5c pieces in shiny plastic bag might keep pesky flies away

At your Service, with Gwen Bisseker

HOW does one manage to retain instant coffee as powder in this part of the world? No matter how well I tighten the screw cap of a jar or seal the tin lid, a few months after opening, the contents turn into a solid, unyielding brown lump. – ESK, Cannon Rocks.

You seem to make every effort to keep your coffee well sealed, so it may be superfluous advice to say, "find a really airtight container". Perhaps a significant part of your query is the phrase, "a few months after opening". My coffee does not last nearly that long. I think the answer is to buy your coffee in smaller amounts. This will also ensure that it retains its quality. And, of course, never use a damp spoon in dispensing it.

I read your item about the fly problems. Have you heard about the plastic bag filled with water and a few 5c pieces, hung at the window? I have done just that, and have had no flies in my kitchen since before Christmas. Just make sure you use a "shiny" plastic bag. This is important as you need the water and the plastic bag to reflect the light. – MG, Port Elizabeth.

Thanks for a most unusual tip. I take it that you mean a clear plastic bag, not opaque or colour-printed bags, like those from the supermarkets.

Could you advise me on how to clean outdoor Aly Bear plastic chairs? I have tried many solutions and found that the one that cleans best is "thinners", but I'm afraid it might damage the plastic. Also, is there a spray that will restore the shine? – JM, Port Elizabeth.

I don't think thinners is a good idea, as it is a solvent that could certainly dull the surface. The answer could be the suggestion of a reader some time ago. He recommended one of the car vinyl UV protectors used to protect car dashboards and exterior plastic, and wrote: "I am using Shield Shine-all. It will require a few applications to get the chairs looking better, and then a regular treatment."

Some cream curtains left in a damp washing basket have now got mildew marks on them. I have tried lemon juice and Sunlight soap. This has lightened the marks but not removed them. – JS, Bedford.

The traditional treatment was to moisten the fabric with lemon juice and dry in the sun. This was done after an overnight soak in sour milk, allowing the material to dry without rinsing. This could be repeated if necessary.

Nowadays we merely reach for the bleach, which is the accepted and most effective eliminator of mildew. But bleach must be used carefully. Too much can damage and weaken the fibre. Correct proportions are given on the Jik containers, and should be strictly adhered to.

I know you've given advice on dealing with superglue before, but unfortunately I did not keep a cutting and now I need help. I had an accident with superglue and spilt some on a fabric-covered chair, as well as my clothing. I've tried acetone (after a colour test) but it did not appear to make any difference. – Chux, Queenstown.

Acetone was the correct thing to use, and at this stage it may not be possible to remove the marks. There's a chance that sponging the chair and soaking the garments may help. Superglue is not 100% waterproof, and vulnerable to the moisture that activates it. This is why the best way to loosen fingers stuck together is to hold a damp cloth over the spot until they become unstuck.

At this late stage, persistence seems to be the only course to follow. Unfortunately, your chances don't seem good.

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