The Insider: How to freshen up your second-hand buys


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Like your homewares pre-loved – but wary of whiffy flea-market and charity-shop buys? Don't be: take tips from the pros and do a Cinderella on scabby, shabby or stinky second-hand finds...

Now that's magic

Pip Harris's shop,, specialises in second-hand glass and pottery. For hard-to-reach dirt in, say, the bottom of a thin-necked glass vase, she uses Magic Balls (try Lakeland). "Just pop a few into the vase with a drop of water and swirl round."

Inner peace

For fabric, detach and wash what you can. "But with cushions it's usually the inners carrying the smell," says Becky Nolan of vintage furniture shop "New inners are really cheap." If you can't replace them, "vacuum upholstered furniture, then lightly spritz with one part lemon juice to nine parts soda".

Buzz along

"For musty wooden furniture," Nolan adds, "nothing beats the smell of beeswax."

Take the weathering with you

"Fine wire wool and wax is great for bringing weathered metal furniture and cast iron back to life."

Dilute to taste

Heather Linnitt, who sells vintage fabric cushions at, says, "For stains on delicate material I don't want to launder, I dab on diluted biological washing liquid. For all-over soiling, put a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda into a pint of water in a spray bottle. Apply and leave it to dry. Then vacuum it."

Up in smoke

Remove cigarette smells from upholstered furniture and wooden drawers or cupboards by using undiluted white vinegar in a spray bottle. "It destroys rather than masks," Linnitt explains. "Yes, vinegar stinks, too, but it dissipates within hours, taking the smoke smell with it."

Find Kate's blog on affordable interiors at