Top 10 pointless products to avoid

by , Home Editor Energy & Home 29 July 2010
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From ‘energy savers’ that increased energy usage to a Colour Catcher that turned whites pink, we’ve found plenty of pointless products. Are any lurking at the back of your cupboard?

Cleaning products

The popularity of Lakeland demonstrates our national love of plastic paraphernalia for the kitchen. But at least when you’re buying an avocado slicer, you know perfectly well you don’t really need it.

I’ve taken the decision many times to buy stuff which turns out to do nothing but fill space at the back of my kitchen cupboards. That’s why I’ve got five different-shaped graters, and a squeezy clip for a tube of tomato paste that saves you from having to roll it up to get out the last bits.

Don’t waste your money

But there are some products out there that look like they do quite an important job, when, according to our tests, in fact, they’re not worth the money. It could be that they just didn’t work, or that something else you probably own already does the job better.

We’ve been scrutinising, investigating and testing those we thought might fall into this category, and today we’ve published our list of 10 products you don’t need.

And the prizes go to…

First there are smoothie makers. These are more hassle than they’re worth because the tap is incredibly hard to clean – and why would you even get one when a good jug blender will do the job just as well? Not to mention the fact that high-end ones will set you back £80.

Then there’s Colour Catcher, which claims to prevent colours running in your wash and turning everything pink. Except it didn’t when we tried it. Whites went pink in our tests, and by the time you’ve followed all the small print caveats on the box about taking care with mixing laundry, you wouldn’t need it anyway. And you’d be paying £19 a year for the privilege of adding it to your wash.

Moving swiftly on, there’s the fabulous ‘gas energy saver’ – a metal disk that sits on your hob and claims to save energy by making gas burn more efficiently. I think this is my favourite useless gadget because it actually did the opposite of what it’s designed for. In our tests we found it took longer to boil a pan of water with it than without it. So that’s £8 well spent.

Want to know what else reached our useless top ten? We’ve put together a rogues’ gallery of 10 products you don’t need where you can see them all in full glory. And if you’ve bought any pointless products and later regretted it, here’s your chance to reveal all.

22 comments

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I love my eco friendly wash balls! They live in the washing machine, so you just need to chuck your clothes in on top of them – so much easier than fiddling with measuring, and much less wasteful than individually packaged tablets or gel blobs!

Sure, there have been a couple of occasions in the last year when something is totally filthy and I’ve turned to a traditional powder – but only because that way you can use a larger amount than you normally would, where with the eco-balls you have a set quantity. For a normal wash the eco-balls wash the clothes great, and leave them smelling much less detergenty than powder or liquid. And that means they’re saving me absolutely masses vs. constantly replacing powder or liquid! …and MUCH better for the environment (at the very least in terms of packaging alone) than the alternative.

…the only problem is, when you wash your duvet cover somehow they ALWAYS manage to find their way right to the bottom and have to be fished out!

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denis_bolton

Perhaps as Which Jan 2009 says it makes no difference whether you wash with water alone or with the balls. In my experience it barely removes even the mildest stains.

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Andy Standing

Talking of pointless products, there are two dishwasher products that seem to me to be a complete con. One is Finish dishwasher cleaner and the other is Finish dishwasher air freshener. The former claims to clean your dishwasher and remove limescale. Well, as dishwashers all have their own water softeners incorporated, there is no limescale, so no need for that then. Secondly if your dishwasher smells, because it is full of dirty dishes, do you put an air freshener in it, or do you perhaps press the ‘wash’ button?? Or am I missing something?

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sandra jennings

I agree my dishwasher never smells as I wipe off any really messy items before putting in dishwasher and this avoids having to clean out waste trap too. I do use finish other products as I find they are very good

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Dave P

I have a small photo printer, (I did get it at half price with an extra ink cartridge thrown in). I found it great to take to rural India, to be able to take and print a photo out in the sticks was really appriciated by the locals. The alturnative would be two trips into town and a weeks wait.
So it works if you need portability, and do not have a computer.

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trebuchet

I’ve found that whenever a new gadget comes along, it’s worth re-examining old gadgets for functions you may have overlooked. When my kids wanted a smoothie maker, they discovered the blender attachment for my Kenwood, and developed a taste for home made cakes.

We now never buy cakes and biscuits, we make them!

Yum!

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chris

I read the article, went out and stopped the tumble dryer, took out the loud and annoying tumble dryer balls and threw one to the dog and put the other in the bin.

Ahh silence at last – I hated the things, thanks for proving they were a waste of money – they noise they make banging around in the drum too!

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Gerard Phelan

I have used colour catcher papers for years but despite segregating my washing as best I can, they still go dark with loose dye. I have many dark towels which shed dye even after 20+ washes and I cannot wash each towel separately, so the bright red, orange and dark brown go in together to make a load. My question is what would have happened to that dye if the catcher paper had not been there? Their cost seems a small price to pay to ensure my towels do not merge into a shared muddy hue.

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Alison null Johnston

1. never buy a pasta maker. You can buy fresh pasta in most supermarkets these days. Although home made is delicious it needs 2 people to make it -believe me it does! – and will entail your kitchen being full of drying pasta hanging on all manner of sticks and rods that you have to improvise

2.tofu maker. Takes all day to make 200grams of tofu! get real……

3. bread making machine. I know many people who have them and never use them. I know 2 people who use them daily and neither of them go out to work…..

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Gill

I too have used colour catcher papers in the washing machine for years. They have saved me hundreds of pounds in electricity savings. I live on my own and so to get a full load of washing I have to mix all the colours (do whites separately). Using these sheets I have never had colour run, the sheet picks it all up. I think they are wonderful. I am amazed Which thinks these are a waste of money as I can wash navy towels, scarlet top and grey gym kit all together knowing each item will emerge the same colour that it went in.
An alternative is the Lakeland Dye Grabber which lasts for up to 30 washes.

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Edith

Whatever makes you think you will save money by not having separate kitchen & bathroom cleaner? We all know they do roughly the same job but you still go through the same number of bottles a year unless you reduce the number of times you actually clean the kitchen or bathroom!. Perhaps that’s what happens when there is only one bottle in the house, as it becomes too much bother to go to the bathroom to get the cleaner when the kitchen needs a quick once over (and vice versa).
I think I’ll stick to my "bottle in each room" principle.

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dave d

No one has (yet) commented that the washing machine balls and tumble dryer balls shorten the life of your washer or dryer very considerably. The same was true of those barmy plastic balls that you were supposed to put detergent into a few years ago.
Think about it: if you have or remember having an older washing machine which did not have “out of balance” mechanisms to slow down or stop the spin if the load was unevenly balanced the the machine thunders and bounces around the kitchen making a hell of a racket and wrecking the bearings.
Now think about your silly balls – how do you expect a machine to be able to distribute one or two solid balls evenly around a circular drum? It can’t do it! If you have a machine which automatically load-balances using the balls will extend the wash time greatly and cause reduced spin speeds to cut in because the machine can’t balance. Even so, when it spins at all the balls will make it out of balance and even at lower speeds there will be added wear and tear on your machine.
In the wash and rinse phases of the cycle, and in the tumble dryer, the wear and tear is less of an issue due to the slower speeds of rotation, but it still has some negative effect.
Any saving of cash in your pocket or impact on the environment made by not using detergent is many thousands of times wiped out by the cost of repairs and replacement machines and the impact on the environment of scrapping the broken parts / machines.
It’s not for nothing that there are no machine manufacturers who recommend balls!
As for the colour catcher sheets, I cannot believe that there are people out there who actually fall for this one!
I live alone so even in a small household, washing segregated items is not a difficulty. It requires simply looking at the care labels and sorting carefully: any item which is “non-fast coloured” – i.e. the dye is not fixed at temperatures over 40 degrees – can be washed with any other item in that category, regardless of the colours, without the risk of colour running. If you are mixing items of that category and washing at 40 then either the washing machine thermostat is faulty and it is heating up to a higher temperature or else something has been incorrectly labelled. Items which are “fast coloured” can be mixed and washed at up to 60 degrees and items which are “colour fast to boiling” can be washed at up to 95 degrees.
Part of the problem links to the attempts to save money on electricity by always stuffing the washer as full as it will go and part of the problem comes from an obsession with buying ever greater capacity machines, regardless of how many people are in the household. The greatest part of the problem is (in my opinion) that people no longer bother to read (or cannot understand as they have never been taught) the care labels.
Of course there is one other angle to this: Which? assert that most people wash everything at 40 degrees these days. If that is true then you should only need to separate white items from coloured items to ensure fantastic results. Mind you, you’ll still wreck your machine as at 40 the machine will grow many nasty moulds and develop horrible soap, limescale and fungal deposits which will ruin rubber seal, make it stink and eventually grunge up the heater (which is why most manufacturers tell you to run a 60 or 90 degree cycle at least once a month, even if the machine is empty, or else offer a super-hot “tub clean” function …. but how many people actually do that either?).

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Eedee1

I usually buy – and do rate – Dylon’s colour catcher sheets when used in light or dark batch washes. However when my local supermarket ran out I purchased the 2 in 1 Colour Catcher & Oxi Stain Remover box of sachets.
The sachets were used as instructed and caused 2 items in 2 separate washes to be covered in grey stains all over that could not be removed, despite repeated additional washing.
I sent the remainder of the pack and photos of the ruined items to Dylon’s manufacturers Spotless Punch, and they took no responsibility saying in their opinion “the marks were caused by colour runs – we do state on our packaging to wash new items of clothing separately for at least 5 or 6 times”
I know there were no new/relatively new items in those washes and there were light colours in the washes, so how that accounts for grey stains goodness knows!
These products ruined my clothing and I would advise anyone to steer clear – very very bad experience and ruined clothes. …
As Which say, all the small print caveats try to protect the makers but even when they are shown photographic evidence they just say the customer must be in the wrong :-(

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laurie

Wash ball can not replace detergent. Detergent cleans the best. I bought a peanut butter maker last year. I only use it twice and now don’t remember where I put that thing. Gosh, I can not wait that long.

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opticalassasin

My boss recently bought this Dettol No Touch Cucumber Splash Hand Wash System for every bathroom at work £10 each. It means you dont have to come into contact with thoose nasty germ things AND THEN WASH YOUR HANDS with antibacterial soap. Who Else but the eternally stupid would buy this product?

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Sensiblegeorge

Just wanted to say well done opticalassasin for spotting the Dettol No Touch swiizz. It makes you laugh doesn’t it?

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Manivel

Dettol no touch is only 6.60 at amazon, who cares about the bacteria bit, I just like gadgets, my house is full of them, its one item less to clean the finger jam off, drill a hole in the top of the cartridge and fill it with whatever soap you like, I agree it does make me laugh thats why I bought it

Everyone buys new gadgets just because they ‘look cool’ but in this case, since you’re washing your hands afterwards any way – well it seems a little pointless, as opticalassasin says. ;)

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Sensiblegeorge

While I can see the ‘novelty’ appeal, the fact is that you are an advertisers dream if you buy a product that to all intense and purposes has no reason to exist, except for the fact that it just a vehicle to get people to buy more soap … which I assume you would buy anyway … but now you spend even more, because of the pump. Then of course, you are trapped in that cycle of refills too … Then of course in time they will redesign the refills so you need a new pump …. Need I go on?

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Manivel

I think you missed my point about refils, I drilled a hole in the top of the cartridge and i only use the soap that I’ve always used costing 89p a sachet, they can re design it as much as they like I’ll keep on refilling with my soap, Part of my fun in gadgets is getting round the manufacturers repeat business. Also every soap dispenser I’ve ever had has broken or leaked after a few months so I had to get a new one anyway, this really was the cheapest option and it satisfies my gadget lust.

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Gully

I have to say, I do have a Dettol no touch soap thing (bought when it was half price!) but only because my 3 year old is little miss independent and likes to do everything on her own. Soap usually ends up on the floor, usual hand pump dispensers are ok but she cant yet push them down far enough to get a decent amount of soap out so this, for the moment, works great for us….. and I just refill it with cheap handwash :)

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Manivel

See 2 above. I took my gadget lust to the limit, I cut a 25mm hole in the top of the cartridge, took a little soap bottle that you get given in hotels, cut it in half and glued the top half into the hole in the cartridge, I now have a refillable cartridge with a screw on lid. Ihave 3 dispensers around the house all with refillable cartridges with screw lids.

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