How to Detail Your Car Like a Pro

A lot of dirt and grime builds up on your car over the Winter, both inside and out.  With the following 10 tips courtesy of Nationwide Insurance's blog, you can have your car looking as if you had a professional detailing done.

1. Detailing your car

Clean every nook and cranny in your car, including dashboard crevices, seat belts, floor mats, tires, windows and more.

2. Between the seats

Use canned air to clean places you can’t reach, such as the area between your seats and the center console.

3. Floor mats

To properly clean your floor mats, remove them from your car and soak them in water and laundry detergent. Then, take a stiff brush or broom and scrub. Rinse thoroughly and let dry before putting them back in your car.

4. Dashboard and door panels

To clean the dashboard and door panels, you can use a firm toothbrush to loosen dust and debris stuck in the crevices. Then use a vacuum and wipe down with a damp cloth.

5. Seats

Use a lint roller to collect accumulated debris on your car seats. Clean seats made of fabric upholstery thoroughly, as they tend to attract dirt, crumbs and stray hairs.

6. Seat belts

You can clean your seat belts by wiping them down with a cotton cloth dipped in a mix of warm water, dish detergent and vinegar.

7. Tires

Clean your tires with a non-acid based cleaner and a tire brush or soft paintbrush. Then wash it off with some water.

8. Headlights

Don’t forget to clean your headlights! Dirty lights won’t have the same level of brightness, and can make it more difficult to see at night. Take a cloth with a small amount of toothpaste, and rub headlights in a circular motion.

9. Trunk

Remove all trash and empty out your trunk. Then vacuum any dirt and debris. If there are any stains in your trunk, you can use a carpet cleaner to remove them.

10. Windows

The last step in a DIY car wash is to clean the windows and mirrors. Use a glass cleaner and microfiber cloth to wipe down the windows as well as the rear and side-view mirrors.

Once your car is clean as a whistle, finish the job with a beautiful shine. Check out our DIY guide to car waxing and have your car looking better than ever.

Chemical-Free Lawn Care

Did you know that the average family yard can have more chemicals acre for acre than the average farmland?  Lawn and garden chemical fertilizers and weed control products are the main culprit.  While it's convenient to have a lawn service treat your grass periodically throughout the season, over time what is the health affect on your family and pets who come in daily contact with those chemicals.

You can decrease the toxicity of your lawn by not using the nitrogen-rich, fast-releasing fertilizers.  In its place, use a mulching lawn mower so that your soil is fed by the clippings.  In addition, applying compost once or twice a year also helps keep your lawn's soil healthy, and a thick, healthy lawn will choke out weeds over time.  Raking the larger bare spots and applying grass seed is also helpful.  Seeds need to be kept moist by rains or daily watering until the grass seed sprouts and the roots are well-forming.  Spring and Fall are the best times for seeding as we get many good soaking rains which will cut down on hand watering.

There are organic lawn care products you can apply yourself that work well.  Some of the most common yard weeds in our area are crabgrass and dandelions.  Both of these weeds thrive in poor and compacted soil.  Aerating your lawn is helpful, as well as testing your soil's PH, and using lime or sulfur to adjust it.  In the case of dandelions, your soil most likely has a calcium imbalance.  Corn-gluten meal is a natural pre-emergent herbicide that is best applied in early Spring.

Dandelions have many herbal health benefits so you might want to dig them up rather than kill them.  When I was young, my grandma used the flowers to make wine, and the leaves were used in a wilted salad with bacon, onion and a vinegar dressing.  Dandelions are rich in Vitamin A, C, iron, and calcium.  It is a great detoxifier, and is often used for liver, kidney, and urinary tract and digestive issues, as well as skin ailments such as eczema, achne and ringworm.

 

 

20 Essential Spring Cleaning Tips

Spring arrives this week!  Now is a good time to  do some of that deep cleaning you've been putting off around the house.  Nationwide Insurance has compiled some of the best DIY spring cleaning tips to help you get started.

Spring cleaning tips

Remove water stains with lemon for a natural faucet fix

This spring, make faucets clean and sparkly by rubbing a lemon half on the water stains. The citric acid helps remove hard water marks. Then, use the other half of the lemon for our next tip.

Clean your microwave by heating lemon juice and rinds in water

Cut a lemon into halves, squeeze the juice into 1/2 cup of water and drop the rinds into the mixture. Microwave for three minutes and let it stand for five minutes without opening the door. The trapped steam will loosen the grime, so you can wipe the microwave clean with less elbow grease.

Use white vinegar to beat shower head buildup

Looking for more natural ways to clean your bathroom? Vinegar can dissolve the mineral deposits that accumulate in showerheads over time, causing reduced pressure and water flow. Fill a plastic bag with white vinegar, secure it over the showerhead with a rubber band and leave it overnight to get rid of buildup. Just be sure to run the shower before you hop in, or you risk smelling like vinegar all day.

Clean stainless steel sinks with baking soda

Simply wet your sink and faucet, sprinkle baking soda, and scrub with a sponge. If you need more heavy-duty scrubbing power, add salt to the baking soda.

Use newspaper to clean dirty windows and mirrors

Mix ¼ cup of white vinegar, 2 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of liquid soap into a spray bottle. Spray the mixture onto the glass and scrub with newspaper for a streak-free window or mirror. The ink acts as a mild abrasive and allows you to make use of old newspapers.

Organize your fridge and cabinets with rotating turntables

Don’t limit rotating turntables and Lazy Susans to your tabletops. After discarding old condiments and spices, organize your pantries and refrigerator with this useful storage hack.

Place a wet dryer sheet on your ceramic stovetop to remove burnt-on residue

Dryer sheets are non-abrasive and a great way to remove burnt-on food from your stove. Place the wet dryer sheet on your stovetop at least 15 minutes before rubbing the gunk away.

Clean your grill with an onion.

Get your grill cleaned up and ready for the warm weather. First, heat it up and spray some white vinegar onto the grates to help loosen the residue. Then, scrub the area firmly using half an onion. The acid from the onion will rid your grill of any leftover remnants.

Let coffee filters do more than put a spring in your step

Does your TV screen or computer monitor show fingerprints, smudges and dust? The fiber in coffee filters is gentle enough to rub them away, even on delicate TV screens. Just don’t press too hard!

Unpack and stack your spring/summer clothes vertically

Are your dresser drawers a mess? Instead of putting away folded clothes flat, stack them vertically for easy access.

Use cream of tartar to clean toasters and tea kettles

Combine 1 tsp of cream of tartar with just enough water to create a milky paste. Rub the solution onto your stainless steel appliances and wipe away to reveal their original shine.

Know your couch or rug before cleaning it.

Don’t ruin your upholstered furniture by using the wrong cleaner. Not all manufacturer labels state what type of solvent to use. Familiarize yourself with the cleaning codes below.

Upholstery Cleaning Labels:
W: Use water-based cleaning solutions.
S: Use dry-cleaning solvents. Do not saturate. Do not use water.
S-W: Use water-based cleaners or dry-cleaning solvents.
X: Use a vacuum or brush only.

Use a window squeegee to scrape pet hair from your carpet or rug

The rubber edge of the squeegee is a great tool for gripping and removing pet hair from your rug. Use a firm grip and make sure to clean up the excess hair as you go. Finish by running the vacuum to catch any hair still on the surface.

Avoid scratching floors by placing clean towels under furniture while rearranging

Looking to freshen up your home by rearranging furniture? Slide heavy pieces like couches and tables easily and without damage by placing folded, clean towels under each end of the furniture.

Use Velcro strips to keep drawer organizers in place

Attach the grippy strips to one end of your drawer and the other to your drawer organizers. This keeps the organizers in place, but lets you remove them when needed.

Put the spring back in your dirty keyboards with cotton swabs

If certain keys or sticking, or your entire keyboard just doesn’t have the same pop that it used to, chances are dirt and crumbs are the culprits. Sweep cotton swabs between your keys to dislodge dust and grime. And for a real deep clean, use compressed air to blast away any leftover dust, and follow it up with one more sweep through your keys, this time using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to kill germs.

Use a dustpan to help fill a large mop bucket

Not all mop buckets fit in bathtubs or sinks. If your bucket is too large, try using a dustpan as a spout by placing it flat on your sink to transfer water to the bucket. This handy hack is also helpful for other large containers you want to fill.

Use a butter knife to clean air vents

Don’t let that dust build up for another minute; use a butter knife to reach those tough to get places between and behind your vents. Simply wrap the knife in a rag and wipe between the slats. Then, open the windows and run your central air to fill your home with fresh spring air (just be sure your heat or AC isn’t on while you’re running the fan).

Wrap a towel over a broom to clean hard-to-reach places

Cobwebs and dust can collect in room corners and on ceiling fans. Wipe them away by securing a towel over the bristle end of a broom with a large rubber band. The dust and cobwebs stick to the cloth.

Recycle old socks to use as dusting mitts

Cotton is a great fabric for trapping dust particles. Try using a (clean) pair of socks as dust mitts and you’ll have more control over where dust goes.

Whether you’re doing your annual spring clean-up or a weekly deep clean, check out this list of 10 things you never clean in your home (but should).

Installing a Battery Back-up Sump Pump

Spring is just around the corner, and in Northwest Ohio that means the possibility of strong storms, heavy rains, and sometimes the loss of power.

If your worst nightmare is watching the water rise in your basement because the power has gone out and the sump pump is silent, you can ease your fears by installing a battery-operated back-up sump pump.  A back-up pump is a small, easy-to-install submersible unit that is powered by a heavy-duty battery.  It is kept charged and ready to go when the electricity is on so it can supply power to the back-up pump when the power fails.  This pump will help assure that your basement or crawl space remains dry and undamaged.

You can do it yourself for around $250 to $500 in about 2 to 4 hours if you have plastic pipes.  However if you have galvanized or copper plumbing, it's best to have a plumber install the unit. 

No matter who does the work, make sure that a check valve is installed between the new pump and the discharge line from the old pump to prevent back-flow.

The time to purchase Flood Insurance is before the Spring rains hit

Most homeowners policies do not cover floods.  The most serious mistake people can make is to think it won't happen to them because they don't live in a flood plain.  Almost everyone lives in either a low, moderate or high-risk flood plain.  Heavy rain or snow melt can create a flood on any type of property.  Depending on federal disaster relief to cover damages from a flood is also unwise.  Federal disasters are declared in fewer than half the cases of flooding.  The Federal Government mostly provides loans that have to be repaid with interest, whereas flood insurance covers most of the damage for a fixed price.

Anyone can buy flood insurance, even if the property has been flooded before, provided you live in a community that participates in the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program).  There's usually a 30-day waiting period before new and modified policies go into effect, which means you can't buy a policy and have it be in effect the next day.

Flood insurance will pay for flood repairs, removing mud and debris, and replacing personal belongings and business inventories.

Did you know?

  • Floods occur six times more frequently than fires.
  • Ninety percent of flood disasters do not receive federal disaster aid.
  • The average federal disaster payment is only $2,500 and the largest grant is just $12,500.
  • Between 25 and 30 percent of National Flood Insurance Program claims come from outside high-risk flood areas.

If you're interested in more information regarding flood insurance, please call our office.

What to do after a homeowners loss

(from theft, fire, wind damage, flood, etc)

1. Call our office (419-855-9089)  to report the loss and start the claim process.

2. Stay out of your home until it's safe to re-enter, then assess the damages.

  • Fire - don't enter your home until the fire department says its safe.
  • Theft - call the police to file a report.  Change all locks.  Call your credit card companies as soon as possible  to report any cards stolen.
  • Weather related - electric, gas and water utilities should be kept off until all have been inspected.
  • Flood - make sure your home is structurally sound before re-entering.

3. Take pictures of any damage.  Make a list of all damaged or stolen personal property. 

4. Take steps to prevent further damage to your property.  For example, cover a damaged roof or board up broken windows and doors.

5. Keep receipts of everything you purchase to replace lost, damaged or stolen items.

(This list is also permanently listed on our website's "Claims" page for future reference)

What to do after an auto accident

1) Turn on your vehicle's hazard lights.

2) Contact 911 for Emergency Medical Service and Police.  Be prepared to give your detailed location such as highway mile marker or nearest intersection. 

3) Do not apologize even if you think it was your fault.  The police will determine who or what caused the accident.

4) For each driver involved, collect the following:

  • name, address, phone number
  • drivers license number
  • insurance carrier, policy number, and name of insured if different than driver

 5) For each vehicle involved, collect the following:

  • license plate number
  • vehicle description (year, make, model, color), or take pictures

6) If police don't respond to the accident (such as on private property or no injuries) file a police report to protect yourself.

7) Call our office (419-855-9089) or your insurance carrier's claim number listed on our "Claims " tab to report the accident.

(This list is also permanently listed on our website's "Claims" page for future reference)

How to Save on a Family Vacation

The following is Part 5 of our 5 part series on finances, courtesy of Nationwide Insurance's blog

Looking for a perfect family getaway at a budget-friendly price? You do have options beyond the staycation or the grandparents’ house for a getaway. With a little creativity and planning, you can cut vacation costs without missing out on any of the fun. Here’s some ideas for planning a family vacation on a budget.

1. Signup for online fare alerts

Begin planning your vacation with a long view and you can really develop an eye for good deals. Sign up for fare alerts at websites like Kayak, TravelZoo or DealBase to get a feel for your price range.

2. Look for discounted vacation packages

Look at family vacation packages being offered on discount sites like Groupon and Living Social, which can result in real savings if you have some flexibility in your schedule. Here are some more places you can look for an affordable vacation package.

3. Take advantage of off-peak pricing

Ever been to a mountain ski resort in the summertime? Or to a beach resort very early or very late in the season? Or take a cruise after cruising gets some very bad PR? Some vacation destinations can be even more charming, more relaxing and definitely less expensive during times when fewer fellow tourists are around.

4. Book mid-week flights

If you have some flexibility in your plans, see what a change in date will do to the bottom line. Even changing the day of the week you fly can cut costs—fly mid-week instead of on Friday or Saturday for better rates.

5. Double-check online travel sites

When you do use travel websites like those mentioned above, check their sources. Aggregator sites are great at helping you find general prices for flights, hotels and rental cars. But before you book a family vacation with one of these sites, check first with the airline, hotel or car rental company directly to make sure you are getting the lowest rate.

6. Cut back on little extras

Often, just trimming some extra expenses will lighten your vacation budget. Stay at a hotel with a substantial free breakfast to eliminate the cost of one meal per day. Or save even more money on meals by scouting hotels or resorts where kids eat or stay free, or booking a room with a kitchen and cooking a few of your own meals.

Fliers can sign up for a frequent flier program to get waived baggage fees. Drivers can cut gas costs by using Gas Buddy, an app that finds the cheapest gas near you. Wherever you travel, remember to exploit any potential discounts—including senior, student, military and, of course, AAA.

If you’re traveling internationally, make sure you check passport requirements so you have enough time to apply or renew without having to pay a fee to expedite the process.

7. Think outside the traditional hotel room

Adventurous families can find plenty of comfortable, low-cost travel alternatives that make for a more interesting vacation. Large families might consider renting a vacation home, which can accommodate big groups at a much lower cost, especially for long stays.

Check out HomeAway.com for a list of nearly a half-million rental lodgings all over the world. If you live in an interesting spot, look into HomeExchange.com, where homeowners in 154 countries list homes available for short-term exchange if they are interested in yours. If you’d prefer a room but don’t need a lot of frills, there are some surprisingly nice hostels to be found if you know where to look. Start at Hostelz.com, where travelers review thousands of spots.

And really nothing says family vacation like a campsite. If you love the outdoors, you can find some amazing campsites (including spots with beaches/water activities, fishing, golf, horseback riding and more) on ReserveAmerica.com.

8. Avoid checked bag fees

Most airlines charge fees for checked bags, and a whole family’s worth of luggage can add up. Try to pack light and efficiently to avoid fees and reduce the risk of something being lost or stolen.

Unexpected incidents can turn your vacation upside down. Travel insurance from Nationwide can help protect you and your loved ones and keep your trip on the right track.

Month-By-Month Guide for Big Purchases

The following is Part 4 in our 5 part series on finances, courtesy of Nationwide Insurance's blog

Save big by learning the best times to buy.

The best bargain shoppers know that timing is everything in deciding what to buy when. Different products follow different cycles of pricing, depending on everything from holidays to weather to annual trade shows. Check out our month-by-month suggestions for the best deals and steals.

January

Fitness equipment: Maybe they want to help you stick to your New Year’s Resolution, or maybe they just know an easy sales opportunity when they see it. Either way, retailers tend to cut prices on fitness equipment at the start of each new year. Wearables, like step and fitness trackers, see price drops at this time of year as well.

Winter apparel: Everyone asks for winter clothes for Christmas, and department stores know it. After the holiday passes, they’re left with quite a bit of merchandise that they need to move in order to make room for spring fashions. This is your time to snag that heavy parka you’ve had your eye on, or maybe some outdoor snow gear—it’s still going to be cold for a while.

Linens, bedding, and towels: Some historians claim the “white sales” that January is known for were started by merchant John Wanamaker. He wanted to drive business during the winter months, so he slashed prices on bed linens, which at the time, were only available in white.

Modern retailers continue this tradition, but with a more colorful spin. Look around stores and online for a variety of linens, towels, and more this January.

February

Tax software: The closer it gets to tax day, the more likely you are to find deals on tax processing software.

Mattresses: For some reason, Presidents Day weekend seems to be prime time for mattress sales. Sleep is important, so take time to pick a really good mattress. If you wait until February to buy it, your splurge can actually earn you some savings!

March

Boats: After the close of boating trade show season, prices will take a nosedive. And while boat insurance prices don’t dip in March, if you buy a boat, it is also a good idea to shop for coverage.

Luggage: Holiday traveling is over, but summer vacations are still a distant dream. This means interest in travel related goods is low, and retailers are lowering their prices on luggage to drive product interest and ride out the sales lull.

Electronics: The Japanese fiscal year ends in March, which means Japanese-made goods like electronics are on their way out of stores to make room for new models. These discounts might even be better than February’s Super Bowl TV sales.

April

Thrift items: It’s spring cleaning season. Clear out your house, hold a yard sale, and use the extra cash to purchase some select secondhand items.

Houses: If you’ve already begun your home buying research, April is a good time to start looking for the perfect place. Prices aren’t quite at the rock-bottom lows they reach during winter but they’re usually well below the summer listing prices, that tend to peak right as the school year ends. There are also more houses on the market than there were in the winter, so you’ll have more options to choose from.

Vacations: It’s not traditionally a vacation month, so it’s a great time to book a vacation. The weather is pleasant in many locations, and prices haven’t hit the peak season highs that usually come May. Cruises are especially affordable this month. Don’t forget to do your research on where to find the best travel deals, as member discounts and loyalty programs can go a long way.

May

Memorial Day Sales: Clothing, party supplies, cookware, swimwear and more are all available at discounted prices as Memorial Day sales stretch throughout the entire month.

Refrigerators: New refrigerator models are released this month, so department stores offer last year’s stock at reduced prices.

June

Tools and hardware: It might be cliché, but dads seem to like tools, and retailers seem to like offering Father’s Day sales with deeply discounted power tools, hardware, and more.

Gym memberships: Many people prefer to exercise outdoors once it gets warm – so gyms try to lure you back inside with promotional rates.

Dishes and housewares: As wedding season peaks, the prices on wedding registry gifts (like dishes and kitchen appliances) tend to dip.

July

Summer clothes: Next month marks the start of back-to-school season, and stores need to make room for the accompanying fall fashions. That makes July a great time to pick up summer essentials and still get a few months use out of them.

Outdoor furniture: Take advantage of mid-season discounts to upgrade your patio.

August

Laptops and computers: Back-to-school specials mean great deals on computers – whether or not you’re actually going to school.

Office supplies: Back-to-school sales don’t have to just apply to students. Pens, paper, notebooks, organizers and more are on sale this month, to the benefit of professionals and academics alike.

September

Airfare: Off-season offers make air travel especially affordable this time of year.

Lawnmowers: The grass-cutting season may be ending, but now’s the time to buy a new lawnmower for next summer.

Bicycles: As new bike models come out at the beginning of fall, you can take advantage of sales on existing stock and score yourself a set of new wheels.

October

Cars: Car dealers need to clean out their lots to make way for new inventory this month, so it can be easier to negotiate a good price. Don’t assume you’ll be getting the best price however. Here are 5 things you should know before buying a car to help you get the best deal, regardless of when you purchase.

Gardening tools: True to the principle of supply and demand, garden tools become less vital as the temperature drops, so prices drop right along with it.

November

Appliances: If you can handle the Black Friday crowds, this is the best time to snatch up a deal on high-end appliances.

Toys: The holiday season is here, and Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are a great time to get great deals on the latest and greatest toys.

Wedding dresses: Are you or someone you know getting married next year? Bridal shops are clearing their inventory to make space for next year’s gowns, so current stock will be discounted.

December

Gift cards: Prices on gift cards can fall to nearly 20% of their value this month, which means your money can stretch further.

Golf clubs: Few golfers are hitting the links this month, so sporting goods stores tend to price their clubs below retail value.

Champagne: New Year’s Eve toasting traditions mean Champagne distributors must compete for sales. Stock up now for a year of celebrations.

Part 5 "How to Save on a Family Vacation" coming next week

How to Effectively Negotiate Rent

The following is Part 3 of our 5 part series on home finances, courtesy of Nationwide Insurance's blog.

Whether you’re apartment hunting and the perfect place is slightly out of your price range, or your landlord is raising the rent on your current apartment, you have the option to try and negotiate your rent. It sounds intimidating, but with a little strategy, you just might win over the landlord. Here are some ways you can go about negotiating your rent price:

Ask the landlord if rent price is open to discussion

Politely ask if the landlord is willing to discuss rent prices and when a good time to talk would be. If you’re negotiating price for a new place, it’s important to know who you are talking to. A large property company is less likely to negotiate terms, while an independent landlord has more leeway to change prices.

If you’re facing a rent increase, start the conversation at least a month before your lease ends so your landlord has enough time to consider your offer or, if need be, you have time to make other plans.

Highlight your strengths as a tenant

If you’re looking for a new place, you can show you’re financially stable by offering the landlord a few concessions, such as paying a few months of rent in advance or signing on for a longer lease which saves the landlord money in turnover.

In the case of a rent increase, you should remind the landlord what a reliable, responsible tenant you’ve been. If you’ve always paid your rent on time, are courteous to other tenants and have kept the property in good shape, make sure your landlord knows it. It can help prove your worthiness and give them an incentive to keep your current rent.

Inquire about extending the lease

Showing that you plan to stay in your apartment for a substantial length of time can demonstrate that you’re a stable investment. If the lease is annual, offer to extend it to 18-24 months in exchange for keeping your current rent. If the landlord knows he or she won’t have to take a risk with a new tenant, this could be a good compromise.

Offer to end the lease in the summer

Landlords know the summer is usually an easier time to find tenants. Since most people have more flexible schedules then, such as recently graduated college students looking for first apartments, there are simply more people looking for rental spaces. Offering to end your lease in the summer can be an attractive option for a landlord, and they might be willing to shave prices in exchange for the convenient end date.

Research the property’s value

Consider if the is rent beyond the actual worth of the prevailing market. Research rent rates by talking to other landlords or neighbors in the area. Knowing average property prices and frequency of rent hikes in the neighborhood may give you leverage.

Be open to compromise

Unless you’re simply unwilling or unable to afford the rent rate, suggest a compromise amount that you can afford. For instance, if the rent is $100 higher than you’d like, offer to pay $50 instead. Back up your offer by mentioning your research findings and focusing on your stability as a tenant.

Negotiate in person, follow up in writing

Try to talk to the landlord in person as face to face negotiation is usually best. Remain calm, polite and professional during the discussion – never rude or defensive. Follow up the discussion within 24 hours with a brief email thanking them for the meeting and reiterating your “ask.”

Have a backup plan

If you’re looking for a new place, you should have more than one apartment, house or condo on your radar. Banking on a landlord decreasing rent prices can be risky, especially if you have a set date you need to move out of your old place.

If you’re facing a rent increase, you have to decide if you’d be willing to pay the higher rate just in case negotiations don’t go as planned. If you are definitely unwilling or unable to accept the new rate, it’s a good idea to start researching new apartments. If you decide to stay and pay more each month, you can request property upgrades to make the increase more palatable, such as repainting the walls or updating the landscaping.

Rent increases aren’t the only unexpected thing that can happen to renters. Find out how Nationwide renters insurance can protect you against theft, damage to personal belongings, and more.

Part 4 "Month-by-Month Guide for Big Purchases" coming next week