A polymeric manganese(II) complex with the general formula [Mn(O2CCH2NH2CH2CO2)2(H2O)2]n from reaction of iminodiacetatic acid and manganese(II) perchlorate under nitrogen in water, was synthesized and characterized. The structure of the complex was determined using single-crystal X-ray diffraction, elemental analysis, IR and UV-vis spectra. This complex exhibited excellent catalytic activity and selectivity for oxidation of various alcohols and sulfides to the corresponding aldehydes/ketone and sulfoxides using urea hydrogen peroxide and oxone (2KHSO5·KHSO4·K2SO4), respectively, as oxidants under air at room temperature. The easy preparation, mild reaction conditions, high yields of the products, short reaction time, no over-oxidation products, high selectivity and inexpensive system make this catalytic system a useful method for oxidizing various alcohols and sulfides. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.