How to Vacuum a Shag Rug

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I love shag rugs. They are just like standing on a cloud! As a kid, I never understood why people don’t use them that much.

When I first came to New York, we got a huge white shag rug to put in the middle of our living room. However, a few weeks down the line, the white started becoming more of a pale yellow, and despite our best efforts to keep things clean, it was getting worse. We needed better cleaning power: a good vacuum cleaner.

But vacuums are generally not a great way to clean shag rugs. They have thicker and more dense fibers, which get stuck in the vacuum, damaging the rug and making the vacuum ineffective. So let me tell you the “right” way to clean a shag rug.

What you will need:

  • Rug beater
  • A vacuum cleaner with the option to turn off the beater bar
  • Baking soda and salt
  • Water, buckets, and towels
  • A clothes steamer or a steam mop

Beating The Shag Rug

beating a shag rug

The first step to a thorough clean is to beat the shag rug. If your rug is not too large and you can easily lift it, sometimes a good beating is enough.

What you want to do is to take the rug outside, hang it on a clothesline, and then use a rug beater to loosen and separate the debris, dust, and dirt from the rug. While you are at it, let the rug hang out in the sunshine for a while because this is an effective way to neutralize the odors.

Vacuuming The Shag Rug

close up of vacuum nozzle on shag rug

Next, let’s begin vacuuming the shag rug to remove the next level of dirt and debris from it. Now there are two parts to this.

Vacuuming The underside

Yes, you read it right – I am asking you to vacuum the underside of your rug first. You want to do this because it avoids hurting the rug’s fibers and still helps loosen dirt and dust from the rug.

If your rug is very large, a simple way to do this is to roll the rug and then unroll it in reverse, keeping the lower side of the rug above. Next, just engage the vacuum’s beater bar and run it across the entire surface as thoroughly as you can.

Whether you have an upright vacuum, a canister vacuum or a cordless stick vacuum it does not matter. Use the most powerful suction cleaning head that you have to do this to ensure thorough removal of any embedded dirt and dust.

Now, roll the rug back and run the vacuum on your floor. You will find a lot of soil, dirt, and dust lying on the floor because you beat it out while vacuuming the underside.

Vacuuming The Top Surface

What you want to do here is to disengage the beater bar. If you don’t have access to a vacuum that lets you do that, use one of the upholstery attachments. Using an upholstery tool will make it tougher, but you won’t harm the rug’s fibers.

how to vacuum a shag rug

The second thing to keep in mind is how far you can keep the vacuum away from the rug while still cleaning it. Most vacuums have the option of adjusting the height, so you should ideally keep it as far as possible.

Of course it helps if you have a vacuum best suited for carpet that have this adjustable height control. In addition it is helpful to lower the speed setting on the vacuum from max to medium. This will prevent the rug from lifting as you vacuum.

Removing Stains

You should vacuum once weekly to keep out dirt, dust, and debris. However, vacuuming will not help with stains. Spills may be common, especially when you have a shag rug in the living room, as I do. Spot cleaning is the answer for this.

Spot Stains

Shag rug stain removal

The best time to remove a stain is the moment it happens. If it is a light stain, sometimes just blotting it with a mop can do the trick. For more colored stains, you should consider sprinkling a baking soda and salt solution on the rug, then spritzing it with some water and blotting out the stain.

If you don’t have baking soda handy, another way to do this is with vinegar. But be sure to test out vinegar on a small part of the rug first. Vinegar can cause color fading because it is acidic.

Old Stains

For older stains, you can use the same baking soda and salt mixture or vinegar. However, you should leave them on for a longer time to get absorbed in the fibers completely and break down the stains and remove them from as deep as possible. You can also use professional cleaners available in the market for cleaning out old stains.

Washing A Shag Rug

Vacuuming and stain removal are important. But you need to give the rug a good once over once in a while. 

Small Shag Rugs

If you have a small to mid-sized shag rug without a rubber bottom, the process is very simple. Just roll it up and toss it into the washer. 

You need to remember to put the cycle on Gentle to avoid harming the threads. Next, take out the rug and let it air dry. Do not put it in the dryer; that will ruin the fibers.

Large Shag Rugs

cleaning white rag

If you have a large shag rug that is the centerpiece of your living room (like I do), the best way to clean is a steam cleaner. Before starting:

  1. Sprinkle baking soda and salt mixture all over your shag rug.
  2. Gently apply steam all over.
  3. Steam slowly so that the mixture can get into the fibers and clean out all the hidden dust, grime, and grease.

If you don’t own a steamer, you could consider renting one.

Hire A Professional

Sometimes, it is better to accept that shag rugs are tougher to maintain and just get a professional. If you know that your carpet is too far gone for a good home clean, or you don’t have the right equipment for it, then asking a professional cleaner is the right way to go.

steam cleaning shag rag

Do keep in mind that professional rug cleaning can be quite expensive. On average, getting a shag rug can cost you anywhere between $3 – $8 per ft2, depending on your location and the type of service you are getting. That means a 5′ x 8′ shag rug can cost you between $150 to $400! So use this only as a last resort.

Parting Words

I hope you found my tips and tricks on how to clean a shag rug useful. By following the deep cleaning steps above you will rejuvenate your beautiful shag carpet! Do share your ideas and methods with me in the suggestions box.

Happy Cleaning!

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