How to clean a shag rug

How to clean a shag rug
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Easy on the eye and underfoot, shag rugs are a popular choice that add plenty of comfort to any interior. However, the same long fibers that give that cosy effect also make these rugs prone to trapping dirt. This means that finding quick and easy advice for how to clean a shag rug is key. 

More often sold as an area rug as opposed to a wall-to-wall carpet, this style is a great way to add texture to your living spaces. Fashion and function are supplied in abundance with shag rugs, so with the right maintenance you can make sure that both your feet are kept warm and your home looks good as new. 

However, a higher pile rug such as a shag rug requires more care and attention than the usual ways of knowing how to clean carpet (opens in new tab). There are many methods to cleaning a rug, but it is important to follow specific advice dedicated to shag rugs to avoid damaging the pile. Longer fibers are more likely to hold crumbs and debris and are also trickier to spot stains on, so regularly keeping up with cleaning will ensure permanent damage is kept at bay.  

How often you should clean a shag rug 

As with most carpets and rugs that are placed in areas with high footfall, you should vacuum daily or several times a week to avoid the buildup of dirt. Fluffy surfaces can also become a favorite spot for pets to snuggle and nap on, so vacuuming regularly will help keep a rug hygienic and odor-free. 

The good news is that it's relatively quick and easy to clean shag rugs. Simply taking the rug outside and shaking will dislodge the majority of crumbs and dust that accumulate. This will ensure that when it comes time to using the best vacuum cleaners (opens in new tab), you're starting from a better place. 

Vacuuming is a vital part of keeping any floor surface in top condition as dust can eventually cause permanent harm, so exploring good quality vacuum cleaners will help you find the right device for your household. 

When searching for a new vacuum, or tackling daily chores, it's important to check that your device is compatible with higher piles, as some attachments may struggle with those snug threads. 

What you should use to clean a shag rug

What the expert says...

Ali Hafezi Mashhadi, Vice President of Babash Rug Services (opens in new tab), recommends, "Shag rugs should not be cleaned with water in-home as their thick piles would absorb more moisture than anyone could extract in a reasonable amount of time. Rugs that are left in water for a prolonged period of time are susceptible to color bleeding, shrinkage, rotting, and loss of durability."

While shag rugs do require a little bit more attention than thinner, flat-weave rugs,  the cleaning methods still remain minimal and easy to implement. After shaking outside and vacuuming to shift any large bits of dirt, we recommend using a dry rug shampoo as the best route to follow. This is because the dry rug shampoo will deodorize the shag rug while simultaneously providing a general refresh as well. 

So, if you’re looking to get your shag rug back to its thick and fluffy former glory, take a look at the following steps.

  1. Shake the rug out to remove any crumbs, debris, and dust. This is usually a messy job so best to do it outside 
  2. Vacuum the shag rug - this isn't as simple as vacuuming other rugs, as the high pile can become stuck in the machine and ruined. Pick a high-pile-carpet vacuum cleaner for the best results.
  3. Place the rug on its front and vacuum the back - this should dislodge anything stuck in the piles. 
  4. Using a dry shampoo, sprinkle it across the rug.
  5. Allow it to sit for a couple of hours and then vacuum it out. If the pile is 5cm or longer, shake instead. 

How to clean stains from a shag rug

As with any stains on any surface, the rule of acting fast applies when it comes to cleaning shag rugs. This will provide you with the best opportunity to remove the mark, and bring the rug back to life. 

While it might be tempting to give a fluffy rug a deep clean to well and truly remove any dirt, it is always best to save this for the professionals. Using a carpet cleaner on this style can cause damage to the fibers as a result of excess moisture and scrubbing, so we recommend finding someone with experience reviving shag rugs. The suction will also be too harsh on the higher pile, so runs the risk of harming the thick, snug quality. 

How to clean a shag rug

Knowing how to clean a shag rug will help you keep your rug pristine for as long as possible.  (Image credit: Getty)

Ali Hafezi Mashhadi also notes, "If the rug is made of natural fiber, we recommend blotting and vacuuming the stain to extract as much of the contaminant out from the rug without spreading it as possible before contacting a professional cleaning facility to perform a cleaning and professional spot removal procedure. Even cold water may spread the stain and make matters worse."

However, accidents can happen to the best of us, so it's always good to have a handy arsenal of tricks to target anything from coffee spills to pet urine. There are many stain removers on the market, but keeping it simple with white vinegar is a great choice for those looking for an affordable and natural option. 

  1. Blot the stain with a clean microfiber cloth to remove any excess residue. 
  2. Create a mixture of equal parts warm water and white vinegar. Add to a spray bottle and spray directly onto the stain. 
  3. Let it sit, then blot with a damp cloth until the stain lifts. 
  4. Flip the rug over and treat the stain in the same method, from the back. 
  5. Allow the rug to air dry then place back into its original position. 

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Holly is the Features Editor at Top Ten Reviews where she focuses on creating informative, how-to advice. She has a degree in English Literature and previously worked as a copywriter at Howdens, specializing in kitchens and trend-led interiors. When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her exploring the best London bars and brunch spots, or planning the next budget-friendly city break. 

With contributions from