Does It Work?

Evaluating those products on TV pitches

 

Akron Beacon Journal

From those amped-up TV ads, you have to wonder how humanity survived before Flower Rockets and earwax vacuums.

Consumer reporter Betty Lin-Fisher, food writer Lisa Abraham and I concentrate on four products you might use around the house.

None of them wowed us. Read on to see why.

Wraptastic

Wraptastic is designed to make it easier and safer to dispense plastic wrap, as well as foil, waxed paper and other wrappings. It’s a rigid plastic dispenser with a hinged lid that contains a shielded blade. By pressing on the lid, you cut the wrapping in one motion, quickly and neatly.

We liked that aspect when we tested the Wraptastic with plastic wrap and foil, although we discovered that pressing the lid took more force than we expected. We also liked that the dispenser’s design keeps the plastic wrap’s cut end from clinging to the roll.

Unfortunately, we had some trouble getting a roll to seat correctly in the dispenser.

We also thought the Wraptastic would work better if it were heavier. Although it has nonslip feet, the dispenser was still too lightweight to stay in place when we pulled on the wrapping.

Like many of the products we test, the Wraptastic is a good idea that suffers from mediocre execution. We paid $10.88 for the product, and we all agreed we might use it for dispensing plastic wrap. But we wouldn’t bother with it for foil or other types of wrapping.

Verdict: A unanimous “It depends”

Smart Twist Cleaning System

This trigger sprayer from S.C. Johnson holds three cleaning products, so you don’t have to carry three bottles around.

The sprayer contains a water reservoir and space for three small bottles of cleaner in concentrated form. The cleaner and water are mixed automatically when you spray, and you can change cleaning products just by twisting the gadget.

The Smart Twist can be used with any of five products — Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner, Windex glass cleaner, Fantastik kitchen cleaner, Pledge furniture cleaner and Shout carpet cleaner. Each 3.3-ounce bottle of concentrate makes about the same amount of cleaner as a standard spray bottle.

When we tried the Smart Twist, we thought it felt a little awkward to hold. The sprayer weighed a few ounces less than a 32-fluid-ounce bottle of Windex, yet it felt heavier because the bulk of the weight wasn’t directly in our grip, as it would be with the Windex bottle.

Lisa wasn’t convinced the sprayer mixed the concentrate and water adequately, although I didn’t share her concern.

Our biggest complaint was with the price: $24.99 for the sprayer plus three bottles of concentrate. The price of the refills is a little high, too. They sell for $7.99 for two, which works out to about $4 apiece. By comparison, S.C. Johnson sells concentrated forms of all five cleaners, designed for refilling a 26-ounce spray bottle, for $2.50 each.

Verdict: Betty: It depends; Lisa: Skip it; Mary Beth: It depends

Flower Rocket

The Flower Rocket is a rolled-up seed tape that promises to turn into “thousands of flowers.”

But after a month, all we had were a few dozen sprouts.

The Flower Rocket package contains two “rockets” embedded with the seeds of 15 types of annual flowers. Following the instructions, we planted one in a container filled with soil, which we had to provide.

The first sprouts appeared after just three days, with more following. But 32 days after planting, the plants were still small, probably weeks away from producing blooms.

I’m not sure we’ll have the patience to keep caring for the Flower Rocket long enough to find out.

It was also hard to see how the Flower Rocket gave us any advantage over just sprinkling some seeds in a pot of soil. Considering that some types of seeds cost less than a buck a packet, that approach would have been a lot cheaper than the $9.99 Flower Rocket.

Verdict: Betty: Skip it; Lisa: It depends; Mary Beth: Skip it

WaxVac

We tried the WaxVac ear cleaner at the urging of a colleague with two children, one who swims competitively and the other who has, in her words, “really waxy ears.”

The seeds of our doubt were planted right away when we noticed that the product’s packaging and website mentioned nothing about earwax. Despite the name, those sources say the device removes “dirt particles and moisture.” Still, we were eager to see just what the $9.88 WaxVac would remove.

We enlisted the help of an ear, nose and throat specialist who gamely agreed to perform a before-and-after exam to help us quantify the WaxVac’s performance.

We had intended to test the

The doctor used a slender scope with a camera to take before and after pictures.

Then we put the WaxVac to work on Mary Beth.

The device is essentially a low-powered, battery-operated vacuum cleaner that’s supposed to gently suck stuff out of your ears.

It made no difference at all.

Later, I poured water into one of my ears to test whether the WaxVac would draw it out. I used the device for five minutes — the maximum specified in the instructions — but the water didn’t budge.

I think Lisa summed up our opinion of the WaxVac best. “It’s all hype,” she said.

Verdict: A unanimous “Skip it”

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