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How to Vacuum a Shag Rug and Carpet

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Shag rugs are the pinnacle of comfort for bare feet. But, cleaning them can seem like too much work. Learning how to vacuum shag rug and carpet is easier than you would think. These easy steps will have you enjoying your shag rug and keeping it clean.

​How to Vacuum a Shag Rug

Due to the long rug fibers, most consumers wonder if you can vacuum a shag rug without damaging your rug or your vacuum. The answer is yes you can when you know how to prepare your rug and vacuum for it.

​Vacuuming the Rug

Most vacuums have an adjustable knob that lets you change how close or far away the vacuum is to the floor. For a high pile shag rug or shag carpet, you will want to lift it up as high as you can as you’re vacuuming. This allows the vacuum to suction up the dirt without being so low that the longer fibers get caught in the brush spinner when you’re vacuuming.

If you have the option of your vacuum, it is a good idea to ​turn off the beater bar​ to reduce the risk of ruining your rug while you’re vacuuming. If you are unable to turn off the beater bar while you’re vacuuming or are concerned with using a vacuum on your shag rug, you can also opt to use an attachment brush.

Using an attachment brush will make the task more laborious. But, you will be able to suck up dirt and dust through a wide mouthed hose that won’t rotate or capture long fibers while you’re vacuuming the rug.

You will still want to pick up as much or the larger trash or debris you see on the shag rug before you vacuum. This will allow your vacuum to be focused solely on the tiny particles instead of having to suck up large pieces that can potentially clog the coil.

A final way you can vacuum your shag rug is to vacuum the back of it. While this may sound odd, flipping a high pile shag rug over and vacuuming the underside helps release dirt that has been embedded between the fibers. This is a great first step if you plan on taking your rug outside and beating it.

cleaning a shag rug with pets

​Beating the Shag Rug

If you are dealing with a small to medium sized rug that can be easily lifted and moved, you can skip vacuuming and take it outside to beat the dirt out. This olden-day practice is still in use for shag rugs that are difficult to vacuum or for individuals that enjoy the stress-lifting benefit of beating a rug.

To beat a rug the right way, you will want to take it outside and hang the rug upside down over a railing or a clothesline. If your rug is too large to manage carrying outside, flip it over and lift the rug one section at a time and beat it. Just make sure you pull the rug back up and vacuum or sweep the floor below it when you are done.

You will want to beat the rug from the back in steady and not too hard smacks. It is not recommended to use your hand. Instead, you can use a ​Rattan Carpet and Rug Beater which is typically made of a flexible, yet strong, material such as rattan, cane, wicker, or coiled wire.

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Whether you choose to use a vacuum cleaner or beat your rug, you should try to schedule a routine to remove the dirt from your high pile area rugs or shag rugs with the vacuum. Even though you cannot always see it, dirt will trap itself deep in the rug and damage it over time. It is recommended that you use a vacuum cleaner on high traffic areas once a week or use the vacuum on low traffic areas once every two weeks.

Once you’re done with the vacuum cleaner and beating, don’t forget to fluff your shag rug.

​How to Clean a Shag Rug

When it comes to knowing how to clean a shag rug, the best thing to focus on is time. Meaning, how long has the stain been on the rug? The time of the stain will be the best guide in knowing what you can use for vacuuming and clean your rug.

​Cleaning New Stains in Shag Rug​

For new stains, you have a multitude of ways you can clean them. The quicker you can get up the clean up the spill the better. This way it doesn’t have time to set in and discolor your rug. For mild spills such as a light soda or white wine, simply blotting up the spill will take care of most of the problem instead of using a vacuum.

However, that is not the only step. You will want to follow up with a vacuum or a cleaner of some type to make sure the spill has been cleaned out of your rug. Leftover particles from spilled drinks contain things like sticky sugar or syrup that can make your rug texture crunchy or crisp.

You will want to flush the spill out with a cleaner to keep your rug fibers feeling soft and healthy. You can choose one of many chemical-based rug cleaners from the store. If you don’t have one on hand, try using vinegar to remove stains.

This tried and true DIY rug cleaning mix combines a few things you should already have sitting around at home.

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Dawn

​​Vinegar is a powerful cleaner​ that is also gentle enough to use on wool and other carpeting fibers. Vinegar can fight stains, neutralize pet odors, and keep your rug color from fading. The added water reduces the acidity and potency levels while the dawn works as a vessel to add an extra punch of professional cleaning power.

You will want to blot up the original stain as well as you can. Then use a spray bottle to control how much of the mixture you put down to clean. Avoid oversoaking the carpet as this makes it hard to dry and can cause damage to your carpet and floors.

Spray the mixture and gently agitate it into the carpet fibers by either a gloved hand or a soft scrub brush. Do not scrub your carpets hard, as this will break up and split the fibers, causing your carpet to look frayed in that spot. The vinegar mixture will do the hard work. You just need to agitate it to get it jumpstarted into working and breaking down the stain.

After letting the mixture sit for a few minutes, blot it up with a clean cloth. Since there is a good amount of water in this mixture you do not need to rinse the area with water. You can re-blot the area with a clean cloth that has water on it if you feel it is necessary. Follow by blotting again with a dry cloth to make sure no water is left sitting.

shag rug clean vacuum

​Cleaning Old Stains in Shag Rug​

For older stains you can use the same DIY carpet cleaning mixture instead of using professional cleaning services. The change in the process is that you will want to leave the mixture on the stain a little longer. This is because you will need to rehydrate the area in order to clean it.

Here are the steps for cleaning old stains in your shag rug:

  • ​Spray mixture
  • Blot mixture
  • ​Rinse area
  • Dry area

Spray the mixture onto the dry stain on your shag rug and gently agitate it. This will get the mixture moving between the shag rug fibers and re-moisturize the stain on the shag rug so that it can be broken down.

Again, avoid scrubbing the shag rug, even though you may have great success with it in the moment. In the long run, scrubbing will reduce the life of your shag rug and destroy the tightly woven fibers. A gloved hand can be just as effective in agitating the cleaner and removing stains from your shag rug.

Blot up the cleaner and rinse the area with water by either spraying warm water on the spot or using a clean wet cloth to blot the area of your shag rug. Finish by blotting with a dry cloth or paper towel to pull up the excess water.

If this cleaner doesn’t work for an older stain then there are more cleaners you can try out to remove a stubborn old stain and restore your shag rug.

​How to Wash a Shag Rug

​When spot clean just isn’t enough, you may need to find a way to clean a shag rug if you don’t want to use spot cleaning or professional cleaning services. Yes, one method is to let a professional do it. This can be difficult or costly. Another option than spot cleaning or professional services is to wash it yourself.

For small area rugs or shag rugs that do not have a rubber backing, you can simply toss them in the gentle cycle of your washer and allow them to air dry after washing. You do not want to dry your rug in a machine dryer as the heat, even on a low setting, can damage your rug. Hang your shag rug outside during the day or in a well-ventilated area inside.

If you need to clean a large shag area rug, the best way is to use cleaning products or a device focused on cleaning shag surfaces. This will safely and efficiently clean your carpet. If you don’t own a steam cleaner, you may be able to rent one.

vacuum carpet steam clean

If you enjoy steam cleaning your carpets and do it multiple times a year, it is a good idea to look into ​purchasing one of your own​. While it can be a large expense, you will be saving money from the multiple renting trips. You can steam clean your carpets more often.

When steam cleaning your carpet, make time to go over it a few times. Clean in different directions for the best way to loosen and remove trapped in dirt. Also, since you are dealing with a high pile carpet, water will be a little harder to suck up. Make an extra pass over the rug to ensure you get up all the water.

As a review, here are your options for washing your shag rug:

  • ​Hire a professional
  • Put rug in washing machine
  • ​Rent a steam cleaner
  • Purchase a steam cleaner


Learning how to use a vacuum cleaner with a shag rug and clean it can be a fairly easy task when you use the right tools and approach. Shag rugs are a great feeling and looking addition to any home, whether it is a large area rug or a small bath mat. Take the time to care for your comfy shag rug to extend its life and keep it feeling super soft on your bare feet.

Lauren Moldvay is a freelance writer from Virginia and the mother of one (not always) sweet little girl. She specializes in trying to help others find easier ways to clean, manage the home and save money with DIY projects.