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How to shop on social media (and not get scammed)

Do the most popular "life hack" products that dominate our social feeds really work?
 Yagi Studio Getty Images
What to look for before you click "check out" on social media purchases.

From latte kits to collagen supplements, social media feeds are filled with “you need to buy this right now!” products that are fed to a target market. Pastel sauté pans, custom dog beds, monogrammed luggage — there’s no end to a tantalizing selection of stuff at our fingertips.

Anyone who has succumbed to the late-night Instagram purchase knows what happens next: a few weeks (or months) later, a nondescript package shows up at the door and is a reminder of a late night moment of weakness. Best-case scenario is that it works, but more often than not it’s a “online vs. real life” fail and that means tracking down return details and a trip to the post office or eating the cost and waste.

We did a deep dive on five popular products we’ve seen on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to ask a few key questions: do we need it? Will we use it? Is it worth the cost? And what can we learn from verified third-party reviews?

Before you click “check out” on an avocado saver or a miracle mop, read on for more.

Does the Dyson mop attachment work?

The product: Mop head attachment for the Dyson stick vacuums.

The claim: Dyson owners are a loyal bunch because the vacuums last forever and live up to the hype, with top-notch innovation, design and customer service. That’s what makes the mop attachment so tempting: can it turn an excellent vacuum into an excellent mop?

The unbiased reviews: We took our research off Instagram and the first video tutorial (there are multiple YouTube accounts dedicated to vacuum testing) is this “Do Not Buy” warning. The reason? According to multiple reviews, the water attachment is thin, cheaply made and water drips everywhere. Also, these attachments are made for Dyson but not by Dyson, so it could void the vacuum’s warranty if something goes awry.

What to buy instead: Keep it low-tech with the effective and well-designed Vileda spin mop ($38.64 at Amazon or $41.97 at Walmart.)

Do sticky cleaning balls work?

The product: Sticky cleaning ball (like this one).

The claim: Roll this golf ball-size contraption around at the bottom of a bag or purse to clean up dirt and dust.

The unbiased reviews: The cutesy neon vacuum balls featured by influencers on social media need to be taken apart and rinsed after use, which seems like messy business. And though there are a few options to purchase on Amazon, there are zero user reviews (which is pretty unusual).

What to buy instead: For small spaces, Starfrit has a line of mini vacuums (two AA batteries are required). $10.50 on Amazon.

Do silicone heel protectors work?

The product: Silicone heel protectors.

The claim: These stretchy, slip-on contraptions claim to soften calluses, protect heels from blisters and provide extra cushion support.

The unbiased reviews: This is a product that reviewers either absolutely love or loathe: some swear it helps break in new shoes and protect heels, while others lament the one-size-fits-all sizing leads to slips and tears, along with stretching.

What to buy instead: For treating dry feet (particularly heels), Flexitol heel balm is inexpensive and really effective when used consistently. $10 at Amazon or $13.97 at Walmart.

For extra support around the heels, Dr. Scholl’s Massaging Gel Advanced Cushions are available in different sizes for men and women. From $11 at Amazon and $12.66 at Walmart.

Do wireless hair curlers work?

The product: Wireless hair curler with USB charger.

The claim: Inventive and “easy to use” hair tools are big business on social media. This tool combines the technology of a suction curl machine and the convenience of USB charging and wireless handling.

The unbiased reviews: In 2020, beauty vlogger Julissa Guillen gave a very helpful tutorial on the first-ever version of the wireless hair curler. She liked the look of the curls but didn’t love a lot of things: the machine had a short battery life and in two hours, she only managed to curl half of her hair because it only takes very small sections.

What to buy instead: Since 2020, reputable hair tool company Conair has released its Unbound Cordless Auto Curler, but many of the issues Guillen mentioned in her review seem to persist: charging life, curl quality and hair getting twisted in the machine. Verified reviewers who did love it note that it’s great for travel and works well on short hair. For those interested, it’s best to buy from a retailer with a solid return policy rather than an account on social media. Unbound Cordless Curler, $69.97 at Amazon and $69.97 at Walmart.

Do avocado savers work?

The product: Avocado saver.

The claim: There are multiple versions of the avocado saver on Instagram — the silicone sleeve, the pod (with a hardshell case) and the stretchy “hugger.”

The unbiased reviews: Avocados are expensive and it’s no wonder there are so many inventions to try to save a ripe avocado from turning brown. (The shelf life of a cut avocado feels like it’s about 10 minutes.) Despite multiple inventions, it seems like no one has been able to trick Mother Nature. None of these savers, from slip-on silicone to avocado-shaped storage containers, have consistently high reviews from users.

What to buy instead: The key to saving an avocado from browning instantly is to protect the outer green layer (brush on a citric juice, like lemon or lime) and then store it in any airtight container. This also eliminates having a single-use kitchen item, which is a waste of space. Bentgo small glass container with leak-proof lid, $24.97 at Well.ca.