10 Products With Hidden Powers

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- You were taught to use a product only as directed, but we'll let you in on a little secret: Sometimes labels don't tell the whole story. Believe it or not, many common items have "hidden" powers in addition to what they're traditionally used for -- from curing warts to shining up your favorite jewelry.

Besides saving you an extra trip to the store, these products can save you money in the long run. After all, why pay more when an item can do two jobs for the price of one?
Grab a pencil eraser, cut it in half, and voila! Two perfectly good earring backs. But pencil erasers are only the start of the products that can be repurposed in surprising ways.

Here are 10 products with some pretty impressive powers you probably haven't heard about.

Duct tape
Discovering a nasty wart on your skin is no fun, but you don't have to travel to the doctor's office to get rid of it. In fact, you can cure it with the same stuff you use to repair broken objects or attach posters to the wall.

Three dermatologists we talked to confirmed that duct tape is an effective method for curing warts -- but don't worry, it's not used to rip them violently off your skin. Instead, just place a piece of tape over your wart and follow a simple routine, says Dr. Barbara Reed, a dermatologist with the Denver Skin Clinic in Denver, Colo., and clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado Hospital.

According to Reed, you should leave the tape on for six days, then remove it for about 12 hours. During the time the tape is off, soak the wart and gently scrub it with a pumice stone, emery board or metal file. After 12 hours, re-apply duct tape and repeat the entire process until the wart goes away.

"For some reason the duct tape just irritates the heck out of it and the wart doesn't like that and your immune system gets fired up, so it really does work," explains Dr. Jeff Benabio, a dermatologist for Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. Depending on the size and location of the wart, it typically takes anywhere from two to six weeks for it to disappear, Benabio adds.

Getting globs of toothpaste on your personal items is probably something you try to avoid at all costs, so what we're about to tell you might seem a little strange: Toothpaste can actually be used to clean your jewelry.

"Just rub it in and rinse clean," says Erin Huffstetler, the frugal living guide for About.com. Huffstetler explains that toothpaste is "perfect for gently scrubbing away stains and grime" because it contains baking soda and other mild abrasives.

Feeling a bit skeptical, we tested this method for ourselves using a tube of Colgate to shine up a silver Tiffany bracelet. Lo and behold it actually worked. The proof was in the pudding: Not only was the bracelet more shiny, but we could see the tarnish rub off on the paper towel we used to rub the toothpaste in. While some may argue the method isn't as effective as buying a professional jewelry cleaner, it's not a bad choice if you're short on cash and want to make a piece of jewelry sparkle for a big date or special outing.

Huffstetler warns, though, that toothpaste should not be used on jewelry with pearls.

Alka-Seltzer may be marketed as a way to relieve heartburn and acid indigestion, but tablets that contain aspirin can also help soothe insect bites.

"The aspirin helps to exfoliate the little spot where the insect bite is for you, so if there's anything trapped it allows it to be released," Benabio says. "The aspirin itself is also anti-inflammatory so it can reduce the inflammation."

To use, dissolve Alka-Seltzer in water and apply as a cool compress for 30 minutes, Reed says.

Baby oil
Makeup remover can be pricey, but there's a cheap alternative to help you wash off your cosmetics at night: baby oil.

"It works great as a gentle eye makeup remover, but some people with oily skin or acne-prone skin should avoid it, as it can lead to breakouts," says Dr. Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, a dermatologist and clinical instructor at the University of California, San Francisco, with a private practice in Danville, Calif.

If baby oil irritates your skin, another option is grape-seed oil, says esthetician Melissa Picoli, founder of BijaBody, a wholesale retailer of holistic body products and tea blends in Missoula, Mont. "It isn't too greasy and will not cause breakouts," she says. "It also contains nourishing vitamin E, so it's like an eye cream and makeup remover in one."

Ever wonder what to do about spots on your skin? Trying applying lemon juice to those areas.

"I recommend lemon on elbows and hands to even skin tone and lighten dark spots," Badreshia-Bansal says. "The natural vitamin C acts as an exfoliant and helps reduce the look of dark spots and sun spots and even out skin tone."

If you suffer from eczema, you can find a great remedy in your kitchen pantry: oatmeal. But instead of eating the oats, the trick is to add them to a bathtub.

"Oatmeal is one of the natural remedies that acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and soothes the itching caused by eczema," Badreshia-Bansal says.

According to Reed, add 2 to 4 cups of rolled oats ground up fine to a bath and soak for 15 minutes. Next, rinse your body thoroughly, since any leftover oatmeal on the skin might irritate as it dries. Moisturize after you leave the tub.

Dryer sheets
Need a simple cure for stinky shoes? Simply stick a dryer sheet inside them to keep them fresh.

"Dryer sheets have a strong fragrance that lasts beyond just one dryer use, and they are also very durable in that they don't easily tear apart or get worn down," says Andrew Schrage, founder of personal finance site Money Crashers. "They're expensive if you just use them for a single dryer use, but they become much more affordable and valuable when you start to use them in all facets of life."

You can also use dryer sheets as an air freshener for your car, Schrage suggests.

Aloe vera
If you're prone to canker sores -- which are often triggered by trauma such as biting your cheek or jabbing your gum with your toothbrush -- you've probably noticed that many over-the-counter medications simply dull the pain rather than cure the sores.

Luckily, aloe vera can be used to not only reduce pain but also accelerate healing, says Dr. Eric Z. Shapira, spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry and founder of Aging Mentor Services in Montara, Calif.

It also has other advantages.

"Because aloe vera does not have a bad taste or sting when applied, it is a great, natural way to treat canker sores," Shapira says.

You can buy aloe vera juice (which is also purported to help with digestion and overall health) at certain supermarkets, drugstores and grocery stores.

"Just apply a few drops over the wound several times a day and it should be effective over a week's time," the doctor says.

Discolored nails are unsightly and embarrassing, but vinegar may be able to help.

"Soaking in vinegar is one of those old-fashioned treatments that work because most bacteria and fungi don't really like acidic environments, so it kind of discourages anything from growing," Benabio says.

If you have toenail fungus, the Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies suggests soaking your feet for 15 to 20 minutes in a mixture of one part vinegar and two parts warm water. If your skin becomes irritated, you can try increasing the proportion of water in the mixture or try soaking your feet just two or three times a week.

Pencil erasers
One of the most frustrating parts about wearing earrings is dealing with earring backs, which can get lost easily or simply fall out of your ears, the latter of which runs the risk of you losing your earrings altogether.

A simple solution: Grab a pencil eraser, cut it in half, and voila! You've created two perfectly good earring backs, Picoli says.

We tested whether this really works, just to be sure, and it was actually quite effective. It might not be the most glamorous solution, but it's a good choice if you're in a bind.

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