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Disinfecting with Discrimination

Give laundry that garden-fresh scent the natural way.

The goal of eliminating every germ in your house is unrealistic," says Cheryl Mendelson, author of Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping Home. "You can, however, easily limit the population of dangerous pathogens without resorting to potent antibacterials." Here's how.

Start with elbow grease: Too many of us think that spraying disinfectant will spare the need to scrub. Wrong. "Using good old-fashioned elbow grease to remove dirt and grease with ordinary detergents or soaps is the best defense against infectious sickness," Mendelson says.

Then bleach it: Disinfect only where necessary―most of the kitchen and in the bathroom. Use three-quarters cup of chlorine bleach in a gallon of water. "Chlorine bleach kills a broad range of microbes, breaks down into environmentally friendly salt and water, and is inexpensive," says Mendelson. If you want to clean and disinfect at the same time, add a tablespoon of laundry detergent.

Let air and sun work their magic: Most microorganisms need moisture to multiply. So wipe countertops, sinks, faucets, showers, and kitchen tables with a dry, clean towel or cloth. Ultraviolet radiation, the same rays from the sun that harm your skin, also eliminate. germs and dust mites. Place pillows, curtains, fabrics, children's toys, and laundry outside in the sun or let sunlight into your home. Make sure to open your windows wide―glass tends to filter out the helpful UV rays.