dirty white shag rug

How to Clean a Shag Rug

There’s no better feeling than sinking your toes into a shaggy rug at the end of a busy day!

That is, until you curl your toes around a couple of crumbs! Yuck! Yep, shag rugs may add a touch of plushness and character to a room. But they also act as five-star retreats for grime.

And it doesn’t end there. It isn’t enough for the rugs to be made up of long, deep colourful piles that hide and clutch onto general debris and aromas. They’ve also got to be a pain to clean!

You can’t just run a hoover over them as you would with a short-piled carpet because the insanely long fibres that are made from delicate materials, will get trapped in the brush bar and will be pulled out of shape.

Plus, you’re advised against cleaning the rugs with liquids because, as you might’ve guessed, the often-expensive shaggy rugs love to hold water.

With all of this in mind, you’re probably wondering how on earth you keep such a rug clean!

Well, you’ve stopped at the right place. Just read on and you’ll find out how to wash a shag rug.


How to Clean a Shag Rug

feet on shag rug

Tip: You can carry out the method below on a weekly basis (or fortnightly if the rug isn’t subjected to much traffic).

Steps to follow:

  1. Flip your rug over and read the instructions on the care label. Adhere to this advice! Some small rugs are machine washable. If this is the case, clean the shag rug in this manner and save yourself time.
  2. Optional: Brush the carpet with a rubber brush or carpet rake to dislodge hair from the surface.
  3. Pick your rug up and take it outside. Get someone to help you with this if your shag rug is large.
  4. If the rug is small enough, give it a really good shake to dislodge hair, crumbs, and general dirt from it.
  5. If the shag rug is big, drape it over a rotary washing line/some sturdy chairs and beat it with a brush/mop handle or a rattan reed carpet beater like this one from World of Nature on Amazon. This will also dislodge dirt from the shag rug.
  6. Shake and beat the rug until you’ve dislodged as much grime as possible – you should wear a mask and goggles because there may be a lot of dust.
  7. Bring your shag rug back indoors.
  8. Roll the shag rug up into a sausage shape and put it to one side.
  9. Lay a clean sheet on the floor. Skip this step if you’ve got a hard surface down (like tile or laminate).
  10. Unroll the shag rug onto the clean sheet (solid floor) but put it soft side down. The back of the rug should be facing upwards.
  11. Grab your hoover. Ideally, you need a vacuum cleaner that’s good at cleaning thick piled carpets because if you hoover the rug ‘normally,’ you run the risk of pulling the pile out of shape and getting it tangled in the brush bar. If your carpet cannot hoover long piles, remove the brush bar and use the handheld attachment and pipe instead.
  12. Gently run the vacuum cleaner over the back of the rug. This may take you some time as you’ll be hoovering the carpet by hand.
  13. Roll the rug up into a sausage shape again and put it to one side.
  14. Hoover the sheet (solid floor).
  15. Repeat Steps 10 to 14 multiple times so that you can clean the shag rug.
  16. Flip the shag rug over so it’s facing the right way up.
  17. Hoover the shag rug when the long piles are on display. Remember to use the handheld attachments and nozzle to do this, not the brush bar.
  18. If you find that the pile isn’t looking its best, comb it with a carpet rake!

Note: Don’t use a rented carpet cleaner or steamer to clean a shag carpet because the machines’ heat and power may damage or discolour the carpet’s pile.


Alternatives Cleaning Methods

Carpet shampoo

carpet shampoo and brush for shag rug

To perform a deeper clean, you can carry out the steps above, and then you can clean the carpet using some dry carpet shampoo.

Just apply the carpet cleaner to the surface (follow the instructions on the packaging), work the product into the pile using a soft brush, wait the appropriate amount of time, then remove the cleaner from the rug by beating and hoovering it.

Tip: Choose a cleaner that is suitable for the shag rug (wool/acrylic/Flokati) and test it out before you use it.


Professional help

Alternatively, if you’re not happy carrying out the method(s) above, you should ask a professional rug cleaner to come around and clean your shag rug for you.

Professionals have access to a wider range of tools and cleaning products, and can also treat troubling stains. They’ll be able to take care of your carpet for you!

To find a cleaner near you, just do a quick online search! And when you do find a person/company you’d like to work with, remember the following tips:

  • Ask lots of questions – Find out what products will be used, if you need to do anything beforehand, and when/where the work will be carried out.
  • Find out what you’re paying for – Do you have to pay for any products, for example?
  • Read reviews and choose a reputable company.


How to Treat Stains on a Shag Rug

blot carpet with cloth

Tips to think about:

  • Act fast! Don’t allow stains to set because once blemishes age, they’re really hard to remove.
  • Blot the stain, don’t scrub it! Scrubbing will only drive the debris deeper into the pile. This, in turn, will make the grime harder to remove.
  • Have lots of neutral-coloured microfibre cloths at hand! It’s better to use neutral-coloured cloths so that you don’t spread any dyes around.
  • Make sure the shag rug can be treated with a little liquid. If you’re going to go down this route, make sure you read the care label on the back of the rug. And if it can’t be treated with liquid, ask a professional cleaner for help.
  • Don’t oversaturate the rug.
  • As with any kind of carpet, you must allow the shag rug to dry properly before walking over it again.
  • Try to use specialised cleaning products or neutral cleaners rather than chemical-heavy goods!
  • Do a patch test first! A quick test will tell you if the product you’re about to use will harm the rug in any way. If the cleaner does discolour or damage the shag rug, you can stop using it immediately and find an alternative treatment.
  • Read the care label on the rug, and if you see the words ‘Dry Clean Only,’ get the rug dry cleaned.
  • Keep kids and pets away from the treated area.


Stain-removal method

clean carpet with stain remover, washing up liquid and vinegar

You can treat stains using an off-the-shelf carpet cleaner, washing up liquid and water, or you can mix equal parts of white vinegar and warm water in a spray bottle and use this.

To clean stains off a shag rug, follow these steps:

  1. Blot the stain with a microfibre cloth to soak up excess moisture/debris.
  2. Continuously blot until the area is relatively dry/slightly stained.
  3. Apply an off-the-shelf cleaner to the area – follow the instructions on the packaging.
  4. OR dip a cloth into warm soapy water and blot the stain to remove it from the surface.
  5. OR spray some white vinegar and water onto a microfibre cloth and blot the area. Spray the stain directly if it’s stubborn. You shouldn’t mix different cleaners together as this can be dangerous.
  6. Continuously blot the blemished area until it becomes clean.
  7. Rinse any product residue from the area by blotting it with a fresh, damp cloth.
  8. Allow the shag rug to dry. Lift it off the floor so air can flow around it.

The quicker you treat a stain, the better your chances are of getting rid of the blemish properly.

In contrast, the longer you leave debris on a surface, the more time it has to settle into the long pile and toughen up. As a consequence, the stain will be more challenging to remove.


How to Keep Shag Rugs Clean

white powder on carpet

Follow these tips to keep your shag rug looking cleaner for longer:

  • Stay on top of the general cleaning. If you don’t maintain the rug, it will lose its fluffiness and colour. And it will also start to smell dirty.
  • Remove stains as soon as possible.
  • Don’t use harsh cleaning tools and chemicals, as this can damage and discolour the rug.
  • Shake the shag rug out every week to dislodge debris from it. You can do this less often if you don’t walk or drag too much dirt over the surface.
  • If your shag rug is a little smelly, sprinkle bicarbonate of soda all over it and leave it on the surface overnight. The next day, you can beat the powder and aromas off the carpet.
  • Have a ‘no shoes’ rule in the house/room so the pile doesn’t get trampled on by rough, tough and grubby footwear.
  • Wipe your pup’s paws before they come into the room.
  • Cover the rug or move it out of the way if kids are going to be playing/colouring in the area. For example, if your kids are going to be playing with playdough, cover the rug up because you don’t want the colourful dough to get caught up in the long pile.