Container Pain: How to Get the Last Drop Out

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#@**! That was the reaction of a reader who tried to wrest every last bit from bottles of Aveeno lotion. Although she turned them upside down for up to three days and used various implements, the final drops refused to budge.

How much of what you buy is similarly left behind? To find out, we bought two to six products in each of six categories, in a range of dispensers and containers. We emptied one of each product in the usual way, waited a few days for the remains to settle, and pumped, poured, squeezed, shook and tapped as much as any frugal but rational consumer might. Then we weighed how much was left inside.

What we found

Similar products dispensed from similar containers left similar amounts. Skin lotions left more than any other type—about one fifth of their total contents. But the type of container made a difference. Although a plastic tube of toothpaste left about 10% behind, for instance, a squeeze tube with a foil bag inside dispensed almost all of the paste. In general, contents that flow easily leave less behind, as we found with mustard.

We also measured whether the products actually pack what they claim, and they do. But why should you have to do gymnastics to get out all the good stuff you've paid for? Below, see how much remained in four categories we checked. Categories not shown are bottled hand soap, which left 3% to 6%, and glass cleaners, which left 1% to 3%.

Skin lotion

Amount left in container: 17-25%
Brands tested: America's Choice, Aveeno, Lubriderm, Olay, Suave
Tips: Store pump bottles top-up, squeeze bottles top-down. Tap firmly, add water and shake, or cut open (carefully).

Liquid detergent

Amount left in container: 7-16%
Brands tested: All, Tide
Tips: Tilt push-button jugs or remove their extra cap and pour. Store smaller capped bottles upside down when almost empty.


Amount left in container: 3-15%
Brands tested: French's, Grey Poupon, Gulden's mustards; Heinz ketchup
Tips: Add a little water and shake. For mayo, use spatulas in assorted sizes.


Amount left in container: 1-13%
Brands tested: Colgate, Crest
Tips: Squeeze or bend tube as best you can, pull it over a counter's edge, or use a toothpaste squeezer, about $3.

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