Every year, the Good Housekeeping Institute evaluates thousands of products, from latest and greatest bedding to trending beauty products to the most helpful health and fitness finds out there. Our engineers, scientists and product analysts spend weeks to months testing products first-hand in our Labs, recording findings and working closely with real consumer testers to recommend the best products on the market.
In 2021, our Lab experts continued to stay up to date on trends and test new products to find the best luggage brands for the gradual return to travel, stylish loungewear to allow us keep comfy, kitchen appliances that fueled culinary adventures from home, and fitness equipment to continue building our home gyms.
We asked our Good Housekeeping Institute Lab experts and editors to personally select the products that stood above the rest, from top-tested items of the year to the must-have products they use in their own homes every single day and even some super popular product picks from GH readers. From fitness clothing and skincare tools to home essentials and tech, these are the 63 best products of 2021:
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Most Comfy Jogger
Super cozy, roomy and complete with pockets, “these insanely popular joggers live up to the hype,” says Textiles Director Lexie Sachs. The soft brushed jersey fabric offers a casual styling that works for wearing on the go or as PJs at home. Though they fall a little on the pricier side, Sachs thinks they’re worth the splurge as they’ve held up to repeated wear and washing.
Jeans That Feel Like Loungewear
Distressed Ankle Skinny Jeans
Look cute and feel cute in these stretch-fit jeans by Spanx. This pair is the “loungewear jean” you can live in – they look like normal denim but offer a flexible fit with an pull-on waistband that won’t dig in. “They’re perfect for going out in public in 2021 after spending a year solely in comfy clothes at home,” says our Textiles Director. Plus, there are more styles where these comes from, and all are super flattering.
Reusable Period Panties
For light to medium flow days, these lightweight period panties are a lifesaver. They soaked up fluid quickly in our Lab tests, and testers loved that they still felt breathable and “just like regular underwear,” explains Textiles Product Analyst Emma Seymour. Choose from an inclusive size range, spanning sizes XS to XXXXL. Plus they’re super affordable and stocked with nude color options for different dress occasions.
Stylish Clothing Subscription
Clothing Subscription Service
Rent six high-end garments a month for under $100. Textiles Director Lexie Sachs loves this clothing subscription service for experimenting with trendy styles she’d normally hesitate to splurge on. “I also appreciate how the concept of a shared closet helps prevent overconsumption and waste in the fashion industry.”
Buttery Soft Loungewear Set
Happy Human Hoodie
Buttery soft and stylish, Joah Love loungewear styles add a subtle flex of versatility to your wardrobe. Many of our Lab experts favor its chic and comfy sets, especially their matching “mommy and me” outfits.
Super Stylish Heels
Elevate any look with these fuzzy platform mules – available in three bold shades. The eye-catching design “always get a ton of compliments when I wear them,” says Senior Textiles Analyst Emma Seymour. Plus, the memory foam footbed makes these shoes comfy for all-day wear.
The Best of Bedding & Home
Give your body a proper night’s rest with this pillow filled with a blend of memory foam clusters and kapok, “a natural fiber that’s similar to cotton but feels like silk,” says Textiles Director Lexie Sachs. You get amazing support and pressure relief, plus it feels soft and plush. Not only is this a consumer tester favorite, but it’s also the pillow Sachs personally sleeps with every night.
A Sustainable Mattress You Can Trust
This mattress proves you can have it all – both quality and sustainability. Designed with organic latex, the natural foam offers comfort and resilience while the layer of organic wool regulates body temperature. “It’s certified organic, so you know the entire manufacturing process follows strict standards,” says Sachs. Our testers unanimously raved about comfort and support, saying it led to a good night’s sleep.
Incredibly Soft Sheets
Brushed Cotton Sheet Set
If you enjoy a crisp bedsheet, this basic weave percale set is rated high for its softness. Brushed to increase coziness, our testers raved about how comfortable the fabric felt, and it held up well to Lab durability tests. Plus, Parachute lets you decide whether to skip the flat sheet in the set!
A Luxe Pillowcase for Great Hair
With Blissy’s incredibly smooth fabric, you can wake up looking like a Disney princess. “Silk pillowcases reduce friction against your hair and skin, leading to less facial creases and less bedhead when you wake up,” says Sachs. This pick was well-loved among our panel of sleep testers and held up to repeated laundering.
Super Plush Down Comforter
Alberta Euro Down Comforter
Incredibly soft and cozy, this responsibly sourced comforter uses real down for ultimate fluffiness, Sachs says. Coming in five colors and three warmth levels, there’s something for everyone. Best of all, the fill didn’t clump or shift in our review, and the smooth cover didn’t let anything poke out.
RELATED: Good Housekeeping 2021 Bedding Awards
Luxury Bath Towels
Plush Towel Collection
Stock your bathroom with this towel set that has proven plushness and absorbency. A winner in our Lab tests, “this bath towel easily soaked up fluid but didn’t take too long to dry — a huge feat for soft and fluffy towels!,” explains Sachs. It also earned a perfect softness score from our panel of at-home testers.
Easy-Clean Area Rug
Kamran Coral Rug
Floor coverings can be a pain to clean, but this two-piece rug has a mat on the bottom with a machine-washable top layer. “Its flat surface cleans easier than ultra-dense rugs and is ideal for high-traffic areas,” says Sachs. It earned the best overall spot in our washable rugs reviews, and the brand is a favorite among many of our Lab pros for its variety of stylish, but practical rugs .
The Best Luggage You Can Buy
With a variety of colors and designs that stand out in a sea of black rolling bags, Away is our favorite luggage brand out there. It made frequent appearances in the most popular products our readers bought this year and for good reason, says Sachs: “The polycarbonate luggage cases are durable yet lightweight as well as surprisingly spacious to pack everything you need.”
The Travel Umbrella
“Nothing is worse than an umbrella that flips in the wind or is a hassle to open and close, leaving you soaked. A sturdy umbrella is a worthy investment, and this one has been wind-tunnel tested to hold up against strong gusts,” says Sachs. Our Textiles Lab pros love how it auto-opens and auto-closes, meaning there’s no fuss with it during downpours. It comes in a variety of sizes, whether you need a big one for the entire family or a travel size to take on the go.
The Best Toys & Kids’ Products
Stylish and Functional Playshelf
The Montessori Playshelf
Not only is this Montessori Playself stylish but it’s also functional. “This makes it super easy to stash away and rotate toys that are visible while neatly hiding ones you don’t want out in the back compartment,” says our Chief Technologist and Engineering Director Rachel Rothman. It includes convenient trays and bins for cute storage, easy play and a clutter-free area.
Must-Have Gaming Console
Xbox Series X
The highly coveted Xbox Series X is for kids, adults and all in between. This latest model from the console creators is the fastest yet. “It delivers better quality and overall better gaming experiences than predecessors,” says Rothman.
Compact Cardboard Slide
Pop2Play Indoor Slide
This durable cardboard cutout transforms into an indoor slide that won’t take up too much space. “You can easily close it up and store it under a couch or in a closet when not in use, perfect for transporting to a relative’s home when visiting,” says Rothman. The Pop2Play slide is available in lots of fun themes for kids to choose from.
Popping Sensory Toy
Fidget toys have been on the rise, and just like adults, children need tools to help transfer their energy. “This it-toy category provides kids with the same satisfying pop experience of bubble wrap, in a more manageable package,” says Rothman. “They provide sensory input that can help occupy and soothe kids in the same vein as other fidget-type toys.”
Plush Avocado Toy
These plush toys are not only popular for kids but have caught the eye of young adults who have been racing to get these before they fly off of the shelves, says Rothman. The plush toys come in a variety of styles, from an avocado to a panda and more!
2-in-1 Play Couch
Play Couch Sofa for Kids
This chic couch is also as a play form for kids. It doubles as seating for your children as well as creative inspiration for building and creating – all without sacrificing your living room furniture. “This was a lifesaver in our household for additional kid-friendly seating and hours of obstacle-course fun,” says Rothman.
Fun Protective Masks For Kids
Children’s Barbie Face Mask
These breathable face masks are made of non-woven materials that offer particle filtration and come in sizes for ages 2-7 and 8+. “With children wearing masks all day in school, it’s important to find one that fits well, feels comfortable and offers protection,” says Textiles Director Lexie Sachs. “More importantly, they need to be willing to wear them! Just Play offers a ton of kid-friendly character prints — from Barbie and Trolls to Superheroes and Minions — that younger children were excited about in our review.”
Interactive Video App
Playtime Calling App
This interactive video calling app allows children to read books, paint, play games and more. Kids can create memories with loved ones and friends — the monthly subscription allows you to send an invite to download the free app, so they can participate in your child’s online learning and fun activities. “In a period of time where my young kids were unable to see their grandparents face-to-face, Caribu provided a safe, interactive platform for my toddlers to engage with their grandparents,” raves Rothman.
All-In-One Home Gym
A favorite of multiple GH Institute Lab pros, Tonal is an at-home workout system that lets you go to the gym without actually going to the gym. Choose from a lineup of personal trainers, or thousands of workouts tailored to your body and your fitness goals. The massive touchscreen makes building your own workout super easy to navigate and its strength-building system uses adjustable digitized weighted arms with smooth resistance. Rothman loves the robust library of pre-and post-natal exercises.
Best Rowing Machine for Home
Give yourself a full-body workout with this sleek rower that lets you stream live and recorded classes on its large screen. One of our Lab experts even found a favorite workout partner in the lead instructor, Nick. “I love that I am getting a near full-body workout in a relatively short time frame,” she says. “I found myself stronger and with more endurance with just 15-minute workouts a few times a week.”
Cute Ankle Weights
Add some weight to your walks with these one-pound Bala bangles. Our Lab experts found they fit comfortably around wrists and ankles, perfect for bumping up the difficulty on a barre or pilates workout. “I always get compliments on them in workout classes,” says Textiles Analyst Emma Seymour.
Best Barbell for Home Gym
SelectTech 2080 Barbell with Curl Bar
Super Comfortable Running Shoes
Women’s Tree Dashers
Fitness feels like a breeze in Allbirds’ classic slip-on sneaker, loved by so many in the GH Institute. With a structured upper for stability, a contoured footbed and a wide heel, Tree Dashers are an extremely comfortable workout shoe. Our textiles experts love that Allbirds uses sustainable materials like Tencel, merino wool, castor-bean based foam and natural rub – all of which are machine washable.
Best Leggings for Women
Instill High-Rise Tight 25
Our Institute pros deemed these fitness leggings the softest, most comfortable pair they’ve ever owned. The high-waisted fit provides a snug body-hugging fit that stays put. The super-stretch, moisture-wicking technology makes these a solid choice for low-intensity workouts like yoga or pilates.
Top-Tested Sports Bra
Women’s Performance Sports Bra
This style has been a top-performing sports bra in our tests for years: It’s compressive yet comfortable, seamless to avoid friction and irritation and durable to hold up for years. It’s also reversible, so you get two designs in one. “I wear this both as a sports bra and a lounge bra because it’s so comfy,” says Textiles Director Lexie Sachs.
The Best Media & Tech Products
Get panoramic movie theater sound in the comfort of your home with the Sonos Beam sound bar. You can skip, play or adjust the volume with the tap feature on top of the sleek device and control the beam with your voice through the Sonos app or with Apple AirPlay2. Simply connect your beam to WiFi, then pair with other Sonos speakers to create a true surround sound experience. It’s a staple in many GH Institute pros’ homes!
A Crafting Must-Have
The Cricut Joy is a mini magical machine, perfect for amateur crafters or anyone looking to dabble with projects. “This compact machine makes it easy to personalize a wide range of items. Customize clothing and accessories with iron-on vinyl designs or greeting cards instead of buying them at the store,” says Textiles Director Lexie Sachs.
Best In-Ear Headphones
AirPods (3rd Generation)
The latest model of the Apple AirPods is a game-changer. Chief Technologist Rachel Rothman describes these as true wireless headphones that seamlessly pair and offers great sound quality. The third generation version is water-resistant (the case too!) and has a shorter stem. You’ll get up to 30 hours of listening time with the charging case and six hours of listening with one charge.
QuietComfort 45 Bluetooth Headphones
$279.00 (15% off)
With over 24 hours of listening time per charge, these noise-canceling over-the-ear headphones are best-loved by Rothman. “The Bose QuietComfort 45s are comfy over-ear headphones that can pair with two devices at the same time — like a phone and laptop for instance.” They last up to three hours on a 15 minute charge and come with an audio cable for those who prefer the old-school plugin.
Versatile Smart Home Hub
This is Rothman’s family home base for video calls, dance parties, weather and alarms. “My children learned to say Alexa before just about any other word, and this new interface allows for even more fun and functionality than predecessors,” she says.
Personalized Celebrity Experience
Is there a celebrity you’ve always wished to get a message from? With Cameo, your childhood dreams can come true. “It’s a super thoughtful gift where you get a personalized video message from a celebrity — from A-List actresses and athletes to smaller music stars,” says Rothman. “After a brief exchange of relevant info, you can get a curated, meaningful message.”
Best Scheduling App
“This was the top scheduling app during the pandemic,” says Rothman. Calendly makes scheduling easier: No more back and forth between coworkers or clients, trying to figure out times that work best for meetings. While there are free options of the app, for those who need higher levels of scheduling automation, subscriptions start at just $8 per month.
The Best Skincare, Haircare & Beauty Items
Best Women’s Razor
Smooth Operator Razor Kit
Remove hair in one pass using this five-blade, smooth-glide razor. It offers a comfy grip that makes maneuvering around those tricky areas an easy trip, says Senior Beauty Lab Chemist Sabina Wizemann. It comes in five tastefully muted colors to give any bathroom a subtle pop of color, and our testers vouched that its holder secures well to shower tiles. Plus, this winner of our 2021 razor study ranked highest for leaving smooth-feeling skin.
Smoothing Shine Spray for Frizzy Hair
Dream Coat Supernatural Spray Anti-Frizz Treatment
Repel humidity and fight frizz with this water-light spray. Not only is it impossible to overdo, but it gives hair great shine, smoothness and heat protection. “I only have to use it once every few washes to reap the benefits,” raves Deputy Editor Jessica Teich. “I literally cannot blow dry my hair without it.”
Best Hair Removal Tool
Silk·épil 9 Flex Epilator Set
Take at-home hair removal to the next level – out of all the epilators we have tested over the years, this one is our pros’ favorite for its speed, maneuverability and ability to tweeze even the tiniest hairs in one pass. You can use it wet or dry, in the shower or on the go, and with its facial attachment, bikini trimmer and body massager, this kit is a worthwhile investment, according to Beauty Lab Director Birnur Aral and Deputy Editor Jessica Teich.
Must-Have Drugstore Mascara
Lash it Loud Mascara
If you love a natural, everyday makeup look, this mascara offers beautiful results at a drugstore price, says Beauty Lab Chemist Danusia Wnek. In our Lab studies, it took the top spot for smooth application while separating and defining eyelashes.
Press-On Nails That Last
Flawless imPRESS Press-On Manicure
Effective Hair Loss Remedy
Keep it Anchored
Using a unique combination of niacinamide, zinc and caffeine, this shampoo and scalp serum treatment boosts hair volume and fullness. “In clinical studies, panelists maintained about 2,400 more hairs on their scalp after six months of use,” says Beauty Lab Director Birnur Aral. “They also saw less shedding of strands as evidenced by the amount of hair collected on their brushes.”
Best Facial Serum
BL+ the serum
Our Beauty Lab scientists can’t get enough of the hydrating and plumping effects of this lightweight serum, says Aral. They were just as impressed with how the product incorporates renewable and beneficial ingredients such as silica, gathered right from the Blue Lagoon’s research center.
Innovative Hair Dryer Attachment
Supersonic Flyaway Attachment
This brilliant hairdryer attachment for the much-revered Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer takes flyaways and instantly tucks them away for smooth hair that still has tons of body and volume, says Deputy Editor Jessica Teich. “It’s a must-have for finishing a blowdry on both frizz-prone hair or fine hair (bye, halo of broken hairs!).”
HAIR DRYER BRUSH FOR THICK HAIR
Hot Tools 24K Gold Charcoal Infused One-Step Blowout
Sensitive Skin-Friendly Makeup
Bronzino Illuminating Cream Bronzer
Getting ready shouldn’t be irritating – certainly not on your skin. Every Tower 28 Beauty product is formulated with sensitive skin types in mind, closely following the National Eczema Association’s ingredient guidelines to avoid known irritants and allergens. “As someone who has eczema and super sensitive skin, I can sign off on that claim that this won’t irritate most skin types,” says Products & Reviews Associate Editor Jacqueline Saguin.
Innovative Skincare Device
Precision Skincare Device
“This innovative device is like a little inkjet printer for foundation: It scans your face and deposits serum-infused makeup directly to the places you need a little coverage, leaving the rest of skin bare for extremely natural, your skin-but-better results,” says Deputy Editor Jessica Teich. It’s especially amazing for mature skin with hyperpigmentation or dark spots!
Freshening Body Wipes
Sensitive Feminine Wipes
These sensitive feminine hygiene wipes from Honey Pot are soft and plush without any harsh ingredients that might irritate skin. Our Textiles Lab Analyst especially loves its durable material and gentle, fresh scent. They come in travel-friendly packs that give a quick pick-me-up whenever you’re on a long flight or leaving the gym.
An At-Home Barista Must-Have
Dinamica Plus Automatic Espresso Machine
This espresso machine is most-loved by Nicole Papantoniou, Director of the Kitchen Appliances and Culinary Innovation Lab. “I am obsessed with this coffee maker,” she said. “I like that it has a sleek and slim profile and features an electronic and colorful touch screen — it’s very intuitive.” It makes delicious, fresh-tasting espresso or espresso-based drinks, and the“ removable milk container is easy to use, and the machine has three milk settings for making steamed milk, slightly foamy milk or foamy milk with just the turn of a dial.”
For the Most Delicious Waffles Ever
We found that this Kitchen Gear Award-winner can turn your average waffle into a magical masterpiece. “It stopped us right in our tracks,” said Papantoniou. “The waffles are big, fluffy with just the right crisp. Plus, the amount of filling was perfect.”
Best Grill for Smoking
Ironwood Series 885 Pellet Grill
After testing more than five pellet grills side-by-side in 2021, this is the one our Lab pros use most often. “The Ironwood stands out for being super sturdy but is easy to move around if needed,” says Papantoniou. “It maintains temperatures well and can run for a long time without having to refill the hopper.” Connect it to the Traeger app and monitor the cooking from your phone, a helpful tool when you’re smoking something for a long time.
A Stovetop Essential
Enameled Cast Iron Grill Pan
Prefer indoor grilling? Staub makes one of our top-performing grill pans and allows you to get those noticeable grill marks from the comfort of your kitchen. The pre-seasoned pan has high ridges that allow juices to drip away, which helps create grill marks and doesn’t steam food like some nonstick pans with shorter, more shallow ridges. The stylish 10-inch round enameled cast iron grill comes in a variety of colors and “perfectly fits over a round burner,” says Papantoniou.
Super Sleek Fridge
B36CL81ENG Smart Refrigerator
To all the wine lovers, this French-door refrigerator from Bosch was made especially for you! The sleek modern fridge has a wine chiller drawer that can hold up to 17 bottles. Even better, its adjustable settings ensure your champagne, beer or other adult beverages are at the perfect temperature. There’s water dispenser inside of the fridge and and Papantoniou loves its clear glass moveable shelves to maximize your storage needs. “This fridge is stunning,” she raves.
Backyard Pizza Oven
Karu 16 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven
Create wood fire oven-style pizza in your own backyard with Ooni, a 2021 Kitchen Gear Award Winner. The versatile pizza oven can be used with wood, charcoal and gas (attachment sold separately). Papantoniou finds the wood super easy to load into the large opening, and Deputy Editor Jessica Teich says the resulting pies are “better than any pizza you can get from a restaurant.”
Juice Fountain Cold Plus
We’ve tested a lot of juicers and this one always beats the rest in our Lab pros’ eyes. It has a three-and-a-half-inch wide feed tube that can fit whole apples; plus, it works quickly and makes smooth juice, says Papantoniou. It comes with a large 70-ounce pitcher and lid, great for storing leftovers.
The Best Specialty Food Items
Authentic Italian Pizza
Take a savory journey abroad with this Italian-made pizza that delivers directly to your door. Made with fresh local ingredients and baked to perfection by a fourth-generation Neapolitan family, you can taste the layers of flavor in every bite. “Simply the best pizza I’ve ever had,” raves Good Housekeeping Institute Director Laurie Jennings. Try classic varieties like Margherita, four cheese or Tartufina — made with black truffle, creamy mozzarella and porcini mushrooms.
Delicious Chili Seasoning
All of the Momofuku Chili Crunches are packed with flavor and texture. Use on anything from fried eggs and avocado toast to chicken, shrimp and veggies. “The Black Truffle Chili Crunch found in this super starter pack is also a favorite,” says Kitchen Lab Director Nicole Papantoniou. “It’s more on the mild side in terms of spice with rounded flavors.”
Triple Chocolate Panettone
This isn’t your average holiday panettone: The rich, soft dessert is free of preservatives and blended with white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. It made our Lab and Test Kitchen testers love this panettone, says Papantoniou. “It’s moist and fluffy while the chocolate pieces melt in your mouth,” she raves. “Smells delicious, too.”
Sweet and Spicy Rub
Maui Wowee Hawaiian Teriyaki Rub
Our Test Kitchen tested more than 40 BBQ rubs this past year, and this one stood out with its combination of dehydrated pineapple, chili flake, soy sauce powder and cayenne: The perfect mix of sweet and heat. “I love this because it takes the guesswork out of creating a balanced spice blend,” says Papantoniou. “It’s sweet and spicy but still quite savory.”
Not only is the bottle gorgeous, but this dry gin offers a smooth, earthy blend. Made with 22 handpicked Scottish botanicals, The Botanist gin has a complex yet satisfying taste for the palette. The herbal blend can be consumed on its own, paired with a tonic or mixed in a cocktail. It’s one our Test Kitchen’s favorites.
Nutrient-Packed Crunchy Snack
The Crunch You Crave
This crunchy snack is a go-to in our Test Kitchen, made with sprouted dehydrated almonds for a fun and unique snacking experience. Taste test fun flavors like Nashville Hot, sprinkled with smoked paprika, onion powder and cayenne, or try Golden Goodness, which is coated in turmeric and coconut aminos.
Best Gluten-Free Cracker
Classic Seed Crackers
These gluten-free crackers are one of our registered dietitians’s favorites. Theyre’ made by a woman-owned business and contain 20 grams of plant-based protein per bag. The hearty snack is made with a mix of seeds including chia, pumpkin and sesame to name a few. The vegan crunchy delight can be paired with sweet or savory toppings such as cheese or nut butter.
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