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Consumer Reports: Blindfold tests find stench penetrates Febreze

Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 12:01 am

An ad for Febreze Air Effects, which "sweeps away those stale and stifling odors and leaves a fresh scent," shows blindfolded "real people" being led into a stinky room that has been sprayed with the product, notes Consumer Reports. They're asked to take a deep breath and describe what they smell. "Very springtime-y," one man says. Another cites "a forest thing going on," and a woman says she feels as if she's in a spa.

All are shocked when the blindfolds are removed to reveal an old, defecating goat; a dead fish; and a sweaty bodybuilder. (Go to youtube.com/user/febreze; under Commercials, choose "Air Effects vs. The Goat Video.") Ads for other Febreze products show its prowess against, for starters, a sofa covered in dog fur, an old shipping container, a smelly boot and the Azerbaijani wrestling team.

Lacking a goat, Consumer Reports' testers stunk up a sealed room with a plate of sardines and a box filled with several days of litter scoopings from two large cats. Testers let the stuff sit for four hours, sprayed the room thoroughly with Febreze Air Effects, then brought in five blindfolded panelists one by one to tell them what they smelled.

Next, testers ventilated the room and sprayed a second product, Febreze Air Effects Pet Odor Eliminator, which is designed to work against pet waste. They hid the malodorous litter behind a screen, and asked three new panelists to describe the resulting scent.

Bottom line: Clean the cat box, don't leave fish on the counter and take out the trash. Although the sprays hid some of the odors, they didn't work as well as implied by the ads, and any effect was temporary.

After testers sprayed Febreze Air Effects, most blindfolded panelists still identified odors characteristic of fish or cat litter or both, and most also noticed a fragrance or chemical/detergent scent. Among their comments: "I wanted to throw up," "Flowers gone bad, dirty diapers, old garbage," and "Like a men's room in a truck stop."

The Pet Odor Eliminator fared little better with the next set of panelists. One said, "It's not exactly pleasant, and I don't want to inhale." Another imagined "air freshener, cat urine and a hamster cage."

All-purpose cleaners: Few do it all

Can one household cleaner vanquish tough kitchen stains such as grease and grape juice, soap scum and other bathroom scourges, and stubborn mineral deposits left by hard water? To find out, Consumer Reports' testers applied those and other common stains to tiles, sprayed or wiped on 19 all-purpose cleaners and inserted the tiles into a scrubbing apparatus, which gave each tile the same number of swipes with a paper towel. They also conducted a staining test, in which they let cleaners sit overnight on common kitchen and bathroom surfaces, as they might after an unnoticed spill.

In these tough tests, only Pine-Sol Original cleaned well enough to be Recommended, earning high marks on all stains. It did so without streaking. At 9 cents per ounce, Pine-Sol is a CR Best Buy.

On the other hand, Pine-Sol requires a little extra effort. You have to unscrew the cap, pour the cleaner, wipe and rinse. Most spray cleaners instruct you simply to spray and wipe. And most cleaners no longer require "dwell time" – up to 5 minutes of sitting – for regular use.

But with convenience comes less cleaning power. Although several sprays excelled at one or two tasks, they stopped short of being all-purpose. Clorox Clean-Up with Bleach stood up to soap scum and grape juice but not to grease and mustard. Trader Joe's Multi-Purpose Cleaner vanquished soap scum but not other stains, and it was apt to streak.

Bottom line. With time and effort, many cleaners will work, but when used as directed, Pine-Sol was best by far at removing household stains. To fight mold and mildew, try a product with bleach.