How to Clean a Shag Rug

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Way back in 2017, I wrote an article on vacuuming shag rugs and small rugs, but now it’s 2022, and time for an update. If you’re dealing with a stain or a shag rug with a pet odor problem, read 6 Products for Effectively Removing Carpet and Upholstery Stains (and Pet Odors). But if your shag rug simply needs a good cleaning, this is the article for you. 

Today we’re getting into how to clean a shag rug, the best vacuum for shag rugs, and how to vacuum a tactile or delicate shag rug. 

shag rug with slippers

Best Vacuum for Shag Rugs

Before we can even start cleaning our shag rag, we have to have a great vacuum. Not all vacuums can handle upholstery. Basically, unless a vacuum has an upholstery attachment, it won’t effectively clean any kind of carpet or rug, but especially shag rugs because of their long pile. 

I’m going to recommend two vacuums in this article, but if you want a full list of vacuums I like read my article Which Dyson Vacuum Should You Buy?

First, if you live in a medium-sized home with carpeted and hard floors, the Dyson V8 might be for you. The Dyson V8 is a cordless vacuum, and it comes with a lot of attachments and can be used for cars, stairs, upholstery, and more. Plus, it’s up to the task of tackling pet hair. And the Dyson V8 is priced on the lower end of Dyson vacuums. 

My next recommendation is the Dyson Ball Animal 2 Pro. This is a corded vacuum that is excellent for people who live in larger homes with a lot of carpeting. This vacuum has an extra-long cord, so you don’t have to stop and change outlets as you vacuum. The Dyson Ball Animal 2 Pro comes with many tools, including upholstery attachments and even a dog grooming tool (assuming your dog isn’t afraid of the vacuum)!

Whichever vacuum you choose, make sure it’s up to the challenge of a shag rug before you get started. 

Melissa Maker with Dyson vacuum attachments

How to Clean a Shag Rug

First, empty your bag or canister. When your bag is full or mostly full, your vacuum’s suction power is blocked by debris already contained in the canister or bag. Basically, vacuuming with a full or mostly full bag is just a waste of time. 

When your vacuum is ready to go, take a look at your rug. Pick up any larger pieces of debris with your hands, so you don’t clog your vacuum attachment. Yes, this is annoying, but it will save you an expensive vacuum repair or replacement. And speaking of vacuum attachments, be sure to switch yours to the correct upholstery setting before using it on your shag rug. 

Once you’ve picked up large pieces of debris, flip your rug over. If you have a large rug, you might need someone to help you with this. Then, use your feet to carefully secure the edges of the rug and prevent them from flipping up. With the powerhead or beater bar, vacuum the back of the rug extremely carefully. You do not want to catch any shag in the powerhead. 

Why you vacuum a shag rug like this is because it loosens all the dirt and debris from the rug without ruining the shag. The debris gets loosened and shaken out of the shag rug and falls to the floor below. 

When you’re finished vacuuming the back of the rug, you can roll it up and set it aside. Then vacuum the floor underneath your rug. It should be pretty dirty with all the gunk that fell out of the rug. 

Finally, unroll and reposition your shag rug. Then, using a small brush attachment, vacuum the face of the rug. Too much suction can permanently damage a shag rug, so if you’re unsure about your brush attachment, test a small, hidden area first. And always review care instructions for your shag rug before vacuuming. 

vacuum shag carpet

Vacuuming a Delicate or Tactile Rug

I sometimes get questions about statement rugs and tactile rugs with many textures and raised sections. These are definitely tricky to clean because, like shag rugs, too much suction can damage them irreversibly. 

Tactile statement rugs are like pieces of art. But even though we do our best to keep them clean (no snacking on statement rugs!), it’s impossible to prevent dust from settling eventually. And where there’s dust, more dust is sure to follow. 

Luckily, you can clean these rugs the same way you would clean a shag rug, as detailed above. Vacuuming the backside of the rug to loosen dirt and debris is the perfect way to protect delicate rugs that might not be able to handle the suction of a vacuum. A brush attachment may be OK to vacuum the face of the rug, but once again, do a spot test first. 

Easily Clean a Shag Rug

Cleaning a shag rug is very doable, but it’s definitely more work than cleaning regular carpeting. But for everyone willing to put in the work, you can absolutely keep your shag rug clean! Just remember to spot test before using a brush attachment on the face of your rug, and be very careful not to catch any shag in your vacuum. 

Let me know your favorite vacuum for upholstery in the comments below. And do you have delicate or shag rugs, or do you prefer easier to clean upholstery? And if you have a pet, you’ll probably want to read my article, Best Pet Hair Remover: 5 Simple Tips. 

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.

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