You’ve seen them advertised on TV and featured in infomercials, but do they really live up to the hype in the ads? I put some of the products to the test recently to see if they performed as claimed, then ranked them on a scale of one to five stars, with five as tops. Some items are available through multiple retail stores and mail-order outlets, so prices may vary.
Shark Portable Steam Pocket
Use: Steam cleaning around the home.
Cost: $89.95 + $9.95 S&H = $99.90 total
There are a number of steam cleaners available on the market today. The one I put to the test is the Shark Portable Steam Pocket.
The Shark Portable Steam Pocket comes with various accessories for different cleaning situations. To use, simply fill it with water, turn it on, and give it a minute or so to heat up.
I used it clean the soap scum off a grungy glass shower door. While a little pricy, the Shark Portable Steam Pocket did a good job of cleaning without harmful chemicals.
magicJack Internet Phone Service
Use: Internet phone service through your computer.
Cost: $19.95 + $19.95 (1-year service) = $39.90 (for 1st year)
The magicJack has become a popular way to make and receive phone calls over a computer that’s equipped with broadband Internet access. Simply plug one end of the magicJack into a USB port on your computer and the other into a phone, upload the installation software, and you’re ready to go.
The magicJack was easy to install and provided good audio quality. Allen Lyle, my co-host on Today’s Homeowner, has used one in his home for over two years and has been happy with the service.
The only downside of magicJack is that your computer must remain on for the phone to work. When the computer is off or in sleep mode, calls are directed to voice mail.
The magicJack is available at retail outlets as well as by mail order, so try to find it locally to avoid shipping and handling costs.
EZ Jet Water Cannon
Use: Attaches to a hose for outside cleaning.
Cost: $19.95 + $7.95 S&H = $27.90 total
The EZ Jet Water Cannon attaches to your hose for outside cleaning. It has eight different nozzle settings and a soap reservoir. Ads claim the EZ Jet cleans with the power of a pressure washer; but in my test, it fell far short.
Other than being able to dispense soap, the EZ Jet provided about the same pressure as a standard hose nozzle but at four times the price.
Use: Remove stripped head screws.
Cost: $19.95 + $6.95 S&H = $26.90 total
Nothing is more aggravating that trying to remove a screw that has a stripped head! The Grabit solves that problem with a bit on one end to drill a hole in the head, and a screw extractor on the other to back the screw out of the hole.
The Grabit isn’t cheap, but it worked just as advertised in my test, earning it a permanent spot in my toolbox.
Use: Remove hair from clogged drains.
Cost: $9.95 + $6.95 S&H = $16.90 total
The Turbo Snake consists of a plastic coated wire with small hooks on the end that are used to remove hair from a clogged or slow-running drain. To use, uncoil the Turbo Snake, insert it into the drain, twist several times to collect the hair, and pull it back out.
In Allen’s tests of the Turbo Snake, it worked as advertised, though it’s a bit pricy for what you get.
Use: Tool for cleaning your gutters.
Cost: $9.95 + $6.95 S&H = $16.90 total (without handle)
Billed as faster and easier than other gutter cleaning tools, the Gutter Rake attaches to a standard extension pole (not included), and is used to rake leaves and other debris toward you, which are then removed by hand.
While the Gutter Rake did okay in my test, there are other products on the market that work as well or better.
Use: Holds garbage bag open for filling
Cost: $19.95 + $6.95 S&H = $26.90 total
The Bag-Caddy is a flexible plastic sleeve that is used to hold a plastic trash bag open for filling. Once the bag is full, you simply slip the sleeve over the top of the bag without having to lift the heavy bag.
While Allen thought it worked well in his test, he found the Bag-Caddy to be overpriced for what you got, and the instructions were confusing.
Use: Flat hose on reel for watering your yard.
Cost: $19.95 + $6.95 S&H = $26.90 total (50’ model)
The Magna Hose is a flat hose that can be unrolled from the plastic reel to use for watering your yard. Its claim to fame is that even though the hose is flat, it can be used on the reel without unrolling it all the way.
While it worked okay in my test, I found the Magna Hose hard to roll up, and awkward to attach to a wall.
Other Tips from This Episode
Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Spot Cleaning Carpet
To spot clean and deodorize a section of carpet, sprinkle it generously with baking soda, mist the area lightly with water, and scrub for several minutes using a scrub brush. After allowing the spot to dry, vacuum up the dried residue.
Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
Ryobi 6-Port SuperCharger
The Ryobi 6-Port SuperCharger is perfect for keeping the batteries on Ryobi 18-volt tools charged and ready to go. It uses energy efficient Intelliport™ Technology to maximize battery life and only charges your batteries when needed. The Ryobi 6-Port SuperCharger is available at The Home Depot. (Watch This Video)
Thinking Green with Danny Lipford:
Eco-Friendly Packing Peanuts
You might not think of foam packing peanuts as very eco-friendly, but they’re made from a quarter or more recycled materials, use half the energy to make than paper packing, and can be reused over and over. That makes them pretty green in my book.
(Watch This Video)