Bathroom Cleaning Hacks: The 25 Best Tricks of All Time

We use our bathrooms every single day, so it’s extremely important to keep them clean.

Not only is it nicer to look at, but a clean bathroom is also better for your health as you won’t be inhaling as many dust particles that trigger allergies or dealing with harmful mold. But where to begin? Here are 25 bathroom cleaning hacks to keep your bathroom neat and squeaky-clean.

1. Use vinegar as a natural glass cleaner

This is the easiest of all of our bathroom cleaning hacks. Instead of grabbing a bottle of commercial glass cleaner, use white vinegar. Apply it the same way you would any other glass cleaner — just spray it on, then wipe it down. There are no harmful chemicals or unknown ingredients — just vinegar.

2. Wipe down mirrors with newspapers

Recycle your old newspapers by using them to wipe down your glass and mirrors. Use them in place of paper towels or cleaning rags to get a streak-free shine that won’t leave behind as many dust particles.

A mirror fogged up with condensation from the shower bathroom cleaning hacksA mirror fogged up with condensation from the shower bathroom cleaning hacks

3. Keep mirrors from fogging with shaving foam

If you’re tired of your mirror fogging up from a hot shower, use shaving foam to keep it from happening altogether. Spray some of the foam onto the mirror and use your hand to rub it all over. Use a towel and wipe it away using circular motions until the mirror looks clean. This will stop mirror fog for a couple of weeks. When it stops working again, reapply!

4. DIY a drain cleaning solution

Bathroom drains can slowly become clogged with dirt, hair, and even soap residue. You can do a quick, easy, affordable drain cleaning with baking soda, vinegar and hot water.

Pour a small pot of boiling water down the drain, then one cup of baking soda. Mix together a cup of vinegar and a cup of water and add it, too. Wait about 10 minutes, then dump another pot of boiling water down the drain to rinse everything away.

Even if a drain seems fine, don’t wait until its completely clogged before you clean it. Performing this every few weeks will keep it from ever getting clogged and causing more serious plumbing issues later on.

5. Get rid of toilet stains with soda

Toilets can get some serious stains over time and some of them are difficult to clean. Rid your toilet of stains with coke. You can actually use coke to clean your toilet just by pouring it in, letting it sit for a few minutes and scrubbing it with a toilet brush. No more stains!

Black and white title floor in a white bathroom with plants. Black and white title floor in a white bathroom with plants.

6. Vacuum before and after

Start off your cleaning by vacuuming as many surfaces as possible to remove dust and hair. This will make it much easier when you scrub things down or wipe them off. Once you’ve done all of your cleanings, finish off with the vacuum again to pick up anything that’s been left behind.

7. Unclog faucets and showerheads with a bag of vinegar

If you have hard water, it can build up on your faucets and showerhead and keep water from flowing out of them normally. Tie a plastic bag of vinegar around your faucets and showerhead and let it sit for a few hours to remove hard water buildup, then just rinse them off with water!

8. Use lemon to eliminate watermarks on faucets

Faucets can easily accumulate stubborn watermarks on them, which can look pretty bad. Slice up a lemon and rub it all over your faucets to shine them and eliminate any hard watermarks that have built up.

9. Skewer away gunk in tough to reach places

There are some places that are hard to completely clean and gunk will build gradually over time — think about the base of your toilet where it meets the floor or around the base of the faucet where it meets the counter.

To get into those crevices, use a wooden skewer with a rag over it. Use whatever cleaning product you prefer and wipe or scrub it away with your skewer and rag.

Four different types of soaps in a bath tub or shower. Four different types of soaps in a bath tub or shower.

10. Remove soap scum with cooking spray

Have you ever tried to wipe down your shower or bathtub only to find that after your first motion, you’ve got a rag covered in a thick goop? Soap scum is difficult to clean and fully remove if you’re not using the right cleaning methods. One easy way of dealing with soap scum is cooking spray.

Cover your bathtub or shower with cooking spray and let it permeate the soap scum for about 10 minutes. Then, just rinse it off with hot water. No more soap scum and no goopy rags!

11. Brighten grout lines with bleach

No matter how many times you wipe down tile, the grout lines never seem to get any cleaner. Make a concentrated effort by using bleach to brighten the grout. You can either dilute bleach with water in a spray bottle and cover grout lines or grab a bleach pen. Let the bleach product sit for a few minutes, then wipe or mop it away to reveal whiter grout lines.

Essential oils with flowers laid out. Essential oils with flowers laid out.

12. Deodorize with rice and essential oils

For obvious reasons, bathrooms can end up having some weird smells. Deodorize the space by filling a jar halfway with rice and mixing in a few drops of your favorite essential oils. Poke holes in the lid of the jar and place it somewhere in the bathroom (preferably near the toilet) to soak up any unfavorable odors.

13. Use grapefruit and salt to remove bathtub grime

Bathtubs can have some questionable grime accumulate with regular use. Since grapefruit is naturally acidic, it can cut through the buildup and leave you with a squeaky-clean tub. Cut a grapefruit in half and cover the open half in salt. Use it like a sponge and scrub away all the dirt and grime.

14. Remove the vent fan to clean

Your exhaust fan typically sees a lot of use, but rarely gets the cleaning it needs. It’s easy to forget about or not think about it in the first place.

Remove the vent cover and clean it in hot, soapy water and use a can of compressed air to get the dust off of the fan. Then wipe down the fan with disinfectant and replace the cover.

15. Reduce humidity with silica gel packets

The humidity in your bathroom can cause mold, especially in places that don’t get a lot of airflows, like in cabinets. Save those little silica gel packets that come in boxes when you buy certain items (like shoes) and keep them in your bathroom cabinets. They’ll help collect moisture from the air and prevent mold from forming in your cabinets. You can also use a dehumidifier if there’s not a lot of ventilation in your bathroom.

16. Wash mildew from shower liner by using bleach

Your shower curtain liner can get pretty gross after a while and it’s common to see mildew forming on it. But instead of buying a new liner curtain every time it gets bad, you can wash it with some bleach along with your normal laundry detergent.

This should kill off the mildew, but if it doesn’t after one wash, you can scrub the leftover places with a brush and some bleach, then wash it again.

ceiling moldceiling mold

17. Create a bleach solution to get rid of ceiling mold

The corners of your bathroom ceiling can grow mold from all the humidity and condensation, which we all know is not just terrible to look at, but can be hazardous to your health.

To get rid of mold, spray a disinfectant on the area and wipe it down. Then mix 1/2 cup of bleach with a half-gallon of water and wipe down the area with it. If you can still see mold after the area is dry, simply wipe it down again with the bleach solution until it’s gone.

18. Warm up the bathroom before cleaning

Did you know that many bathroom cleaning hacks and products actually work better when it’s warm in the room? Run a hot shower for a few minutes before you start cleaning to make your products work better. You don’t need to fog up the whole bathroom and make it feel like a sauna, but run the shower for long enough that the temperature increases by a few degrees.

19. Wax the shower to prevent grime and soap scum

This might be our favorite of all the bathroom cleaning hacks.

Soap scum and other grime can quickly accumulate on your shower walls, but covering them with some wax can prevent that from happening. Clean your shower as you normally would and make sure that it’s completely dry.

Grab some car wax, put a bit on a cloth, then rub it onto the shower walls. Leave the wax to dry for a few minutes, then buff it with a new cloth. Just don’t do it to the floors or else you might find yourself slipping all over the place!

20. Remove the toilet seat when cleaning

Even when you clean your toilet regularly, there are still small spots that are hard to reach — like where your toilet seat is screwed into the toilet.

Use a screwdriver to completely remove the seat and clean around the screw holes before putting the seat back on.

21. Squeegee daily

Keep a squeegee in your shower and use it on the walls each time you shower. This prevents moisture buildup, which causes mold, and will keep your walls cleaner for longer since it washes away soap scum.

22. Make a paste to remove caulk stains

The caulk around your bathtub, shower, toilet and sink can end up looking pretty bad. Even regular cleaning doesn’t always get rid of stains left behind in caulk by dirt and mold. If you do spot some stains, make a paste out of baking soda and water, apply it to the caulk and let it sit for a few hours. Rinse it off and you’ll have cleaner caulk!

bathroom cleaning hacks using a lemonbathroom cleaning hacks using a lemon

23. Use lemon to prevent stinky drains

When there’s every type of waste imaginable going down the drains in your bathroom, it’s understandable that they might begin to stink a little. To get rid of the smell, dump 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, then add 1/2 cup of lemon juice.

Don’t use the drain for an hour or two and let the solution do its job. Then rinse it by running hot water down the drain to leave it smelling fresh!

24. Prevent rust spots with clear nail polish

You might have seen bathrooms with red rings stained on the counters or in the bathtub from rusty metal product cans (shaving foam, hairspray, etc). To prevent these from forming, cover the bottom of metal cans with clear nail polish.

25. Clean the toilet tank with dish soap and vinegar

We often focus on cleaning the toilet bowl, because it’s visible and we have to look at it every day. But the tank is just as important and cleaning it can lead to a cleaner bowl that doesn’t stink. Remove the lid of the tank and add a few drops of liquid dish soap and a cup of vinegar.

Scrub the tank using a brush with a long handle (not the same brush you use to clean your toilet bowl), then let it sit for a couple of hours. Flush the toilet and put the lid back on and you’ll have a cleaner, less stinky toilet.

Consistency is key with bathroom cleaning hacks

Using these bathroom cleaning hacks, you’ll have a sparkling bathroom in no time! Just remember that consistency is key when it comes to cleaning — don’t wait too long between cleanings, or else your bathroom will end up being more difficult to clean. But cleaning every week will make it easy and make your bathroom a place you enjoy.




Mortgage Rate Shopping: 10 Tips to Get a Better Deal

Last updated on December 8th, 2020

Looking for the best mortgage rates? We’ve all heard about the super-low mortgage rates available, but how do you actually get your hands on them?

When it’s all said and done, it never seems to be as low as the bank originally claimed, which can be pretty frustrating or even problematic for your loan closing.

But instead of worrying, let’s try to find solutions so you too can take advantage of these remarkable interest rates.

There are a number of ways to find the best mortgage rates, though a little bit of legwork on your behalf is definitely required.

After all, you’re not buying a TV, you’re buying a home or refinancing an existing, probably large home loan.

best mortgage rate

If you’re not willing to put in the work, you might be disappointed with the rate you receive. But if you are up for the challenge, the savings can make the relatively little time you put in well worth it.

The biggest takeaway is shopping around, since you can’t really determine if a mortgage rate is any good without comparing it to others.

Many prospective and existing homeowners simply gather one quote, typically from a friend or real estate agent’s reference, and then kick themselves later for not seeing what else is out there.

Below are 10 tips aimed at helping you better navigate the shopping experience and ideally save some money.

1. Advertised mortgage rates generally include points and are best-case scenario

You know those mortgage rates you see on TV, hear about on the radio, or see online. Well, most of the time they require you to pay mortgage points.

So if your loan amount is $200,000, and the rate is 3.75% with 1 point, you have to pay $2,000 to get that rate. And there may also be additional lender fees on top of that.

It’s important to understand that you’re not always comparing apples to apples if you look at interest rate alone.

For example, lenders don’t charge the same amount of fees, so clearly rate isn’t the only thing you should look at when shopping.

Additionally, these advertised mortgage rates are typically best-case scenario, meaning they expect you to have a 760+ credit score and a 20% down payment. They also expect the property to be a single-family home that will be your primary residence.

If any of the above are not true, you can expect a much higher mortgage rate than advertised.

Are you showing the lender you deserve the lowest rate, or simply demanding it because you feel entitled to it? Those who actually present the least risk to lenders are the ones with the best chance of securing a great rate.

2. The lowest mortgage rate may not be the best

Most home loan shoppers are probably looking for the lowest interest rate, but at what cost? As noted above, the lowest interest rate may have steep fees and/or require discount points, which will push the APR higher and make the effective rate less desirable.

Be sure you know exactly what is being charged for the rate provided to accurately determine if it’s a good deal. And consider the APR vs. interest rate to accurately gauge the cost of the loan over the full loan term.

Lenders are required to display the APR next to the interest rate so you know how much the rate actually costs. Of course, APR has its limitations, but it’s yet another tool at your disposal to take note of.

3. Compare the costs of the rate offered

Along those same lines, you need to compare the costs of securing the loan at the par rate, versus paying to buy down the rate.

For example, it may be in your best interest to take a slightly higher rate to cover all your closing costs, especially if you’re cash-poor or simply don’t plan on staying in the home very long.

If you won’t be keeping the mortgage for more than a year or two, why pay points and a bunch of closing costs out of pocket. Might as well take a slightly higher rate and pay a tiny bit more each month, then you can get rid of the loan. [See: No cost refinance]

Conversely, if you plan to hunker down in your forever home and can obtain a really low rate, it might make sense to pay the fees out-of-pocket and pay points to lower your rate even more. After all, you’ll enjoy a lower monthly payment as a result for many years to come.

4. Compare different loan types

When comparing pricing, you should also look at different loan types, such as a 30-year vs. 15-year. If it’s a small loan amount, you might be able to refinance to a lower rate and barely raise your monthly payment.

For example, if you’re currently in a 30-year home loan at 6%, dropping the rate to 2.75% on a 15-year fixed won’t bump your mortgage payment up a whole lot. And you’ll save a ton in interest and own the home much sooner, assuming that’s your goal.

And as mentioned, if you only plan to stay in the home for a few years, you can look at lower-rate options, such as the 5/1 ARM, which come with rates that can be much lower than the 30-year fixed. If you’ll be out of there before the loan ever adjusts, why pay for the 30-year fixed?

5. Watch out for bad recommendations

However, don’t overextend yourself just because the bank or broker says you’ll be able to pay off your mortgage in no time at all.

They may recommend something that isn’t really ideal for your situation, so do your research before shopping. You should have a good idea as to what loan program will work best for you, instead of blindly following the loan officer’s opinion.

It’s not uncommon to be pitched an adjustable-rate mortgage when you’re looking for a fixed loan, simply because the ultra-low rate and payment will sound enticing. Or told the 30-year fixed is a no-brainer, even though you plan to move in just a few years.

6. Consider banks, online lenders, credit unions, and brokers

I always recommend that you shop around and compare lenders as much as possible. This means comparing mortgage rates online, calling your local bank, a credit union, and contacting a handful of mortgage brokers.

If you stop at just one or two quotes, you may miss out on a much better opportunity. Put simply, don’t spend more time shopping for your new couch or stainless-steel refrigerator. This is a way bigger deal and deserves a lot more time and energy on your part.

Your mortgage term is probably going to be 30 years, so the decision you make today can affect your wallet for the next 360 months, assuming you hold your loan to term. Even if you don’t, it can affect you for years to come!

7. Research the mortgage companies

Shopping around will require doing some homework about the mortgage companies in question. When comparing their interest rates, also do research about the companies to ensure you’re dealing with a legitimate, reliable lender that can actually get your loan closed.

A low rate is great, but only if it actually funds! There are lenders that consistently get it done, and others that will give you the runaround or bait and switch you, or just fail to make it to the closing table because they don’t know what they’re doing.

Fortunately, there are plenty of readily accessible reviews online that should make this process pretty simple. Just note that results will vary from loan to loan, as no two mortgage loans or borrowers are the same.

You can probably take more chances with a refinance, but if it’s a purchase, you’ll want to ensure you’re working with someone who can close your loan in a timely manner. Otherwise a seemingly good deal could turn bad instantly.

8. Mind your credit scores

Understand that shopping around may require multiple credit pulls. This shouldn’t hurt your credit so long as you shop within a certain period of time. In other words, it’s okay to apply more than once, especially if it leads to a lower mortgage rate.

More importantly, do not apply for any other types of loans before or while shopping for a mortgage. The last thing you’d want is for a meaningless credit card application to take you out of the running completely.

Additionally, don’t go swiping your credit card and racking up lots of debt, as that too can sink your credit score in a hurry. It’s best to just pay cash for things and keep your credit cards untouched before, during, and up until the loan funds.

Without question, your credit score can move your mortgage rate significantly (in both directions), and it’s one of the few things you can actually fully control, so keep a close eye on it. I’d say it’s the most important factor and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

If your credit scores aren’t very good, you might want to work on them for a bit before you apply for a mortgage. It could mean the difference between a bad rate and a good rate, and hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

9. Lock your rate

This is a biggie. Just because you found a good mortgage rate, or were quoted a great rate, doesn’t mean it’s yours.

You still need to lock the rate (if you’re happy with it) and get the confirmation in writing. Without the lock, it’s merely a quote and nothing more. That means it’s subject to change.

The loan also needs to fund. So if you’re dealing with an unreliable lender who promises a low rate, but can’t actually deliver and close the loan, the rate means absolutely nothing.

Again, watch out for the bait and switch where you’re told one thing and offered something entirely different when it comes time to lock.

Either way, know that you can negotiate during the process.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a lower rate if you think you can do better; there’s always room to negotiate mortgage rates!

10. Be patient

Lastly, take your time. This isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly, so do your homework and consult with family, friends, co-workers, and whoever else may have your best interests in mind.

If a company is aggressively asking for your sensitive information, or trying to run your credit report right out of the gate, tell them you’re just looking for a ballpark quote. Don’t ever feel obligated to work with someone, especially if they’re pushy.

You should feel comfortable with the bank or broker in question, and if you don’t, feel free to move on until you find the right fit. Trust your gut.

Also keep an eye on mortgage rates over time so you have a better idea of when to lock. No one knows what the future holds, but if you’re actively engaged, you’ll have a leg up on the competition.

One thing I can say is, on average, mortgage rates tend to be lowest in December, all else being equal.

In summary, be sure to look beyond the mortgage rate itself – while your goal will be to secure the lowest rate possible, you have to factor in the closing costs, your plans with the property/mortgage, and the lender’s ability to close your loan successfully.

Tip: Even if you get it wrong the first time around, you can always look into refinancing your mortgage to lower your current interest rate. You aren’t stuck if you can qualify for another mortgage down the road!


3 Things to Do When Your Neighbors List Their Home for Sale

The sign just went up next door. How does your neighbor’s impending sale affect you?

Most people think their real estate concerns end once they’ve closed on and moved into their new homes. But when a neighbor’s house goes on the market, there can be some important implications for you.

Here are some tips for staying real estate aware.

1. Document important disclosure items

For the most part, good fences make good neighbors. But sometimes the folks on the other side of the fence don’t cooperate, and unresolved neighbor conflicts tend to arise when one of the homes goes on the market.

Have a property line dispute? Or an issue with a broken fence and you want the new buyer to know about it? While sellers in most states have a duty to disclose issues to potential buyers, not all areas require this.

Do your new neighbor-to-be a favor and alert the seller’s agent to anything the buyer needs to know about your neighbor’s property.

2. See things differently

Open houses allow buyers to spend some time exploring a home, but these events also present you with a chance to see your home from your neighbor’s perspective.

Once at a busy open house in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood, an open house visitor made a somewhat obvious beeline for the back of the house. He immediately got on the phone and started talking with someone about where he was standing, giving orders to move left and right.

It turned out this visitor lived in the home behind, and he was checking to see the neighbor’s view into his home.

The open house is your chance to check your home’s paint job from the neighbor’s yard or simply to see your home from a different perspective.

3. Know and learn the market in real time

Typical sellers claim and save their home online, but they also keep searches going after the fact. Why? To keep tabs on the market, see the comps and have a real-time sense of what’s happening nearby.

Just like when you were a buyer, knowing about the area and types of homes in the market is a good move for any homeowner. Take a neighboring home for sale as an opportunity to see what the market bears. You can also learn about the latest trends in home design.

Speaking to a real estate agent can keep you informed of changes to property taxes or how assessments are changing in your town. A smart real estate agent, working their listing, will be an incredible resource to would-be clients down the road. Leverage their experience when your neighbor sells.

Take note when your neighbor goes to sell their home. It’s not just a time to nose around, but to document, inspect or learn from the home sale. Some homes get listed once in a lifetime — take advantage of the opportunity.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published October 31, 2016.


What are derogatory marks and how can you fix them?

Derogatory Marks Header Image

Having a few items on your credit report dragging down your score can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you have a good financial record.

A derogatory mark is a negative item on your credit report that can be fixed by removing it or building positive credit activity. Because derogatory marks can stay on your credit report typically for seven to ten years, it’s important to know how to fix them.

Derogatory marks can affect your credit score, your ability to be approved for credit and the interest rates a lender offers you. Some derogatory marks are due to poor credit activity, such as a late payment. Or it could be an error that shouldn’t be on your report at all.

Types of negative items include late payments (30, 60, and 90 days), charge-offs, collections, foreclosures, repossessions, judgments, liens, and bankruptcies. We’ll cover what each one of these means, and how they can impact your credit reports.

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How do derogatory marks impact my credit score?

The amount that derogatory marks lower your credit score depends on the mark’s severity and how high your credit score was before the mark. For instance, bankruptcy has a greater impact on your credit score than a missed payment or debt settlement. And, unfortunately, having a derogatory mark impacts a high credit score more than it does a low credit score.

According to and CNNMoney, even a single negative on your credit could cost you over 100 points. Negative items on your credit could cost you thousands of dollars in higher interest rates, or you could be denied altogether.

negative item score decrease stats

How long a derogatory mark stays on your credit report depends on the type of mark.

How long do derogatory marks stay on my credit report?

Derogatory marks usually stay on your credit report for around seven to ten years, depending on the type. After that period passes, the mark will roll off your report and you should start seeing a change in your credit score.

Here’s how long each derogatory mark stays on your credit report:

Type of derogatory mark What is it? How long does this stay on a credit report?
Late payment Late payments are payments made 30 days or more after the payment due date. Typically, this can remain on your report for seven years from the date you made a late payment.
An account in collections or a charge-off Creditors send your account to collections or charge them off if there’s been no payment for 180 days. Typically, this can remain on your report for seven years from the date you made a late payment.
Tax lien A tax lien is when the government claims you’ve neglected or failed to pay taxes on your property or financial assets. Unpaid tax lien: Can remain on your report indefinitely.

Paid tax lien: Can remain on your report seven years from the date the lien was filed.

Civil judgment Civil judgments are a debt you owe through the court, such as if your landlord sued you over missed rent payments. Unpaid civil judgment: Can remain on your report for seven years from when the judgment was filed, but can be renewed if left unpaid.

Paid civil judgment: Can remain on your report for seven years from when the judgment was filed.

Debt settlement Debt settlement is when you and your creditor agree that you will pay less than the full amount owed. A typical time period is seven years, starting from when the debt was settled or the date of the first delinquent payment if there were missed payments.
Foreclosure Foreclosure is when you fail to pay your mortgage and you forfeit the right to the property. Typically, seven years from the foreclosure filing date.
Bankruptcy Bankruptcy is a court proceeding to discharge your debt and sell your assets. Can remain on your report for seven years for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can remain on your report for 10 years.
Repossession A repossession is when your assets are seized, such as a vehicle that was used as collateral. Can remain on your report for seven years from the first date of the missed payment.

Types of derogatory marks

Late payments

Late payments occur when you’ve been 30, 60, or 90 days late paying an account. Although you don’t want late payments on your credit reports, an occasional 30 or 60-day late payment isn’t too severe. But you don’t want frequent late payments and you don’t want late payments on every single account. One recent late payment on a single account can lower a score by 15 to 40 points, and missing one payment cycle for all accounts in the same month can cause a score to tank by 150 points or more.

Payments 90 days late or more start to factor more heavily into your credit score, and consecutive late payments are even more harmful to your score, as each subsequent late payment is weighted more heavily. Sometimes, creditors will report payments as late as 120 days, which can be almost as severe as charge-offs and collections. Late payments can be reported to the credit bureaus once you have been more than 30 days late on an account and these late payments can stay on your credit reports for up to seven years.

Charge offs

A charge off is when a creditor writes off your unpaid debt. Typically, this occurs when you have been 180 days late on an account. Charge offs have a severely negative impact on your credit, and like most other negative items can stay on your credit reports for seven years. When an account is charged off, your creditor can sell it to collection agencies, which is even worse news for your credit.

Creditors see a charge off as a glaring indication that you have not been responsible with your finances in the past and cannot be counted on to fulfill your financial obligations in the future. When creditors see a charge off on your credit reports, they are more likely to deny any new applications for loans or lines of credit because they see you as a financial risk. If you do qualify, this can mean higher interest rates. Current creditors can respond by raising your interest rates on your existing balances.

Tax liens

In most cases, liens are the result of unpaid taxes – whether it’s at the state or the federal level. For a federal tax lien, the IRS can place a lien against your property to cover the cost of unpaid taxes. Tax liens can make it difficult to get approved for new lines of credit or loans because the government has claimed to your property. What this means is that if you default on any other accounts, your creditors have to stand in line behind the IRS to collect.

Unpaid liens can stay indefinitely on your credit reports. Once they have been paid, however, they can stay on your reports for up to seven years. Like judgments though, the credit bureaus are strictly regulated on how they can report liens because they are also public records.

Civil judgments

Judgments are public records that are also referred to as civil claims. A judgment can be taken out against a debtor for an unpaid balance. A creditor or collection agency can file a suit in court. If the court rules in favor of the creditor, a judgment is taken out against the debtor and put on their credit reports. This, like many other negative items, has a severely negative impact, and like most other negative items can be reported for seven years.

Judgments are also another indication that a person won’t pay their debts. Lawsuits are time-consuming and costly, so they are something that creditors potentially want to avoid. When a judgment is filed though, it can impact more than credit. The judge may allow the creditor to garnish a debtor’s wages, which can heavily impact finances.


Collections are the most common types of accounts on credit reports. About one-third of Americans with credit reports have at least one collection account. Over half of these accounts are due to medical bills, but other accounts like unpaid credit cards and loans, utilities, and parking tickets can be sold to collections.

Collections arise from debts that are sold to third parties by the original creditor if a bill goes unpaid for too long. They have a severe negative impact on your credit and can stay on your reports for up to seven years. When potential creditors see collections on your credit reports, it can raise flags and cause them to think that you won’t pay your debts.


A foreclosure is a legal proceeding that is initiated by a mortgage lender when a homeowner has been unable to make payments. Usually, a lender will file a foreclosure when a homeowner has been three months late or more on mortgage payments.

When a lender decides to foreclose, they begin by filing a Notice of Default with the County Recorder’s Office, which begins the legal proceedings. If a foreclosure goes through and a homeowner can’t catch up on payments, then they are evicted from their home, and the foreclosure is reported to the credit bureaus.


Bankruptcy is extremely damaging to credit. Individuals who file for bankruptcy are those who have too much debt, and not enough money to pay it. They likely have had overdue accounts for a long period of time and in some cases loss of income that prevents them from being able to pay any of their bills. Bankruptcies can also arise from huge medical debt.

Whether or not file for bankruptcy is a difficult decision, and doing so can impact your credit from seven to ten years, depending on the type of bankruptcy you file. When a bankruptcy is filed, debts are discharged and the individuals filing are released from most of their previously incurred debts (there are some exceptions). This option can give people a “clean slate” from debt, but creditors don’t like to see it on credit reports because it can imply that an individual won’t pay their debts.


A repossession is a loss of property on a secured loan. Secured loans are where you have collateral, like a car or a house, and the loss occurs when the lender takes back the property because of the inability to pay. Usually, when this occurs, the lender will auction off the collateral to make up for the remaining balance, although it doesn’t usually cover the remaining balance.

When there is a remaining balance, the creditor may choose to sell it off to collections. A repossession has a severe negative impact on credit because it shows a debtor’s inability to pay back a loan. Usually, a repossession follows a long line of late payments and can knock a lot of points off a credit score.

How can I improve my credit score with derogatory marks on my credit report?

If you have derogatory marks, you can improve your credit score by working to rebuild your credit. By boosting your credit score, you’re more likely to get approved for loans and credit cards.

Here’s how to improve your credit score based on the type of derogatory mark:

Derogatory mark What to do to improve your credit score
Late payments Pay off the full debt as soon as possible. If there are late fees, ask the creditor to drop the fee (they often do if it’s your first time being late).
Stay on top of your payments with other lenders to show that you’re responsible, reducing the impact of a late payment.
An account in collections or a charge-off Pay off the debt or negotiate a settlement where you pay less than the full amount owed. Making a payment doesn’t remove the negative mark from your report, but prevents you from being sued over the debt.
Tax lien Pay the taxes you owe in full as soon as possible. Continue to make timely payments with any creditors and lenders.
Civil judgment Pay off the judgment amount, ideally before it gets to court. Make other payments on time to limit the impact of the civil judgment on your credit score.
Debt settlement Pay the full settled amount to prevent your account from going to collections or being charged off.
Foreclosure Keep other credit and loans open and make timely payments to build up positive credit activity.
Bankruptcy Rebuild your credit after bankruptcy with credit cards that cater to lower credit and credit builder loans. Make timely payments to reestablish that you’re a responsible borrower.
Repossessions Continue to pay other bills on time and pay off any further debt to the creditor.

You can also remove derogatory marks if they’re inaccurate or unfairly reported. By requesting your free credit report, you can look for mistakes and inaccuracies.

For example, check to see if a missed payment was inaccurately reported or if someone else’s account got mixed up with yours. You can remove these mistakes, giving your credit score a boost. 

How do I remove derogatory marks from my credit report?

You can remove derogatory marks from your credit report by disputing inaccuracies with the credit bureaus. Here’s how:

1. Request and review your credit report

TransUnion, Equifax and Experian provide one free credit report each year. Request your credit report and review it closely for errors.

Look through both “closed” and “open” derogatory marks. Check to see if your personal information is correct and if the creditor reported payments and dates appropriately. Take note of any discrepancies.

2. Dispute derogatory marks

If you notice incorrect items, payments or dates you need to file a dispute with that credit bureau (and any bureau that lists the item on your report).

You can file a dispute through the credit bureau or have a professional assist you. It’s best to make disputes as soon as you notice them, ideally within 30 days of the incident. The credit bureaus must respond to you within 30-45 days. 

3. Follow up on the dispute

You may have to provide more information or proof to refute something on your credit report. Be sure to respond to any inquiries by the specified time. Check your credit report afterward to make sure that the error is removed.

Removing a derogatory mark from your credit report helps to repair your credit. You’ll also want to improve your credit by doing things like lowering your credit utilization rate, upping the average age of your credit and making timely payments.

If you’re unable to remove a derogatory mark from your credit report, you’ll need to wait until it rolls off of your report, usually within seven to 10 years. In the meantime, work to rebuild your credit and improve your creditworthiness.

steps to remove derogatory marks from credit report

How can I get help with derogatory marks?

You can remove derogatory marks from your credit report by yourself. However, getting help from a credit repair company can make the process easier and improve your chances of getting the negative mark removed.

Many consumers appreciate professional help as it saves time, energy and resources. Contact us for a free credit report consultation. We’ll talk about your unique situation and the ways that we can help you.


How Bankruptcy Works & When it’s a Good Idea

Bankruptcy offers a way out of debt by either eliminating it or repaying part of it. The decision on whether or not to file for bankruptcy is however not an easy one. You may end up losing most of your assets or none at all. At the same time some debts are not covered by bankruptcy. To help you in making the right decision let’s look at how bankruptcy works and when it’s a good idea to file for one.

Which Debts are Discharged by Bankruptcy?

Filing for BankruptcyFiling for BankruptcyBefore filing you have to decide on the type of personal bankruptcy that is unique to you financial situation. The process covers consumer debts such as credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and medical debts. Non consumer debts cannot be forgiven through personal bankruptcy. These include alimony, taxes, child support, and criminal restitutions.

It’s advisable to have a bankruptcy attorney go through your finances to ascertain which debts qualify as consumer debts and which ones do not. For example, a student loan can be either depending on how it was used.

Types of Personal Bankruptcies

In the United States a person can file for either one of the following personal bankruptcies;

Chapter 7 is also known as liquidation bankruptcy. It involves sale of assets that are not protected by bankruptcy and the distributions of the proceeds to creditors. The proceeds can cover your debts in as little as 3 months. Chapter 7 bankruptcy will be ideal if you don’t have a lot of assets that need protection.

Chapter 13 is also referred to as a debt repayment or reorganization. It’s ideal for debtors who have many or valuable assets and don’t want to lose them. Basically the debtor tables a proposal that shows how he/she plans to clear amounts owed within a given time frame. One gets the chance to clear all debts either partially or in full. You can also have others dismissed entirely.

Your attorney does a “means test” to determine which bankruptcy you are eligible for. In a nutshell, you may not be eligible for Chapter 7 if it’s evident that your income can settle debts under Chapter 13. Similarly, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be denied if your debts are too high in comparison to your income.

When is Bankruptcy a Good Idea

When is Bankruptcy a Good IdeaWhen is Bankruptcy a Good IdeaBeing eligible for bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to file for one. It could be that all you need is a little professional advice on how to manage your finances.

You also have to contend with the fact that bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven to ten years. That said, there are some circumstances that call for bankruptcy;

#1 When debt management programs don’t work

Credit counseling is a service offered by most financial advisors and organizations. You may be advised on how to reduce personal expenses in order to free more of your income to clear debts. Other measures include renegotiating terms with credit companies or other creditors.

When debt management fails, whether it’s due to non commitment on your part or refusal by creditors, then bankruptcy could be your only way out.

#2 When you are being sued

A lawsuit filed by creditors can be tricky when you have no means of repaying and remaining liquid. The judgment could lead to sale of assets or foreclosure on your properties. When faced with such eventualities, filing for bankruptcy could be the only way for you to remain afloat. The process offers you the chance to retain some of your property that would otherwise be auctioned.

#3 When faced with overwhelming medical bills

Most financial woes result from making wrong decisions on investments and credit lines. You may however find yourself faced with bills that are not of your own making. Such include medical bills that are not covered by insurance and are beyond your financial reach. In such circumstances, filing for bankruptcy is advisable; the bill will be discharged without over-tasking your income or your family’s finances.

#4 Insolvency Due to Industry Crisis

More often than not you will find yourself contemplating mortgage as an investment. When the industry is in a boom, then you are all set to make a profit on resale in the foreseeable future; that is however not always the case. Upward adjustments on mortgage repayments can leave you deep in debt. Filing for bankruptcy could be the only way of salvaging your property from mortgage lenders.

The take away

Bankruptcy is a federal court-protected financial tool that gives you a “fresh start” from debt burden. The process becomes part of your credit report for 7-10 years. It can also lead to loss of assets hence should be done as a final result. If you are facing foreclosure, hefty medical bills or a creditor’s lawsuit then filing for bankruptcy could be your only way out. The above information gives you an overview on how to go about it.

Related Article: Life After Bankruptcy


A Look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is a government program that was created with the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 .

The goal was to help professionals working in public service who have more federal student loans than their public sector salaries allow them to easily repay.

It’s aim is to ensure that the best and the brightest don’t feel as though they have to leave these important jobs to join corporate America just so they can pay down their student debt.

an income-driven repayment plan .

There are four income-driven repayment plans to choose from; There’s Pay As You Earn, income-based repayment, income-contingent repayment, or Revised Pay as You Earn. This will likely allow you to pay less per month toward your loans than you would on the standard plan.

There are separate eligibility requirements for these plans, so be sure to check if you qualify.

3. Certifying your employment. To do this, print out an Employment Certification form and get your employer to fill it out and send it in for approval. The Federal Student Aid website suggests filling this form out annually or at least every time you switch jobs.

You can also use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Help Tool to find qualifying employers and get the forms that you’ll need to fill out.

4. Making 120 qualifying monthly payments on your student loans while you’re employed by a qualified public service employer. What if you switch employers? So long as you are still working for a qualifying employer, you’ll still qualify.

5. After you make the final payment, you can apply for forgiveness. You fill out an application , send it in, and wait. Then (hopefully!) you can celebrate your loan forgiveness.

The Current State of the Program

Because the program was created in 2007, the first people to qualify to have their loans forgiven applied for forgiveness in September 2017. But while the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the program could cost just under $24 billion in the next 10 years , and the U.S. Government Accountability Office believes that more than four million student loan borrowers qualify for the program, some aren’t aware that it exists. And even more graduates have gotten bad information from loan servicers that rendered them ineligible.

In 2018, just 1% of applicants were approved for loan forgiveness through PSLF. In November 2020, the US Department of Education released updated information indicating that 2.4% of applicants have been approved for PSLF.

Pros and Cons of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

The Advantages of the Program Are Pretty Straightforward:

1. Your balance of student loans are forgiven after a set time, which can be a relief. This works as a kind of bonus to make up for the low pay people working in the public sector may earn.

2. The amount forgiven usually isn’t considered income, so you aren’t taxed on it (that means you don’t have to save additional money to account for the IRS bill). There are other loan forgiveness programs that will forgive your loans, but you might see a big tax bill when they do.

3. You get rewarded for being a do-gooder (just like your mom promised you would). It will feel great to know that you’re making a difference, and your government appreciates it enough to give you a break on your federal student loans.

4. You may pay less monthly because you’re on an income-driven plan. This means paying out less of your hard-earned cash every month.

The Disadvantages of the Program Are That:

1. The program is only open to those with certain types of employers. And it’s contingent on you staying with a qualifying public service employer for 10 years, which might not be a guarantee.

2. Some people aren’t aware of the program, which is partly because of a lack of education by employers, loan servicers, and schools.

3. There are a lot of hoops to jump through to get your loans forgiven. Sounds fun, right? Plus, if you don’t jump through a hoop properly, you could jeopardize your forgiveness.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. This program is available to full-time teachers who have completed five consecutive years of teaching in a low-income school. This program also has strict eligibility requirements that must be met in order to receive forgiveness.

These federal forgiveness programs do not apply to private student loans. If you are looking for ways to reduce your interest rate or monthly payments on private student loans, refinancing with a private lender could be an option.

It is important to mention that refinancing your federal student loans with a private lender may make you ineligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program should you choose that route.

The Takeaway

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program can be one way for eligible borrowers to have their federal student loans forgiven. The program has stringent requirements that cna make successfully receiving forgiveness through PSLF challenging.

Refinancing is another option that can allow borrowers to secure a competitive interest rate on student loans. Refinancing federal loans eliminates them from borrower protections.

Interested in seeing if you qualify for a lower interest rate? Check out SoFi’s student loan refinancing to find out.

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External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.



The 4 Biggest Budget Surprises for New College Grads

Life after graduating college is a time of surprises. You’re thrust into the adult world for the first time, forced to earn your way and find your place, all while still feeling like a kid inside. Some people make the transition smoothly, but most of us struggle a bit.  

That’s especially true when it comes to your finances. Given the poor state of financial education in American schools, most people graduate college barely able to write a check or remember the PIN number for their debit card.

So, a little stumbling is inevitable – but that doesn’t mean you need to fall on your face. The best way to avoid a rude awakening is to get ahead of the game. Here are some of the biggest budget surprises to look out for. 


Lots of students spend their college years without a car, opting to walk, bike or take the bus to class (or to the bars). When they graduate, it can be a shock to leave the comforts of a campus where everything is close by. 

While some opt for the sensible choice of buying a used car in cash, many more head for the dealership to purchase or lease a new car. That may have been a practical decision when their parents graduated, but these days the cost of a new car is prohibitive for most twentysomethings. In 2017 the average monthly payment for a new car was $479, not including the cost of insurance, gas and maintenance. 

How to avoid them: Buying a car you can’t afford is a common problem graduates run into. It’s so easy to let a smooth-talking salesman convince you to take the plunge, especially when your friends and family are making similar mistakes. But before you sign those papers, look at your budget and consider how much you can truly handle. 

Don’t be afraid to shop for a used car. If you look for a newer model, most people won’t even be able to tell the difference. There will always be time to upgrade your ride, but it’s probably not a good idea to start your adult life with a purchase that puts you $30,000 in the hole. 

If you still need a car loan, apply for one at a local credit union. They’ll almost certainly have better rates than the dealership, allowing you to put aside more for travel, hobbies and retirement saving. 

Health Insurance

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, college graduates have been able to stay on their parent’s health insurance until age 26. But if your mom or dad is ready to kick you off the family plan, you’ll have to buy your own coverage. 

The average health insurance premium in 2016 was $393, but costs vary widely depending on where you live and what kind of plan your employer offers. The premium isn’t the only thing a recent grad has to worry about – they also have to pay for any out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles, copays and prescriptions.  

How to avoid them: If you have a job, see what’s available through your employer. If you’re still considering offers, review the benefits packages closely. The difference in healthcare options could mean saving or spending thousands more each year. 

Most health insurance options have a few tiers of service, ranging from bare minimum to first-class insurance. Unless you have a chronic health condition or visit the doctor frequently, opt for the plan with the cheapest premium. You’ll pay a hefty sum when you visit the doctor, but save on monthly premiums. 


I’ll never forget it. I was running late to work one day, when I got in my car and noticed a big crack that covered the length of my windshield. I decided to replace it immediately, as it was almost winter and I was worried the windshield could shatter while I was driving. I found a company that came out to my office and replaced the windshield for $100, a small fortune for my 22 year-old self. 

I was so disappointed. Here I was, just a few weeks into my first real post-grad job, faced with an $100 emergency I wasn’t prepared for. That experience taught me a valuable lesson about always having a rainy day fund. If I was willing to plan ahead for vacations and concert tickets, I could plan ahead for stray rocks hitting my windshield. 

How to avoid them: Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to completely avoid emergencies. Eventually, you’ll have a funeral to travel to, a car accident or a medical emergency.  

The only way to avoid being financially surprised is to plan ahead with an emergency fund. A starter emergency fund should have at least $1,000 in it, which will cover most minor incidents. If you have an unstable job or a lot of debt, you should save three month’s worth of expenses.  

Only use the emergency fund for unforeseen expenses – not for costs you can anticipate. Once you start dipping into your emergency fund for non-emergencies, there’s a good chance it won’t be there when you need it. 

Student Loans 

A 2014 study from the Brookings Institute found that most freshman college students had a poor idea of how much they owed in student loans. About 50% of them underestimated how much they owed by more than $5,000, and 28% claimed to have no student loans when they still owed money. That might explain why many graduates are shocked when they finally get the Sallie Mae bill in the mail.  

How to avoid them: All federal student loan servicers and some private lenders provide a six-month grace period after graduation, meant to help borrowers get settled before they start making payments. If you’re still in that sweet spot, use this time to build up a small emergency fund and prepare your budget for student loans. 

Explore your repayment options if you’re worried about affording the monthly bill. Borrowers with federal loans have access to several income-based plans which can significantly decrease how much they pay each month. A graphic designer earning $40,000 a year with $35,000 in student loans could pay as little as $183 a month if they choose a different repayment plan. 

Graduates with private loans usually don’t have extra repayment options. Instead, they can try to refinance their loans with another lender to get a lower interest rate. 

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