'Real Value': Products That Are Worth the Price

That's the point at Good Housekeeping -- always has been -- to hold products accountable. It was testing food safety before there was an Food and Drug Administration. It pulled cigarette ads a dozen years before the first surgeon general's report. And it blew the whistle on Pirate's Booty several years ago when the company claimed that it had 2.5 grams of fat per serving, when there were really more than 8 grams. The company that makes Pirate's Booty, Robert's American Gourmet, said the mistake was due to a manufacturing error, and the label was corrected.

When asked whether manufacturers are afraid of the magazine, Ellis said, "I hope so, in a healthy fearful kind of way."

"I want manufacturers to respect us and understand that if they submit their product for scrutiny that it definitely is going to be put through the wringers here, that's our job," she said. "That's what we should do."

Testing Laundry Detergent, Vacuums and More

"Getting messy is definitely easier than cleaning up," said Carolyn Forte, the director of the home appliances and cleaning products department. "That takes us no time. We put soils onto things, we really bake it on, let it sit on, dry it on, so we know that we're really giving the products a challenge."

By the way, the hardest thing to get out? Mustard.

And when Forte tests vacuums, there's a precise recipe of dirt, a precise way of messing up the sample and a very precise machine to run the vacuums.

"This way we know for every test it was done at the same speed, same rate, same number of passes, there is no room for human error," she said.

You name the product, Good Housekeeping tests it. From food labeling to infra-red wrinkle removers.

"You're supposed to move it around your face for 18 minutes every day for 30 days," said Birnal Aral, the director of the health and beauty lab. Testers complained that it was too time-consuming.

The person with the coolest job? Todd Kent, the senior test engineer, and the only male tester we met. The consumer electronics he tests may look like boy toys, but he said he's testing ease of use for everyone.

"We're really looking at how easy they are to use, and how they're going to make your life faster, simpler or just save your time," he said. "And that's what our reader is looking for."

Testing the Toys

Kent showed us the test for how computers work in a heat chamber with 90-degree humidity. And then the ultimate tester's dream: Kent gets to break stuff.

"So here we have some toys," he said. "And the main part about this test is that we drop it several times at several different orientations. After it drops, the main thing that we are looking for is not to see if it works, or if it broke, but if it broke into small pieces that could be a choking hazard for a small child."

Some things survive. Others, not so much.

It may seem a little like a game, but it's not for Good Housekeeping or its 25 million readers.

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