Women

GHRI Investigates : The Big (Non) Chill

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From barbecues to ball games, summer means outdoor eating. But do products that promise to keep food cold really work?

Description: Cello Kitchen Courier , Prodyne CB-3 Cold Bowl on Ice , Artisan Metal Works Insulated stainless steel 3-quart serving bowl

Cello Kitchen Courier , Prodyne CB-3 Cold Bowl on Ice , Artisan Metal Works Insulated stainless steel 3-quart serving bowl

The claims: A whole category of merchandise, from mugs to lunch boxes, pledges to keep foods hot or cool, but our past tests have shown the items rarely deliver. When we noticed serving dishes and grocery bags with temp claims (some promising to keep food chilled for two to eight hours, others saying they’d keep food “cold” or “fresh”), we had to see for ourselves.

How we tested: We set our climatology chamber to 700F with 50 percent humidity, then 900F with 90 percent humidity, to simulate warm and sweltering days. Each dish was filled with cold potato salad, and readings were taken every 15 seconds until temps hit 410F (one degree above the recommended food-storage temp). We also loaded insulated bags from the American Bag Company ($20 for five) with refrigerated staples like juice and frozen fare like ice cream, then ran the same test against grocery bags.

What we found: Not one of the containers came close to meeting its loftiest claims. The Oggi Thermal Serving Tray performed the worst, with the salad surpassing 400F in just a few minutes! The Aloha Big Chill’R and the G&S Metal Products ThermaWare Unsulated Server came through, keeping food cold for about two hours (if not their stated possible six hours). The insulated bags only modestly extended the time some groceries could stay out of the fridge. No surprise: They did best with the frozen foods.

The bottom line: These products may let your potluck contribution sit out on the picnic table a little while longer, but all afternoon? Don’t count on it.

Not so cool

None of these serving dishes kept food cold to the upper limits of their claims:

·         Aloha Big chill’R ($46)

·         Cello Kitchen Courier ($19) (1)

·         Frontgate Superchill 4-quart bowl ($80)

·         G&S Metal Products ThermaWare Insulated 4.5-quart Food Server ($20)

·         Oggi Thermal Serving Tray ($29)

While these didn’t make specific time claims, in our tests they only kept food cold about 20 minutes longer than a plain glass bowl:

·         Artisan Metal Works Insulated stainless steel 3-quart serving bowl ($41)(3)

·         The Container Store Ice & Go Salad Bowl ($20)

·         Elegance 11-inch Hammered Bowl ($33.31)

·         Food Network Covered Chiller Bowls ($40 for two)

·         Prodyne CB-3 Cold Bowl on Ice ($33)(2)

Groutinator

Price: $10  + $7 S&H for two

Description: Groutinator

The pitch: “Stains vanish instantly!”

The truth: The Groutinator is an abrasive block that claims to restore the look of grout and concrete stained by dirt, mildew, or hard water. A few testers liked that they could skip chemicals or tools and clean even the thinnest grout lines. In the lab and in testers’ homes, Groutinator proved great at removing nail polish, good on coffee stains, and just OK on dirt, mildew, and rust; it didn’t do much for driveways or garage floors. It needed to be resharpened several times to clean an entire shower, leaving a mess of blue dust in its wake. (Have a vacuum on hand.)

The bottom line: The cleaning process isn’t as effortless as the infomercial makes it seem – it required some arm-fatiguing scrubbing. Most testers still preferred cleanser and a brush.

Dehumidifiers

The end of summer when your basement can get damp and musty, is a savvy time to pick one up. A few things to keep in mind:

Description: Dehumidifiers

Scope

If moisture is seasonal and confined to a small area, a portable unit should do the trick. If humidity is a constant problem throughout the house, you may need an integrated system; those typically don’t go on sale.

Size

Follow guidelines on the box. Small dehumidifiers are cheap and easy to move, but if they’re not adequate for the space, they won’t dehumidify effectively – better to get a larger unit.

Drainage

Most dehumidifiers full an internal reservoir and then, once full, shut off until emptied. They can be set up to drain continuously into a sink or – if you buy one with a built-in pump – can empty upward (out a basement window, for example).

Green solution - Benjamin moore natura paint

Description: Green solution - Benjamin moore natura paint

It’s free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), looks great, performs beautifully, and it’s the first pain to earn the Green Good Housekeeping Seal. The base can be tinted more than 3500 VOC-free hues. The formula is virtually odorless, fast-drying, and spatter-resistant, and it usually covers in a single coat. Benjamin Moore is also reducing the energy used and waste produced during manufacturing and distribution. Color us happy!

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