Salad Spinner Upgrade

Posted: 6th July 2011 by Quinn Dunki in Hacks

Repair and improvement of a broken salad spinner.


This is another classic case of an otherwise well made product ruined by a single fatal flaw. My sister gave me this pull-cord-actuated collapsable salad spinner as a gift. I quite like the design of it, and it is very nice to use. However, after only a couple of months of normal use, the pull-cord broke. I contacted the company to try and get a replacement (since it failed so soon), but they ignored my attempts at communication. So I dug into it to see if I could repair it, and perhaps make it Betterstrongerfaster™.

The cord was strong nylon, but somehow snapped. How did this happen? Let's find out...

The underside of the spinning mechanism had four moulded plastic plugs that looked like they might hide screws. Drilling out the plugs, revealed... screws! Huzzah! This may be hackable after all.

Under that cover was a geared bearing surface which slid off to reveal another screwed-on cover. Under that was the drive train for the spinner. It consists of a spring loaded cord winder geared down a bit to increase torque on the bearing surface. In between lies a slotted idler gear which allows the bearing to freewheel while the cord winder retracts. Clever! Here we can also see the shredded remains of the pull cord. No clue as to why it failed yet.

Further inspection of the cord's route through the mechanism revealed the flaw! To pass from the winder through the cover, the cord passed through a metal grommet. This grommet has a sharp edge that touched the cord. Over time, that edge was gradually shredding the cord inside the spinner, until one day it snapped. It looks as though the grommet was damaged during manufacture, hence the exposed edge.

So, with the point of failure identified, the question becomes whether we can fix it and make sure the failure doesn’t recur. First, of course, I pulled out that metal grommet. The hole is smooth plastic, and the grommet was certainly doing more harm than good. Now, what to replace the cord with?

My first attempt was to use dental floss. I've always been impressed with the tensile strength of dental floss, and it winds and unwinds very smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, that the spinner operates at a considerably higher speed than before.

Sadly, after a couple of uses, the dental floss snapped. Inspection revealed that the dental floss was prone to tangling on the winder, which led to excess strain and eventual failure.

My second attempt was a shoelace. These are also very strong, and I had extras lying around. Sadly, it was a bit too thick, and the winder didn't spin smoothly with the shoelace wrapped around it.

Alright, time to get serious. If 550lb parachute cord doesn't hold, I don't know what will. This stuff is really cheap, actually. Less than 10 cents/foot. Good to have around! This cord is also a bit too thick for the winder. However, paracord is actually several smaller strands housed in a sheath (the black outer coating). You can cut the sheath, and use as many of the smaller inner cords as you need. Three strands seemed about right.

Success! I knotted the other end of the cord around the handle, and put a drop of superglue there to hold the knot. Here's the reassembled unit (shown here with lettuce installed). So far it's performing very well, and should extended the life of this tool by many years.

You learn a lot about a product when you take it apart. You might think that the premature failure of this tool made me dislike it, but in fact the opposite occurred. By dismantling it, I saw how well made it actually was. The plastic was sturdy, everything was held with multiple well-placed screws, and the gear train was clever and robust. It was just a tiny manufacturing flaw in the grommet that caused the failure, and that sort of thing is frankly bound to happen. If only their customer service had been better.

What’s next for this intrepid spinner? If the cord fails again, I expect electricity may be involved in the subsequent version…

  1. jammit says:

    Also look into dummy cord (1/16″):
    http://www.supplycaptain.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_ID=21

    and tether cord (3/32″):
    http://www.countycomm.com/teather.html

    Built similar to 550, but in smaller sizes.

  2. Jim says:

    Did you consider the possibility that the grommet was actually designed to cause failure? In this instant I do not know this. But I do know that several well designed items are intentionally engineered to fail.

    Otherwise why would anyone ever buy another one? The trick is to make sure the product doesn’t fail immediately, but outlasts the warranty.

    • blondihacks says:

      Well Jim, in this case the evidence does seem to suggest the grommet was damaged during installation. The rest of the unit is well made and should last a long time, so I expect this was unintentional. In my humble opinion, consumer products are generally engineered to hit a certain price point (which is usually aggressively low). That means cutting corners is inevitable. I think it’s more about trying to respond to the market’s desire for low cost rather than a concerted effort to make things fail at a certain point in the future. But who knows, you might be right!

  3. Eddie says:

    Use a pull cord from a lawnmower. ;-)

    Or how about a gas powered salad spinner? ;-)

  4. Doug says:

    In time the cord is likely to wear the plastic housing where is passes through. I can’t have a clue if that will create a problem or not, but there is a possibility that uneven wear could affect hoe the cord rewinds. The manufacture would have used the metal grommet if they thought they could get have gotten by without it. The cord on small engine rewind starters eventually where the metal where the cord passes through to a point where the metal start wearing away at the cord. The longer the cord lasts, the more likely that will occur. Good save, no matter how long it lasts.

    • blondihacks says:

      That’s an excellent point, Doug. It will be interesting to see what happens. I figure every day I get out of it is a win at at this point, since it was dead anyway.

  5. macadamia says:

    When I read the title of this post, I was expecting electrification… Well? (-:

  6. Eli-0 says:

    Thanks for documenting this! Ours broke in exactly the same manner this weekend and I remembered seeing this on Hack A Day. I went with a 1/8″ nylon rope – I had to remove the soft inner strands and just use the outer braided sheath, but it appears to work just fine.

    • blondihacks says:

      That’s great! Glad the article helped you extend the life of something that would have otherwise been tossed (if you’ll pardon the pun).

  7. sonicj says:

    needs more watts!

  8. Denise says:

    I just repaired my Progressive spinner too! I did not realize the screws were under the plugs, so they all broke when I pried them apart with a screwdriver. However, the top went together just fine without the need of those plug areas secured! The trick to the lid is that the screw, to initially take the lid apart, loosens in the opposite direction of normal screws. Then when you put the replacement string into the spool, you wind it counter clockwise as well, about 4-5 trips around. No need to put tension on the gear, the pull of the string is what causes it to pull back when it is wound in this backward direction. Just put the pieces back together and it works well. By the way, I wrote Progressive to tell them my less-than-a-year-old lid broke. They said they are sending me a new lid!! Since I use this spinner often, I tried to fix it in the interim because I am not good at waiting! Now when the new lid arrives I will have a back-up!

    • blondihacks says:

      That’s good news! They ignored my request for a replacement (under warranty, no less), so I had to take matters into my own hands.

  9. Jack says:

    Thanks for the info! We have the same spinner which of course broke in the exact same way. I was prying away before I found your post. I never would’ve suspected screws under plastic plugs. Those plastic plugs made me think the lid was snap together. Once I learned the trick to the lid, the rest of the repair was simple. Thanks for the great write up!

  10. KARE says:

    thank you so much. i had the same problem with the new salad spinner that i bought. i only used it twice and the cord broke i cant return to canadian tire as the reciept is already gone and i was searching starfrit web site how can they help customers for such problem but i cant find an answer to resolve the problem and i came accross to your web site and boooom! i saw the spinner you posted which is EXACTLY the same as mine and the problem is also the same….i knew there is screw burried somewhere but i dont know where to find them and thanks to you, you show where exactly can i find those screws…..thanks a lot i can use the new spinner again….you are such a big help!!! keep up the good works!

  11. sarah says:

    Mine last longer but just broke. great to find this information. i’ll give it a try. shame on progressive. they ought to replace every lid without question

  12. sarah says:

    i contacted Progressive via customer service or contact us on their webpage. I didn’t hear anything back but a couple of weeks later, a new top appeared in the mail. I think Progressive deserves some credit for responding in that way. Of course, I hope they have done something about the design problem. Before I got the new top in the mail, i tried following your directions for fixing the top with new cord, but found it not so easy and never finished the job.

  13. Christos says:

    I bought this spinner a year ago in the MMY in NYC and thought I did a great buy. It was, until the cord broke, yesterday. By searching in google for support, I found this website and was able to take it apart myself, thanks to the hidden screws and the directions given here. I use a shoe lace which is thinner and it works well, I don´t think I will have the same problem again. Progressive (as the name says) ougth to take this website as an example to better their product, unless it is meant to be that way to make people buy spinners every year or so…many many thanks to blondihacks, I appreciate that valuable information, that should actually be provided by progressive itself. Maybe you ask them for a Product Manager job blondy? You´d be the best, I am sure!

    • blondihacks says:

      Hah, thanks! It’s really a shame when a company’s product fails prematurely and they choose not to provide customer service. The internet never forgets!

      • blondihacks says:

        Oh, and this repaired spinner is still going strong, 6 months later! :) You listening, Progressive? Get rid of those metal grommets! They’re causing failures all over the place!

  14. Rick says:

    Thanks for the hack. I fixed mine in about 10 minutes. I used mason’s twine available from home centers and it works great. Thanks for the step-by-step guide.

  15. Matt says:

    Wow. I thought I would take a chance that someone had the same problem, but I didn’t expect the detail and pics. (or the humor) Thanks a lot for posting this!
    Mp

    • Quinn Dunki says:

      This has been one of my more surprising entries. Apparently a lot of people bought this thing and had it fail the same way. I never expected the level of feedback I have received on this post.

  16. Chris says:

    Just had ours fail — and your article saved our broken salad spinner from the landfill! My wife requested hot pink parachute cord (95 lb.) which looks cool and works well — Thank you!!

  17. colin jarvis says:

    many thanks for the hidden screw info. I will use venetian blind cord off similar Dia. The mnf, needs a kick up the backside for a non serviceable design, many people will just dump the product, I just by chance checked your site, thanks again

  18. kay says:

    The lid on our spinner has no screws and I can not get it open. Any suggestions? THanks!

  19. ED says:

    The Progressive I have has no screws it has plastic pins that are fused at there tips and will breake if I would pry the cover off??

    • Quinn Dunki says:

      I would not pry- you’ll break something. Try drilling them out. There are probably screws under the pins. If not, the drilling will remove the pins without damaging anything.

  20. LM says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!

    This kitchen appliance has become the bane of my existence.
    I became disinterested in this product the first time it broke, but I live with a lovely person who is very particular about their kitchen gear.

    After arriving home last night to a very upset person, who experienced this Progressive salad spinner cord rupture for the second time.
    The first cord rupture replacement took 2 weeks of harrassment to Progressive Customer service.

    Essentially, last night errupted into an over heated blame-fest about how it broke it due to unscrewing the cap, that holds the clear plastic spinner portion the the underside, when it was cleaned (something I was doing to make sure all residue is cleaned from between the layers).

    The internet reviews for this spinner saved me, only to be able to state that this top is eternally faulty, and nearly everyone who owns it has this issue.

    Enter BLONDIHACKS!!! HOORAY!!
    Your photos, the clear and excellent solution for fix-it, was absolutely my style and I am grateful. It feels like my life has become joyful, productive, and solution oriented again. :) And huge hooray for not filling landfill!

    Thanks you QD – You made my day!!

    • Quinn Dunki says:

      You’re very welcome! Glad I could help. The para-cord repair is still holding on my unit, going on three years later- and I use it every week. Judging by the comments in this article, this is a common failure of this unit. It’s a shame Progressive isn’t more responsive to their customers about it.

      • LM says:

        Amazing! So excited to repair it tonight.

        Thanks for the update on the longevity of lifespan!

        Just donated to your site – grateful for your existence on the web! Thanks!!

  21. VAZ says:

    My cord broke on this spinner too so I went looking for solutions. Yours was the first thing that came up and is exactly what I needed. I tried to take it apart not even considering there were screws under the plastic plugs, so a big THANK YOU!

  22. Tom says:

    Fantastic write-up, will be doing this to repair my gf’s spinner. I suspect Quinn/blondihacks are too naive about Progressive’s innocence! The number of people with the same exact issue indicates that this is probably not a defective part–it’s probably intentional! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence

  23. Nicole says:

    Thanks. Had the same thing happen and am looking forward to using it again. It is still a very good product.

  24. Claudia Benson says:

    Hiya – I love the internet (and you for fixing your spinner)! Same thing happened to mine. I don’t know how to drill out the plastic plugs – can you explain? I can drill holes and use a drill all the time but never ‘drilled out’ anything!! Thanks :)

    • Quinn Dunki says:

      Sure! Nothing to it- just drill the flat spot in the plastic (where the screws are hiding underneath). Drill carefully and with light pressure, until the drill bit hits the tops of the screws. The plastic is very easy to drill, and the screws are much harder, so if you go gently, you’ll feel and hear when you’re through the plastic. If you push too hard, you risk chewing up the screw heads with the drill bit, which will make them difficult to remove.

  25. Claudia Benson says:

    I worked out how to drill the plastic out and, with the help of a friend, it is now repaired. Thank you so much for posting the solution :)