It is so tempting to try the many new green products out there, and I have, but I always find myself going back to the basics. Here are the original green cleaners: classics, basics, all time-tested and trusted, made in the USA for over 100 years.
When walking down the cleaning product aisle (or more likely AISLES) of your local department or grocery store, take a look at the products. From bathroom cleaners to kitchen disinfectants, to laundry detergents, it seems like every manufacturer of household products has come out with an eco-friendly line of green cleaners.
But when I open the cupboard under my kitchen sink, I probably see the same made in America cleaning supplies my great-grandmother used: Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, 20 Mule Team Borax, Heinz Vinegar, and Murphy Oil Soap. These made in the USA products have been around for 100 years and have truly stood the test of time.
Don't miss our ultimate source list of the oldest American made products!
Made in the USA Over 100 Years: The Original Green Cleaners
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
What's impressive about Arm & Hammer Baking Soda is the fact that it has been owned by the same US company, Church & Dwight Co., for 175 years! In 1846 John Dwight and his brother in law, Dr. Austin Church, started making baking soda in their New England kitchens. Today, Church & Dwight Co. is the biggest manufacturer of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in America. Though Arm & Hammer Baking Soda was originally developed to be used in baking, it has many uses as a natural cleaning product:
- Put a bit of baking soda on a damp cloth and use it to remove coffee stains from a coffee pot or cups, remove stuck on food or grease from Pyrex, glass or non-aluminum cooking dishes or pans, erase stains from countertops, remove mineral deposits from sinks and tub and clean your tub/shower.
- Pour a cup full into the toilet and let it sit for an hour before brushing to remove stains and odors.
- Add about 1/4 cup to cloth diaper laundry, or any smelly loads, to get rid of odors.
- Sprinkle some baking soda onto carpet with odors. Let set overnight, then vacuum up. The odor should be removed. I have also done this with cement basement floors to remove cat odors.
20 Mule Team Borax
Borax is a naturally occurring mineral found in the Mojave Desert, California. The discovery, mining, and transporting of Borax was a big part of the American West in the late 1800s. The heat in Death Valley, and the weight of the Borax made it quite a challenge to get large amounts out quickly. This led to the creation of sturdier wagons pulled by a 20 mule team that was able to get the product out safe and fast. The mule teams were used until railways were built. Today, the 20 Mule Team is the trademark of Borax. Around the house, 20 Mule Team Borax has many uses as a green cleaner:
- Borax is sold as a laundry booster. Adding a scoop to your load, along with your regular detergent, will help with odors and prevent stains.
- Sprinkle about 1/2 a cup onto the bottom of your dishwasher when running a load through the wash cycle to aid in cleaning- it removes spots and film on dishes.
- Sprinkle 1/4 cup into the toilet bowl let sit for an hour, then brush away stains.
- Sprinkle onto the bottom of the tub and scrub to remove dirt, soap scum, and hard water stains. Also great at removing tile and grout stains.
- Borax works as an ant killer.
- Also makes glow in the dark slime!
The H.J. Heinz Company was founded in 1869 and produced sauces and pickles in America. This new company also manufactured the vinegar used in these products. It didn't take long for Heinz to think out of the box and begin bottling and selling the vinegar alone, making it the first company in the US to do so. White distilled vinegar is a natural disinfectant and is a great alternative to bleach. However, it has been reported that some white vinegar could be made with petroleum, thus eliminating the “Green” factor. Vinegar manufacturers do not have to let consumers know what is in their product. Because of this controversy, Heinz came out with an ‘All Natural Cleaning Vinegar' which is guaranteed to be made of only grain and water, and no petroleum. Heinz White Vinegar has many uses around the house as a safe, Eco- friendly cleaner:
- Fill a squirt bottle about 3/4 way with vinegar (I got my made in the USA squirt bottles at Walmart), add about 2TBS dish-soap, fill rest with water. I use this as my multi-purpose cleaner to wipe down counters and tables. I also use it to wipe down the tub before the kiddos take a bath- so much safer than chemical cleaners!
- When coffee starts tasting funky, clean the coffee pot by running a brew cycle with vinegar instead of water- and no coffee grounds. Follow with a few more brew cycles with just water to get rid of remaining vinegar before making an actual pot of coffee.
- Vinegar works as a natural fabric softener. Put vinegar in the washer's fabric softener dispenser or put it in a dispenser ball. Great for line dried laundry.
- Adding about a cup of vinegar to the cloth diaper laundry is a great way to remove residue from diaper cream and to eliminate odors. This is only recommended on diapers that are used with a separate diaper cover- not the ones with a built-in cover!
Murphy Oil Soap
Murphy Oil Soap has been around since the early 1900s. It was originally manufactured by a Cleveland, Ohio company, Murphy- Phoenix Co., that made oils for machines, harnesses, and valves. In 1991, Murphy Oil Soap was purchased by Colgate Company and is still made in Ohio. Murphy Oil Soap is made from plant-based cleaning agents, contains no phosphates, and is biodegradable. Using on unfinished wood surfaces is not recommended- always test on a small area before using. Most people think of Murphy Oil Soap as a wood floor cleaner, however, it has many uses:
- I live in a log house- log walls, wood ceilings, oddly- no wood floors. At least twice a year I wipe down the walls and ceilings with a dilution of Murphy Oil Soap and water to keep the wood clean and conditioned.
- The same dilution of Murphy Oil Soap and water works well in cleaning painted walls too– test first.
- Put some water/Murphy Oil Soap dilution in a spray bottle and use it to wipe down or “dust” your wood furniture. This is great for wood kitchen chairs, especially if you have young kids- food is always stuck to my chairs!
- Put a dab of Murphy Oil Soap on grease stains before throwing stained clothes into the wash.
- Back to school tip I saw on Pinterest- Murphy Oil Soap gets eraser board marker off of clothes! Put a rag behind the stain so as not to transfer it to other parts of the clothing. With another rag, dab the mark with Murphy Oil Soap until the stain is off. I haven't tried this one yet! Someone let me know if it works!!
Do you have any favorite “Old School”, Eco-friendly cleaning products or tips? Share with us.
Follow USA Love List's board Cleaning | Organizing on Pinterest.
Borax is banned in a few countries. It can be dangerous for children especially. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324167#borax-and-children
Diatomaceous Earth – food grade is an excellent insect killer. And safe.
I’ve used these products for many years. I never considered myself to be green, just frugal. I also use baking soda vinegar and hot water to clean drains without resorting to those dangerous chemical drain cleaners. I don’t follow a recipe. I just pour baking soda down the drain and follow with vinegar. Once the foaming stops. I pour very hot water down the drain.
Murphy’s Oil Soap is also good for cleaning leather…. just don’t overdo the rubbing or leave it on there cause it will clean the dye right off your shoes/purse/coat, etc. We used it for cleaning saddles and bridles when we had horses. It’s great. Doesn’t strip all the oils out of the leather but gets it clean.
Baking soda is an amazing, multi purpose cleaner. I have some on hand at all times because it works on almost everything!
I have every one of these products in my pantry and have used them for many years. They’re my go-to. One item (no longer made, unfortunately) would make this list complete: Octagon Soap! I love having a good bar soap in the kitchen, so when Octagon was dropped, I started buying Fels-Naptha, which works fine and is also made in the USA.
What is Fels-Naptha used for?
I have used all of these green cleaners shown in this article. They are all terrific and I have been green for a long time now!
These are some great products & tips! We use vinegar to clean the coffee pot and Keurig. I also use vinegar and baking soda to clean the toilet and vinegar as a fabric softener to freshen up towels. Borax is also used in the laundry to help clean my husbands work clothes. I also use a mixture of vinegar, lemon juice, water & a drop of dish soap to clean the rusty, hard water stains from water bottles or drinking glasses. Just let sit for a few hours to a day or so, it works great! I didn’t realize some of these products were American made. 🙂
Great tips. I use these products already but didn’t think of using for the toilet bowl. We have hard water stains so the soaking for an hour sounds like something that would work well.
I have used all these products but I learned some great new applications for them. Great post.
I’ve used all of these at some point. Most of them work very well, too.
I have used these allfor many years They are generally less expensive and do a terrific job. They do sometimes need a bit more ‘elbow grease’ but it is worh it to stay a bit cleaner and greener.
I learned a lot from this post!! So many I use are made in the USA and that makes me really happy! Yay! I am obsessed that I have been using these quality cleaning products for many years.
I think I’ve used all of these to clean & they really do work. Plus, no harsh chemicals!
I use all of these products to clean my home. I find that vinegar is one of the best cleaners for the entire home. I add some essential oils too to make it smell even better.
Great list! Thanks for the info!
Had no idea Murphy’s oil was made in USA, love this stuff !
I love and use all of these American Made Cleaners. I am finding lots of uses for the Borax too.
I have all of those cleaners in my house today! I bought Borax this past weekend. Sometimes it is hard to find.
Excellent tips and info, thanks! Had held off on using Murphy’s because I did not know if it was eco or not, so appreciate learning that it is. Now I’ll use it to clean my wooden cabinet doors in my kitchen.
I never knew, or never gave it thought, that so many products were made here in the USA. Very interesting. Thank you.
Love knowing that these basic cleaners are us made!
I didn’t realize Murphy Oil was so eco friendly. Thanks for the info!
I use all of these products 🙂 I like to make my own cleaners and these are the bases for almost all of the products I make.
This is a wonderful post. Great to educate today’s youth of some of the products we old timers have used for as long as we can remember.
I honestly had no ideal some of these products were made in the USA. It is so hard to find things made in the USA. I still use some of these products because I think they clean the best.
I love each of these four products. I use all of these products and have for a long time. I can’t believe I didn’t realize all of them were made in the USA. I appreciate your reviews
Murphy’s Oil Soap is fantastic for the floor
I had no idea borax is a naturally occurring mineral found in the Mojave Desert! and how this product got its name! I’d like to try 20 Mule Team Borax, many things that I’d like to try it on!
I love using the basics, even more now that I know they’re made state side!
Thank you for the reminder — great products and made in USA
Murphy’s Oil Soap is the BEST. I’ve been using it for 20+ years!
These are some time honored products that have remained reliable.
I had no idea there was a “cleaning vinegar”, I will have to see if I can find it! I think I do remember something about the distillation process involving petroleum products. Thanks for a great post!
Thanks for the great suggestions! I love to use baking soda on the counter, sink, fridge, etc. Works great and non toxic!!
My recent post Kate Middleton’s Olympic-inspired hoop necklace cost $78,000! Here are 5 similar looks (for a whole lot less!)
Oh this list is wonderful! I have been wanting to buy more products made in the USA, and this list helps and such great tips on what you can also use these for!!! I love that 20 Mule Team Borax works as an ant killer! Wow….didnt know that!
The best, greenest, American made cleaning product I have ever run across is BioGreen Clean. You can use it on anything from your bathroom to your car. It works as a laundry booster, it's 100% wicked on anything organic, including petroleum products, and it's completely non-toxic. And an added bonus: when I have used it to wash my car, when I was finished I would lay the microfiber wash cloth down on the driveway and hit it with the hose. It rinsed out almost as clean as when I started with it!
Thanks for sharing Bill! I will have to check BioGreen Clean out, I haven't tried it yet.