Old wives' tales put to the test

Alice Shaw-Beckett, from cleaning company Cleanipedia, dissects 13 old wives’ tales related to cleaning and pest control to discover whether they’re true.

Eating garlic will prevent you from being bitten by a mosquito
Verdict: False

Ms Shaw-Beckett says: “Many believe that the strong odour of garlic puts mosquitos off biting you, but studies have shown that your diet has nothing to do with your chances of being bitten. What makes someone more susceptible to mosquito bites seems to be genetic and down to factors such as blood type. Smoke is proven to keep mosquitoes at bay, so a campfire is a far better option than eating copious amounts of garlic.”

Bitter cucumber peel help to prevent ants invading your home
Verdict: False

“Unfortunately most natural home remedies have little to no effect on preventing and repelling ants from invading your home, including cucumber peel,” Ms Shaw-Beckett reveals. “Instead, don’t encourage their behaviour by leaving spills and leftover food sitting around for too long, and make sure food is kept in sealed containers or in the fridge. Ants are usually a summer problem, but they may escape the cold by forming their colonies inside your home in between bricks and in woodpiles. Seal up any cracks and gaps in your walls to prevent an ant infestation beginning as the weather cools.”  

Cheese attracts mice to traps
Verdict: True 

Turns out this is more than a cliché. “What lures mice and rats into your home (other than needing a warm place to have their babies) is usually food,” says Ms Shaw-Beckett. “Cheese is therefore a great item to use as bait in a trap, but peanut butter and sweets are also good alternatives if you don’t want to waste the fancy Comte on mice.”

Peppermint will repel rats
Verdict: True

Says Ms Shaw-Beckett: “If you want to get rid of a mouse using a natural and gentle alternative to poison or traps, sprinkle a few drops of peppermint oil in the areas of your home that mice visit most often or in any potential entry ways. It won’t kill them, but it will deter them from visiting a particular spot.”

Feather dusters remove dust
Verdict: True and false

Alice Shaw-Beckett says: “All a normal feather duster does is move the dust around and doesn’t absorb it. A much better alternative is a reusable damp cloth or microfibre duster. However, ostrich feather dusters are considered good for getting rid of dust. The electric charge of the ostrich feathers traps the dust, ensuring it doesn’t disperse back into the room.”

Hairspray is the ideal product for removing ink stains
Verdict: True and false

“This used to be the case back in the day when hairspray contained alcohol,” Ms Shaw-Beckett explains. “But since modern hairsprays don’t any more, using them on surfaces will have a negative effect; it can lead to additional staining and sticky marks that are hard to get rid of. However, aerosol hairsprays that contain alcohol might still be effective, but your best bet is using pure alcohol or alcoholic antibacterial hand wash to remove the ink stains instead.”

Coca-Cola can clean your toilet
Verdict: True

This is one of those tales you’ve heard ever since you were a kid and it is actually true. Ms Shaw-Beckett explains why: “The high levels of acid in coke will help break down the gunk and discolouring in your toilet. That being said, there are other solutions that are quicker and more efficient – the coke would have to sit in the bowl for at least a couple of hours (preferably overnight) and you would still have to scrub it. So you might as well just invest in a good disinfectant spray, some liquid toilet cleaner and bleach.”

Bleach cleans everything
Verdict: False

Ms Shaw-Beckett elaborates: “Bleach is a very effective and powerful disinfectant, from helping to clean surfaces and whiten your clothes, to removing mould and preventing the spread of bacteria – but it should not be your go-to for everything. For instance, it will not work as well to remove grease-laden surfaces such as those you find in your kitchen and would have to be mixed with other cleaning ingredients to produce the desired results.”  

Newspapers give windows a streak-free shine
Verdict: False

“This is an old trick that used to be true back in the day when newspapers were made out of much thicker material than it is today,” Ms Shaw-Beckett says. “The modern newspaper is too flimsy and is likely to disintegrate a lot quicker, potentially leaving more of a mess on your hands and windowsill, meaning more effort for you. Plus, the ink used today is different and can leave residue on the window. Using a good microfibre cloth will do the job just as well, if not better.”

Vinegar works on everything
Verdict: False

Ms Shaw-Beckett reveals that the acidic nature of vinegar makes it a great go-to for removing grease, limescale and water marks on steel fixtures and appliances – it’s even great for cleaning windows. “It’s especially efficient in combination with lemon. But as with bleach, it won’t have the same desired effect on other surfaces such as granite or wood, which can be damaged by the acidity.”

Air freshener helps clean the air
Verdict: False

“All an air freshener does is cover up bad odour in a room by perfuming it, not cleaning it,” Ms Shaw-Beckett says. “The best way to clean the air in a room is with an electrical air purifier or, if you want to go down the more natural route, an air purifying plant. Simply opening the windows and letting fresh air in will also do wonders and so will vacuuming regularly and keeping your home smoke-free.”

You should wash your clothes in cold water
Verdict: False

“Temperature instruction on the wash tag of clothing and laundry is there for a reason and should be followed,” Ms Shaw-Beckett explains. “Although using cold water is great for energy saving and can be beneficial to some types of fabrics, there are certain types of dirt that can only be cleaned with the help of warm water. Make sure you use warm water for the likes of towels, bed sheets and cotton underwear. Moreover, hot water is the best option for removing stains.”

For more cleaning tips, go to cleanipedia.com

Do you have any household cleaning tips? Or suggested methods you know don’t work? Do you agree with the verdicts above?

Read more: Most destructive autumn pests

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Written by Will Brodie



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