Top tip for wooden floor

We have just have sanded and varnished our wooden floors and they look beautiful. How can I keep them in this pristine, shining condition? I have always used commercial products for wooden and laminated floors, to wash the floors, but now I'm looking for a more cost effective method. – Fleur, Port Elizabeth.

Varnished floors should not require any special cleaning, and especially not washing. All you need do is keep them clean by sweeping, and or give them a rub with a damp rag or mop when they get a little grubby.

Cold tea, according to one of my old books, gives a lovely shine to varnished floors. Interestingly, this advice is also given in a more modern How to Clean Everything book I acquired recently. It says the tea not only gives the floor a lively lustre but will remove most marks and stains (which really should not be there on a varnished floor!).

Do you have a method for cleaning old ivory bracelets/ brooches? Ours have gone a dull beige over the years. Have you ever heard of walking sticks with handles made of ivory? We have one that has been passed down and wondered if it was actually ivory. Perhaps you know of someone qualified to identify it. – LG, Port Elizabeth.

To clean and polish ivory, rub gently in the direction of the grain with a fine abrasive paste. This can be made with French chalk (from a haberdashery shop) and lemon juice.

Apply the paste with a damp cloth, and leave to dry. Then gently brush the powder off and polish with a dry cloth.

It's quite possible that the walking stick has an ivory handle.

We have one with a handle that looks like a warthog tusk. The best place to seek an expert opinion would be at an antique dealer, such as the Old Curiosity Shop in Lawrence Street.

I work at a charity shop and we received a donation of clothing that is in very good condition but had been stored for many years. Most of the clothing is stained with little brown spots, and smells mouldy. I have just soaked one of the garments in washing powder. This has worked before on stains but I'm not sure it is going to do the trick this time. I would be so grateful if I could get the stains out. – WB, Port Elizabeth.

My first step would be to hang out all the clothes on a nice dry, windy day, to give them a thorough airing. Then divide them up into washable and non- washable items, which would have to be dry-cleaned.

It's possible that the brown stains you mention are rust marks acquired during the storage. My usual treatment for rust stains on strong white fabrics is to pour boiling water through the stain and then cover the marks with a paste made of cream of tartar and lemon juice.

Rinse thoroughly in water containing a little ammonia and then launder as usual.

For coloured fabrics, you can try rubbing with a cut lemon dipped in salt. Leave for an hour and then rinse. Repeat if necessary.

I need the measurements and ingredients for the homemade drain cleaner you have recommended in your column. It had bicarbonate of soda and vinegar in it. – SA, Jeffreys Bay.

All you have to do is pour half a cup of white spirit vinegar down the plug-hole, immediately followed by a heaped teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, which bubbles and foams up.

Put in the plug and leave for five to 10 minutes. (In the case of a shower, place a small bowl over the outlet to act as a seal.)

Then flush with a kettle full of boiling water