Manataka American Indian Council





Eco-Friendly Cleaning Supplies

By Liora Leah Zack




Homemade cleaning products use four simple ingredients: vinegar, soap, a "scrubber", and water. Oh, and don't forget the "elbow grease"!


Why make your own? As alternatives to most commercial cleaning products, these homemade ones don't cause indoor air pollution in your home, are less likely to harm the environment, and can be less expensive than commercial products.


I use Bon Ami or baking soda as the scrubber. Bon Ami is made out of calcium carbonate and is a biodegradable detergent containing no phosphates, chlorine, perfume or dye. I've been using it for years as an alternative to Ajax (chlorinated). It is readily found in the cleanser section of grocery stores.


Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, a naturally occurring crystalline compound that is mildly abrasive yet soft and dissolves in water so it doesn't scratch. It is anti-fungal, and neutralizes the acidic components in grease, dirt, and unpleasant odors. It appears to be nontoxic. Baking soda requires more "elbow grease" than chlorinated powders such as Ajax but it "leaves you with a working windpipe" (1)(2)


I also use baking soda to eliminate odors in the refrigerator and it is good to put into toilets to get rid of smells. It's also handy to keep a box in the kitchen to put on grease fires--with my cooking skills, I've had to use it on occasion! 


Vinegar is the deodorizer and sanitizer. It is mildly acidic and helps kill bacteria and mold.  I use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar as I find the white vinegar too strong-smelling. And yes, the apple cider vinegar I buy is food-grade, the stuff you make salad dressing from. If you really want to be a zealot, buy organic apple cider vinegar for cleaning purposes! I use organic apple cider vinegar in the kitchen and bathroom to help get rid of mold around the sink and tub.


Soap cleans away dirt. Don't mix it with vinegar. I use liquid dish-washing soap diluted with water to clean my entire house. A little bit of soap goes a long ways: if you put too much in the water, you'll find yourself having to repeatedly rinse the soap bubbles off of whatever you are cleaning.


I use the simple solution of water and dish soap to clean the 'frig, wash the floors, counters, walls, windows (very diluted down), etc. I use the same solution, with a sprinkling of Bon Ami directly on the surfaces, to scrub bathroom tiles and sinks; after scrubbing and rinsing, I use the apple cider vinegar if there is mold. For a deodorizer for the toilet, after I've scrubbed and flushed with the soap solution, I pour in some baking soda and let it sit there.


My favorite brands of dishwashing soap are Seventh Generation and Planet. Both are biodegradable, non-toxic, unscented, dye-free, phosphate free, and vegetable-based (vs. petroleum-based). Seventh Generation is safe for grey water or septic systems. See below for more product information. Both brands are available in local health food stores.


Be in Good Health!



Thank you for going Green!

Liora Leah


Eco-Friendly Cleaning & Other Household Product Information: 


Seventh Generation  


Where to buy: 

Can't find these products in your local store? Try on-line shopping at Cari Amici for Seventh Generation, and other vegan, cruelty-free products:


Planet  can be found at, which sells other eco-friendly products

Planet is also sold in a lot of large chain grocery stores. You can 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.


Consumers can readily find information about all their eco-friendly household product needs and where to buy them through the on-line catalog National Green Pages put out by Coop America: and click on "National Green Pages" rectangular green icon.  Example: I entered "cleaning products" in the "category" section and got a listing of 24 eco-friendly companies!   


Article Resource: 

(1) Ask Umbra/Grist Magazine:

(2) For excellent information about the hazards of chlorine, and alternatives to its use:




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