The Pitch: Holds 12 times its weight in liquid!
The Verdict: It's a sham. Save your money and buy a pack of sponges, or a better chamois cloth.
Wherefore art thou, oh ShamWow? After it was introduced in 2008, the ShamWow became one of the hottest selling infomercial products of all time. Now, it seems to have dropped off the radar as we found limited availability at online retail sites except for the official ShamWow website.
But the question is: Should you buy it even if you can find it?
Probably not. Based on its over-the-top infomercial, the ShamWow seems like the ultimate solution for cleaning up large spills and leaks. According to testers, while it does hold up to 10 to 13 times its weight in liquid, it leaves behind a soggy mess when you try to wipe up any amount, so you have to use another cloth to dry the area anyway. Also, as Consumer Reports points out, you can buy a heck of a lot of sponges -- which also hold 10 times their weight in liquid -- for the price of a ShamWow.
Users largely agree, saying that the ShamWow really isn't any better than any other, less expensive chamois cloth. Or a roll of paper towels, for that matter. On the other hand, some ShamWow fans love this infomercial product and claim that if used properly, it will indeed hold 12 times its weight in liquid, as advertised. Many use it for lighter jobs, like wiping down their shower walls each day, or they tuck it in their daypack when hiking for toweling off sweat.
The ShamWow comes with a 10-year warranty, but in professional tests and real-world use it simply does not hold up. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute found that it began to lose absorbency after just 10 launderings. Customers who forgot about their ShamWow for a period of time and then found them after a year or so and tried to use them say they had degraded while they were in storage and now left lint behind.
We saw plenty of would-be customers wonder why in the heck they can't order just one or two ShamWows. Right now you have to order a minimum of four, which is $20 plus $8 shipping and handling. Then, you can get four more absolutely free (except an extra shipping charge of $8) and a mop absolutely free (except another $8 shipping). You do the math: that makes it $44 for a pack of eight cloths and a mop described as "flimsy."
In addition, be careful when you place an order, whether via the phone or on the internet. There are plenty of complaints of people who thought they'd canceled their order then received both the product and the bill. There are also numerous complaints of extremely long shipping lead times -- as much as three months.
This entertaining video, narrated by Theresa Panetta, puts ShamWow to the test and finds it's no more effective that a much-less-expensive sponge. Testers find that the ShamWow will soak up 10 times its weight in liquid, but leaves a mess behind if you try to use it to wipe up spills.
Review: Videos: Home & Garden, Theresa Panetta, Not Dated
2. Good Housekeeping
The ShamWow fares better in the short term in testing at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, where it holds up to 12 times its weight in liquid. However, it doesn't hold up well over time, losing absorbency after just 10 trips through the laundry.
Review: ShamWow, Editors of Good Housekeeping, Not Dated
The ShamWow gets mixed reviews at this website where consumers can rate various products. Most customers are unhappy with the product, saying it doesn't live up to the hype, and also citing problems with receiving canceled -- or never completed -- orders. There's even a fake "commercial" submitted by one reviewers showing a ShamWow failure.
Review: Shamwow Reviews and Complaints, Contributors to MeasuredUp.com, As of January 2015
Although the ShamWow is no longer available for purchase at this link, these 125 older customer reviews show some love for the product, giving it an overall rating of 3.2 stars out of 5. The most recent reviews are positive, with users saying the product works as advertised.
Review: Fitness Quest Inc 19800-2M 8-Count ShamWow Towels (AS SEEN ON TV), Contributors to Amazon.com, As of January 2015