How to Clean a Shag Rug

Easiest Methods to Make Your Rug Look Like New

White shag rug on wooden floor near houseplants and chair

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 20 mins - 1 hr, 20 mins
  • Total Time: 20 mins - 5 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Shag rugs are back in style and even more spectacular than the 1970s versions. More often sold as an area rug than wall-to-wall carpeting, designers have embraced different materials, from wool to leather, and every color imaginable. Shag rugs add a designer touch and are also warm and cozy underfoot—a decorating win-win.

Because of the long, plushy pile, shag rugs do require more maintenance than thinner, flatter rugs to look good. The long fibers trap more dust and dirt than flatter weaves. Fortunately, learning how to clean a shag rug isn't difficult, it just requires a bit of time. Taking the time to clean your shag rug by hand and properly vacuuming it can help keep it looking refreshed and new.

How Often to Clean a Shag Rug

Ideally, a shag or frieze pile rug that receives regular foot traffic should be vacuumed daily to keep the pile fluffy and to remove dust and debris, especially if you have pets. Realistically, vacuuming a couple of times a week should keep the rug clean. A more thorough deep cleaning is recommended monthly or as needed.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Vacuum with an upholstery attachment
  • Sponge mop
  • Small bowl
  • Microfiber towels
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Plastic tarp
  • Broom
  • Carpet rake


  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Baking soda
  • Dry carpet shampoo granules


Materials and tools to clean a shag rug on wooden surface

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Routine Shag Rug Cleaning

  1. Shake Away the Dirt

    If the rug is small enough to pick up easily, take it outside and give it a good shake. Another way to get rid of dust and dirt trapped in the fibers is to drape the rug over a railing or sturdy clothesline and beat it with a broom or old tennis racket. An amazing amount of soil will be released.

    If you need to clean your area rug without moving it, go to the next step and vacuum.

    White shag rug shaking the dirt off

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Vacuum the Rug

    The best way to vacuum a shag rug is by using a canister vacuum with the hose and upholstery attachment: The more gentle suction will keep the rug loops from being pulled too harshly.

    If you only have an upright vacuum, set the cleaning head to the highest pile setting and disengage the beater bar. If your vacuum cannot make these adjustments, do not use it this way on a shag rug. Instead, use your dust brush attachment or upholstery tool to vacuum the rug in a more gentle manner that won't pull out fibers.

    With the proper vacuum settings in place, suction out the dust and dirt. Work in a grid, go slow, and overlap each stroke to produce the best results. If you feel as though the vacuum is pulling too hard on the shag rug's fibers, stop vacuuming.

    Turn the rug over (or if the rug is too big, fold it over a section at a time to access the bottom) and change the vacuum settings to the lowest pile setting, engage the beater bar, and vacuum the underside to trap embedded dirt. Don't forget to vacuum the flooring beneath the rug, too.

    White shag rug being vacuumed with vacuum hose near houseplants

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Check for and Treat Stains

    Flip the rug back over and inspect it for any stains. Spot treat the stained areas following stain removal guidelines for specific stains. Most stains can be removed by mixing a few drops of dishwashing liquid in a cup of warm water. Dip a soft-bristled brush or microfiber towel in the solution and gently rub the stain. Finish by dipping a clean towel in plain water to rinse the area and blotting the carpet with a dry towel.

    Hang the rug to dry or elevate the cleaned section so there is airflow around the damp area, allowing it to dry as quickly as possible.

    Back of white shag rug spot treated with stain remover and rubbed with soft-bristled brush

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Lift the Pile

    If the pile isn't as fluffy as you'd like, use your hands, a carpet rake, or a child's plastic garden rake to lift and revive the fibers. Be gentle—no tugging!

    If you prefer to brush out your shag rug, don't use a regular brush to do this job or it will be too rough on the shag rug's fibers. Instead, use a horsehair upholstery brush, which will be much easier on the fibers.

    White shag rug being fluffed by hand

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Deep Cleaning a Shag Rug

Most carpet cleaning professionals do not recommend deep cleaning a large fluffy shag rug yourself because excess moisture or excessive scrubbing can damage the fibers and ruin the look of the pile. Never use a rented carpet shampoo/steamer on a shag rug because the suction is too harsh for the fibers. It's best to deep clean a deep pile rug by hand using the following steps.


If your shag rug is expensive, consult with a professional before doing any type of deep cleaning.

  1. Shake and Vacuum

    When it's time to deep clean a shag rug, complete the weekly cleaning steps of taking it outside for a good shake or beating. Then bring the rug inside and vacuum both sides of the rug.

    White shag rug vacuumed with vaccum hose for a deep clean

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald


    If your shag rug is located directly on a hardwood floor, place a plastic tarp or plastic sheeting beneath the rug before you move to the next deep cleaning steps. You do not want any moisture to become trapped between the rug and the hardwood floor.

  2. Brighten and Deodorize With Baking Soda

    If the rug is stain-free but appears dull and smells a little stale, sprinkle it liberally with dry baking soda. The baking soda will trap dust and neutralize odors. Allow the baking soda to remain on the rug for at least four hours (overnight is better). Shake and vacuum away the powder.

    Baking soda poured on to white shag rug to brighten and deodorize

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Deep Clean With Dry Carpet Shampoo Granules

    Lightly sprinkle the rug with dry carpet shampoo granules. Be sure to read the label and make sure that the product is appropriate for your type of carpet fibers (wool or acrylic). Use a soft-bristled brush or a dry mop to work the granules into the shag fibers. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for how long to leave the shampoo on the rug. Most take around one hour.

    If there are stained areas, use a bit more dry shampoo in those areas and brush it in well.

    After the recommended wait time, take the rug outside and give it a good shake and then vacuum away the remaining residue. Remember to vacuum both sides of the rug. It is important to remove all of the shampoo residue to prevent damage to the backing of the rug.

    Dry shampoo carpet granules poured on to white shag rug

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Lift the Pile

    Use a carpet rake or your hands to lift the pile of the rug so that it is fluffy.

    White shag rug pile lifted with carpet rake

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Tips to Keep Shag Rugs Clean Longer

  • If you have a small shag rug without a rubber backing and the instructions say it's machine-washable, by all means, clean it that way to save time.
  • Spills and stains should be blotted away as quickly as possible and spot-treated.
  • Enforce a no-shoes rule around your shag area rug; shoes can quickly flatten a shag rug's fibers and spread tough-to-reach grime.
  • What's the best homemade carpet cleaner?

    You probably already have all the ingredients necessary to make an effective DIY carpet cleaner. Mix water, white vinegar, and dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle. For added cleaning power, add oxygen bleach. This is best for spot-cleaning a shag rug. You can also spray the mixture lightly over a lower pile rug or use a small upholstery cleaning machine to work the cleaning solution into the fibers, then air-dry.

  • How do you dry a rug after washing it?

    It's always best to air-dry an area rug outdoors. It's advisable to keep even small area rugs out of the dryer and hang them up to air-dry.

  • Can I use a carpet shampooer on an area rug?

    It's highly recommended that you do not use a carpet shampooer to clean an area rug, especially a shag area rug. An area rug and carpeting are constructed differently and a carpet shampooer can damage the various layers of an area rug.