We put eight home TV infomercials products to the test to see if they work as advertised. Products tested include:
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Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner we’re getting out the grading pen to test those home improvement products you see advertised on those 1-800 TV commercials. Do they offer hope or just hype?
TV Announcer: That’s right! Two for the price of one! Don’t wait! Call now! Operators are standing by.
Danny Lipford: We’ve all seen this kind of commercial or infomercial on our televisions about 24 hours a day, and a lot of these products are supposed to make things a little easier around the home. Now, I get asked all the time, “Danny, what’s your opinion? Do these things really work?” Well, each year we devote an entire episode to looking at some of the more popular home products and really putting them to the test to see if they live up to their hype.
Now keep in mind, nobody has provided us any of these products. We picked up the phone, called the 1-800 number, just like you might. And we received the product, read the instructions, and really put them through a test. Every year when we do this show, some of the products work much better than we expected. Others, well lets say, more promise, less results.
Merideth Busby is giving this one a test run for us to see if it makes hanging pictures as easy as the commercials lead us to believe.
Merideth Busby: The thing looks like it would be really easy. The product looks like the thing that puts it in would be great to have.
Danny Lipford: The assembly seems to be a little tricky, so Allen jumps in to help before Merideth puts it to work.
Merideth Busby: Whoop, nope! It did not come out. OK, do I just put it back in the uh…
Danny Lipford: After multiple attempts, and a little help from Allen, it finally passes the test. And even with a good pounding the fastener doesn’t always go all the way into the wall. So Merideth has to use the Insta Hang as an Insta Hammer. Once they get the hang of it though it seems to work pretty well until they try the supplied hooks for a larger picture.
Allen Lyle: What we have over here is working.
Merideth Busby: Right.
Allen Lyle: This didn’t.
Merideth Busby: It just pulled right out of the wall.
Danny Lipford: At $19.95 plus $6.95 for shipping and handling, the Insta Hang is a pricey replacement for hammering nails. We give it a 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Allen Lyle: OK, just got through helping Merideth. Now, what have you got for me?
Savannah Lyle: I’ve got the Hang Rite.
Allen Lyle: Uh, this is for hanging pictures, too?
Savannah Lyle: Yes
Allen Lyle: And you think it’s going to work?
Savannah Lyle: Possibly.
Allen Lyle: All right, well let’s see. First of all let’s find out here. What we want to do according to instructions, we’re going to move this up to where the picture is supposed to hang. Hold on to that for me.
Savannah Lyle: Okay.
Allen Lyle: And let’s see that Hang Rite. And now we’re going to turn the Hang Rite this way. How high do you want your picture?
Savannah Lyle: Right there.
Allen Lyle: Right here? You sure?
Savannah Lyle: Uh huh.
Allen Lyle: Well, hand me a nail and a hammer. That’s our mark.
Savannah Lyle: Let’s see if I’ve got this.
Allen Lyle: Was that the height, right?
Savannah Lyle: Uh huh.
Allen Lyle: Well, it seems to work all right.
Allen Lyle: Let’s try the other one. And actually, this time you’re going to do it.
Danny Lipford: The process works about the same for a picture with a string across the back. It takes a little more dexterity, but in no time Savannah gets the hang of the Hang Rite and even the hammer so she can hang the picture with ease.
Allen Lyle: Good Job
Savannah Lyle: Yay!
Danny Lipford: At $9.95 plus $6.95 for shipping and handling, the Hang Rite has a hefty price tag for a tool so simple. But it does deliver on its promise, so we’re giving it four out of five stars.
I love the products that are supposed to save you a lot of time. This one’s called Half Time Drill Driver. It’s supposed to save you a lot of time when you’re drilling holes and then driving screws in. But, I’m not real sure how much time it will actually save.
It has a little pivot where you can put a drill in one end and then you can put the drill driver in the other end. So, the obvious test will be to do a little timing and everything. So why don’t you time me on this one. So let’s see. All right so I have this, so let’s start out with a regular traditional thing here.
All right, I’ll tell you what. I’ve got a screw here and I’ve got these so you tell me when, I’ll grab that, and we’ll see how long it takes.
Allen Lyle: All right, and go!
Danny Lipford: All right. OK pilot holes done. Take this out, put this in. And the screw is in.
Allen Lyle: OK, stop. You’re a little over 21 seconds.
Danny Lipford: OK, ready when you are.
Allen Lyle: All right and go!
Danny Lipford: That’s pretty long. OK drilling my pilot hole. Ah, a little wobble.
Allen Lyle: A little? Gosh!
Danny Lipford: Then you just flip this around.
Allen Lyle: You’re in a race now. Got to race. Come on.
Danny Lipford: Now, it’s the screw going in. And it’s in.
Allen Lyle: A little over 21 seconds. They’re almost identical.
Danny Lipford: I don’t really know about that, you know you, and I’ll tell you the thing about it, Allen, this thing is $15 bucks, plus $8 shipping and handling. So you’re talking about $23 dollars for that. Of course you get a lot of bits and a fancy little carrying case. But I’ll tell you. The old reliable multi bit like this.
Allen Lyle: Oh yeah, yeah combo.
Danny Lipford: The combo, that’s only about $10 bucks.
Just shy of $23 dollars seems like a high price to pay for mediocre performance, so we’re giving it a two out of five stars. Now let’s check in with Joe for this week’s Simple Solution.
Joe Truini: If you enjoy cooking with charcoal, and who doesn’t, you know the challenge is getting the charcoal to start quickly. Now you can buy a chimney starter, which is a metal fixture that holds the charcoal, but you can also make one out of an old orange juice carton.
Just take the carton, cut the top off with a utility knife, and then cut ventilation flaps on each side—just little V-shaped flaps on each side. Then take a couple—maybe half a sheet of newspaper—make sure it’s nice and dry, tear it up, and stuff it in the carton. And then add some charcoal. This is only half a gallon, but it holds quite a bit of charcoal.
Now all you need to do is light the carton on the bottom. So you use a little camp starter, and because this is wax, it starts pretty quickly. You see smoke’s coming out the top already. Now once that starts burning, the fire will rise up through there and within 10 or 15 minutes without using any charcoal lighting fluid you’ll have a nice hot fire.
Now that I’ve got the fire started, where’s Danny with those steaks?
Danny Lipford: For the next test, we’ve asked Tim Parker, a professional HVAC contractor, to supply us with a real world situation—a leaking air conditioner drain pan. We’re going to try and revive it with Flex Seal, the spray on sealant.
Tim Parker: I’ve seen, you know, the Flex Seal advertised on TV.
Danny Lipford: Right.
Tim Parker: I want to put it to the test myself.
Danny Lipford: Yeah, everybody ask me about it. We’re reinforcing this old pan by giving it a new bottom.
Tim Parker: Yeah, and what we’ll do is we’ll rivet this down.
Danny Lipford: OK.
Tim Parker: Then what we’ll do is kind of a reinforcement.
Danny Lipford: Oh, I got you, yeah.
Tim Parker: To go on here, and that will kind of give us another protection there for water to drain.
Danny Lipford: Nice sheet metal work there.
Tim Parker: Let’s try that.
Danny Lipford: It’s not as exciting as the screen door in the bottom of a boat demonstration they use on TV, but it’s a real world repair.
Tim Parker: Danny, this is kind of extreme. So if you’ve got just a pinhole, I’m thinking this works on this, it’ll work on a just a pinhole without removing the coil.
Danny Lipford: And probably that’s what you find most of the time.
Tim Parker: Right. If this is as good as it says it is, that ought to seal any of that little crack.
Danny Lipford: I think so, too. All right, I’ll give you the honor of going around the perimeter there.
Tim Parker: Yeah, let me try it.
Danny Lipford: It’s building up pretty well.
Tim Parker: It’s laying in there pretty good. We’re going to fill that whole gap in.
Danny Lipford: Well, Tim, they said to leave it there drying for about 24 hours. It’s been two days, so it looks like it applied fairly well.
Tim Parker: Yeah, that crack there that we had had, we had filled that in real well and that’s opened back up. That doesn’t look like it flexed very good to me.
Danny Lipford: Yeah, I’m a little concerned about that part of it and everything. Well, let’s pour a little water in this thing and see what you think. If you want to grab that, I’ll pull this drop cloth out, and we’ll see what happens here.
Tim Parker: We’ve got water, Danny.
Danny Lipford: Uh oh.
Tim Parker: We’ve got water. I was going to say that crack didn’t seal.
Danny Lipford: Hmm.
Tim Parker: It did not seal the gap.
Danny Lipford: After another good coat of Flex Seal and another 24 hours we poured on the water again. And it seems to hold for a moment, but then the water oozed out again. The upshot is this, Flex Seal does seem to apply easily and seal well it just doesn’t seem to be that flexible. In other word it isn’t the magic bullet the price and hype suggest. We give it 2 out of 5 stars.
Now our next test is on a product called the Grout Bully.
Allen Lyle: To me this looks like shoe polish.
Danny Lipford: And Allen is setting up our friend Gayle Alexander to give it a try to see if it really works.
Allen Lyle: So you’re actually going to go over your tile. You’re going to get this on the tile. It says just wait two minutes, and then you’re going to get this damp.
Gayle Alexander: So the whole thing only takes two minutes?
Allen Lyle: Well no, to dry.
Danny Lipford: So following directions Gayle gives the white grout bully a try, and at first she’s impressed.
Gayle Alexander: This is immediate results, and this is no effort. Again, if it lasts like it says it will last, I would do this whole bathroom, and just get almost a brand new looking floor. It’s just going to be so different looking.
Allen Lyle: It looks great going on but as it’s drying I see the dark bleeding through. That concerns me.
Gayle Alexander: Maybe if I give it a chance to dry and then wipe it down with the sponge, we can see if it’s actually doing what it claims to do. I just don’t think it’ really working.
Danny Lipford: So Allen steps in to see if the darker color of Grout Bully will be effective.
Allen Lyle: Let’s face it. If you’ve got ground-in dirt, and you’ve got to scrub and scour and scrape it out. Well, that defeats the purpose of this.
Gayle Alexander: Right.
Allen Lyle: There’s the convenience factor you’re looking for. Again let’s be fair. We’re going to be fair let this to set up, and if this doesn’t work—your husband likes to do the scrub brush right?
Gayle Alexander: Oh, he does.
Allen Lyle: Yeah.
Gayle Alexander: At $19.95 plus $6.95 shipping and handling, you would expect to be amazed and obviously Gayle wasn’t.
Allen Lyle: All right. So Gayle, to be perfectly fair to the product, it works a little. It just doesn’t meet up to all the claims.
Gayle Alexander: Right.
Danny Lipford: So we’re giving the grout bully a 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Now for our next test, Erin Lilley Smith is going to try out a product called the Lint Lizard. It’s supposed to improve the safety and efficiency of a clothes dryer by removing excess lint.
Well Erin, you think you have the Lint Lizard figured out?
Erin Lilley Smith: I think so, it seems pretty simple.
Danny Lipford: Why don’t you grab it, and give it a try?
Erin Lilley Smith: All right.
Danny Lipford: It’ll be interesting to see if this thing works at all you know?
According to instructions the tool attaches to a vacuum an inserts into the opening of the lint filter, but we don’t see any lint pouring down the transparent hose like we did in the commercial.
Erin Lilley Smith: I can feel lint, but it’s not sucking any of it out. There’s some lint stuck up here at the top. I’m going to see if I can get it out. Oh, there’s a little. Yeah, there’s some coming up, and I can see it going through the tube.
Danny Lipford: But what does Erin really think?
Erin Lilley Smith: It’s a good concept. I just think it’s poorly executed. It’s just, uh, it’s ok.
Danny Lipford: So based on Erin’s reaction, the Lint Lizard gets a 1.5 out of 5 stars.
Now let’s check in with Jodi at the Home Center of a Best New Product that works considerably better.
Jodi Marks: So we all know that you can’t live without water, but there are some things that water just doesn’t mix with—oil being one of them and metal being the other, because when you mix oil and metal you’re going to get rust. And that can be a problem if you’re going to reach for some hand tools and they aren’t operable anymore, or you’ve got some beautiful hardware on your cabinetry that’s starting to rust—you want to obviously get rid of it.
Now the old way to do it would be to get a solution and just use a wire brush and scrub it off and put a lot of elbow grease into it, or you can use this. Now this is called Metal Rescue. And what this is, this is a rust remover bath. So all you have to do is take that hand tool, or take those hinges or hardware, and just submerge them down in this bath and you just leave it alone.
Now if you’ve got a little bit of rust, it would need to stay in there for about two hours. But if it’s heavily rusted, it may need to stay in the solution up to 24 to 48 hours. But again that’s OK, because all you have to do is just drop it in there and leave it and let the solution do the work for you.
Now it is biodegradable, it’s environmentally friendly, it’s safe to touch on your bare hands. But the nice thing I like about this is after you’re done all you have to do is strain out the rust particles at the bottom and you can reuse it. That to me makes it worth its weight in gold.
Danny Lipford: This week we’re checking out those home improvement products you see on TV infomercials and 1-800 spots to find out if they deliver what they promise. And now we’re ready to move outside. Kate Arrington, along with her husband Henry and their son Henry Jr., recently moved in to this older home on a massive piece of property.
We asked her to check out the Worx GT, a combination string trimmer edger that’s full of features that the manufacturer says make it the must have tool of active gardeners like Kate. Kate loves working on the lawn and the garden.
Kate Arrington: I do a lot of yard work, yes sir. Every weekend I’m dedicated to the yard. I would much rather be out in my yard doing yard work and weeding than laundry any day.
Danny Lipford: Since this tool requires some assembly we wondered how well the instructions would help.
Kate Arrington: Well it’s showing pictures, but it’s not giving a description of what to do.
Danny Lipford: But eventually Kate gets it assembled and put it to work. The Worx GT is powered by a lithium-ion battery, so it’s supposed to be lightweight and easy to use.
Kate Arrington: Ta-da!
Danny Lipford: The metal guide on the front is supposed to allow you to keep your distance from things like light posts or flower beds.
Kate Arrington: It seems really easy to use. It cleans it right up. I mean it’s pretty explanatory for your guard to tell you where to go and stop.
Danny Lipford: Another easy to use feature the Worx infomercial hyped is the tool’s handle.
Kate Arrington: Six different settings to the handle.
Danny Lipford: Which adjusts to several different positions to accommodate operators of different heights. Then the cutting head can also be rotated 90 degrees, which allows it to be used as an edger. Hey, Kate’s been playing with this a little while. Let’s see what she really thinks about it. They make a lot of claims about this. What do you think so far? What’s your first impression?
Kate Arrington: So far it’s been good. I like it. It’s lightweight. It’s really easy to use.
Danny Lipford: Well, you’ve got a lot of yard here. I guess it’s a lot better just the overall design, not having to have a cord to drag around.
Kate Arrington: Absolutely, you can trip up so easily on those cords, so not having that around is nice.
Danny Lipford: Now I saw earlier you were changing it from the string trimmer back to the edger. How easy was that?
Kate Arrington: It was really easy. The only problem that I really found with it is the string itself is supposed to self-feed.
Danny Lipford: That’s right.
Kate Arrington: And it did not.
Danny Lipford: Oh, okay.
Kate Arrington: So I noticed after a while, hey it’s not cutting, so I had to go in there and manually pull it out.
Danny Lipford: With the exception of the auto-feed feature, which doesn’t work perfectly every time, the Worx does seem to deliver on its promise, and the price is comparable to the models you’ll find at your local home center. So we’re giving it a 4 out of 5 stars.
Now the Snap 2-0 is another product we found for the lawn and garden. Homeowner Libba Vanderbeek agreed to help me test it out.
You do a lot of gardening, you drag a lot of water hoses around.
Libba Vanderbeek: Right.
Danny Lipford: You think this could help you out?
Libba Vanderbeek: I think it could. They seem to be pretty heavy, and they have an o-ring inside, so it shouldn’t leak.
Danny Lipford: Yeah, it’s pretty good plastic and all, so let’s see. All right it’s got that.
Libba Vanderbeek: You connect this to the sprayer.
Danny Lipford: And then let’s see about the connection together here. Yeah, it does have the o-ring, Hmm, seems to work pretty well. Of course the real test is to see whether or not it will leak. We’ll turn that on in just a minute.
Libba Vanderbeek: Right, and how easily it comes apart.
Danny Lipford: Yeah, that’s true. I guess if you could get extra different fittings like this, more of the different fittings, then you could almost have it on all of your little watering devices and things like this so that..
Libba Vanderbeek: Right. So you wouldn’t have to take them off, you just put them on there and leave them permanently.
Danny Lipford: Huh, seems to work pretty well. Well, we know what the real test is. Let’s see if this thing is going to leak or not. OK, it’s on Libba. What do you think?
Libba Vanderbeek: Yeah, looks pretty tight.
Danny Lipford: Wow, that’s pretty cool. That’s great. I wonder how well it’ll hold up. You know water and then the little o-ring it’ll keep it kind of pliable. So I’d think it’d work pretty well.
Libba Vanderbeek: Probably have to change the o-ring, did the give us any extra o-rings in the kit?
Danny Lipford: I don’t think so. That’d be a neat little thing, because you know you’re going to lose them sooner or later.
Libba Vanderbeek: The other question I have is now can we change this without turning off the water?
Danny Lipford: I doubt it. You want to try it, I’ll step back.
Libba Vanderbeek: No, that’s OK.
Danny Lipford: The Snap 2.0 does seem a bit pricy with a total cost of almost $17 for essentially two different quick connections, but does deliver on its claim. And, if you’re OK with that price tag for the convenience, you should be satisfied. We give it a four out of five stars.
Tiffany Asks: What’s the best way to hang a heavy mirror on the wall?
Danny Lipford: The best way to hang anything heavy on your wall is to use a 3-inch screw and screw it right into a wall stud. You’ll be lucky if you find a wall stud exactly where you want to hang that heavy picture, so you have to go to hollow wall anchors. Lot of different kinds out there that you can use.
What I like to use, always works well, is an old fashioned toggle bolt. And now here’s a nice little trick. Take the toggle bolt and then put a nut, thread it into the toggle bolt, then put a couple washers on it. Then screw the little wing on the end of the toggle bolt. Then use you screwdriver to create a hole in the drywall. And then when you place it in and tighten it up real nice, you have a great, very strong, wall anchor.
Danny Lipford: Well that was a lot of fun checking out all of those different products and I hope that our opinion will help you make the decision whether or not you want to buy any of these products or not. But hey, it was just our opinion. We want to hear yours and hope that you’ll drop by todayshomeowner.com, click on the episode “As Seen on TV” and let us know about your experiences with any of these products or any product that you’ve used around your home. Not only do we want to hear your opinion, the thousands of people that drop by todayshomeowner.com love to read them as well.
This was our first show of our 15th season and I just want to say thanks so much for being with us and hope you’ll join us next week, right here, on Today’s Homeowner.