The 5 best odor eliminators to spring clean your home in 2021, with guidance from the American Cleaning Institute

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A quality odor eliminator will remove or cover up odors while freshening up your space.
  • We spoke with an expert from the American Cleaning Institute to best explain how they work.
  • Hamilton Beach is our top pick because it uses three carbon filters to eliminate odors.

Whether you’re cooking up a new concoction in your kitchen, pet-sitting your neighbor’s dog, or stumbled upon stinky gym shoes left behind, household odors are inevitable. To combat these unpleasant aromas from circulating, an odor eliminator will work wonders to remove wonky smells.

Malodors come from a variety of sources including bacteria (spoiled food and body odor), fungus (mold and mildew), and volatile organic compounds or VOCs (paint fumes).

While scented cleaning sprays may mask smells, Brian Sansoni, SVP of communication at the American Cleaning Institute, said that if you really want to remove an odor from your home, you have to eliminate the bacteria or germs at the source.

“Fragrances that cover an odor might be used alongside an odor absorber or a product that kills odor-causing bacteria,” he said.

Sansoni said that odor-eliminating sprays use chemical compounds like cyclodextrins to trap odor molecules, but you can also use baking soda to absorb odors. Odor eliminators are safe to use on upholstery, curtains, and carpets to neutralize any smells, while surface cleaners with antimicrobial ingredients will help to kill odor-causing bacteria. Be sure to check your product label to ensure it’s recommended on certain surfaces.

Here are the best odor eliminators of 2021

The best overall

Hamilton Beach odor remover

The Hamilton Beach TrueAir Room Odor Eliminator will automatically neutralize odors in a room for up to three months and comes with replaceable filters.

Pros: Continuous odor elimination, can be used with or without fragrance filter, low wattage, quiet, covers 100 square feet, replaceable filters

Cons: Replacement filters not readily available in all mass-market stores

The Hamilton Beach TrueAir Room Odor Eliminator is only a small 8-inch cube, but it’s a mighty tool for removing odors. Simply plug it in and the TrueAir fan pulls in air, pushes it through three carbon filters, and traps dust and malodors to leave your room smelling fresh. There are two settings and I keep it on low, which makes very little noise. You can increase the speed to tackle tougher smells — like tobacco smoke or pet odors — too.

The product claims to cover a 10-by-10-square-foot room for three months. After that, the filters should be replaced. Changing the filters is very simple and if you don’t use them all the time, the filters are effective for more than three months. It also comes with a fragrance cartridge, Green Meadow, that you can use or skip. 

I’ve been using the device for several months and my home is less dusty and smells fresh. It’s powerful, effective, and you can store it in a closet when it’s not in use for easy storage.

Best for pet odors

Anti Icky Poo odor remover

If you want to keep the pet but not the smells, Mister Max Anti-Icky-Poo is your best bet.

Pros: Eliminates tough pet odors, environmentally safe to use around humans and pets, 100% money-back guarantee

Cons: Doesn’t remove visible stains, not readily available in most mass-market stores.

Pets have accidents but even if you thoroughly clean after them, the odor often lingers in the carpet, upholstery, tile grout, and hardwood floors. And once the animal catches a whiff of that spot, it will return to the scene of the crime. Enter Mister Max Anti-Icky-Poo — the cleaning agent that will have your home smelling fresh and void of lingering pet smells.

I have a precious rescue pup that tends to urinate when startled or when she feels threatened. When accidents happen, I simply grab Mister Max and give the area a good spray. Live bacteria and enzymes in the formula destroy the odor molecules, so there is no residual stench remaining.

Safe to use on all types of floors (it even penetrates concrete), carpets, and fabrics, the nontoxic Mister Max comes in a light scent or an unscented formula, and features a 100% satisfaction guarantee if it’s not up to par for your household.

Best for carpets

Arm and Hammer odor remover

Arm & Hammer’s Extra Strength Carpet Odor Eliminator only takes a light sprinkle and a good vacuum to freshen up your room. 

Pros: Eliminates odor from carpet and upholstery, contains baking soda to fight tough stains 

Cons: Scent can be overpowering if too much is used

Soft surfaces like carpets, area rugs, and upholstery are magnets for odor molecules. The fibers grab hold of the molecules and simply won’t let them go. This is particularly true for natural fibers like wool that are barbed, and synthetic fibers made from petroleum products that like to hold onto greasy molecules.

To get the most benefit from this product, I sprinkle a very light dusting of Arm & Hammer’s Extra Strength Carpet Odor Eliminator and then use a slightly damp sponge mop to work it into the carpet fibers (use a damp sponge when cleaning upholstery) and then step away for an hour or so. When I come back and give the area a good vacuuming, it’s amazing to see how much soil is trapped in the powder.

Best for small spaces

Moso natural odor remover

When your closet, car, or even the inside of your sneakers is less than fresh, toss in a Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag to effectively absorb odors.

Pros: Nontoxic, natural product containing no petroleum-based chemicals, available in a variety of colors and sizes, reusable for two years

Cons: Doesn’t remove odors immediately, takes several hours for effects to kick in

Small spaces packed with lots of clothes, shoes, or linens can begin to smell stale, and the last thing you need is another strong scent layered on top. Luckily, the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag contains 200 grams of bamboo charcoal to absorb odors, hassle-free.

Moso bags come in several sizes to fit any space and will last up to two years. They can be “recharged” by placing them in the sun for one hour per month. This helps remove the moisture that has accumulated in the charcoal. Since this is a natural product, after two years the charcoal can be composted for the garden, making it a sustainable product to have on hand.

I love that the bags come in several colors and I use them to freshen clothes and linens in every closet, in the laundry room near the dog’s crate, and in my car to keep it fresh.

Best air freshener

Renuzit odor removers

Renuzit Snuggle Super Fresh Air Freshener provides continuous odor elimination, thanks to its long-lasting gel formula.

Pros: Biodegradable gel, no batteries needed, scent level is adjustable

Cons: None

There are dozens of air fresheners in the market, and they’re available in various forms — from sprays and oil diffusers to plug-ins and gels. The problem with almost all of them is that they only add fragrance to the air and don’t eliminate odor. For an air freshener that actually gets rid of odors, I use the Renuzit Snuggle Super Fresh Air Freshener

The science is similar to that in fabric refresher sprays, where offensive odor molecules are trapped by ring-shaped cyclodextrin molecules (imperceptible to the human nose). The 98% biodegradable gel in the formula traps malodor molecules and eliminates odors.

Housed in a contemporary-looking container, the air freshener can be opened as much or as little as you’d like to release the Snuggle fragrance. There’s no need for batteries or an outlet, either. I’ve been using this gel for many months and the bathroom still smells fresh and clean even when it has had plenty of traffic. 

Our testing methodology

I have more than 40 years of experience testing cleaning products. Our picks are based on hands-on testing and use. We also interviewed Brian Sansoni, SVP of communication at the American Cleaning Institute, on what to look for in an odor eliminator.

In making our picks, we looked at the following criteria:

  • Efficacy: We looked at how well each odor eliminator removed odors from household areas. This involves how quickly the scent was removed, how long it took to make the living area smell great, and if it was consistent over time.
  • Ease of use: We looked at how easy each machine, spray, or stationary product was to use.
  • Good value: We looked at how closely efficacy and ease of use corresponded to price. While price wasn’t the primary consideration, we found that you don’t have to spend a lot to get good performance. 

Check out our other cleaning guides

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The 5 best floor cleaners of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Even if most of your home has wall-to-wall carpeting, some floors require more than just vacuuming.
  • We rounded up the best floor cleaners specially designed for different floor types below.

Taking care of hard surface floors is a never-ending job. Sweeping or vacuuming will capture much of the loose dirt and hair, but eventually, stuck-on messes will need to be cleaned with a mop and a good cleaner.

I don’t have carpeting in my home except for area rugs, so I’ve learned to care for hardwood, ceramic tile, and stone floors on a weekly basis to keep them looking clean and fresh. I’ve also tested floor cleaners, vacuums, brooms, and mops for many years as a home economist, so looking for products that are most effective, easy to use, and of great value is second nature to me.

While some cleaners are interchangeable, what’s needed to clean the grout in ceramic tile floors isn’t the same as what’s used to keep hardwoods gleaming. That said, we provided five options best for cleaning wood, laminate, vinyl, ceramic, and stone floors so you’ll have a pristine clean.

Here are the best floor cleaners of 2021

The best for wood

Bona Hardwood floor cleaner

With Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner Spray, you can protect your expensive wood floors and keep them shining for years to come.

Pros:  Simple-to-use spray bottle, no rinsing, leaves no streaks, dries quickly, large bottles available for refills, low VOCs

Cons: Cannot be used on floors that have been oiled or waxed with paste wax

The majority of wood floors in homes are sealed with polyurethane or polyacrylic urethane finish. Harsh cleaning chemicals can permanently dull this finish and leave streaks. So, when it’s time to clean spills and muddy footprints, the Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner Spray is your best bet, as it’s specifically formulated for wood floors.

After sweeping away loose dirt, I do a quick spritz with this water-based formula and follow through with a clean mop, and my floors look fabulous. There’s no rinsing needed and it never leaves any streaks.

Bona is Greenguard Gold-Certified and produces low volatile organic compounds (VOC). The spray bottle can be refilled from the larger gallon size or you can use it to fill the built-in cleaner container of some mops.

The best for laminate

black diamond slide

To swiftly clean engineered wood, the Black Diamond Stoneworks Wood & Laminate Floor Cleaner is an eco-friendly spray to sustain your floor.

Pros: Works for hardwood and laminate flooring, hypoallergenic, no rinsing required, safe to use around children and pets

Cons: None

Laminate floors don’t require as potent of cleaner and nearly as much maintenance compared to expensive hardwood. Sometimes, using a wood-only cleaner leaves laminate floors full of streaks and water spots. To combat this, the Black Diamond Stoneworks Wood & Laminate Floor Cleaner is fit for your next deep clean.

Though it’s usable on wood, this hypoallergenic formula will tackle stains, dust, and oil on bamboo, cork, Pergo, Armstrong, and Mohawk floor types. No rinsing is required and it’s safe to use around children and pets — just spray and wipe.

The best for vinyl

Rejuvenate floor cleaner

Rejuvenate All Floors Cleaner will remove old wax buildup and stuck-on grime to restore the shine of your vinyl floor.

Pros: Cleans floors with no rinsing needed, restores shine, non-toxic and fragrance-free, the spray bottle is reusable, fresh lemon scent

Cons: Not readily available in all mass-market stores

Vinyl floors are built to take lots of abuse. That’s why they end up in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and mudrooms. Rejuvenate All Floors Cleaner is the best cleaner for removing messes and stains with a streak-free finish and no rinsing required.

It works well when sprayed on the floor and cleaned with a microfiber mop. Because the formula is pH-balanced to neutralize contaminants and contains ingredients that will remove old wax buildup and grime, it left the floor looking great. I didn’t have to rinse or repeat the mopping. The lemon-scented formula is also non-toxic, fragrance-free, and Greenguard Gold-Certified with low chemical emissions.

The Rejuvenate Restorer fills in scratches, helps prevent sun-fading, and improves traction. I used Rejuvenate on a friend’s dingy, scratched vinyl floors and it improved the look so drastically she changed her mind about wanting to replace them.

The best for ceramic tile

Hoover grout floor cleaner

Ceramic tile floors are easy to clean except for all those grout lines, but the Hoover Renewal Tile & Grout Cleaning Formula works wonders.

Pros: Concentrated so you use less, biodegradable, effectively cleans tile and grout, septic-safe, can be used with electric floor cleaner or with a mop, performs well, lightly scented

Cons: Not readily available in mass-market stores

Taking care of ceramic tile floors should be a breeze because the tile is stain-resistant, doesn’t scratch easily, and lasts for decades. Howevergrout, if left unsealed, will absorb stains, attract dirt, and can be damaged by strong cleaners. Luckily, the Hoover Renewal Tile & Grout Cleaning Formula makes maintaining ceramic a breeze.

It’s highly concentrated, so read the directions to learn how much to mix with water. Be careful not to use too much of the product, or you’ll have to do some extra rinsing. The cleaner can be used in both an electric floor cleaner or with a good mop. The key to successfully getting the grout back to its natural color is using hot water with the cleaner to help cut through the grime.

I was thrilled with how easily it cleaned the floor and only a couple of tough spots needed a bit of extra scrubbing with a brush. The scent is clean and not overpowering, and it will have your tile and grout looking fabulous when used regularly. 

The best for stone

stonetech slide

If you have expensive slate, granite, or marble floors, the StoneTech All-Purpose Daily Cleaner for Stone & Tile will help make your investment last and look great. 

Pros: Gentle on stone floors but tough on dirt and grime, nontoxic, two light scents available, refillable container

Cons: Not readily available in mass-market stores

I once attended a party at a home with gleaming marble floors in the vast entrance. Because it’s my job, I just had to ask the homeowners how they kept the floor looking so grand. The answer was StoneTech All-Purpose Daily Cleaner for Stone & Tile.

While stone floors may seem indestructible, they’re pretty sensitive to products, stains, and spills that contain acids. Any spills that contain wine, citrus juice, or vinegar should be cleaned up immediately because they can etch even sealed stone floors. Harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach or ammonia can be quite destructive to such an expanse of flooring.

StoneTech helps the sealant last longer and maintains the natural beauty of the stone with its citrus or cucumber scent. You can purchase it ready to use or in a concentrated formula to add to water. The ready-to-use formula is available in a spray bottle as well as a gallon jug for refills. To clean your floors, simply spray a small area and clean with a microfiber mop. No rinsing or drying is necessary. The cleaner is non-toxic and biodegradable, too.

Tips for cleaning your floors

Cleaning your floors doesn’t have to be difficult if you have a good floor cleaner, the right type of mop, and the time in your week to regularly tend to such surfaces. 

Start by sweeping or vacuuming to remove loose soil and hair. If you don’t, you’ll just be swishing it around and often leaving it behind. Use a clean mop head or disposable pad to prevent soil from re-depositing, and remember to allow plenty of time for the floor to dry before tracking in more dirt.

Take a minute to read the instructions on the back of the floor cleaner bottle. Some products go directly on the floor, while some need to be mixed with water; some require rinsing, but some don’t. Following the directions can help you be more successful.

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The 5 best gardening shovels in 2021

While a shovel might not be your most thrilling purchase, at least one belongs in the tool shed of every gardener, whether they’re looking after a few potted plants or an extensive vegetable garden. The only question is which type of shovel or spade you need. Serious gardeners will likely have more than one.

That’s why we decided to do the research for you, and put together this list of the best shovels, spades, scoops, and trowels out there (read more on the different types of shovels, and which one may best fit your needs, here).

And while there is certainly no reason to break the budget on a shovel, it’s also true that you generally get what you pay for, and a quality garden tool should last many years with just a little care and maintenance.

Here are the best garden shovels and spades in 2021

The best overall

fiskars shovel

No need to throw your back out digging in tough soil. The Fiskars Long-Handle Round-Point Steel Digging Shovel cuts through even compacted dirt and clods without breaking a sweat.

Pros: Extremely durable steel construction, welded blade and handle, lifetime guarantee

Cons: A bit heavy, not good for digging small holes

Before you can plant that beautiful rosebush, shade tree, or blooming perennial, you need to dig a hole big enough to contain the roots. With the Fiskars Long-Handle Round-Point Steel Digging Shovel, you’ll get the job done with less effort and sweat than with many lesser garden shovels. If you only choose one shovel for your garden, we recommend that this be the one.

This beauty of a tool has a 14-gauge steel blade and an 18-gauge steel handle welded together so the shovel won’t snap even under rugged use. It has a large foot platform so you can really throw your weight into your digging, and a rubbery orange grip to keep your gloved hands in place without slipping or sliding. (You are wearing gardening gloves while doing heavy yard work, right?)

The Fiskars Long-Handle Round-Point Steel Digging Shovel is 57.5 inches long, making it suitable for most average-height gardeners. But this isn’t the tool you want to use to plant seeds or do detail work.

The best short garden shovel

bond shovel

If you prefer short-handled shovels, or are working in tight quarters in a flowerbed, you’ll appreciate the sturdy construction, D-shaped handle for easy gripping, and compact size of the Bond Mini D-Handle Shovel.

Pros: Strong steel construction, D-shaped handle is easy to grip, reasonable price, easy to fit in your car’s trunk

Cons: Short-handled shovels can be hard on your back

While a long-handled shovel provides more leverage and allows you to remain more upright while digging, in some situations, a short-handled shovel is easier to work with.

If you are digging in a tightly defined area, are digging a trench, or are very short, you might prefer a shovel with a short handle. And if so, you’ll find the Bond Mini D-Handle Shovel to be the best choice.

But the entire shovel is only 27.6 inches long, which means that this tool can be hard on your back during extended sessions of digging. Instead of using for long digging sessions, this might be most useful for small digging jobs in flowerbeds, or for lifting and moving dirt and other garden debris.

The best garden spade

fiskars shovel 2

When it’s time to edge, move mulch or compost, or break through extra-tough soil, the Fiskars D-Handle Garden Spade is up to the job.

Pros: Very sturdy construction, sharp edge cuts cleanly through sod, compacted soil, and roots

Cons: D-shaped handle encourages a grip that might not be comfortable for some gardeners

Like the Fiskars Long-Handle Shovel, the Fiskars Spade has a 14-gauge steel blade welded to an 18-gauge steel handle that won’t break or bend even during the heaviest of gardening jobs.

The edge of the blade is sharp, so you’ll slice right through sod, hard soil, compacted roots, and tough weeds without much of a struggle. And the rubberized D-shaped grip gives you a little bit of extra leverage when needed. This is a useful tool for moving garden debris of all types.

The Fiskars garden spade is 47 inches long and weighs just under five pounds, so it’s light enough for long sessions but heavy enough that it can throw its weight around.

The square head is great for edge work or sectioning our garden plots.

The best garden scoop

ames shovel

When it’s time to move soil, leaves, gravel, mulch, or even snow from point A to point B, the Ames D-Handle Aluminum Scoop won’t let you down.

Pros: Sized just right for the best leverage without straining your back, sturdy construction

Cons: Not meant for digging, the shovel blade is thin so it may not hold up to heavy loads

Gardening often calls for moving various materials from one spot to another: You dug a hole, now you need to move the dirt, you’re spreading compost over your vegetable bed, or you need to move fallen leaves to the trash or scrape snow off your driveway.

For any of these tasks, plus many others, the Ames D-Handle Aluminum Scoop is designed to provide the most leverage for the most efficient use of your muscle power.

The wooden handle of the tool is 24.5 inches long and topped with a molded D-shaped plastic handle that’s easy to grip. The aluminum blade is 15 inches wide and 11 inches deep, so it’s roomy enough to get the job done without being too heavy. And it won’t rust or spark when scraped against the ground.

The best garden trowel

Wilcox All Pro trowel

If you’re a container gardener, or just like to get down and dirty in your vegetable or flower garden, the Wilcox All Pro 14-Inch Trowel is a must-have.

A garden trowel is basically a small shovel with a long blade designed to be held in one hand for use in transplanting small plants and seedlings, planting individual bulbs, working in a container garden, removing individual weeds, or any other small gardening job that requires up-close, precise digging.

The Wilcox All Pro 14-Inch Trowel‘s sturdy stainless steel blade comes to a sharp point so you can cut through soil with precision, almost coring out your plants for easy transplanting. You won’t be scooping much soil at a time with the small blade, but it’s great for smaller tasks that require more finesse.

While the 14-inch size is probably the handiest (that’s 14 inches from tip of the blade to the bottom of the handle), the trowel is also available in 9-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch sizes.

Pros: Extremely durable construction, sharp blade easily penetrates even clay or hard soil

Cons: Not for moving large amounts of soil

FAQs

gardening shovel faq

What are the different types of shovels?

  • As a general rule, garden shovels have rounded, concave blades that come to a point. Shovels are mostly used to dig holes in dirt, but are also handy for moving soil, snow, or other loose materials.
  • Typically, garden spades have slightly concave blades with a flat edge, and while not so good for digging holes, they are useful for cutting through sod, edging your lawn, or marking a trench.
  • Garden scoops have wide, flat blades that rise up into small “walls” along the sides. This is the tool of choice for moving mulch, compost, dead leaves, hay, or other lightweight loose materials.
  • Trowels are small garden tools designed for one-handed use. They have a long, shovel-shaped blade and a short handle. Use your trowel for transplanting or digging in containers, making small holes in the garden for new plants, or removing individual weeds.

Check out our other great gardening guides

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The 12 best gardening gloves in 2021

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best long gardening gloves 2021 pruning elbow length

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Every home gardener needs a trusty pair of gardening gloves. By protecting your hands from soil, debris, thorns, and chemicals, they help prevent blisters, scrapes, and other injuries.

The type of gloves you’ll need depends on the gardening task. “Standard cotton garden gloves are a good option for planting annuals and potted plants,” said Karen Musgrave, marketing coordinator at Hicks Nurseries, the largest garden center on Long Island, New York. “Rose growers should choose leather gloves that are long, reaching your elbow to provide protection from thorns. For planting trees and shrubs, choose heavy-duty gloves with reinforced fingertips.”

Comfort, fit, and breathability are also important. The best gardening gloves keep your hands cool and dry and let your fingers move nimbly to pull weeds, plant flowers and shrubs, and even take the occasional phone or water break. “It’s important to have a snug fit so that it gives you the dexterity that you need and prevents minor injury when you want to get a little more aggressive in the soil when trimming,” said Vanessa Dawson, founder of plant care startup Arber.

After consulting gardening experts and conducting our own in-depth research, we found the best gardening gloves for various budgets and uses. You can read more about glove types and materials here.

Here are the best gardening gloves in 2021

The best overall

best gardening gloves 2021 pine tree tools bamboo

These gloves can be used for light- and medium-duty gardening tasks like mixing soil, planting flowers, raking, and pulling weeds. Nitrile, bamboo, and cotton are typical materials you’ll see since they’re lightweight, durable, and affordable.

Original Gloves (medium)Bamboo Gloves (medium)Women’s Relief Grip Gardening Gloves (medium)
Best gardening gloves on a budget

 best gardening gloves 2021 budget value pack

If you tend to go through a lot of gardening gloves, or just like having backups on hand, try these value glove packs.

Atlas Nitrile Gloves  (medium)Gardening Gloves (10-Pack) (medium)
The best heavy-duty

best gardening gloves 2021 heavy duty leather

Heavy-duty gloves are usually made from leather and may contain extra features like finger reinforcements or safety cuffs to give you the backup you need for difficult tasks like planting trees or carrying heavy tools and bags of soil.

Leather Work Gloves (medium)Gloves (medium)
The best long

best long gardening gloves 2021 pruning elbow length

Regular gardening gloves only protect you up to your wrists. If you’re pruning thorny rose bushes, you’ll need long arm covers that reach to your elbows and shield your forearms.

Leather Gardening Gloves with Forearm Protection (medium)Rose Pruning Gloves for Men and Women (medium)
The best for kids

best kids gardening gloves 2021 g&f

Before you get your young ones involved in the garden, make sure they have their own pair of gloves. Kids’ gloves don’t tend to be heavy-duty, so keep them out of the rose bushes.

JustForKids Kids Garden Gloves (medium)Westchester Jersey Gloves for Youth (medium)JustForKids Leather Work Gloves (medium)
Our methodology

For our first major update to this guide, we consulted Karen Musgrave from Hicks Nurseries and Vanessa Dawson from plant care brand Arber to learn more about how to shop for gardening gloves, features and materials to look out for, and brands they recommend. We combined that information with our own research to choose a few glove options per category. 

Next, we’ll be calling in samples of these contenders and evaluating them for comfort, fit, functionality, and durability. 

FAQs

What to know before you shop 

How you plan to spend time in your garden and backyard will help determine the style and material of your ideal gardening gloves. Cloth and nitrile gloves will do just fine for light gardening, but for anything involving heavy or thorny objects, you should use leather gloves. It’s likely you’ll have several pairs of gloves on hand, depending on your task of the moment. 

Fit is another important factor. Consult provided sizing charts to figure out which size to buy, and look for fitted wrist cuffs. If the glove is too small or large, your hand will feel uncomfortable and be more prone to injuries. Incorrect sizing can also allow soil or other debris to fall into the glove.


Pros and cons of nitrile, cotton, and leather

“Nitrile [a synthetic rubber] gloves are lighter, breathable and less expensive than leather gloves. Leather gloves provide the best protection and often last the longest. Cotton gloves are good for smaller projects and are often the least expensive,” said Musgrave.


How to wash and care for your gardening gloves 

“In general, keep them dry when not in use and out of the sun as that cracks the rubber. Use saddle soap on the leather ones,” said Dawson. Depending on the material, some gloves may be machine-washable. 

Keep in mind that most gloves won’t and aren’t meant to last a lifetime, especially with regular use. It’s good to keep a few different pairs on hand to rotate through. Luckily, most gardening gloves are affordable. 

Check out more gardening and backyard guides

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The 8 best smart plugs and smart outlets of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Smart plugs can control multiple connected devices, adding automation to lights or small appliances.
  • Most smart plugs are simple, but more complex installations can control every outlet in your home.
  • The Wyze Plug 2-pack is an affordable, flexible option that’s great for smart home novices.

Smart plugs or outlets rank among the most intuitive, flexible, and useful smart devices you can buy. These simple devices can add smart remote control and automation to anything that uses a standard home power outlet.

Smart plugs are the perfect entry point for smart-home devices but are also critical for any advanced smart-home system. You could add a smart plug to every outlet in your home or even replace the in-wall outlets with smart outlets for a seamless system.

Wyze, TP-Link, and Lutron offer a variety of options, whether you want a single smart plug, a power strip, or a whole-house system.

Here are the best smart outlets you can buy:

The best smart plug overall

Best smart plug Wyze

The Wyze Smart Home Plug is an affordable, simple, reliable option for those new to smart-home devices or experts who need basic features. 

Sold in a two-pack that’s less expensive than solo competitors, each Wyze Smart Home Plug is small enough to fit a pair into a standard home power outlet. The plugs connect to your home’s Wi-Fi through an app-based setup process and can be controlled with that same app after setup is complete. 

The plug supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so it’s possible to control it through voice commands. Aside from turning plugs on or off, the Wyze app provides basic shortcut and scheduling features so you can automate when devices are powered on. Wyze also supports IFTTT integration for users wanting more complex automation. 

While the Wyze Plug is often a great value, sales on competitors can sometimes dip prices lower. The Wyze product ecosystem is expanding but remains a bit limited compared to Philips or TP-Link. Apple’s HomeKit isn’t supported, either.

Still, the Wyze Plug is a smart choice for most people. It’s affordable, effective, and has options for expansion and customization without overwhelming novices. 

The best smart plug for future expansion

best smart plug tp link kasa

TP-Link is well-known in the smart-home space, and the Kasa Smart Plug HS103 is among the company’s most popular products. 

The TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug HS103‘s feature list is almost identical to the Wyze Plug. The Kasa 103 is small enough to fit two plugs in a standard power outlet at once. It connects over Wi-Fi and is controlled through an intuitive smartphone app. 

The plug supports voice control through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and is compatible with those ecosystems. TP-Link’s app includes basic automation and grouping, with more advanced automation available through IFTTT. 

How do you choose between the Wyze and TP-Link Kasa plugs? It’s a choice between simplicity and expandability. Wyze’s app has a slight edge in approachability. Its product ecosystem, though not robust, is easy to understand. TP-Link’s Kasa ecosystem is massive and more difficult to navigate, but you can find products that Wyze doesn’t have, like smart LED light strips and light switches.

The best smart power strip

best smart power strip tp link kasa

Smart power strips like the TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip HS300 give you more flexibility and control over several devices. 

Smart plugs are useful but are limited to just one or two devices. That doesn’t work in a home office, home theater, or any other room where multiple appliances are plugged in to a power strip. TP-Link’s Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip HS300 is a good solution.

You’ll find six power outlets, each of which can be controlled or automated individually. The surge protector also has three USB-A ports for charging smartphones or tablets, though they’re “dumb” ports that don’t support remote control or automation. For the outlets, you’ll be able to monitor energy consumption via the app. 

This smart power strip supports most of the features of the Kasa Smart Plug HS103, including voice control with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, though it’s not compatible with IFTTT. The Kasa Smart app can be used to group devices or set automation schedules. This is a Wi-Fi device, so no smart hub is required.

As with TP-Link’s smart plugs, this power strip is a great value. The price is as low as smart power strips go, yet the features offered are similar to more expensive alternatives. 

The best smart power strip for Apple HomeKit

best smart power strip eve energy

The Eve Energy Strip is an expensive smart power strip with a premium look that will fit in well alongside an organized, minimalist home office. 

The Eve Energy Strip is ideal for those who don’t want to pair their $3,000 iMac with unattractive smart-home plugs. Based on its price and design, perhaps it’s not a surprise that Apple HomeKit is the only smart-home ecosystem it supports.

There’s more to the Eve Energy Strip than looks, though. HomeKit integration makes it wonderfully simple for users heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem, and Siri voice control is supported. The power strip connects over Wi-Fi.  

The intuitive app supports the usual features, like scheduling and grouping, and throws in energy monitoring. Eve’s energy monitoring interface is easy to understand and can help target devices that are consuming more energy than expected.  

Eve’s product ecosystem covers some very specialized use cases. This includes water sensors, window sensors, and a weather station, all of which are HomeKit compatible. None of the company’s products are affordable, but they’re great if you care about the design and durability of your smart home devices.

The best smart plug for Apple HomeKit

best smart plug wemo mini

The WeMo Mini Smart Plug has some great features, but its HomeKit support is its biggest draw for those who use Apple’s ecosystem. 

WeMo’s Mini Smart Plug is among the smallest and most attractive sold right now, but those aren’t the only reasons to buy it. This plug’s killer feature is simple. It supports Apple HomeKit. 

That’s not its only feature, of course. The WeMo Smart Plug also supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It connects over Wi-Fi and has a simple, app-based setup process that’s among the most intuitive around. 

Other smart plugs offer the standard range of features for less. A single WeMo is often sold for more than a pair of smart plugs from other brands. Still, the WeMo Smart Plug is the most affordable option for HomeKit fans, making it an easy choice for Apple enthusiasts. 

The best outdoor smart plug

Best smart plug TP Link Kasa Outdoor KP400

Built for outdoor use, the TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Outdoor Plug KP400 offers voice control, easy setup, and scheduling options.

Most smart plugs are designed for indoor use, which means they aren’t resistant to extreme heat or cold and will fail if exposed to moisture. TP-Link’s Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Outdoor Plug KP400, however, has an IP64 weather-resistant certification. It is completely sealed against dust intrusion and can survive splashing water. 

In addition to durability, the Kasa KP400 turns a single plug into two. That’s great because the average home never seems to have enough outdoor outlets. 

The Kasa KP400’s features are otherwise the same as indoor plugs. It supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT. It uses the same Kasa Smart app as other TP-Link Kasa products, so you can expect simple installation, plus support for groups and scheduling. The plug connects over Wi-Fi. 

Despite its added durability, the Kasa KP400 is just a few dollars more expensive than indoor plugs, which makes it a great value. 

The best smart outlet

best smart outlet GE enbrighten

The Enbrighten 55256 Smart Receptacle replaces an existing wall outlet with one that you can control with your voice or an app.

Enbrighten is among the few brands selling smart home outlets designed to be installed directly into a wall. The Enbrighten 55256 Smart Receptacle keeps the typical, flush look of a power outlet, which many homeowners will prefer. It’s also a better option for tight spaces where even small smart plugs could cause clearance issues. 

The Enbrighten 55256 connects over the Z-Wave standard, which means you’ll need a Z-Wave-compatible smart-home hub. This smart outlet doesn’t have its own app. Instead you’ll use the interface provided by your hub to control it. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration remain available. 

This smart outlet is operating on a different wavelength, both literally and figuratively, from other smart plugs on this list. It’s designed for smart-home systems installed by a DIY enthusiast or a professional. There’s nothing simple or intuitive about it. 

Enbrighten offers a range of similar products that support either Z-Wave or Zigbee. While the 55256 is the model we list, we recommend you examine the entire product line before buying. The company’s products are best installed together as part of a system instead of added piecemeal over time. 

The best smart plug for a whole-home system

best smart plug lutron caseta

Lutron’s Caséta Wireless Smart Bridge is meant for homeowners looking to build a large and complex smart home system. 

Unlike other plugs here, the Lutron Caséta Wireless Starter Kit kit comes with a base station that is required to use the outlet. This is a must-have. Lutron uses its own proprietary wireless solution that is not compatible with Wi-Fi, Zigbee, or Z-wave.

Despite this, Caséta’s Wireless Smart Bridge is broadly compatible with many smart home systems. It can be integrated with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, and Sonos. 

The company also offers an extensive selection of powerful smart-home devices, including numerous switches and sensors. Lutron’s Caseta is designed for whole-home integration that will potentially control every light, fan, and switch in a house. It’s a reliable and attractive ecosystem that justifies its high price.

How to choose a smart plug or outlet

There are a few things to think about before buying a smart plug or outlet. 

Smart plugs vs. smart outlets

Most of the products listed here are smart plugs. A smart plug is connected to an existing power outlet and other devices or appliances are connected to the plug. 

Smart plugs are inexpensive, easy to use, and don’t require permanent installation. They’re great for both homeowners and renters. They do have downsides, however. Smart plugs add bulk to a wall outlet, which can be a problem if you have furniture directly in front of it. They can become confusing to manage as additional plugs are added, since each plug is listed and managed individually.

Smart outlets are an integrated solution that replaces existing hardware in the walls, so they’re not meant for renters. They’re more complex to install and may require a professional. They can be easier to use in the long run, though, if you intend to make every outlet and switch in your home a smart device.

Can you mix and match smart plugs and outlets from different brands?

There are dozens of smart plugs and outlets available. Most are easy to use out of the box but managing them can be a hassle as you try to expand your smart home.

Most smart plugs provide two options for control and management. The first is the app provided by the company that makes the smart plug. This will only work with devices made by that company. 

Your second option is a broader platform like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple HomeKit. These can control devices from multiple brands, but the level of control you have over any specific device may be limited.

The existence of platforms like Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit means you can mix and match smart plugs and outlets from different brands. Compatibility between devices is not guaranteed, though, and you’ll need to install the app linked to each brand for initial setup. 

You can mix and match if necessary, but your devices may not communicate as well as if they were from the same manufacturer.

What’s the difference between Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and Z-Wave? 

All smart plugs and outlets are wireless, but they may use different wireless standards. Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and Z-Wave are the most common standards used today.

Wi-Fi, which is by far the most popular, is the same standard used to connect PCs, smartphones, game consoles, and other devices to your local Wi-Fi network. It doesn’t require new installation or setup of a wireless hub because most homes already have a Wi-Fi router. The only problem is network congestion. Large numbers of smart-home devices can clog up a Wi-Fi network, slowing connections or causing reliability issues. 

Zigbee and Z-Wave are the other common wireless standards. They require a wireless hub that can communicate with compatible devices. Large homes may need multiple hubs. This adds to the cost and difficulty of setup, but Zigbee and Z-Wave tend to be more reliable when used to handle numerous connected devices.  

It’s possible to use devices designed for different standards together if a platform is used as a bridge. For example, Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Wi-Fi connected smart-home devices that are compatible with HomeKit will appear together in the HomeKit app. 

With that said, it’s best to minimize mixing different wireless standards for the same reason it’s best to avoid mixing brands. The added complexity can make your smart-home system more difficult and time consuming to manage.

What we’re looking forward to testing

Manufacturers previewed dozens of new smart-home devices at CES 2021 in January. These included several attractive smart plugs that could be worth your attention when they hit store shelves. 

  • Lutron Caséta Outdoor Smart Plug: This is the first outdoor plug for Lutron’s popular Caséta smart-home system. It’s larger, more durable, and more expensive than the TP-Link Kasa plug that we recommend. The Caséta plug is likely overkill for most people but could be perfect for those already invested in Lutron’s other products. 
  • Konka Smart Plug: Konka, a Chinese brand best known for its televisions, announced a full line of smart-home products at CES 2021. This includes both single and dual-outlet smart plugs and a smart power strip. Pricing and availability haven’t been announced. 
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best shower heads we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The best shower head should provide a relaxing and satisfying shower experience.
  • I tested 12 shower heads and determined that the Kohler Flipside was the best.
  • It has a convenient rotating head, a large variety of spray settings, and an accessible price.

If you think that all shower heads are the same, you might have a second opinion once yours starts sputtering. Even though it’s something you use every day without a second thought, it’s important to choose one that provides the look, flow rate, and stream settings you need.

After testing 12 shower heads and consulting two experts – CEO of Advanced Builders and Contractors Nick Yahoodain and remodeling expert Monica Higgins – the Kohler Flipside is our pick for the best shower head.

You can read our full testing methodology here, and if you want to learn about the different types of shower heads, you can skip to the end of the guide. But if you’re just here for the best shower heads, keep reading.

Here are the best shower heads in 2021

Best overall

Best shower heads 2021 kohler flipside 4x3

The Kohler Flipside produces an impressive 1.81 GPM flow rate and has a unique rotating head to change through its flow streams.

Pros: No fragile levers or switches, chrome finish, soft rubber nozzles

Cons: Flow rate can be too high for some states

After testing 12 models with high flow rates, impressive stream settings, and practical designs, the Kohler Flipside was the perfect combination of them all. That’s why it beat out everything we tested, including our previous top pick of the Waterpik High Pressure Powerpulse 9-Spray.

The Flipside impressed me as soon as I opened the box — its heft, chrome finish, and sturdy design gave it a high-end look. The circular wheel that supports the shower head was easy to install and twist into place; you could turn it like a steering wheel. It fit snugly on my existing half-inch shower arm.

I really liked how the Flipside switches streams by flipping the head around the axis, as opposed to using a lever, switch, or handle. I worry about the durability of small parts like these since they’re usually made of plastic. The design gives me a lot of confidence that there aren’t any moving parts to break or snap. The tension of the rotational force of the head is perfectly balanced — not so soft that it doesn’t stay in place, but not so tight that it won’t turn easily. 

I assumed the Flipside’s swiveling operation would negatively affect its performance, but testing revealed a 1.81 GPM flow rate, coming close to its 2.5 GPM limit. 

There are four stream settings on the spray head. My favorite stream was the dense and soft spray, which produced a thick, drenching stream of water. The narrow sides of the spray head produced thinner, focused streams, which were perfect for rinsing shampoo and conditioner out of my hair. I was surprised at how effective this flat stream was, compared to the circular spray patterns of most showerheads. It was easy to rotate on its axis even when my hands were soapy and slippery. 

The rubber spray nozzles on the main spray head face were nice and soft, which made me appreciate the quality of the Flipside even more. During my time testing kitchen faucets, I found that the softer and more flexible the rubber nozzles, the easier they are to clean and remove any mineral buildup inside. 

Best high-pressure

Best shower heads 2021 WASSA High Pressure Shower Head 4x3

Despite its low price tag, the WASSA High Pressure Shower Head generates an impressive amount of power at 1.9 GPM, providing a better shower experience than other models priced much higher. 

Pros: Affordable, high flow rate, flexible rubber nozzles

Cons: No options for water flow

Installation was a breeze and WASSA even included a roll of Teflon plumber’s tape in the box, which is always helpful in sealing pipes.  

Even though it’s made of plastic, the WASSA had a solid feel to it. I was never concerned with it cracking or snapping as I was twisting it into place, and I was surprised with how modern it looked. The plastic construction doesn’t look cheap, and the rounded head gives it a clean, modern look. I got the feeling that the company made some effort in this department, instead of just manufacturing the cheapest shape they could. The rubber nozzles are nice and flexible, which are essential for dislodging mineral deposits. 

What distinguished the WASSA from other competitors was just how satisfying the shower felt. Its 1.9 GPM flow rate was the highest I tested, and that power was definitely noticeable when rinsing out shampoo and conditioner. I especially noticed how effectively it rinsed my lower body since the stream maintained its strength all the way down to my legs and feet. 

The WASSA doesn’t have any special features or other stream modes to choose from, but its ball joint is nice and sturdy, making it easy to swivel around and angle the stream where you’d like. 

Though this high flow rate may be ideal for some, those with more sensitive skin could find it too powerful, so keep that in mind.

Best rainfall

Best shower heads 2021 Moen S6320 Velocity Two Function Rainshower 4x3

The elegant design, sturdy metal construction, and wide coverage area justify the high price tag of the Moen S6320 Velocity Two-Function Rainshower

Pros: High flow rate, elegant style, quiet adjustment lever

Cons: Only two settings, somewhat difficult to install

If you have the budget, the Moen S6320 Velocity Two-Function Rainshower has a high-quality construction and practicality that make it worth the price. The Delta In2ition 5-Spray and Delta HydroRain Two-in-One 5-Spray are within the same price range, but their clunky designs and inconvenient operation left them off our list.

Installing the Moen wasn’t as straightforward as other models I tested due to the short connection that attaches to the shower arm. This wasn’t a huge deal, but it did take a few extra minutes to get the threads to catch. This may have been due to my shower arm though, and having a longer one would probably cut down on installation time. 

Once installed, the Moen looked great. Its extra-wide 8-inch face gives it a classic rainshower look, and 100 nozzles let you know it takes functionality seriously. I think it’d look even nicer with a longer shower arm so it could be angled completely downwards, like a real rain-shower head.

What put the Moen on top of other high-end models I tested was the overall feel of the water, which was surprisingly strong. Its 1.85 GPM was one of the second-highest I tested, and the high flow rate was definitely needed for a wider shower head like this one to work effectively.

Without taking apart the shower head to see how the water flowed, I can’t attest to the brand’s “self-pressurizing ” technology, which claims to force water around the shower head in a circular pattern so that it’s three times more powerful. But based on my objective testing, the Moen still had the second-highest GPM. 

One of my favorite characteristics of the Moen was the movement of the adjustment lever. Unlike other models that have loud mechanical clicks when you switch from one setting to another, there’s a lever that smoothly and quietly transitions from a full-coverage mode to focused rinsing. The entire unit swivels on a ball joint connected to the water supply arm and provides a decent amount of rotation, though its wide shape restricts it more than slimmer models.

Though Moen only offers those two spray modes, I found myself appreciating the simplicity of not having a dozen to choose from. 

Best for water conservation

Best shower heads 2021 High Sierra High Efficiency 4x3

The high-pressure water dispersion and solid metal construction of the High Sierra High Efficiency make it ideal for anyone looking to conserve water, abide by their state’s low-flow regulations, or just lower their monthly utility bill. 

Pros: High flow rate, durable construction, less likely to clog 

Cons: Only one spray mode, 1.5 GPM may be too low for some

Installing the High Sierra was simple, and its small size made it possible to screw in one-handed, unlike larger bulkier models that required two hands. The small cylindrical shape and lack of adjustment lever also mean that you don’t have to deal with straightening it out after installation. 

The sturdy construction gives the feeling that you could grip it nice and tight during installation, unlike plastic models that might crack at the connection. Its compact size also makes it easy to reach around and use a wrench to tighten or loosen it, if necessary. The chrome finish is easy to wipe clean and adds a sleek, modern feel to your bathroom. Some people may find it too small though, especially in a spacious shower, and would want a larger option with a little more character. 

The overall feel of the High Sierra delivered a dense, pressurized spray, which surprised me coming from such a small shower head. In my testing, I measured a 1.37 GPM flow rate, which was impressive considering the High Sierra maxes out at 1.5 GPM. This efficiency means it’s great for those who want a shower head that will produce the strongest stream, while still conserving water. If your main priority is a high flow rate though, and you live in a state that allows 2.5 GPM products, you should probably choose a different model.

In a 2020 Wirecutter review, High Sierra founder David Malcolm explained that the single opening design helps prevent mineral deposits and buildup, something that can occur in the tiny holes of typical low-flow models. However, this also means that the High Sierra doesn’t have any other settings to choose from, so it wouldn’t be great for anyone who wants more spray variety.

Best with a handheld component

Best shower heads 2021 American Standard Spectra+Duo 4x3

The American Standard Spectra+ Duo has a 9.5-inch rectangular face and strong magnetic dock so you can switch from the main shower head to the handheld one quickly and safely.

Pros: Powerful magnetic dock, easy to install, wide spray coverage 

Cons: Plastic components may not be durable, maybe too complicated for a shower head

Unlike most options that have a single spray head, dual showerheads are more functional and versatile. The American Standard Spectra+ Duo allows you to detach the smaller shower head to use as a handheld wand, making it convenient to target certain areas while still having the overhead spray of a fixed unit. 

Despite its bulky size, I didn’t have issues installing the American Standard. The main head twisted right onto my existing shower arm, and the hose and wand were easy to attach. The packaging included plumbers tape in a flat kite-string spool, instead of the more convenient round spools that you can roll around the pipe fitting.

The American Standard features a unique rectangular head and a large, center-set handheld wand. The construction and finish had a nice solid look, and even the gray plastic components felt intentional and durable. I got a slight “medical” vibe, probably from the gray color of the components, but it didn’t bother me much. 

The American Standard provided a nice wide spray coverage, and the water droplets were direct and had a dense, soaking feel to them. Unlike most dual shower heads, it didn’t lose pressure when I used the main head and the handheld wand simultaneously. This was surprising considering the relatively low 1.4 GPM during testing. The American Standard has a massage function similar to the Waterpik, but it lacked strength.

Using the American Standard took more effort than others, but it’s intuitive once you get the hang of it. In addition to the adjustment clicker on the handheld wand, there’s a separate paddle on the main shower head that controls the amount of water used by each one. Even though this paddle felt sturdy enough, it’s made of plastic so I would be concerned about its long-term durability. 

I was impressed with how well the magnetic docking system worked — there was a really solid feeling when the wand locked into place, giving you a satisfying “clunk” sound. You need to give the fixed shower head some support as you remove the wand otherwise, it can move around a little. That said, I would rather deal with that issue than a weak magnet that could cause the handheld wand to fall on me during my shower.

I also appreciated the plastic connection panel on the fixed shower, which prevented any scratching to the shiny chrome when docking the wand.

What else we tested

Best shower heads 2021 top five 4x3

We tested 12 shower heads for this guide after researching more than a dozen models.

What else we recommend and why:

They didn’t crack our top five, but these shower heads tested well and are still quality options to consider. 

Kohler Moxie, $162.20: The integrated Bluetooth speaker of the Kohler Moxie was easy to set up, fun to use, and sounded great — I even removed it from the cradle and used it as a standalone speaker in my office for a while. Unfortunately, the thin stream and relatively weak flow rate made this shower head more of a novelty than a legitimate contender. That said, if you prefer a thin, light water stream, you may want to consider it.

Kohler Forte, $29.98: While it looked sleek and stylish, I wasn’t impressed with the 1.26 GPM flow rate of the Kohler Forte and thought that the mist setting wasn’t very functional. I enjoyed the satisfying click of the control lever though, and the sophisticated design. If the flow rate is on the bottom of your priority list though, and you aren’t concerned with having a wide variety of spray settings, this could be a good choice.

Waterpik High Pressure Powerpulse 9-Spray, $39.98: Though this was our previous top pick because of its variety of streams and impressive flow rate, the Kohler Flipside was superior in both categories. It produced a 1.5 GPM compared to the Flipside’s 1.81, and while it had more spray options, it wasn’t as intuitive to use — the Flipside’s swiveling design was much easier. 

The Waterpik’s long-term durability was also a factor because it’s made of plastic and had more small parts than the Flipside, whose metal components and fewer moving parts make it less likely to crack or split over time. I haven’t tested either model long enough to experience any kind of damage, but I’ll continue to use both and report back.

The Waterpik is still a great option for those who looking for a hand-held model at a reasonable price. Its powerful massage setting could also be useful for sore muscles. 

What we don’t recommend and why:

HOPOPRO 5-Setting Upgraded Bathroom Showerhead, $19.99: Though it was even cheaper than our budget pick and offered some nice flow settings, the HOPOPRO was just a little too flimsy to beat out the WASSA.

Delta In2ition 5-Spray, $343.95: A shower head should be flawless but the Delta In2ition just didn’t have the pressure to be used effectively, and its magnetic cradle was far too weak. 

Delta HydroRain Two-in-One 5-Spray, $99.98: Even though the Delta HydroRain had good pressure and its rain-can head was positioned at exactly 90 degrees, its high price tag and bulky size made it too inconvenient to edge out our high-end pick, the Moen S6320.

Waterpik High Pressure Powerpulse XRO-763, $39.99: The cheap and plastick-y Waterpik High Pressure Powerpulse was flimsy to use, and its hose was stiff and very unattractive. It did not give me a good shower and ranked dead last in my testing. 

What we’re testing next

Best shower heads 2021 High Sierra High Efficiency 4x3

Moen Attract with Magnetix 6-spray 6.75 in. Dual Shower Head and Adjustable Handheld, $99.98The Moen Attract provides a full-sized fixed shower head, as well as a handheld component. This might make for a bulky layout, but I’m interested to see how it stacks up against our current dual shower head, the American Standard Spectra+ Duo.

Moen Attract with Magnetix 6-Spray 3.75 in. Wall Mount Handheld Adjustable Shower Head, $44.98: This is a smaller version of the Moen Attract and has one head that works as the main shower head and a handheld unit. It looks like this combination model will avoid the functionality issues I have with most 2-in-1 options. 

Delta Hydrorain Two-in-One Dual Wall Mount, $99.98: Although it’s similar to the Delta Hydrorain model that I tested previously, I’d like to see if this version produces a different result. This model has the same rain can head, but with the added benefit of a handheld showerhead as well. 

Our testing methodology

Best shower heads 2021 American Standard Spectra+Duo 4x3

I researched more than 20 shower heads based on reviews from shoppers and other consumer review sites, and tested 12. I also leaned on my experience as a residential carpenter for four years and consulted two experts — Nick Yahoodain, CEO of Advanced Builders and Contractors in Los Angeles, CA, and Monica Higgins, a remodeling expert based in Southern California. 

I installed each shower head and used it at least three times during the day. I would go through my usual cleansing routine with shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, and made sure to stagger my showers to reduce the chances of other appliances or household plumbing factors affecting my testing. Showering while running dishwashers or washing machines, or even at the same time as someone else, will increase the demand for your water supply and can sometimes result in a lower flow rate than usual. 

After whittling down to my top five, I showered several more times — sometimes consecutively — to get a better idea of how specific features like massage or “power spray” settings felt. 

Here’s how we compare shower heads:

Installation and fit: I installed each shower head to the existing shower arm in my shower, timing how long the process took with a stopwatch, and noting any issues that came up. I’ll caveat this by saying I’ve got four years of experience as a general contractor so my installation time will most likely be quicker than yours. Nonetheless, I made sure to note if the installation was easy or not.

Appearance: I took the overall style, design, finish, material, and size into account when comparing the appearance of each shower head, keeping in mind that people may have vastly different bathroom styles, and some options may match better with certain aesthetics. 

Overall feel of water: This factor was based on how the water physically felt throughout the shower. I noted the size of the water coverage coming out of the shower head, how focused or dispersed the water droplets and streams were, and how strong and pressurized the water felt overall.

Operation and special features: Along with noting how easy or difficult the unit is to operate and switch between modes, I also made sure to pay attention to any special features, like the number and variety of settings, or interesting operational functions. 

Flow rate: I calculated the actual flow rate of each shower head and compared it to the max it could handle. I would fill a 5-gallon bucket for 60 seconds, weigh it, subtract the weight of the bucket, and divide that number by 8.3 (the weight of a gallon of water). This gave me the gallons per minute (GPM) of each shower head. 

These flow rates can’t be compared exactly across all the products because they all have different flow rate restrictions. But by looking at the max flow rate of the product along with the tested rates I calculated from my shower (which has an average pressure of 64 parts per square inch, or PSI), you get a general idea of how each shower head performs under the PSI of an average household. 

Regardless of the style or design, a shower head boils down to whether or not it provides an effective and satisfying shower. This is purely subjective and everyone will have different preferences and priorities, so I made sure to keep consistent and objective notes as I collected my findings.

What to look for in a shower head

Best shower heads 2021 American Standard Spectra+Duo 2 4x3

We go into more detail below, but here are the main factors to consider when shopping for a shower head: 

  • Type: Consider whether you want a fixed, handheld, or dual (a combination of fixed and handheld) shower head.
  • Mount: Determine whether you’ll mount your shower head on the wall or ceiling. 
  • Spray pattern: Decide if you want one or many spray options. Some shower heads come with multiple spray patterns, such as rain, full, jet, and massage. 
  • Flow rate: Consider the amount of water that comes out of your shower head. A low flow shower head can help save water, but many people find shower heads with a high flow rate more pleasant. 

Types of shower heads

There are several shower head types to choose from, each with its own pros and cons. It’s important to take all these factors into account when shopping for a new shower head.

Fixed: These models are attached directly to the shower arm — the existing water pipe coming out of your shower wall — and usually have a ball joint that allows you to pivot and adjust the angle of their spray. These can be basic models that have just one spray option, as well as multi-functional options that have a range of functions and spray settings. 

Handheld: These shower heads sit in a cradle, and can be used like a fixed shower head if you like, but also have a long, flexible hose that allows you to use them as a handheld unit. These are great for rinsing off body wash or shaving cream, bathing your pets, or for cleaning the shower itself.

Dual shower heads: These are a combination of fixed and handheld models, and usually use some type of cradle built into a fixed shower head face. This allows the fixed shower head to be used at the same time as the handheld wand, though this diverts water and can result in decreased pressure. Yahoodain recommends these types of shower heads and designed his own bathroom to have both fixed and handheld options. “Since they’re useful for different things, I can choose which one I want. If I want a regular pressure head for cleaning, or handheld for rinsing, or relaxing rain shower, I have the option to choose.”

Types of mounts

Wall mounted shower heads: The majority of homes and apartments have wall-mounted shower arms, which is why I limited my testing options to products compatible with those fittings. These are your traditional shower heads that are attached to a wall — naturally.

Ceiling mounted shower heads: Ceiling-mounted shower heads allow for larger, rain-style shower heads, but since they’re so high up, they usually aren’t accessible enough to have different stream settings. 

What is flow rate?

Best shower heads 2021 WASSA High Pressure Shower Head 4x3

The flow rate indicates how much water can flow out of your shower head, and is measured in gallons per minute (GPM). Since 1992, federal regulations have mandated that no shower head can have a flow rate higher than 2.5 GPM, and in some states like California, that limit is even lower at 1.8 GPM. These regulations have been put in place to help conserve water — a 10-minute shower at 2.5 GPM uses 25 gallons of water.

However, when you see a 2.5 GPM shower head model, it doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically get that flow rate. Your home’s water pressure is the ultimate factor that dictates your flow rate, and is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). A high PSI of 80 will probably get you 2.5 GPM, but most US homes hover around 60 PSI, so your flow rate will be lower. 

Higgins told Insider, “If the low water pressure is an issue, consult with a plumber to boost the water flow by adjusting or replacing the pressure regulator.”

While a shower head itself can’t increase the flow rate of your home, effective “low-flow” models can limit the amount of pressure lost during operation. Flow rate preferences can differ from person to person where some prioritize high GPM over all else and others prefer a lower flow. Make sure to check with your household so you can effectively take flow rate into account when choosing a shower head. 

If you’re interested in conserving water, look for shower heads with a “WaterSense” label. This indicates that they meet EPA criteria and max out at 2.0 GPM.

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best towels 2021
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The 4 best stainless steel cleaners for appliances and kitchenware in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Stainless steel home appliances are durable, but are susceptible to fingerprints, streaks, and smudges.
  • A good stainless steel cleaner is gentle on appliances and doesn’t leave spots behind.
  • We’ve selected the best stainless steel cleaners including wipes, aerosols, natural cleaners, and more.

Stainless steel is extremely durable and resistant to water damage and rust. But it can also show every fingerprint, smudge, and water spot that is not properly wiped away. If you use the wrong type of cleaner, there is no way to restore the finish.

Ammonia, chlorine bleach, and oven cleaner are all particularly damaging, as are scouring powders and steel wool. And if you live in an area with extremely hard water, the minerals will leave spots. In other words, despite its hardiness, stainless steel requires a high level of upkeep.  

For tougher stains, I need to call in backup. Luckily, I’ve tested enough stainless steel cleaning products to determine which ones get the job done. 

Here are the best stainless steel cleaners in 2021

The best cleaning wipes for stainless steel

Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaning Wipes

Perfect for tight spaces and quick cleanups, Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaning Wipes quickly make fingerprints vanish.

Pros: Wipes conform to tight spaces, useful for quick clean-ups, disposable, removes fingerprints and smudges

Cons: Darkens some types of metal like aluminum, wipes will dry out quickly if the canister is not properly closed

Any surface is easy to clean if you do it frequently, and this rule applies to stainless steel. In between deep cleaning, Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaning Wipes are perfect for quick, everyday cleanups like cooking splatters and fingerprints on refrigerator doors.

The wipes are offered in a convenient, resealable pop-top canister to keep them from drying out — similar to other household cleaning wipes you may already have. To use, simply wipe in the direction of the metal’s grain and then buff with a soft, dry cloth to prevent streaks. Smudges, water spots, and stains will be gone.

I also love to use these wipes to remove greasy smears and splatters on my outdoor grill. And nothing will fit into the tight spot where handles join a stainless-steel panel like Weiman Wipes. When I attempt to clean those spots with some liquid cleaners, the cleaner runs down the panel before I can get my cloth in there to clean.

The best aerosol cleaner for stainless steel

CLR Stainless Steel Cleaner

With just one spray, CLR Stainless Steel Cleaner will leave stainless steel clean and streak-free — no buffing needed.

Pros: One-step cleaning, works well to remove smudges

Cons: Petroleum-based product, should never be used near a gas flame or hot appliance

Almost every stainless steel cleaner recommends using the product to clean away smudges and stains and then coming back with a soft, dry cloth to buff away any streaks the cleaner has left behind. With CLR Stainless Steel Cleaner, the second step is eliminated — no buffing is needed.

My microwave is mounted at eye-level which means the top of the appliance is above my head. Cleaning anything above my head is not a favorite chore so I like a one-step process. Just a good shake of the can, a quick spray with the cleaner, and one pass with a microfiber cloth leaves the finish shiny and streak-free.

While the product is scented, it is very light and dissipates quickly. The steel can is also recyclable.

The best natural cleaner for stainless steel

Therapy Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish

Developed with plant-based ingredients, Therapy Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish is safe to use around children and pets.

Pros: Plant-based formula, safe to use around children and pets, leaves appliances clean and streak-free

Cons: Most expensive stainless steel cleaner per use, not readily available in mass-market stores

With a gentle herbal scent and plant-based ingredients, Therapy Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish is an excellent choice if someone in your home has chemical sensitivities. The company makes one of the few stainless-steel cleaners that actually list every ingredient on the label: filtered water, coconut oil, sorbitan monooleate (emulsifier), lavender vanilla essential oil blend, acrylates copolymer (emulsifier), and methylisothiazolinone (preservative).

The starter kit includes a 16-ounce spray bottle of the cleaner and a 14-by-14-inch microfiber cloth. Simply spray on the solution and, working with the grain of the metal, wipe away grime and smudges. Finish by buffing with a dry area of the microfiber cloth. After cleaning, a bit of the coconut oil remains on the surface to protect the shine and repel fingerprints.

Therapy is formulated to use on refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, sinks, outdoor grills, and microwaves. It should be noted that Therapy is slightly more expensive than the other cleaners on this list. 

The best homemade solution for stainless steel

Heinz Cleaning Vinegar and Oilve Oil

Using household ingredients like Heinz Cleaning Vinegar and Pompeian Pure Olive Oil can leave stainless steel appliances streak-free.

Pros: Cleans stainless steel using natural ingredients, inexpensive to use, can be used to clean many other surfaces around the house

Cons: Vinegar aroma

Is there anything that vinegar can’t clean? If you don’t mind the scent of vinegar and have a little leftover oil in the kitchen, your stainless-steel appliances will gleam after using this simple mixture.

I’m recommending Heinz Cleaning Vinegar because it is slightly more acidic than regular white distilled vinegar, which makes it more effective in removing grease and food splatters. I keep it in a labeled spray bottle to make cleaning easier. Just spritz the vinegar onto the surface of the stainless steel and wipe the appliance down using a microfiber cloth (following the grain of the metal, of course). You will be amazed at how clean it looks.

Then, to help protect the finish from holding onto every single fingerprint (and nose-print from the dog), use just a teeny bit of Pompeian Pure Olive Oil on a soft cloth for a final coating. You can actually use any type of oil you have on hand; mineral oil, vegetable oil, even WD-40. The key to success is using as little oil as possible (and, again, buffing it in with a microfiber cloth). 

Tips for keeping stainless steel appliances clean

Wipe appliances down regularly between deeper cleanings

Since equipping my kitchen with stainless steel appliances, I have been testing various cleaning products and techniques. One tip I swear by is wiping down the appliances daily with just a dry microfiber cloth; often, this allows me to skip other cleaning products altogether.

Wipe with the grain

Like wood, stainless steel has a grain so always wipe with it, not against it.

Always use a microfiber cloth 

Using a microfiber cloth instead of paper towels is also another helpful tip as these cloths reduce streaks and pick up small food particles and dust. Simply spray the cleaner directly on the appliances surface and wipe for an easy streak free shine. 

See more great cleaning buying guides

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The 5 best riding lawn mowers of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A riding lawn mower can save you time and energy on lawn care.
  • It should be durable, full of features for easy mowing, and up to the task of cutting a few acres.
  • Our top pick, the Cub Cadet XT1 18 HP Kohler Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Tractor, combines great value with a clean, effortless cut.

Mowing your lawn doesn’t have to be dreadful. If you don’t want to exert more physical effort than need be (and is the case with a push mower), then it might be time to upgrade to a riding lawn mower (also called a ride-on mower). Riding mowers take much of the physical effort out of mowing, and because they have larger mowing decks than push mowers, they can cover a larger area in less time.

But finding the right riding mower for your needs takes some time and research; riding mowers are expensive investments. Some lower-end mowers are rickety and uncomfortable to use, while others mowers don’t have the power necessary to mow inclines or tall grass. And, you want to make sure you have the room to park the thing.

We’ve researched and identified the best riding mowers, assessing a number of factors: engine power, overall performance, deck size, and ease of use, among others. Many of these mowers come with features for easier and more comfortable operation, like ergonomic seats and no-shift controls to hydrostatic engines.

The mowers in this list are all intended for residential use. Some are suitable for up to an acre or two, and some have the power to mow up to four acres. If you have significant acreage, then you should look at commercial-grade riding mowers better designed for large areas. For homes with yards too big to handle with a push mower but not large enough to warrant a commercial riding mower, these models will suit your needs without breaking the bank.

Here are the best riding lawn mowers of 2021

 

The best riding mower overall

Cub_Cadet_XT1

The Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series LT 42-in. 18-hp Kohler Hydrostatic Gas Front-Engine Riding Lawn Tractor accurately cuts grass with 12 different height positions, making it our top pick.

Pros: 12 cutting heights for precise cuts, tight 16-inch turning radius, highly comfortable seat and steering wheel, cruise control option, hydrostatic transmission eliminates the need to shift, impressive three-year warranty

Cons: Some assembly required

The Cub Cadet XT1 has everything you want in terms of specs and performance, plus it’s outfitted with extra features while still coming in at an affordable price point. In terms of overall power, the 18-horsepower engine is plenty powerful for residential use, and the hydrostatic (auto) transmission means you don’t have to worry about shifting, making your job easier and more enjoyable. The push-button cruise control will also maintain your speed for you.

With a 16-inch turning radius, this mower is much more agile than most others, making it ideal for tight turns and smaller spaces. At the same time, the 42-inch cutting deck allows this mower to cover a large area, quickly. Choose from 12 cutting heights to find that perfect cut, and mow even when it’s getting dark, thanks to the bright LED headlights. The 3-gallon gas tank is generously sized so that you don’t have to cut your mowing short before filling up again.

This mower has a high-back seat with an oversized base and elevated back support to help maximize your comfort for hours, unlike most mowers with an uncomfortable base to sit on.  It’s also adjustable, and the steering wheel is equipped with a comfort-grip cushion to help relieve hand fatigue.  

This mower is backed by a three-year unlimited-hour warranty, and the frame and fabricated deck shell come with a limited lifetime warranty.

The best budget riding mower

Troy_Bilt_Pony_42_Inch

The Troy-Bilt Pony 42-in. 17.5-hp Manual Drive Briggs and Stratton Gas Lawn Tractor Riding Mower is an affordable option that still houses speedy and adjustable features like our other favorites.

Pros: Seven-speed transmission, five-point deck height adjustment, 18-inch turning radius, compatible with bagging attachment and mulching kit, two-year limited lifetime warranty

Cons: Some assembly required, manual transmission

If you’re looking for an affordable mower that’s capable of efficiently cutting a couple of acres, the Troy-Bilt Pony 42 in. Riding Mower is the ideal solution. This mower has the power and efficiency to make short work of smaller yards, but it also has many extra features you’ll appreciate, all at a highly affordable price.

This mower has the power you need for your typical mowing jobs, and the Briggs and Stratton motor is a reliable, quality engine. Powered by an easy-to-use, seven-speed manual transmission, the mower is a time-saver, especially with an 18-inch turning radius. Though the brake-clutch combination takes a bit of getting used to, the ability to mow in reverse is a big plus that many other mowers do not offer.

Troy-Bilt offers its lawn riders a limited lifetime warranty for two years for any issues you may come across.

Not lacking in features, you’ll appreciate the mower’s low-back seat, automatic headlights, and cup holder. It’s compatible with bagging and mulching kits, as well as carts and other accessories, making it a versatile lawn-care tool.

The best zero-turn riding mower

Ultimate_ZT1_Zero_Turn_Mower

For precise maneuverability, the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50-in. 23-hp Kawasaki Zero Turn Mower has an impressive motor and transmission for your yard work. 

Pros: Powerful commercial-grade motor, durable frame with triple-guard corrosion defense system, hydrostatic transmission, generously sized 50-inch deck, foot-operated deck lift, impressive three-year warranty

Cons: None to speak of

The Ultima ZT1 50 -in. 23-hp Kawasaki Zero Turn Mower from Cub Cadet is one of the best that you’ll find. It offers superior durability thanks to its tubular steel frame and triple-guard corrosion defense system. The 23-horsepower twin-cylinder motor is commercial-grade and offers top performance with more than enough power for any residential use, too; a 7.5-mile-per-hour forward speed and 3.5-mph backup speed allows you to work quickly and smarter. For an even cut, adjust the deck height from 1 inch to 4.5 inches using 15 quarter-inch increments. The smooth-tread front wheels pivot 180 degrees for maximum versatility without damaging turf, and the premium rear tires maximize traction for a smoother, more controlled ride. The mower is equipped with a SmartJet deck-washing system that cleans debris from underneath the deck with high-pressure water, too.

Its ergonomic design is also a plus: the lap bar is adjustable for just the right fit, and the high-back seat is also fully adjustable to keep you comfortable on longer jobs. You can engage the blade with the touch of a finger thanks to the electric blade engagement, and the ergonomic hand grips help to reduce hand fatigue. This mower is well-equipped for slight rolling hills and areas up to 4 acres.

Like our overall pick, Cub Cadet offers the same three-year unlimited-hour warranty, the frame and fabricated deck shell coming with a limited lifetime warranty as well.

 

 

The best premium riding mower

John_Deere_E180_Lawn_Tractor

The John Deere E180 25-hp V-Twin Lawn Tractor may carry a higher price tag, but its ergonomic, no-shift design makes it a top choice. 

Pros: Powerful motor, hydrostatic transmission eliminates shifting, 30-second oil change system, ergonomic, two-year (or 120-hour) warranty

Cons: Smaller 2.4-gallon gas tank, high price point

The John Deere E180 25-hp V-Twin Lawn Tractor is a top-performing riding mower with a long-lasting  25-horsepower V-Twin Extended Life Series engine. This mower features a hydrostatic transmission, so you don’t have to worry about shifting. The generous 54-inch mower deck makes for a large cutting area, meaning fewer passes for you. Additionally, the mower has a 30-second oil change system located conveniently under the hood, so there are no more excuses to put off that oil change.

Engaging the blade is also simple and effortless, and the mower deck lift-lever offers height selections between 1 to 4 inches. A cruise-control setting is ideal for maintaining your speed when you’re mowing larger areas, and the adjustable high-back seat offers lumbar support to keep you comfortable. Yes, the whole tractor has been redesigned with ergonomics in mind and high construction quality. The steel frame is fully welded and, paired with the cast-iron axle, offers excellent strength. The hood is fade-resistant and made of a tough composite that won’t dent or rust, and the deck has a “wash port” so you can easily clean out the underside. This mower is backed by a two-year or 120-hour warranty.

The best electric riding mower

ryobi electric mower

Ryobi’s 38-inch 75Ah Riding Lawn Mower is a low-humming and low-maintenance option that runs for up to two hours or two acres of mowing.

Pros: Eco-friendly, low maintenance, quiet

Cons: About two hours per charge, batteries are expensive to replace when the time comes (three-year warranty)

Unlike their gasoline counterparts, an electric mower is a hassle-free option void of belts, spark plugs, oil changes, filters, or anything of the like to worry about.

That’s where Ryobi comes in: a low-volume mower with a high-powered cut.

You’ll get a quiet, fume-free ride decked out with cruise control, USB charging for your phone (or whatever), and when it comes time to recharge the mower’s batteries, it’s not like charging an electric car battery, and you don’t need a fancy electricity upgrade: Just plug it into a regular old 120-volt outlet, which takes about 12 hours.

On the subject of batteries, the downside is that over time they will not hold a charge as well; it’s just a fact of life with batteries. Eventually, you’ll need to replace them (hopefully just one at a time). The replacement batteries  (Leoch model LPC12-75) will run you about $150 apiece, which isn’t cheap, but then neither are gasoline or oil. 

That said, Ryobi hooks you up with a three-year warranty for the mower, along with batteries and chargers.

Check out our other lawn care guides

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