Vince Shlomi’s enthusiasm has elevated a set of ordinary absorbant felt rags to cult-like status. Ever since seeing him on TV wearing the head microphone, soaking up spills like no one has ever seen, I’d been clamoring for my own set of ShamWows. An article earlier this year explaining Vince’s adversarial relationship to scientology only feuled my desire, and his recent arrest for battering a prostitute has done nothing to assuage it.
(As an aside, I’ve threatened to completely turn over this leaf and buy every “as seen on “TV” item possible: from the venerable snuggie and the pet nail trimmer, to Vince’s other product the “slap chop”. But Amanda has counter-threatened to leave me if I proceed with this plan.)
My longings were finally answered on my birthday when I received a set of 8 ShamWow towels from Amanda. They were purchased from Bed Bath & Beyond for $30. But were they everything I had hoped for?
Of course the only way to find out is to run a moderately rigorous comparison between the newly acquired towels and a likely contender: the REI MultiTowel. The REI towel is what we use on backpacking and camping trips to dry off. It offers lightweight drying capabilities and dries quickly afterwards, perfect for the trail.
The REI towel is 27″x15.5″ and weighs 58 grams dry. The ShamWow towel is 23″x18.5″ and weighs 69 grams dry. I chose these sizes for their roughly equivalent area 419 sq in for REI, 426 for ShamWow.
The next step was to get the towels wet. I submerged and massaged them until they were completely drenched, and then pulled them out of the water to let them drain until no drips remained. It was at this point I realized my first qualitative difference. The ShamWow was much quicker at absorbing water than the REI towel. It basically acted as a sponge, whereas the REI towel took a bunch of manipulation and coaxing to fill with water.
When fully saturated (wet but not dripping), the REI towel weighed 312 grams. This means it took on 254 grams of water (1.08 cups), holding 4.4 times its own weight.
The ShamWow was even more impressive. It weighed 720 grams fully saturated, taking on 651 grams of water (2.76 cups), or 9.4 times its original weight.
In his famous commercials, Vince demonstrates how easy it is to wring water out of the towels. I did two wrings with each towel. This extracted 167 grams of water from the REI towel (65.7%) and 513 grams from the ShamWow (78.8%). However, because the REI towel held less water to begin with, its wrung weight of 145 grams was only 150% of its dry weight. The ShamWow’s wrung weight of 207 grams was 200% of its dry weight. I also noticed a second qualitative difference here: the REI towel felt drier to the touch than its Sham-cousin.
Then I set about air-drying the towels to see how long it would take them to return to their original dry state. Interestingly (at least to me), the towels both dried linearly. The REI towel started at 150% of its dry weight and lost about 27.0 percentage points per hour. It was dry after 5.5 hours. The ShamWow started at 200% of its dry weight and lost about 29.5 percentage points per hour. It was dry after 6.5 hours. It did take longer overall to dry, but it also held more water and dried slightly faster on a grams-per-hour basis.
It was fun to see my newfound toy in action! ShamWows are not miracle workers of course, but the performance was rather good compared with the REI towels. I know these camp towels are great at what they do, so the ShamWow should do well also at it’s more mundane household tasks.
The only downside of the ShamWow is that you aren’t supposed to put it in the dryer. I’ve already violated this Law of ShamWow once by accident, sending two of them through this gauntlet. They look fine, and there was not lint everywhere, but I haven’t tested them.