Retro remedies - do they really work?

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Banana shine

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The Good Housekeeping team tested 10 retro remedies, click through our gallery to find out if they really work.

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By Helen Wicks

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Use the inside of a banana skin to shine leather?

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GHI VERDICT Don\'t throw away the shoe polish just yet. We gave this one a go, but found the banana method messy and sticky. More to the point, it didn\'t make much difference to the state of our shoes. 

Flower power

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Make cut flowers last longer by putting sugar, bleach or aspirin in the water. Or stand them in fizzy lemonade?

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GHI VERDICT Lemonade lasts longest. We tested each of these folk remedies, with a stem each of roses, carnations and freesias in separate vases. We also used plain water and water with flower food dissolved in it as a comparison. The first to wilt, after four days, were the flowers in water with half an aspirin dissolved in it, followed closely by those in a sugar solution and those in plain water. The flowers with a few drops of bleach in the water wilted next. Lemonade proved the most effective fix, lasting six days, but flower food was the only method that kept our blooms going for a week.

Grass stains

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To get rid of grass marks on cricket whites, rub with toothpaste before you wash them?

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GHI VERDICT Worth a try. The grass stain didn\'t disappear completely from our white cotton test fabric, but the faint mark was much less noticeable than one on another square washed in biological powder alone. Rub in a generous squirt of toothpaste, then machine wash in biological detergent. Be sure to use plain white toothpaste, not a coloured gel-style one. If the stain is stubborn, try using White Wizard from Lakeland (015394 88100; lakeland.co.uk) before washing. 

Steamy mirror

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Your bathroom mirror will stop steaming up if you use shaving foam to clean it?

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GHI VERDICT Spray shaving foam on to a clean soft cloth and wipe it over the mirror until it\'s clean and streak-free. Next time you have a bath or shower, your mirror will stay unclouded, although the condensation may form a light, see-through film instead. Take extra care if your mirror has a wooden frame, though, as the shaving foam might leave marks. 

Scratched wood

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To disguise a scratch on dark wood furniture, rub it with a broken walnut?

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GHI VERDICT Worth a careful try. We did, indeed, manage to make scratch marks on dark wood disappear by rubbing the flesh of a walnut along them. It seems to be the oil in the nut that darkens the surface of the scratch, disguising it. It\'s cheap and easy and you can\'t do too much damage, as long as the wood is dark - otherwise the darkened scratch might stand out more than before. 

Smoke smells

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To rid a room of cigarette smoke smells, leave out a bowl of vinegar or bicarbonate of soda overnight?

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GHI VERDICT It works! We filled a small dish with 2tbsp malt vinegar and left it overnight in a smoky room with the door closed. The smoke smell was gone by morning, replaced by a faint smell of vinegar. Dry bicarbonate of soda, 2tbsp again, was slightly less effective at absorbing the smoke, but the room still smelled fresher the next day.

Red wine stains

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To help remove red wine stains, spray the stain with hairspray.

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GHI VERDICT Our tests show it does work on some fabrics if you act fast. Spray the stain liberally, leave for five minutes and machine wash in biological washing powder. The stain came out completely from polycotton and left a faint mark on cotton. It wasn\'t very effective on one-day-old wine stains. It didn\'t work on wool - and don\'t try it on silk, as it may damage it. Pouring on salt or white wine? Neither works. In fact, salt sets the stain. Soda or sparkling mineral water is a good bet as the bubbles force the stain out of the fabric. It\'s also safe to use on carpet. Wine Away, £8.99 from Lakeland (015394 88100; lakeland.co.uk) has been successful in GHI tests.

Greasy stains

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To remove oil or greasy stains from clothes, rub white chalk or talcum powder into the stain before washing?

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GHI VERDICT Powder power. We didn\'t have much luck with chalk, ending up with a greasy stick of chalk and a stain that was virtually unaffected. Talcum powder used on its own doesn\'t remove grease stains either, although it does absorb some grease if you sprinkle it on and leave for five minutes before brushing it off with a soft brush. Then, for cottons and polycottons, rub the area with washing-up liquid and machine wash in biological washing powder. For wool and silk, follow by treating with Dr Beckmann Stain Devils Cooking Oil and Fat (0845 017 8000, drbeckmann.co.uk) and machine wash using a detergent for delicates. 

Static skirts

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Fabric conditioner rubbed into tights stops static cling on skirts?

 

GHI VERDICT It works! There are anti-static sprays you can buy to do the same job, but this method works equally well. Pour a little fabric conditioner on to your hands and rub it on your tights - while you\'re wearing them. It\'s a little bit messy, but worth it to stop your skirts sticking and riding up. 

Ball point pen

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You can remove a ballpoint pen stain by rubbing with lemon juice and salt, by spraying the mark with hairspray or by pouring milk on it?

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GHI VERDICT Hairspray works best. We drew on a white cotton shirt with ballpoint pen - like being back at school! - and tried out each method. Rubbing the mark with lemon juice and salt before washing in biological washing powder faded the stain significantly, but didn\'t remove it. Milk only faded it slightly, even after a biological wash. Our spritz of hair spray seemed to dissolve the ink and we used cotton buds to pick up any ink that bled out, then washed the shirt in biological washing powder. In previous GHI tests, Dr Beckmann Stain Devils for Ballpoint Ink and Felt Tip (0845 017 8000, drbeckmann.co.uk) was the most effective product.

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