Ask Me Anything: Toilet Rings, Co-Signing Student Loans, U.S. Census

Last week we kicked off a new feature, Ask Me Anything, in which I invite you do just that. Lots of readers took me up on the offer.


How can I remove the ring around the water line in my toilets? I have tried everything on the market and nothing removes this ring. I have well water and am wondering if you have any suggestions. I have tried many of your wide and various suggestions re other problems with excellent success. Barbara


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Dear Barbara: Toilet bowl rings are the result of hard water and mineral deposits that develop from standing water in the bowl or from the toilet not being flushed multiple times during the day. No amount of scrubbing, harsh chemical cleaners or bleach will completely remove this kind of buildup—especially when it’s the result of very hard well water. The solution is to “sand” that ring away (and any other stains, too) using a pumice stone—the same thing that you might use for callused heels. Amazingly, pumice will not damage the surface, but those rings will be history. Any pumice stone will work, but I prefer one with a handle like Pumie Toilet Bowl Ring Remover, (about $9) designed specifically to reach ugly toilet rings and stains so you can scrub there away.


I love your column, which I read in my local Lockport, New York newspaper. Recently, you offered a short message for college students. In that message, you mention how kids could  take out federal student loans without a co-signer. 

Our issue (and some might find fault in us as parents that we want our child to know the full responsibility of this) is that we don’t want to co-sign for our daughter for her college expenses. I believe in New York, she has to be 18 to even sign for a loan and she will still be 17 upon her entrance to college this fall.

Where did you find federal loans that could be applied for without a co-signer? Thank you in advance for your help in this matter. Stressed Out Parent

Dear SOA: You are referring to a legal argument known as “defense of infancy” that the signing of a contract by a minor does not create a binding obligation. However, the defense of infancy does not apply to federal student loans (not to be confused with private student loans, which are different). There is an explicit exemption to this principle in the Higher Education Act and subsequent Amendments of 1992, which states that even if the student is under age 18 the defense of infancy does not apply.

Your 17-year old daughter will have the legal capacity to obligate herself to the terms and conditions of a federal student loan on her signature alone. And by the same token, she will never be able to use the defense of infancy argument against collection of that student loan.

Even if you (or her grandparents) want to help pay off her student loan by having the billing statements sent to their address or monthly payments automatically deducted from a bank account, still you are under no obligation to repay student loans signed only by the student. If you were forget to pay the bill on time or decide to cancel the electronic payment agreement, your daughter would be held responsible for the payments, not you. I hope that helps and relieves the stress a bit. Thanks for being such a loyal reader and for writing. It means the world to me to hear from my readers.


My husband and I keep receiving requests from the US Census Bureau to schedule an interview to discuss our household expenditures. Supposedly, this is voluntary participation in a survey. Have you ever heard of this? We don’t want to participate; we feel it’s an invasion of privacy. We trust your advice and perspective. What do you think? Georgia

Dear Georgia: The U.S. Census Bureau does use surveys as a method of collecting and analyzing social, economic, and geographic data. They use this to provide information about the conditions of the United States, states, and counties. But unlike the census the Bureau takes every 10 years, wherein U.S. citizens are required by law to participate, these surveys are completely voluntary. You are wise to be suspicious and concerned about your privacy. The Census Bureau warns folks at its website about scam artists posing as Bureau officials, and what to do.

If you do not want to participate in a survey, opt out. You have every right to do that. If you suspect this is a scam artist after your information, or simply want to verify that whomever is contacting you is legitimate, contact the U.S. Census Bureau directly. HERE is a link for that contact information. Thanks for writing!

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5 replies
  1. mfk8 says:

    about toilet rings and mineral deposits. Several years ago when I experienced those problems I found a magnet holder of plastic to put in the tank. The magnet collects all those minerals that trickle into the bowl. Each works well for about a year when you will begin to see mineral build up in the bowl. BTW, in toilets not often used, when I’m in the area of the non-used one, I will flush it. Getting back to a year later, I take out the magnet and holder and put it in the dishwasher for cleaning and replace it in the tank. It will last for another year. I first got these from PCH but now they’re available at some Lowe’s.

  2. Tracy says:

    I would like to know of good savings ideas for providing grandchildren with a nice financial start in life after high school. Either for college, or start up for business and/or home. I have been putting aside money for my 3 year old grandson and 1 year old granddaughter and unsure of accounts to put in for best financial yield- especially if unsure they would go on to college. Please advise- Thanks!

  3. LK says:

    Not sure where to post this but would like to take advantage of the “Ask Me Anything”…..I have asked before and not gotten an answer….hope this time it works…what is the easiest way to clean oven racks? I can never get into all the nooks and crannies and hate the time wasted standing on my feet and scouring those things!


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