There are appliances and gadgets that meet with an eye roll – and a good deal of indifference. Perhaps they were given by a genuinely well-meaning gift-giver or maybe they were more of a thinly veiled nudge? Either way, some of these wholly underrated appliances have made it into our hearts to become household helpers we now can't live without.
Some of these wholly underrated appliances have become household helpers we now can't live without
From the seemingly ridiculous to the simply overlooked, there are some oft-dismissed appliances you should give a try. But remember, although you may be enamoured with your new find, if you intend to share your joy by giving someone else the same gadget, you could get an underwhelming response – that is, until they too discover just how great these products can be.
If you manage to get a good one, a delinter can turn your past-their-prime knits back into wardrobe staples.
1. Lint remover
Tearing open the paper on Christmas morning or on your birthday to find a battery-operated lint removed, or 'delinter', inside is likely to elicit a forced smile and disingenuous 'thank you'.
But just wait until you power up this little beauty on your bobble-infested woollens. If you manage to get a good one, a delinter can turn your past-their-prime knits back into wardrobe staples. There's also a very satisfying feeling as the handheld machine hums along the wool, cutting off unsightly pilling.
If you're the type of person who gets a kick out of running a vacuum over visibly dirty carpet, you'll love this.
2. Clothes steamer
Loathe ironing? You're in good company. A clothes steamer is, of course, de rigeur in fashion circles, but even regular households can benefit from this gadget for a put-together look in no time at all.
Although they're not amazing on all fabrics (we're looking at you, denim), they work exceptionally well on delicate garments, such as lovely dresses and shirts, and suits.
Before you invest, check out our expert garment steamer reviews as price and performance vary wildly.
3. Vegetable spiraliser
At first glance, an electric or hand-powered vegetable spiraliser seems at best unnecessary and, at worst, altogether ridiculous. But hear us out, because if you have vegetable-resistant kids or are looking to eat more healthily and perhaps limit your pasta intake, this little gadget could revolutionise your recipe repertoire.
Spiralise a zucchini or pumpkin, toss it with parmesan cheese, call it spaghetti and, all of a sudden, the children have eaten their daily fibre and you've enjoyed a gluten-free meal.
Check out some more ideas and how to buy the best vegetable spiraliser in our vegetable spiraliser buying guide.
4. Spice grinder
OK, this one may not be for everyone – but if you're a keen cook but deliberately avoid recipes that require you to muscle up to a mortar and pestle, this small appliance will boost your meals in a matter of seconds.
Sure, it's great for grinding whole spices for ultimate flavour in baking and making curry pastes and rubs. But CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair also recommends it for grinding nuts, dried herbs, and for grinding sugar into icing sugar.
You can also use a small coffee grinder for this job, but Fiona cautions against using your coffee grinder for both coffee and spices – both flavours are strong and, as grinders only get wiped clean, you could find your coffee tasting of cumin.
5. Slow cooker
A slow cooker takes up valuable real estate in your cupboard for something your inbuilt oven can essentially do. But, unlike your oven, the slow cooker is a hands-off, laidback solution to delicious meals.
Toss your ingredients in while you're making breakfast in the morning and by evening, you're enjoying an incredibly flavoursome meal without having to so much as glance its way, let alone stir.
"Its greatest asset is that you can come home from a busy day and your meal is waiting for you," says Fiona. "Not having to fuss over a meal or attend to it throughout the day is one less thing to have to deal with."
Fiona suggests choosing a slow cooker with a sear function, as this saves time and washing up, and is helpful for thickening a sauce at the end of cooking. Slow cookers also transform cheap cuts of meat into unctuous braises – all without heating up your kitchen.
Make sure you check out our expert slow cooker reviews to help you find the best one for you.
6. Jaffle iron and sandwich press
Along with the microwave, the jaffle iron is a much-loved appliance of university share houses. Consider reintroducing this into your life, though, because it's a gadget that evolves with you.
Post-student days, the jaffle iron and sandwich press comes into its own on Sunday evenings when no-one can muster the stamina to do more than throw leftovers between bread. It's also brilliant for quick lunches for kids. The addition of cheese makes everything delicious, so you can probably sneak in a few incognito vegetables, too.
It comes into its own on Sunday evenings when no-one can muster the stamina to do more than throw leftovers between bread
"The jaffle iron has been around for a very long time," says Fiona. "I remember we would refer to it as a Breville. We'd say, 'who wants a Breville?'"
She adds that, although large, it's a worthwhile appliance for the home, especially if you have kids that are always on the hunt for a snack.
They're a fairly thrifty purchase, but find the right one by reading our CHOICE expert reviews.
In our new work-from-home existence, the handheld vacuum is coming into its own. No more crumbs on the keyboard!
7. Mini food processor
You might question this one if you already have a food processor with a small bowl attachment, but heaving these often-heavy machines onto the benchtop just to chop an onion seems unnecessarily arduous.
Also, the mini processor has its own niche place in the whizzing and chopping genre, as Fiona explains: "For a processor to perform well, it needs to be the right size for its load. If the load is small in a larger bowl, the blade cannot make sufficient contact with the load to process properly."
This means a mini or personal food processor is handy for those smaller jobs, such as making mayonnaise, curry pastes, sauces, chopping single vegetables, and whizzing up baby food.
They do vary in price from a few-hundred dollars to less than $20, though, so take a look at our expert mini food processor reviews to choose the right one for you.
8. Mini portable vacuum cleaner
This isn't exactly a sexy appliance, but the mini vac has justified its existence in recent times as the work-from-home era sees us all breakfasting and lunching over our keyboards.
You can suck up crumbs from that morning tea cookie without having to pull out the big barrel vac. These diminutive handheld machines can be battery operated or charged by USB and are also great for those hard-to-reach spot cleans, such as in the car, behind the TV, and in prams and car seats.
Of course, they're called mini for a reason, and have a correspondingly small capacity. If you have a larger area, you're better off using a full-sized stick or barrel vac.
9. Book light and plug-in sensor lights
For those of us who are still a little old-school and prefer to read books, not phones, in bed, the book light is an altogether natty tool.
It's travel-friendly, you needn't get out of bed to turn a light on, and it has a gentle, eye-friendly glow. Similarly great are plug-in sensor lights that adjust their brightness depending on the darkness, meaning that by morning they've turned themselves off.
Place them in the hallway for those middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet or to tend kids. You can also use them as a night light.