Weapon against stains has worked across generations

At Your Service, with Gwen Bisseker

DOUBLE STRIKE: Benzine is a solution for seat-cover stains and rubber snakes can scare off pigeons – if only for a limited period of time
DOUBLE STRIKE: Benzine is a solution for seat-cover stains and rubber snakes can scare off pigeons – if only for a limited period of time

MY car seat covers are very dirty and I do hope you can suggest something I could use to clean them. I have tried upholstery foam and whatever, but they just do not take the stains out. – Helen, Port Elizabeth.

Now that you have already used upholstery cleaner unsuccessfully, the stains seem to be heavily entrenched and possibly grease-based. These stains are particularly difficult to remove.

There are, however, two things you could try. One is benzine, which reader “AS” recommended. She said the method had been passed on from her grandmother to her mom, “and then on to me”.

Soak a clean cloth in benzine and rub the stains thoroughly. Then put some commercial stain remover on the area and wash as usual. You could adapt this method for the seat covers by using the upholstery cleaner again after the benzine rub-down.

The other method is to use Sunlight soap. Dampen the marks with cold water and rub in a generous amount of soap. The fabric should be quite wet, but not dripping. Leave it like that for a good few hours, or overnight. Then rinse the soap out and allow to dry.

After decades of learning tips from you (the most useful being the use of bicarbonate of soda to eradicate organic smells, such as cat urine) I can now offer you and your reader, “ESK” from Cannon Rocks, a solution to the coffee problem. Keep all powdered coffee, Milo, Cremora, hot chocolate etc in the fridge to prevent it forming a solid lump. – SA, Port Elizabeth.

Thank you for the tip, which is reinforced by messages from many other readers, some of whom have kept instant coffee in the fridge for as long as two years without problems. However, most of them mention months rather than years.

“AH” writes: “Not being a coffee drinker myself, I also had trouble keeping my instant coffee fresh. I complained to a friend who advised me to keep it in the fridge. Magic! I now always have fresh coffee for visitors even if it has been in the fridge for a few months.”

I have a number of old chairs with cane seats, some of which are beginning to sag in the middle. Is there a way to tighten them, without having to go to the expense of re-caning them? – YW, Grahamstown.

Hold a cloth firmly under the seat and thoroughly scrub it with a soft brush dipped in a strong salt and warm water solution (four teaspoons of salt to one litre of water). Ensure both sides get wet. Rinse well with cold, salty water. Leave to dry, preferably out of doors but not in direct sunlight. The cane should shrink back to its original shape.

I read the item in your column about keeping flies away with a clear plastic bag filled with water. On a recent visit to the penguin rescue sanctuary in Port Elizabeth, I noticed clear two-litre cold drink plastic bottles filled with water hanging from the overhead “rocks” in the pool area where the penguins are kept. I was curious, and was told they were used to keep flies away. The bottle labels had been removed and it was something about the flies seeing their reflections in the bottles that did the trick. There was not a fly in sight! I think a plastic bottle would be easier to hang up than a plastic bag. – VM, Port Elizabeth.

Without confirmation from the flies, the reason this method works is apparently because the images staring back at them are magnified to frightening proportions. It would be interesting to know if this deterrent is long-lasting, or if the flies get accustomed to the threat – like the pigeons with rubber snakes on window ledges.

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