomercial favorites fared (like the Snuggie, ShamWow, and Pajama Jeans), be sure to check out more Seen On TV products reviewed by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute.
Which Seen On TV products have you tried out? Let us know what you thought in the comments!
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