The Wine Pages: Homebrew winemaking
Some people get terribly hung up on sterilisation. It is true that you must sterilise your equipment, but do not be scared into thinking everything that has to be soaked in battery acid for 6 days. I am an inherently untidy and careless person, and my sterilisation methods are a bit slack to say the least, but I've never had a problem. So take due care, but do not fret unduly.
Sterilisation is what you do to your equipment to get rid of all the dreck and microscopic nasties that have taken up residence since last time you used it.
If you don't do this thoroughly enough, then either you end up with ten gallons of low-grade wine vinegar (hope you like salads, home pickling or sweet-and-sour food) or just conceivably something that sends you to the lavatory for a few days (hope you've got a good book).
Normal method: lots of warm water and some VWP cleaner, scrub vigorously. Rinse out in clean water mixed with a little sulfite to get rid of the chlorine smell, and finally rinse in clean water, and leave to drain. Use immediately.
Advanced method: lots of boiling water and lots of VWP cleaner. If your equipment is a bit manky. Leave it to soak overnight if needed
If you really fancy some fun, mix sulfite and citric acid together, which makes a really smelly gas, slosh this around to get things really sterile.
Always rinse wine bottles in weak sulfite solution prior to use, and drain well.
Store glassware and plastic fermentors with a pint of water in the bottom to which you have added some sulfite and then seal with a bung. This way, all your equipment will stay sterile. Keep airlocks and rubber bungs inside a glass jar filled with this solution.
Don't use any chemicals apart from these unless you really like the taste.