Salad spinners help prevent waste by extending the usable life of fragile produce, such as lettuce and berries. Loose salad greens cost less and generally remain fresh longer than pre-bagged, pre-washed greens. What's more, ConsumerReports.org found bacteria that are "common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal contamination" in 2010 tests of a small sample of 208 pre-bagged salad greens, and a 2003 study at the Rome Institute of Food and Nutrition showed that the nutrients are lost in the processing of bagged salad greens.
The mechanics of a salad spinner are simple: Wet salad greens are whirled around in a basket, and centrifugal force whisks away the water on the leaves. The best spinners have bowls that aren't perforated, so you can wash and spin greens in the same bowl. If the bowl is attractive enough, it can do double duty as a serving bowl.
There are two main types of salad spinners: corded and pump-driven. Both are manual models. Although salad spinners with pull cords tend to dry greens a little better than pump-driven models (that's because they spin faster), pull cords can break, become tangled or fail to retract. Hand pumps -- which are either plunger-style or lever-style -- are also a bit easier to use than ripcords, most reviewers say.
The Oxo Good Grips Salad Spinner (*Est. $30) has all the attributes reviewers look for in a salad spinner: It's easy to operate and comes with a brake that allows you to quickly stop the basket from rotating, so greens remain in place when you remove the lid. The hand pump can be locked down for easier storage. The inner bowl can be repurposed as a general colander and the outer bowl used as a serving bowl. The Oxo Good Grips Salad Spinner comes in white or lime green.
More than 650 owners reviewing the Oxo Good Grips Salad Spinner on Amazon.com and Cooking.com contribute to an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. Owners say its size (10 inches wide by 10 inches tall) is adequate for use with a whole head of lettuce but is bulky in the refrigerator (for storing greens) or in the cabinet when not in use. The majority of owners say this spinner is effective and durable, although there are a handful of complaints about the bowl or lid cracking after about a year of use.
If cupboard space is somewhat limited or if your household is small, reviews say that the Oxo Good Grips Little Salad and Herb Spinner (*Est. $25) is an excellent choice. In function and features, it's nearly identical to its larger sibling, but at 8 inches tall, it's more compact. About 30 owners posting to Cooking.com are satisfied with this spinner, noting it's especially useful with herbs. One owner specifically mentions using this spinner in her RV due to its small size.
Even the most well-designed plastic salad spinners tend to break or crack over time. The Oxo Stainless Steel Salad Spinner (*Est. $50) offers a couple of advantages over the other spinners in Oxo's line-up: Its steel bowl is unbreakable, and it's handsome enough to use as a serving bowl. The stainless steel version of the Oxo salad spinner earns positive feedback in the Los Angeles Times' salad-spinner review and in Chow.com's review, but owner feedback is a bit mixed. While reviewers at Cooking.com say this spinner is attractive, easy to use and durable, we found several complaints from owners posting to Amazon.com that the spinning mechanism breaks after only a few uses. The unit is slightly larger than the plastic Oxo Good Grips Salad Spinner, but it has the same capacity. Like the Oxo Good Grips, it does come in a smaller version: the Oxo Stainless Steel Little Salad and Herb Spinner (*Est. $40).
Reviews say corded salad spinners rotate faster than hand-pump versions, so greens emerge a little drier. Yet Louisa Chu of Chow.com notes, "The cords [on these spinners] always break first -- either the cord itself or at its point of attachment." Still, she concedes that the Zyliss Easy Spin Salad Spinner (*Est. $25), which comes in two sizes (the larger size costs about $30), is a decent performer. Reviews of this spinner at Amazon.com and Cooking.com are mostly favorable (it has an average rating of 4 stars out of 5 on Amazon.com and 4.6 out of 5 on Cooking.com), with most agreeing that the Zyliss does an excellent job of drying greens. There are a few complaints about the plastic tabs -- which attach the spinning mechanism to the lid - breaking, and some say the lid doesn't stay on well during spinning.
A newer Zyliss salad spinner, the Smart Touch (*Est. $25), uses a locking plastic lever instead of a ripcord. This model comes in two sizes and in several vivid colors, including lime green and orange. Although the Los Angeles Times gives this spinner a rave review, about 10 owners posting to Amazon.com complain that the pump mechanism failed in short order, and most say the pull-cord Zyliss model is superior for drying greens.
Another salad spinner that uses a cord (instead of a pump), the Progressive International Collapsible Salad Spinner (*Est. $25), earns an award from Housewares Design Awards 2010 for its collapsible design. At 6 inches tall when expanded (3 inches when collapsed for storage), it's just an inch shorter than Oxo's Little Salad and Herb Spinner, but it has a larger 4-quart capacity. Owner reviews for this newer item are scarce: We found about eight reviews for the Progressive International Collapsible Salad Spinner on Amazon.com, where it has an average rating of 4 stars out of 5. Most owners are pleased, but there is one report of the cord breaking after less than 10 uses.
If your cupboard space is limited, consider a salad-spinner bag. Louisa Chu, in a review for Chow.com, and Adrianna Velez, in a review for Cookie magazine, both say Argee Spin 'n Stor Reusable Salad Spinning Bags (*Est. $12 for 12 bags) are reusable -- and that they actually work. These plastic bags are similar to freezer bags, only larger. To use one, you fill the bag with washed greens, hold it closed at the top and whirl it around in a large arc about 10 to 12 times. The water drains into a reservoir along the side, which can be emptied into the sink. These reusable bags must be washed by hand and will eventually wear out. But unfortunately, professional reviewers haven't tested their durability.