Bicarbonate of soda
Yes – you can use it to clean with, but don’t be fooled by commercial products that claim it as the active ingredient. Bicarb works when mixed freshly with anything acidic (lemon juice or vinegar both work well) then the combination gives off oxygen, which is the mildest bleach you could imagine. It also lifts grime with the bubbles. But don’t forget it is a bleach, however mild, so still do the test and wait thing. A better way to use it is to sprinkle it dry on grubby carpets or upholstery. It works particularly well on shaggy rugs that have got a bit smelly. Leave overnight if possible and then vacuum out – the smell and most of the grime should be gone. On dark colours don’t forget – test first!
Use this sparingly and always diluted – and don’t forget, this is white spirit vinegar, not malt. For windows it works a treat, but unless you like flies in summer, rinse off with water afterwards because (despite the old saying about catching more flies with honey than vinegar) they will be drawn to the residual smell and then you will be worse off than before. Never use vinegar on wool rugs, because the acid will strip the natural lanolin from the fibres and ruin the texture as well as very possibly leaving a bleached mark.
Odd as it sounds, the most useful cleaning agent in your home is salt. It can be used to mop up spills but it also comes in handy if you need to clean something delicate because, dampened, it has a mild abrasive action. If you have a semi-solid spill on your lovely traditional rug, upending some cooking salt on it will make it easier to remove and won't damage the fibres as long as you clean it up straight away. If your spill is something that will stain, such as ketchup, tipping salt onto it will mean you can remove it faster before it soaks into the pile of your wool rug and ruins it for good. If you can, let the residue dry and vacuum out later – don’t get any rugs too wet or you can damage them.