How to Clean A Shag Rug? (7 DIY Methods)

Shag rugs feature long, high piles that are more comfortable and thicker than other types of carpets. But due to their thick fuzziness, shag rugs require special cleaning. 

We’re going to look at seven different ways to clean a shag rug at home without the help of a pro. Many of these methods can occur using common household items, a little effort, and a lot of time and patience. The size of your shag rug will affect how long it takes to get a shag rug clean, with most methods taking less than two hours.

Today, we’re going to look at the different ways to clean a shag rug. We’ll also explain the various challenges of cleaning this style over other carpets and the materials you need to keep on hand for routine cleanings.

Shag Rug Materials

Shag rugs come in various materials, which will affect the method you can use to clean your carpet. The material will also affect the rug’s look, feel, and frequency of cleaning.

The majority of shag rugs are wool, durable and robust while retaining their softness and visual appeal. Wool is the most preferred material due to its durability and health benefits. But it will also cost the highest price.

Another popular shag type is Flokati, which is typically cream or white. However, you can also find Flokati rugs dyed a different color. This style is also 100% wool (top and backing). This style is the fluffiest but also the easiest and fastest to get dirty. These rugs require frequent brushing and cleaning.

As weird as it may sound, shag rugs can also come in leather. This option is easier to clean, but it is more expensive due to the price of leather. These shag rugs require low to medium traffic but will not stand up well against heavy use, animals, liquid, or food.

Some rugs use acrylic materials to create a soft, fine shag rug with bright colors and optimal stain resistance. Although these rugs have a similar look and texture to wool fibers, the material is synthetic (human-made) and cheaper. The downside is this material is not fire-resistant.

Cleaning Methods for Shag Rugs

Most Shag rugs (or any rug for that matter) have care tags that provide crucial information about your carpet, including the type of material, safety warnings, and appropriate care instructions. You can clean most shag rugs at home rather than using a professional cleaner. But the different types can cause the cleaning method to vary. Standard supplies you’ll need for cleaning include:

  • Vacuum cleaner (no beater bar; handheld and stand-up)
  • White or light-colored absorbent rags
  • Dry carpet shampoo
  • Steam cleaner
  • White vinegar
  • Mop/broom
  • White microfiber clothes
  • Mild detergent (or dishwashing liquid)
  • Soft bristle brush

What supplies you’ll need will depend on the cleaning method you’re implementing. Let’s look at some different ways to clean a shag rug using one or a combination of these products.

Beat It

One easy and fun way to clean shag rugs is to beat them to remove any dirt buildup. For this method, you’ll need to bring your carpets outside where you can hang them over a sturdy frame - a porch railing, sawhorse, chair, or durable clothesline. 

Once hung with the backside exposed (face down), use a broom or mop handle to whop the rug, so it knocks off any loose dirt. While you want to use enough power to knock the dirt loose, you don’t want to hit it too hard. 

After you’ve knocked all the dirt free, let your rug bask in a sunny location for two to three hours. The sun will eliminate dust mites or bacteria that tend to burrow deep into your carpeting.


A vacuum cleaner is one of the best cleaning tools ever invented, especially when cleaning shag rugs. Due to the habit of collecting dirt deep in the long strands, shag rugs require a thorough vacuuming at least once a week. 

For shag rugs in high-traffic areas, you may need to move this timetable up to a daily schedule, especially with children and pets. Shag rugs that are rarely walked over or moved can suffice once a month. 

Set your vacuum to the highest pile setting (if applicable) to ensure you don’t damage the high pile of the shag rug. Using a vacuum that does not adjust to accommodate different heights can cause issues with suction and maneuvering.

You also want to ensure your vacuum does not have a beater bar (or that it can turn off if there is one), as the power from these heads can cause damage to the strands. 

For the top side of your shag rug, a handheld vacuum or a hand attachment works better than a standard vacuum, which may cause your carpet to flatten.

It’s also a good idea to vacuum the underside of your rug at least once monthly. On the bottom side, a beater bar works excellent to remove any dirt debris that’s packed into the weave. However, if there’s too much suction and it causes the rug to suck up into the vacuum cleaner, you’ll want to skip using the beater bar.

Dry Shampoo

Dry shampooing can also be an effective way to clean shag rugs. For this method, start by applying shampoo granules over the top of your carpet. Use the vacuum bristles to work the granules into the carpet. Be sure the vacuum is off for this process.

After you’ve let the shampoo sit for the appropriate amount of time listed on the package (typically one hour), turn the vacuum on and run it over the rug to remove all traces of granules. 

Handheld vacuums work better for these cleanups as you can limit the suction to the places where you added the shampoo. Leaving behind dry shampoo particles can cause your rug to start breaking down.  

Steam Cleaning

All shag rugs can benefit from a steam cleaning treatment once to twice a year to treat heavy soiling and stains. You can use a steamer you rented from a store or one you purchased from a retail store or online.

You’ll need a non-foaming carpet soap, hot tap water, and a steam cleaner machine for this method. After you’ve cleaned your rug with a vacuum, go over the surface again, following the steam cleaner’s instructions. 

After you’ve steamed your shag rug, place a fan nearby to speed up the rug’s drying process. It can take multiple hours (depending on your rug’s size) to thoroughly dry because these rugs are highly absorbent.

Be aware that it’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations in regards to cleaning. Some materials may get damaged by steam cleaners.

Spill Cleanups

Even the most careful people in the world experience occasional accidents like spills on the rug. It’s crucial to soak up any spills as soon as they happen so the carpet doesn’t have time to absorb the liquid. 

Use a paper towel or light or no colored absorbent cloth (white terrycloth) to soak up as much of the liquid as possible. Throw wet paper towels away and use new ones or rinse your washcloth occasionally to remove the collected liquid. Be sure to squeeze the cloth after rinses but before putting it back on the spill.

Continue soaking and blotting the area until your cloth stops turning colors from the spilled liquid. Depending on the material, you may want to treat the area with a carpet stain removal after drying the spill. Vinegar is a great all-natural stain treatment option.

Stain Treatment

Mix equal rations of room-temp water and white vinegar and apply the solution directly on top of the stained area. For minor stains, less than a few tablespoons of food or liquid, make a small batch using ½ cup of both ingredients. Increase the portions for more prominent stains as needed.

To work this mixture deep into your rug to get all of the stains, use a white microfiber cloth rather than a terrycloth rag. You may have to put some force into the scrubbing to pull out all the mess. After cleaning, hang the rug to dry in a well-ventilated area.

Spot Cleaning

You may want to scrub heavy stains using a white towel, mild detergent or dish soap, and a soft-bristle brush. If there are wet spills, use the cloth to blot the area. Dilute colored stains with water to desaturate. 

Combine water with one to two squirts of soap and add your brush into the solution. Use the brush to gently scrub the stains in a circular motion, applying more of the soap mixture as needed until the stain is gone. Then, rinse the area with water, and air dry outdoors or using a fan.

In Closing

For your shag rugs to look and perform the best, you must know how to clean them properly. The high pile and thick density trap more dirt than other rugs types. But this fiber structure also makes it more difficult to vacuum than other options. We’ve provided you with seven ways for how to clean a shag rug. 

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