Traditionally, spring is a time for cleaning and airing out homes that have been shut during winter to retain heat and enjoy the fresh aroma in the air.

Cleaning is the term used for removing dirt, and weekly cleaning reduces those dust and smudges. In contrast, deep spring cleaning entails some sort of sanitization.

I used to think that sanitizing meant the same as disinfecting. The two terms, though, have different meanings.

Generally, disinfecting is a heavy-duty process to kill germs. It is a step beyond what we recommend for general household cleaning. Disinfecting requires toxic chemicals not recommended for use throughout the home. Industrially, it may involve extreme heat.

In homes, disinfectants should be limited to toilets and sinks exposed to bodily fluids. Because using an excess of disinfectants can cause problems.

For household cleaning, just sanitize to lower the number of germs on a surface to a safe level. Eradicating all germs is not necessary. Low exposure to daily non-deadly germs helps build immune systems.

Depending on the strength, a water and bleach solution can be a disinfectant or a sanitizer. In medical settings, where exposure to bodily fluids poses a danger of infection, a high-concentration disinfectant is often used.

Follow the instructions on the bleach container to make a solution for household surfaces. The sodium hypochlorite in bleach kills bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaners.

White vinegar, a solution containing 5% to 10 % acetic acid, is not legally a disinfectant. Inexpensive white vinegar can be used in mixtures to help clean and sanitize.

Use vinegar to clean built-up dirt on windows. Spray the window thoroughly with vinegar in a spray bottle. Scrub with a recycled rag and rinse with water.

Occasionally, a dishwasher needs cleaning. Vinegar can dissolve hard water lime and built-up soap scum. When put in the wash cycle to clean dishes, vinegar substitutes dishwasher detergent.

Make ice cubes using equal parts of white vinegar and water to clean the garbage disposal. Freeze around a lemon wedge. Place some cubes in the garbage disposal. Let them thaw slightly. Then grind before flushing with water.

A washer machine will produce a build-up of mildew and bacteria. That residue is unsuitable for clothing or pipes, so spring cleaning the washer will flush away the dirt.

With white vinegar, spray the gasket seal, dispensing drawers, and any areas with a scum build-up. Wipe with a micro cloth. Rinse and repeat.

Pour white vinegar into the liquid dispensing drawer, run the hottest cycle, and spray the outside of the washer and all controls with white vinegar. Then wipe with a cloth and use a small scrubber to remove any stubborn stains. After the washer stops, open it and wipe the inside dry.

Remove the musty smell with white vinegar when a load of clothes has been left too long in the washing machine. Rewash the load using half a cup of white vinegar, add a few drops of a favorite essential oil, and run a short cycle.

There is no need to buy expensive air fresheners. In a spray bottle, combine equal parts of white vinegar and water. Add a few drops of lemon essential oil — Spritz around the house. Use the extra spray in trash cans, the bathrooms, and areas with lingering odors.

As always, shop locally for vinegar, bleach, spray bottles, cleaning cloths, and essential oils. Enjoy the scent of a freshly cleaned home.

Note that March 29 is National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day. The day reminds us to patronize locally owned businesses.

Janet Miller

Janet Miller is a freelance writer specializing in family faith. She offers Family Prayers and Activities: Weekly Guides on compact disc for families to explore the Bible together. Email