You’ve seen them on television—those infomercials in which ordinary people are doing something they’re extraordinarily excited about doing. In addition to anything with the late Billy Mays and the goofy ShamWow guy, there’s the ubiquitous commercial that shows a woman lying on the couch, encased in a large blanket with sleeves and bearing a striking resemblance to Jabba the Hut. With a full-toothed smile on her face, she reaches for her cup of tea with one hand and changes the channel on he remote control with the other. She’s in complete euphoria. And why wouldn’t she be? She didn’t have to remove her blanket. America, meet the phenomenon known as the Slanket.
There are hundreds of infomercials these days, from the Toilet Monster and the Fanny Bank to Kidz Bop CDs and Always Fresh Containers. Yes, there are some bizarre items like the Neck Slimmer and Burp Pistol, but sometimes you come across products that are actually a sheer stroke of genius. These ten items—most of them under $20—are some of the best from the vast world of infomercials.
1. Perfect Brownie Pan Set
With an ice tray-like divider and a removable bottom, this rectangular nonstick baking pan lets you bring the brownies straight from the oven to the table. Just pour in the batter, place the divider in the pan, and bake. Once the brownies are done, take the pan out of the oven, remove the divider, push the bottom up from the sides of the pan, and—voilà!—brownies are served.
2. Bottle Top
It’s such a simple idea: a bottle top that “reseals” a soda can. Brilliant, right? Unfinished soda doesn’t have to be tossed out anymore, nor do your lips have to touch germy cans that have been god knows where. Simply place a bottle top on the can and stick it in the fridge. Comes in a set of six different-colored bottle tops.
3. Forearm Forklift
When used properly, these heavy-duty nylon straps reduce the weight of a carried object by 66 percent and have a 600-pound capacity. It eliminates the risk of floor damage and allows movers to make tight turns when transporting furniture up a flight of winding stairs. It was awarded Best New Product of the Year in 1999 by the Industrial Equipment News. How can you argue with that?
4. Hanger Cascader
A long piece of metal with vertical loopholes, this chrome gadget allows you to hang six items on a hanger on one hook. It’s sturdy enough to hang coats and jackets, and maximizes the space in even the smallest closets. Each package contains a set of two. It doesn’t seem like much, until you actually hang your stuff, and then you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.
5. Touch N Brush
This hands-free toothpaste dispenser is a space saver that kids as well as adults can appreciate. The dispenser is a cylinder that holds an average-size tube of toothpaste that you attach to the wall with screws. It minimizes the messiness of toothpaste tubes, keeping your bathroom counter clear of toothpaste spills. It also dispenses the right amount of toothpaste via vacuum force, eliminating waste. Even better, it will dispense until the tube is completely empty, so you’ll never have to squeeze that tube for the last drop of toothpaste ever again.
If you want to give yourself a pedicure, this safe and gentle foot file removes calluses and dead skin with virtually no mess. The ergonomic egg shape makes it easy to hold and the replaceable “blade” consists of a cartridge with 135 stainless steel micro files that won’t cut your skin if you accidentally touch it.
7. The Slanket
You’ve seen Liz Lemon (aka Tiny Fey) rockin’ her Slanket on the television sitcom 30 Rock, and it is what it is: a blanket with sleeves. Made of 100 percent polyester, it’s bigger than your average throw-blanket, measuring 60 inches x 100 inches, and it has 13-inch sleeves. It’s available in a variety of colors, from Alaskan blue to apricot. Cult following aside, this nifty item makes you never want to leave the couch.
8. Passback Football
Touted as the “world’s only football that rebounds and spirals back to the passer,” this ball can be used indoors and outdoors. It resembles a regular football with one end cut off so it’s flat. The Passback Football is a great tool for learning how to throw as well as catching. You can play with a partner or alone, and it’s great for kids of all ages—even the middle-aged ones.
9. Rocket Balloons
Rocket balloons are simple toys that will impress any child. The air inside of each balloon provides all the pneumatic thrust needed to make the helicopters and jet cars that come in this kit fly and race. No batteries needed, just a little elbow grease when pumping up the balloons. It includes seventy-five colorful rocket balloons, two helicopter balloons, two jet racers, and one two-way action pump.
These cloths “pick up liquid like a vacuum” according to the product description. For the price, you get four jumbo size (20 inches x 24 inches) cloths, six kitchen size (9 inches x 10 inches) cloths, and a Window Wonder, which allegedly cleans windows without cleaners and leaves no streaks. These multi-purpose, ultra-absorbent, and reusable cloths have a ten-year lifespan. It sure beats buying all those paper towels at the grocery store.
These products are just the tip of the iceberg. Kitchen gadgets, home maintenance products, children’s toys, exercise equipment music, movies, jewelry—you name it, it’s out there. And you don’t have to order by phone like in ye olden days. In addition to online purchasing, these infomercial wares are available at Target, Walmart, and other big box stores. Don’t be surprised if you spot an “As Seen on TV” shop at your local shopping center. Grocery stores and pharmacies are starting to carry some products, too.