Thursday, January 6, 2011

simplehuman Stainless Steel Put To The Test

I am a strong advocate of the adage "you get what you pay for".  Yes, occasionally one can find a sale, or an item on sale where it is miss-marked and tremendously under-priced, but in general, cheaper usually means lower quality, less durable, lower strength, weaker performance, less reliable, inferior materials or manufacturing techniques or "all of the above".  As an experienced rotating machinery engineer, quality engineer, mechanical engineer, machine designer, facilities engineering manager, plant engineer, and licensed PE who has worked with suppliers and engineering firms on all 6 inhabited continents on large rotating machinery, custom assembling machinery, medical devices, audio speakers, and radial tires, I've found that "cheaper" is rarely "better", and while "more expensive" is not "always better", it's rarely worse.

There are exceptions to this adage of course, some "premium" products are all fluff, show, and little substance, selling some inflated image.  But simplehuman is not one of those false inflated brands from what I have found.  One of my earlier postings "How to Repair A Flip Top Garbage Can" was mocked by some people I know as irrelevant or "silly", but it's had 129 hits in the last month alone... and it is a posting from Dec of 2009!  It's the third most popular posting on all of JustJoeP, and has some of the most comments of any posting to date. 

While the simplehuman garbage can failure was initially distressing to me - for the premium price I paid - the Torrence Californian company's customer service follow up, and proactive sending me an improved replacement lever arm, inspired me to purchase another product to solve a chronic problem in my home, and improve my shower's over-all appearance.  The simplehuman BT1060 Shower Caddy was on sale at Bed, Bath & Beyond (though I prefer the Beyond Section) and I originally bought it as part of a Christmas present to Dr Desert Flower, but after our not-inexpensive stay in Palm Springs, a $30 Shower Caddy seemed like a weak post-script, so I just installed it the day after we got home and DDF went to work.

A "5 year warranty" and "rust proof" materials, I wanted to see how this caddy holds up to the potassium chloride softened Arizona water that has severely pitted the WELDS on the shower caddy we moved here with in 2007, and it's "$12" replacement that was supposed to be an "improvement".  All the shower caddies we've had in the 2 dozen years we've been married have been made in China, including simplehuman's (sadly - really, was it necessary to outsource the manufacturing of such a nice product from such an environmentally depleted, polluted, economically corrupt, totalitarian-centralized-command-and-control-non-open-market, inefficient country?) The stainless steel rods tend to do fine if the chrome and moly content is high enough (316 SS, as opposed to say a 304 SS), but the welds where the tray is secured to the rods is invariably contaminated and rusts almost immediately, sending brown streaks down the shower wall behind it, and just looking gross.

simplehuman appears to have solved this failure mode by NOT using welds.  They've formed the stainless tubing (which I am assuming is 316) and inserted plastic trays into the bent-rod-trays.  To avoid the inevitable galvanic reaction that would occur if the aluminum contacted the stainless, simplehuman's California designers used the plastic trays to separate the dissimilar metals AND they anodized the aluminum extrusion to keep its finish "like new".  Smart. 

We'll see how well this caddy works.  I anticipate it will probably do well for the first 5 years, and then slowly but surely, chemistry will take it's corrosive course and the stainless will inexorably pit.  Since the $5 and $12 no-name BB&B brands performed so poorly, I thought the extra $18 was worth a try.  I can't imagine I'll still be blogging 5 years from now...  Il faut voir. 


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  2. A year later, and still not rusted =)


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