Warning! Cleaning could be bad for your health

If at first you don’t succeed, try it another way. Right? Not when it comes to household cleaners.

Imagine this: You’re using a common toilet bowl cleaner but just can’t remove a stubborn stain. So you switch to another product, and then another.


Mixing chemicals is dangerous. Combinations of bleach, ammonia, vinegar, or hydrochloric acid can create toxic gases or dangerous acids. You can cause permanent lung damage, chemical burns, or even death.

Read about a Philadelphia area man who died after mixing bleach and ammonia to unclog a toilet, or the British pub worker who nearly gassed himself after pouring two different cleaners down a urinal.

What’s in your cleaner?
  • Ammonia is a common ingredient in multipurpose cleaners, glass sprays, and floor cleaners. Manufacturers (and consumers) like it because it’s an effective chemical for cutting through soap scum, grease, and wax buildup.
  • Bleach is contained in many other products to take advantage of its disinfectant, brightening, and mold-killing benefits. Bleach is commonly found in cleaning sprays, toilet bowl cleaners, and scouring pastes.
  • Hydrochloric acid, found in some toilet bowl cleaners, lime and calcium removing products, and air fresheners, goes by multiple names including muratic acid and hydrogen chloride. So even if you think two products could be used in tandem, you might be mistaken!

One and done
Check the ingredient lists on your cleaning products to ensure you’re not accidentally using these products together.

Better yet, just stick to one at a time. Wipe down an area with clean water, open windows, and make sure drains are running freely before switching to a different cleanser.

What's an endorsement? Confusing insurance terms explained

Endorsements. No, we’re not talking about a superstar endorsing a soft drink, a popular athlete displaying a sporting goods logo on their hat or jersey, or a celebrity behind the wheel of a luxury vehicle. In the insurance industry, an endorsement has a much less glamorous image, yet it serves a very important function.

When you purchase insurance for your home and auto, farm, or business, you will typically receive a base policy that covers common risks like a fender bender, an employee's work injury, or property damage. Enhancements, restrictions, or changes that are made to the original policy document are considered endorsements, and are considered legal and binding.

Some common types of insurance endorsements include:

Added coverage
Say your business is growing and you need to add a vehicle to your commercial fleet. Rather than write up an entirely new policy for a single vehicle, your agent would provide an endorsement to your existing policy to include the additional vehicle. Sometimes coverage is added at no cost as an enhancement to your existing policy, like roadside assistance.

As the name suggests, an exclusion lists items that may be excluded from your coverage. As an example, some insurers will exclude dog bite coverage for homeowners who own a high-risk breed, or limit claims involving asbestos or lead paint for a business owner.

Modification of coverage 
Some endorsements expand an existing policy to increase a liability limit or property value. For example, a homeowner may need to increase their property coverage limit from $100,000 to $250,000 because of a building addition, renovation, or increased property value. 

Administrative changes
Perhaps you have a new mailing address — an endorsement is needed to make sure your policy information is up to date.

Not all endorsements are created equal. Talk with your independent agent if you have questions about your policy and any endorsements you may have or need. Make sure you’re properly covered for when the unforeseen happens.

Tasty for you, toxic for dogs — Foods not to feed your pet

Who can resist those eyes? If you’re a dog owner, you’ve seen the look. Your beloved pet stares down your plate full of food, hoping, wishing, and almost willing you through some canine mind meld to offer a small morsel.

It’s not uncommon to share a few table scraps here and there with your dog or to offer a special treat while preparing a meal. And of course, dogs have been known to help themselves to the occasional snack when their owners are unaware. But do you know about certain foods your dog shouldn’t eat?
What may be considered safe for human consumption is not necessarily safe for your canine friend. Allergic reactions often appear differently in animals than in humans. According to Carmela Stamper, D.V.M., a veterinarian at the U.S. FDA, “Allergies in animals tend to manifest themselves more in skin or ear issues.”

Here’s a quick guide to foods you should avoid feeding your dog:
  • Raw meat
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Currants
  • Fried/fatty foods
  • Moldy foods
  • Onions/garlic/chives
  • Avocado
  • Salty snacks
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Xylitol (a sugar substitute found in candy and some peanut butter)
The list goes on. For a more exhaustive overview of foods that are toxic to dogs, check out the Canine Journal website.

And if your pet does get into food it shouldn't, call your veterinarian's emergency phone number to get their professional advice or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Top 5 ways to help your child stay organized for school

What parent hasn’t gotten a call from a teacher asking for the signed release form for the field trip… only to find it stuffed in the child’s backpack next to the forgotten homework assignment?

When the lazy days of summer come to a close and kids head back to school, they sometimes can have a difficult time adjusting to different schedules, structured classroom settings, and the demands of student life. Help yourself and your child stay organized with these five tips:

1. Develop a before-school routine
Need to remember that Alison has piano lessons on Tuesdays and Josh has soccer practice on Wednesdays? Have a calendar that you can quickly reference each morning before heading out the door. List each day’s activities so you can make sure your children don’t show up for music lessons without their song books, or at sports practice without their gear.

2. Develop an after-school routine
Provide a convenient space in your home as a drop-off area for school papers that need your review or signature. Make it a clutter-free zone so materials don’t get lost or misplaced. Help your child form the habit of emptying their backpack as the first thing they do when they arrive home — yes, even before grabbing a snack from the refrigerator.

3. Create checklists and reminders
There is no one system that works for every child. Help your son or daughter discover what works best for them and let them help determine the system. If your child is more artistic, they may prefer a notebook where they can draw, doodle, or use different colored pencils, highlighters, or stickers to keep track of homework assignments and deadlines. If your child prefers technical gadgets, they may opt to keep notes or schedule reminders on a smartphone or tablet. You also may want to check out special apps to download onto their mobile device.

4. Encourage immediate action
If your child needs to remember something at the end of the day, encourage them to text the task to you as a reminder as soon as they can. Need to sign a paper? A simple “Dad, need you to sign something tonight” may be all that’s needed.

5. Provide fuel for thought
Students need fuel to start the day and help them stay focused, energized, and alert. But not just any food will do. Choose high-protein breakfast foods including eggs, omelets, Greek yogurt, and meat to sustain them until lunch time. Try to avoid starchy foods. Research suggests that typical breakfast staples like toast, hash browns, cereal, and pastries are loaded with refined carbohydrates and sugars that can create blood sugar (glycemic) spikes, reduce energy, increase cravings, and cloud thinking. Even supposed “healthy” snacks like granola, trail mix, or protein bars often have substantial amounts of added sugar. Instead, opt for fruit, string cheese, or almonds to satisfy cravings.

By following these tips, you’ll help take some of the stress out of back-to-school for both you and your child.