Manataka American Indian Council







From Lauren Zack




Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products!


Oven cleaner, window cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, unclogging drains, alternatives to moth balls, floor and furniture polish, and more!



Stop using environmentally damaging chemical cleaners in your home.  The natural way is the Indian way. 



Eco-friendly alternatives to commercial cleaners and other household products


are less polluting to manufacture;

are less likely, in some cases, to cause injury if accidentally ingested;

don't cause indoor air pollution in your home;

are generally less expensive than commercial products;

can reduce waste from packaging;

are simple and effective and have been used for generations;

can help you save space in your cupboards and closets;

are less likely to harm the environment during and after use.


Shopping list:  

vinegar (either white or apple cider)

baking soda

corn starch


borax (toxic if ingested)

lemon juice

olive oil

mild liquid soap (not detergent, preferably unscented and biodegradable--see "recommended products" below)

reusable steel wool (not commercial cleaning pads that contain toxic cleaners)

non-chlorine (no sodium hyphochlorite) scouring powder (e.g. Bon Ami)


Recipes and tips:


All-purpose cleaner
Mix 2 Tbsp baking soda with 1 pint warm water in a spray bottle. Add a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of vinegar to cut grease.


Surface cleaner
Find a combination that works for you, and always keep some ready in a spray bottle. You'll find that weak acids like vinegar & lemon juice are good at cutting grease.
Mix: 1 quart hot water, 1 tsp vegetable oil-based soap or vegetable oil-based detergent, 1 tsp borax, & 2 Tbsp vinegar.
Note: Vinegar is used here as mild acid to cut grease; borax is used as a water softener, especially good in areas with hard water, to prevent soapy deposits.
Or, mix 1/2 cup vinegar in 1 quart of warm water.
Or, dissolve baking soda in hot water for a general cleaner. 
(Source: U.S. EPA)


For a soft scrubbing paste, mix some baking soda with enough liquid soap to make a paste. Make only what you need as it dries up quickly.
(Source: Children's Health Environmental Coalition)


No-streak glass/window cleaner
Mix 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1 quart warm water.
Or, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 Tbsp cornstarch and 1 quart warm water.

Apply with a spray bottle or sponge. Wipe with crumpled newspaper instead of paper towels for lint-free results.
(Source: U.S. EPA)


Oven cleaner
Use one of the following methods:
(Source: U.S. EPA)


Mix 1 part vinegar to about 4 parts water. Put into a spray bottle. Spray onto cool oven surface. Scrub the oven clean. Use baking soda or a citrus-based cleaner on stubborn spots.

Mix together in a spray bottle 2 Tbsp liquid soap (not detergent), 2 tsp borax, and warm water to fill the bottle. Make sure the salts are completely dissolved to avoid clogging the squirting mechanism. Spray on mixture, holding the bottle very close to the oven surface. Leave the solution on for 20 minutes, then scrub with steel wool and a non-chlorine scouring powder.

Or, use a non-chlorinated scouring powder, like Bon Ami.

Or, use a baking soda, salt, and water paste.

Clean glass oven door with Bon Ami. Use razor blade or spatula for tough spots.

Notes: Avoid aerosol oven cleaners and cleaners containing lye (sodium hydroxide). Avoid chlorinated scouring powders such as Comet and Ajax. Don't use abrasive cleaning materials on self-cleaning ovens. For preventative cleaning, use baking soda dissolved in water.


Non-toxic toilet bowl cleaner
Pour in 1 cup borax, 1/2 cup white vinegar and leave overnight. Flush to wet the sides of the bowl. Sprinkle the borax around the toilet bowl, then drizzle with vinegar. Leave for several hours before scrubbing with a toilet brush.

For stains in toiletbowl, try a paste of lemon juice and borax. Let sit about 20 min. and scrub with bowl brush.

Notes: Avoid solid toilet bowl deodorizers that contain paradichlorobenzene -- there is evidence that it causes cancer in laboratory animals. Some toiletbowl-cleaning products contain acids (read labels). If acids are mixed with a cleaner containing chlorine, toxic chlorine gas is released. (Source: U.S. EPA)


Tub and sink cleaner
Use non-chlorinated cleanser (e.g. Bon Ami).

For toughest stains, try a citrus-based cleaner at full strength (undiluted).
Try fine grain wet/dry sandpaper (400 grit) to remove pot marks in porcelain sinks (gentler than common scouring cleansers).
To remove mineral deposits around faucets, cover deposits with strips of paper towels, soaked in vinegar. Let set for 1 hour and clean.

Note: Hard water means the water has a high mineral content (e.g. calcium, magnesium, iron, etc.). This often results in whitish mineral deposits left on faucets, shower doors, drains, windows. Vinegar, a weak acid, can dissolve many of these deposits.
(Source: U.S. EPA)


Use hydrogen peroxide-based bleaches. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down to water and oxygen in wastewater.
(Source: U.S. EPA)


For excellent information about the hazards of chlorine, see:


For a fabric rinse, add 1/4 cup of vinegar to the washing machine's rinse cycle. This eliminates the scratchy feel of laundered clothes by rinsing detergent completely from clothes.


To brighten clothes, add 1/2 cup of lemon juice to the rinse cycle.


Reduce the amount of laundry detergent per load by adding 1/2 cup of baking soda or borax to the wash.
(Source: Children's Health Environmental Coalition)


Use vegetable-based laundry detergent free of chlorine bleach and artificial fragrances, with no optical brighteners or dyes, and biodegradable (recommended products: see below)


Handwashing: Use vegetable oil-based soaps/detergents.
Automatic dishwasher: Automatic dishwashing detergents have a very high level of phosphates. (One exception is Seventh Generation brand dishwashing powder--see recommended brands, below)


For excellent information on the environmental hazards of phosphates: 


Unclogging drains
Use one of the following methods:


Pour one or two handfuls of baking soda followed by cup white vinegar down the drain pipe and cover tightly for one minute. The chemical reaction between the two substances will create pressure in the drain and dislodge the obstruction. Rinse with hot water.

Pour cup salt and cup baking soda followed by lots of hot water.

Plunge the sink.

Use a drain snake -- also called a sink auger -- to unclog stubborn drains. Drain snakes can be purchased at hardware stores or ordered online, sometimes for less than the cost of a bottle of chemical drain cleaner. More expensive heavy-duty drain snakes can be rented for less than the cost of a chemical drain cleaner. 

Read "Unclogging a Sink Drain ," from 


Moth balls
Store clean clothing in airtight containers or sealed bags with cedar blocks, shavings (available as cage bedding in pet stores) or oil. Place cedar in drawers and closets as well. Inspect any used clothing or furniture carefully for moths or larvae before bringing them into the house, or clean them first. Vigorously shaking clothes will remove larvae and eggs (remember to vacuum well afterwards). And the heat of the dryer will also kill larvae and eggs.
(Source: Children's Health Environmental Coalition)


Floor or furniture polish
Use one of the following methods:


Use 1 part lemon to 2 parts olive oil and apply a thin coat. Rub in well with a soft cloth.

Mix three parts olive oil and one part vinegar.


Carpet deodorizer
Sprinkle carpet liberally with baking soda. Wait 15 minutes longer, then vacuum. For musty rugs that have been sitting in the attic, leave the baking soda overnight.


Metal polishing
(Source: U.S. EPA)
Brass: Mix 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 cup white vinegar with enough flour to make a paste. Apply thickly. Let sit for 15 min-1/2 hr. Rinse thoroughly with water to avoid corrosion.
Copper: Polish with a paste of lemon juice and salt.
Silver: Boil silver 3 minutes in a quart of water containing: 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and a piece of aluminum foil.
Or, rub silver with a baking soda/water paste and a soft cloth; rinse and polish dry.
Or, rub with toothpaste.
Use a toothbrush to clean raised surfaces. Be careful not to scratch surfaces. Be gentle and use a light hand.
Chrome: Wipe with vinegar, rinse with water, then dry. (Good for removing hard water deposits.)
Or, shine chrome fixtures with baby oil and a soft cloth. (Good for removing soap scum off faucets.)
Stainless steel: Clean and polish with a baking soda/water paste or a cleanser like Bon Ami.


Paper towels and rags
Crumpled newspaper is a great substitute for paper towels for cleaning windows. If you do use paper towels for cleaning, choose unbleached paper towels with high post-consumer recycled content (recommended products: see below). Reusable cloth rags are also a good choice.


Disposal of commercial cleaning products
Get rid of toxic household products stored under your kitchen sink and in your basement -- but don't pour them down the drain or throw them in the trash. Remember that many household products are considered hazardous waste. Contact your local environmental agency or public works department to find out about hazardous waste disposal in your area. You can read about local disposal rules at by entering your zipcode and clicking on "Household Hazardous Waste"






1) Recommended brands of "green" laundry products (detergent/fabric softener/non-chlorine bleach), liquid dish soap, and dishwasher detergent free of chlorine, artificial fragrances and dyes, vegetable-based and petroleum-free! 


Mountain Green
Seventh Generation


2) Seventh Generation and Planet also have "green" paper products free of chlorine, dyes, and synthetic perfumes, with high post-consumer recycling content (Planet label for some paper products: "Green Forest"):


NRDC lists other eco-friendly companies and their paper products in "How to shop for household paper products":


3) Can't find these products in your local store? Try on-line shopping for Ecover, Seventh Generation: look under "Manufacturer" list:  or Wellness Grocer:

On-line for Mountain Green or Planet at

Mountain Green,

Planet and their paper-products under Green Forest are also sold in many large supermarkets. Check out the list in your area on their website. Planet will soon sell their products direct to the consumer, so check back on their "Direct Order" webpage which is currently under construction.


If you can't find Seventh Generation paper products in your local stores, go to to purchase in bulk from Treecycle, a wholesaler. They also have information about other paper products, including computer paper.

4) Consumers can readily find information about all their eco-friendly household product needs, and where to buy them, through on-line catalogs such as National Green Pages put out by Coop America: and click on "National Green Pages" square green icon.
Example: Enter  "cleaning products" in the "category" section and get a listing of 24 eco-friendly companies:


Environmental Media Services -