Coffee stains

Dear Mrs Danvers, My long, low ‘coffee table’ has a top of rattan or wickerwork. It has collected quite a bit of grease and bits of grub/crumbs in the interstices over the years. Wiping with a damp cloth is not successful. Is it safe to use a nail brush and some soapy water to clean it? Or will that weaken/damage the wicker surface? Hope you can help.

I think first you want to attack the surface with a nozzle of a strong vacuum cleaner to remove the grub/crumbs, which do sound rather disgusting. When you’ve removed everything that will come out by suction, sit back and consider. Is the table still unpleasantly greasy? Is it, in fact, so nasty that you’d throw it out if it can’t be cleaned? Then you have nothing to lose by trying a bit of soap and water.

You don’t say whether the surface is rattan or wicker. Rattan is generally quite tough and should survive. Wicker shouldn’t be treated so fiercely and certainly not soused in water. I recommend you find a gentle detergent to attack the grease and try cleaning a small area with an old toothbrush. Don’t overdo the detergent as foam is not what you need. Leave this until it is dry. If all is well, then attack the whole top with a soft scrubbing brush. Good luck.

Hay bales

Dear Mrs Danvers, My friends are throwing a party in their garden with a Country and Western theme. To add authenticity, they have arranged to have bales of hay for sitting on, etc. Their problem is what to do with the bales after-wards. I have suggested a donkey sanctuary or some suitable charity.

A donkey sanctuary (or a horse one) sounds a fine idea. Your friends should ask the local tourist information centre (a very good source of help) if there are any animal sanctuaries nearby who would come to collect the hay. It might be worth asking the supplier of the bales if they can be recycled (and the cost of hiring them reduced). However, if I were you, I’d use straw it’s lighter to lug around and much cheaper.

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