How to vacuum shag rug

How to Vacuum a Shag Rug (Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Vacuum a Shag Rug (Step-by-Step Guide) 1024 576 Rachelle Stone

Shag rugs offer a blast from the past with their thick, plush piled construction. But all that fluffy fiber can be tricky to clean and maintain properly.

Follow our step-by-step guide to learn how to vacuum a shag rug to lift dirt, prevent matting, and  keep it looking fabulous .

Why Vacuuming Shag Rugs is Tricky

shag rug home

The long fibers that give shag rugs their signature soft texture also make them prone to tangles, matting, and getting clogged up with dirt, dust, and debris.

Using an ordinary vacuum can be disastrous – the brush roll or beater bars easily tangle in the fibers and cause irreversible damage. The dense piled construction also makes it difficult for air to flow through a traditional vacuum head.

That’s why it’s important to choose the right specialized vacuum that’s up for the challenge of cleaning a shag rug without destroying it in the process.

The proper technique is also key to lifting out dirt without removing fibers or flattening the plush pile. We will show you how to refresh your shag rug like a pro.

Choose the Right Vacuum for Shag Rugs

dyson cleaner head

To safely tackle vacuuming a shag rug, you need a vacuum designed specifically not to ruin or shred the long fibers:

Adjustable Suction Power

Look for adjustable suction levels from low to high. Strong suction is useful for deeply embedded dirt. But high levels can flatten and damage thicker carpet fibers. The ability to adjust down prevents this.

Adjustable Height Settings

When it comes to vacuuming high pile carpets like shag rugs, you’ll want to look for a vacuum cleaner with adjustable height settings for the cleaning head. This allows you to raise the vacuum up to gently glide over the thick carpet fibers without matting them down or causing tangles.

Anti-Tangle Brush Head

Avoid traditional beater bar brush rolls, which will hopelessly wrap and damage shag fibers. Opt for a smooth anti-tangle airflow head.

Lightweight Extension Wand

To avoid matting as you vacuum, choose a lightweight wand and vacuum head that can hover and float over the carpet without pressing down.

Large Navigation Wheels

Vacuums made for deep pile carpets also tend to have large wheels, which makes them easy to push and maneuver across the rug without pressing down too much.

Many newer stick vacuums or lightweight canister vacuums meet these requirements. Models like the Dyson V15 or the Miele C3 are great options.

Prep Your Shag Rug for Vacuuming

Before tackling the shag with your vacuum, do some prep work to ensure a deeper, more effective clean:

1. Shake Out the Rug

Take your shag rug outdoors and give it several vigorous shakes. This loosens surface dirt and dust before vacuuming.

2. Flip and Vacuum the Backside

Turn the rug over and vacuum the backside to remove any dirt and debris stuck deep in the fibers.

3. Clean the Floor Underneath

While you are at it, consider giving the floor a good vacuuming in the area where your rug is situated. This will help keep the surrounding space clean and tidy, and prevent any dirt or debris from accumulating underneath the rug.

4. Freshen Carpet Fibers

If your shag rug is in a high-traffic area and prone to odors from pets, smoke, etc., sprinkle a light carpet deodorizer or baking soda across the rug. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes to freshen fibers before vacuuming.

5. Allow Carpet to Settle

After flipping and shaking, allow the rug to settle for 5+ minutes. This allows the fibers to relax and ensures deeper cleaning during vacuuming.

Now you’re ready to tackle the shag pile fibers with your specialized vacuum.

Vacuum Your Shag Rug

When vacuuming, take care not to press down too hard or aggressively with the vacuum head to avoid matting:

1. Make Slow, Straight Passes

Push the vacuum forward and back across the rug in slow, straight passes. Overlap passes slightly to cover all areas.

2. Work in Sections

Vacuum one-quarter to one-half of the rug at a time. Breaking it into sections ensures you get all areas.

3. Adjust Suction as Needed

Start on lower suction for the main body of the rug, then increase to tackle heavily soiled spots. Monitor for flattening or matting.

4. Lift and Fluff Matted Areas

Use the lightweight wand or attachment to gently lift and fluff any areas that become matted down.

Thoroughly vacuum the entire top and back sides, periodically lifting and fluffing matted spots.

Spot Clean Stains

For stubborn dirt or stains in a shag rug, carefully spot clean:

1. Identify Stain Type

Pinpoint what caused the stain – food, dirt, oils, etc. Different stains require different cleaning solutions.

2. Blot Liquid Stains

For fresh liquid spills, blot immediately with an absorbent cloth. Don’t scrub, which can spread the stain.

3. Apply Stain Remover

Spray a carpet-safe stain remover formulated for the type of stain directly onto the spot. Let it soak in for 5+ minutes.

4. Rinse with Water

Use a damp white cloth to blot the spot and rinse away the stain remover. Blot dry with a second cloth.

Spot clean stains carefully to avoid damaging the shag rug fibers by over-scrubbing or soaking the rug.

Maintain Your Shag Rug

Regular care is key to keeping a shag rug looking lush:

1. Vacuum Traffic Areas Frequently

Vacuum high-traffic zones like doorways at least twice weekly to prevent dirt buildup.

2. Professionally Deep Clean Annually

See a professional carpet cleaner yearly to deep clean and revitalize the entire rug.

3. Rotate the Rug Periodically

Rotate your shag rug every few months to evenly distribute wear from foot traffic.

FAQ About Vacuuming Shag Rugs

How do you get dog hair out of a shag rug?

Use a specialized vacuum with an anti-tangle airflow head. Adjust to a medium-high suction level and make slow, straight passes across the rug, overlapping slightly. For stubborn embedded pet hair, use a rubber grooming glove or specialized pet hair remover tool. Never rub vigorously, which can damage fibers.

Can I put a shag rug in the washing machine?

No, you should never put an entire shag rug in the washing machine. The agitation motion will irreparably tangle the fibers. Spot clean small stains carefully by hand instead.

How often should you vacuum a shag rug?

Vacuum traffic areas like entryways at least 2-3 times per week. Vacuum the entire rug 1-2 times a week in high dust areas or if you have pets. Over-vacuuming can damage fibers so more is not better.

What is the best carpet cleaner for shag rugs?

Look for carpet shampoo formulated specifically for shag or other high-pile carpets. Use caution not to over-wet the rug. Make sure to thoroughly extract the cleaning solution with a wet vac system to prevent matting as it dries.

Can I use a Dyson vacuum on a shag rug?

Yes, many Dyson models have adjustable heads and brushroll shutoff features that work well for carefully vacuuming shag carpets.

Is shampooing necessary for cleaning a shag rug?

Occasional deep cleaning helps revive shag rugs, but excessive wet cleaning risks damage. Spot clean stains when possible.

How do I get rid of vacuum lines on my shag rug?

Gently comb across the vacuum path with your fingers, rotate the rug, or lightly moisten flattened piles to help restore the texture.

How long should I wait to walk on a shag rug after cleaning?

After deep cleaning a shag rug with a carpet cleaner and wet extracting the solution, allow it to completely dry for a full 24 hours before walking on it. This prevents matting while damp. Run fans or an air mover to accelerate drying.

Bottom Line

Give your shag rug the specialized care it needs to prevent damage and keep it looking fabulous. Invest in a proper vacuum, be extremely gentle when cleaning, lift matted spots promptly, and maintain with frequent vacuuming on high-traffic areas.

Keep your prized shag rug groovy, baby!

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    Rachelle Stone

    Rachelle Stone has numerous years in the commercial construction industry as well as residential, taking pride in the relationships formed over those years & continue to thrive & make new connections everywhere. She focuses hard on turning them into "partnerships" that will last a lifetime. You can visit her at

    All stories by: Rachelle Stone

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