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ShamWow or sham? Rating infomercial goods

We've all been mesmerized by the flashy demos and the fast-talking pitchmen promising that their gadgets will change your life — "but only if you act right now!" To get beyond the hubbub, Good Housekeeping tested everything from the Snuggie to the ShamWow!
/ Source: TODAY

You know how we've all been mesmerized by the flashy demos and the fast-talking pitchmen promising that their gadgets will change your life — "but only if you act right now!" To get beyond the hubbub, Good Housekeeping ordered the products, watched the ads, and visited the websites, noting all product claims, then set out to see if they stood up to their pitch.

Pasta 'N' more
$19.99 (plus $8.99 shipping)

The pitch: "Cook perfect al dente pasta in your microwave…every time!"

The reality:Spaghetti, penne, ravioli, and lasagna noodles cooked evenly in the microwave, without the hassle of boiling water and using a colander. Pasta came out a bit softer than al dente, thus the missing fifth star — but the truth is, most of our testers still liked the taste.

$19.95 (Plus $7.95 shipping)

The pitch:"The blanket with sleeves!"

The reality: Testers liked the Snuggie well enough, though both men and women complained that the 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 quality is cheap.

The response: A statement from Anne Flynn, Director of Marketing at Allstar Products Group (the maker of the Snuggie): "We appreciate Good Housekeeping reviewing our Snuggie blanket with sleeves, and are happy to hear that the testers enjoyed wearing them. To explain the sleeve length, we design our Snuggie product similar to that of a blanket... We want people to be fully covered and cozy, hence the oversized fit. We have recently extended our line of Snuggie blankets, including a Microplush fabric Snuggie, that are all created with quality material that stand up well to multiple washings in our testing practices."

Bender Ball
$9.99 to $12.98 (plus $7.93 shipping)

The pitch: "Gives you a workout that's up to 408 percent more effective than ordinary crunches. So you can sculpt beautiful abs fast!"

The reality: Our fitness experts and consumers thought that the exercises were effective, but no more so than an ab workout on the floor or a regular exercise ball.  Upon our request, the company provided a study involving 10 subjects supporting the "up-to-408 percent-more-effective" claim for the most intense moves. As mentioned on their site, placing an order enrolls you to receive new workouts every two months at a cost of $46.97 per shipment — you must call to cancel.

The ShamWow!
$19.95 (plus $7.95 shipping)

The pitch:"It's like a chamois, a towel, a sponge… and holds 12 times its weight in liquid."

The reality:A good product, but with too many grandiose promises. The ShamWow held 13 times its weight in water in our tests, but lost some absorbency after 10 launderings. It sucked up cola from carpeting 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 for drying sweaters and blotting wet dogs, contrary to the claims, air-drying and a regular towel, respectively, were better.

Smooth Away
$14.99 (plus 46.99 shipping)

The pitch: "Easy, safe, and painless... superfine crystals buff away unwanted hair… in moments."

The reality:Not quite the miracle product we'd hoped for, Smooth Away removed hair with some success from legs and arms, but it took a lot of time and missed spots despite our testers' efforts. On bikini and underarm areas, it was largely ineffective, and even irritated sensitive skin. Some testers didn't like the way it left their skin ashy, and most concluded they'd stick to their regular hair-removal method.

Unfortunately, none of the products received the Good Housekeeping Seal. They were all tested in the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, which noted all claims the manufacturer was making by reading the packaging, watching the infomercials and visiting the Web sites.

The Good Housekeeping Research Institute is a state-of-the-art laboratory located in New York City with a staff of engineers, scientists, chemists and nutritionists who are dedicated to protecting consumers by testing products for safety and efficacy. For more information, visit