How to Clean a Shag Rug

We all admire shag rugs for their deep pile of long-haired fibers. They are warm, fluffy underfoot, attractive and available in many exciting colors and styles. But few people know how to clean a shag rug because they come in different types made from various materials. 

Fiber type is the most important consideration when cleaning any carpet or rug, including shag rugs. Shag rugs sometimes require more care than other types of carpeting, but it’s easy once you know how. Look at the guide below, and you’ll clean your shag rugs confidently, just like an expert.  

What this article covers:

Best Way To Clean A Shag Rug

how to clean shag rug

The best way to clean a shag rug is to match the cleaning method and products to the shag rug's material. Three types of shag rugs are hand-tufted, cut pile, and power-loom. But these can also be made from different materials.

Understandably, you’d be nervous about cleaning expensive rugs like shag rugs. But they are easy to care for once you know more about them. Usually, shag rugs are woolen or synthetic fibers like nylon, olefin, and polyester. 

But they can sometimes also be leather or other natural materials. The four most common types are Flokati, wool, mix-textured synthetic, and leather strand shag rugs. (Traditional Flokati rugs are woven using various animals’ wool, for example, sheep, goats, and rabbits).

We will discuss cleaning your wool or leather shag rugs in a moment. However, synthetic fiber shag rugs are probably the most widely found as they are also more affordable. 

The following instructions are suited to all synthetic fiber shag rugs. You can also use this cleaning method to clean any faux fur rug.

Vacuum Your Shag Rug 

Always vacuum your shag rug before attempting any other cleaning method. Often, this is all you need to do to make your shag rug look and smell clean again. It also removes debris that would become sticky and difficult to remove later.

One of the biggest mistakes owners of shag rugs make is not vacuuming enough. The trapped dirt can be hard to see and may lull you into thinking that you don’t need to vacuum clean as often. The reverse is true. Regular and thorough vacuuming will keep your shag rugs clean and fresh. 

Treat Any Spots And Stains

Next, treat any spots and stains on your shag rug. Rave Spotter stain remover instantly dissolves and removes 98% of spots and stains on synthetic rugs. Simply spray it using the handy trigger nozzle bottle, blot, mist and walk away. If your shag rug has only a few small stains, this is the product to treat them. 

how to clean fluffy rugs

Of course, some stains are trickier than others. What do you do if it’s a ketchup or marinara sauce stain? That’s not a problem if you have Red Action. Even fruit juice and paint are no match for this stain remover. Despite the name, it can be used on any brightly colored stain on synthetic rugs. 

how to clean shag area rug

Choose Your Method Of Cleaning

If, after vacuuming and stain removal, it still looks dirty you’ll need to give it a thorough cleaning. You may choose whether to deep clean or steam clean your shag rug. The cleaning method you chose should be suitable for the material your shag rug is made of.

If you have the time and access to a water-extraction carpet cleaning machine, this will clean your shag rug down to under the fibers. Our detergents can all be used in water-extraction carpet cleaning machines.

For cleaning and deodorizing shag rugs, even wool ones, you can’t go wrong with Rob’s Ultimate All Fiber Rinse. This product can be used on all the carpets and rugs in your home, so it’s a good one to have. 

how to clean a shag area rug

How To Clean A High-Pile Shag Rug

Some shag rugs, particularly synthetic ones, have a fluffy and high pile from the longer fibers. It makes them look attractive and feel soft under your bare feet. However, high-pile shag rugs can be more difficult to care for than other rugs in your home.

The problem with high-pile shag rugs is that dirt gets trapped easily under that high pile. It’s not always noticeable at first, but it’s there. So don't rely on what you can see on the surface. 

Stick to a consistent cleaning and maintenance plan for your high-pile shag rug. The following three tips are essential for high-pile rug cleaning and care. They will ensure your high-pile shag rug stays clean, fresh, and fluffy.

Use A Rug Rake

Special rug brushes or ‘rug rakes’ allow you to maintain your fluffy shag rug pile.  They also loosen pet hair and deeply embedded dirt particles before vacuuming.

The carpet grooming rake used by most professional carpet cleaners is the Grandi Groom/Brush Combo. This rug rake is an indispensable tool for shag rug maintenance and other deep-pile specialty rugs. It is also the best way to keep your Flokati shag rugs clean and tidy. 

how to clean a shag carpet

Shake Flokati shag rugs outdoors at least once or twice a week, if possible, to get rid of trapped dust. Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions supplied with your Flokati rug before using any detergents on it. 

Vacuum More Regularly 

Trapped dust can cause issues for anyone in the home who is allergy-prone. The best way to deal with this problem is to vacuum your high-pile shag rug regularly. 

Vacuum twice a week to avoid a build-up of allergens and dust. You may need to do so more often if you have pets in your home because of shedding hair. 

Combat Embedded Odors 

Shag rugs sometimes smell bad because debris gets trapped so easily between the long fibers. Little bits of food, pet hair and other malodorous debris particles get trapped, unseen amid the deep pile. This causes unpleasant odors to develop in your deep-pile shag rug.

how to clean shag carpet

But you can safely and effectively remove mold/mildew as well as pet odors on all fibers with our EcoCide natural odor removers. Available in Citrus Lush and Beachy Peachy, they safely and naturally combat odors, replacing them with a fresh fruity scent.

how to clean shaggy carpet

Use one of these deodorizers after vacuuming to freshen and deodorize your high-pile shag rugs. If your deep-pile rug is very dirty use this product after deep or steam-cleaning. 

How To Deep Clean A Shag Rug

You’ll get away with regular vacuuming and occasional spot treatment of stains with most carpets. But shag rugs, with their deeper pile and fluffy nature, tend to trap dust and dirt more easily and quickly. You won’t always see it, causing it to build up, causing all kinds of hassles. 

One of these resulting problems is odor. Deep cleaning is the best solution for ingrained dirt and foul odors in a shag rug. Hot-water extraction cleaning a shag rug will give it a thorough, deep cleaning. 

This method is, however, more suitable for synthetic fiber shag rugs. So if you need to clean a polyester rug, feel free to clean it with water-extraction deep cleaning. Carpet cleaner machines that use water extraction are available for purchase. They can also be hired for the day if necessary. 

A rotovac carpet cleaner is the most effective way to deep clean carpets and rugs. Contact us if you are unsure which machine to use when cleaning a shag rug. We stock a wide range of carpet cleaner equipment and detergents. We’ll advise you of your best options.

how to clean shag carpets

Vacuum your shag rug thoroughly first, then proceed as follows:

Fill The Tank With Water And Detergent

Fill the water tank of your carpet cleaner machine with water and your detergent of choice. Closely follow the dosage instructions on the packaging. 

Most products are best suited to hot water extraction cleaning, whereas others like Formula 99 can be used for low and even no-heat cleaning. The best thing about this product is that, at the right dilution, it’s even safe on wool and stain-resistant shag rugs.

how to clean fluffy rug

Clean Rug With Water Extraction Machine

Water extraction carpet machines apply water and detergent and immediately extract the water so that the rug never gets too wet. The force of this process drives the dirt out of the rug, which gets dissolved in the water. 

You will need only one tank of water with detergent to clean a shag rug. Rinse with a tank of clean water afterward. Extract as much of the water as you can. 

Air Dry After Water Extraction

Water extraction leaves rugs far less damp than other methods. However, you must ensure that your shag rug dries thoroughly afterward. 

Leave it to air dry with adequate ventilation. Any trapped moisture can lead to mold and mildew, which will damage your shag rug.


How To Steam Clean A Shag Rug

Steam cleaning is perhaps the best way to clean and sanitize your shag rug when you’re short of time. Steam cleaners are good for rugs with small spaces between the fibers. The steam reaches down even into the deepest pile. If done correctly, your shag rug will look like new again. 

Steam cleaners are widely available and you can also rent one when needed. Vacuum your shag rug  thoroughly first, then proceed as follows:

  • Open the windows where you’ll be steam cleaning your shag rug, for ventilation. Fill the steam cleaner with water and once you have some steam set up on your shag rug with a soft brush attached to the bottom. 
  • Move the steam cleaner and brush over the surface of your rug slowly. Do this for about 10 minutes.
  • Your shag rug should be dry in less than an hour if your windows have been left open. Don’t walk on it, or place furniture on it, until it is dry. Use a soft brush or clean fingers to fluff up the pile again, where necessary.

Is Steam Cleaning Suitable For All Rugs?

Are you thinking about steam cleaning your sisal carpet too? That’s not a good idea, as sisal rugs can sustain water damage. Waterless stain removal methods are best. 

The same applies when you need to clean a jute rug stain. However, steam cleaning can be used for most wool rugs, and virtually all synthetic fiber shag rugs too.  

How To Clean A Wool Shag Rug

We dealt with the cleaning of synthetic shag rugs earlier. But many of you may be looking for advice on how to clean a wool carpet at home. So let's turn our attention to wool shag rugs. 

You may also use this method anytime you need to clean a sheep wool rug.

Wool is one of the most popular natural fibers used to make shag rugs. They need special care to look their best, so take note of the following points when cleaning your shag wool rug.  

  • As with Flokati shag rugs, made of animal hair, products not formulated for natural fibers can harm them. We have carpet cleaners that are safe for use on natural fibers like wool. 
  • If you have various spots and stains on your wool shag rug use our Super Gel gel spotter. Used correctly, Super Gel safely removes grease, chewing gum, oil, crayon, lipstick, and even candle wax from all types of rug fibers. 

best way to clean shag rug

  • Wool shag rugs dry more slowly than synthetic ones. Water-based cleaning is still possible, but don’t wet the shag rug too much. For this reason, it’s best to move the wool shag rug to clean it and to use steam cleaning (as above) rather than other methods. 
  • With wool rugs, the steam shouldn’t be too close. Hold the steam nozzle or attachment approximately 0.5 feet away and move back and forth slowly. Don’t concentrate the steam on any spot for longer than 5 seconds.

    Why Is A Wool Shag Rug Susceptible To Water Damage?

    Most natural fibers, like wool, retain water more than synthetic fibers do. This not only means they’ll take longer to dry, but they can also become moldy. Mold and mildew will cause rug discoloration and also a  foul odor. 

    Steam cleaning is preferable as it does not introduce as much water into a wool rug as other water-based cleaning methods. 

    If you accidentally spill water on your wool shag rug, it is vital that you immediately blot up as much water as possible or use a wet/dry vac to extract the water. Move it to an area where it can dry out. If this is not possible, open the windows or switch on your ceiling fan to encourage air circulation.

    How To Clean A Leather Shag Rug

    Some shag rugs are made of leather strips. Clean your leather shag rugs like you would clean an animal skin rug. As with sisal and jute, leather rugs are best not cleaned with traditional water-based methods. 

    Leather-strip shag rugs don’t attract or show dirt as quickly as other shag rugs. But they require special leather care to remain soft and supple. 

    A bottle of  Leather Cleaner And Conditioner will keep your leather upholstery and leather shag rugs looking and feeling good.  

    how to clean a fluffy rug

    How To Clean A Shag Area Rug

    An area rug is usually larger than an ordinary rug, closer to the size of a room carpet. That makes it harder to move it to clean it.  You’ll have to clean it where it is, like a fitted carpet. You can use the deep-clean method listed above. 

    When you use a water-based carpet cleaning method, moisture can get trapped between the rug and the floor. Trapped moisture can turn a wool shag rug into a breeding ground for bacteria. So if your shag area rug is made of wool, you may prefer to use the steam-clean method. This will not leave it as wet.

    Another way to avoid this issue is by ensuring good ventilation when drying your shag rug after steam or deep cleaning. Don’t walk on the rug or replace the furniture until it’s thoroughly dry. Use your fingers to check that it is dry between the long fibers.

    How To Clean A White Shag Rug

    A white shag rug, especially a white or off-white wool shag rug, looks fantastic when new. But white wool rugs are the hardest to care for. This is usually because white rugs show dirt more easily. There is another problem that owners of white shag rugs have, and that is the issue of yellowing.

    One of the main complaints of owners of wool shag rugs is that they naturally ‘yellow’ over time. It’s a common theme with all wool carpets, not just shag rugs. This yellowing is a natural process but your rug will still look beautiful if cleaned regularly. 

    Yellowing of a new white shag rug is almost always caused by improper care. There is something you can do to brighten it, though. 

    Use A Brightening Product

    Use the deep cleaning method above, but add our Rug Smack Cleaner to the carpet cleaning machine’s water tank. This product brightens up even the dullest of rugs. What’s more, it’s safe to use on synthetic and natural fiber rugs. But to be safe, do a test patch before proceeding with any new carpet cleaner.

    best way to clean a shag rug

    Dry White Rugs Thoroughly, But Avoid Direct Sunlight

    Trapped moisture and sunlight are major culprits in the yellowing of white shag rugs. Don’t keep white shag rugs in areas where they’re constantly exposed to moisture or direct sunlight. Even if it is a loose rug, don’t hang it out in the sun to dry. Rather allow it to dry in the shade, with adequate ventilation.

    Prevention Is Better Than Cure

    That is not only true of your health but also the health of your shag rugs. To prevent costly and time-consuming clean-ups and stain removal treatments down the line, protect your shag rug from the start. While it is still new, use a protector to keep it looking good.

    Your rugs will be subject to spills and mishaps over time, no matter how careful you try to be. Accidents happen, especially if you have kids and pets in the home. So do what you can to limit the extent of the damage before disaster strikes. 

    Pro-Safe Eco Protector safeguards your rugs, carpets and upholstery against these everyday spills and messes. It will limit the damage that any ensuing stains would cause. You can use this product to ensure the longevity of all your carpeting, rugs, and upholstery - even fabric upholstery.      

    how to clean white shag rug


    Shag rugs are beautiful and can enhance the decor of any home. But they often require more care to keep them looking their best. You don’t have to call in the professionals, though. 

    You can clean them yourself with our professional carpet care products. Call us today if you need more advice about caring for your shag rugs. 

    How To Clean A Shag Rug (FAQs)

    Are shag rugs hard to clean?

    Shag rugs are only hard to clean when you don’t have the know-how. They may need more TLC than other carpets and rugs, but the results make this effort worthwhile. Regular vacuuming in between deep cleaning is essential to keep shag rugs looking, feeling, and smelling their best.

    Can you use carpet cleaner on a shag rug?

    You can use carpet cleaning machines and carpet care products on shag rugs. But ensure that you use products that are certified safe for use on the fiber type that your shag rug has. If it is a wool shag rug, only use carpet products indicated for use on natural fibers. 

    Can you steam clean a shag rug?

    Yes, you can steam clean a shag rug. It is one of the most effective sanitizing treatments for shag rugs. Always vacuum up any trapped dust and debris first, though. If you fail to do so, the steam will merely clog the dirt into the fibers.

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