Shag Rugs Can Be Tough to Clean — Here’s 2 Ways You Can Get it Done, According to Cleaning Pros

published Oct 9, 2022
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close up shot of someone's hands in the process of cleaning their shag rug by smoothing fibers
Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

Whether you have hardwood floors or want to add a bit of dimension to a carpeted room, you can’t go wrong with a shag rug. Characterized by their high-pile fibers, shag rugs add a touch of coziness to any space — but if you’ve never had one before, these pieces can be tough to keep clean.

Luckily, deep-cleaning a shag rug isn’t all that hard or time-consuming, especially if you have the right tools on hand. Here’s how to clean a shag rug, according to cleaning professionals.

What you’ll need:

  • Carpet beater (optional)
  • Vacuum with an upholstery attachment
  • Gentle rug shampoo 
  • Towels 
  • Microfiber cloths 
  • Small plastic crates
  • Carpet rake
  • Baking soda 
  • Gentle dish soap
  • Dry carpet shampoo granules (optional)

How to clean a shag rug

There are two ways to clean a shag rug at home; however, if your rug is labeled dry clean only or has specific care instructions, then it’s best to rely on a professional. 

Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

Method 1

  1. Before you start cleaning, deodorize the rug. “We recommend deodorizing the rug the night before using baking soda to neutralize all kinds of odors,” says Jennifer Rodriguez, chief hygiene officer at Pro Housekeepers.
  2. Next, take the rug outside and shake it to get rid of the baking soda, plus any other extra dirt and debris. “Beat the rug against a wall or use a broom to release the excess dirt,” Rodriguez suggests.
  3. Using the upholstery attachment on your vacuum, which won’t pull the rug loops too aggressively, vacuum the entirety of the rug to pull up any debris you weren’t able to shake out. 
  4. Dip a cloth in a mixture of warm water and dish soap, then gently rub out any stains on the shag carpet. “Keep in mind excess water or rubbing can ruin the rug,” says Rodriguez. “We don’t recommend using a rented carpet shampooer or steamer for a delicate piece like this one.” If you’d rather not get the rug wet, buy dry carpet shampoo granules and use a brush to work them into the fibers before removing them from the rug. 
  5. After tackling the stains, hang the rug to dry. 
  6. Fluff the dry fibers by combing through them with your fingers, or use a carpet rake to gently lift the pile of the rug. 
Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

Method 2

  1. Shake off excess dirt outside to dislodge dirt. “If you’re able to, drape the rug over a clothesline and use a clean broom or carpet beater to loosen dirt and dust,” suggests Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, president of ServiceMaster of Lake Shore.
  2. Vacuum the shag rug. Start by vacuuming the back, which will further loosen dirt from the rug fibers. Then, turn it back around and vacuum across the rug. If the rug is delicate, use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum. 
  3. Shampoo the rug by mixing warm water with extra gentle rug shampoo in a large bucket, then gently rub soiled areas with a clean cloth. 
  4. Gently rinse the rug fibers with large, wet towels. Follow up with clean microfiber towels to absorb as much moisture as possible. 
  5. Keeping the rug as flat as possible, place several small plastic crates underneath the wet rug to generate airflow beneath it. “Set up fans to blow strong crosscurrents of air over and under its surfaces,” says Rodriguez-Zaba. 
  6. Once the rug is fully dried, fluff and rake it with a rake deep enough to work into the rug without damaging the pile. This final step keeps fibers from matting and restores their soft fluff.