In this report

Shake, rattle, and squeeze: How much is left in that container?

Last reviewed: September 2009

#@**! 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 percent 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 left, see how much remained in four categories we checked. Categories not shown are bottled hand soap, which left 3 to 6 percent, and glass cleaners, which left 1 to 3 percent.

Skin lotion 17-25%

Skin lotion
Skin lotion

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 7-16%

Liquid detergents
Liquid detergent

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.


Condiments 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.


Toothpaste 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.

Illustrations by Jason Lee