There’s a certain joy in digging your feet into a thick shag rug (or a shaggy rug) and feeling that thick, fluffy comfort. They bring a cosy look and feel to any room, with their long pile giving them that textured aesthetic. But while displaying them is as easy as pile (ahem), cleaning shag rugs is where things get a little fuzzy.
Because of the texture and structure of shag rugs, dust and dirt tends to accumulate in the fibres. The long pile — or high pile, which refers to the length and density of the rug fibres — can also hide stains and spills. Debris from food or playtime can get caught in the fibres. And with time — and constant foot traffic, because who doesn’t make a detour just to feel that fluff underfoot — the piles become matted, which does not look good.
If it suddenly feels overwhelming, no worries — it’s straightforward enough to clean a shag rug! All it takes is some effort and elbow grease, and you’ll be back to burying your toes in fluffy comfort. Need to know how to clean a shag rug? We’ve got you!
What are shag rugs?
Shag rugs (or shaggy rug, fluffy rug, shaggy carpet, you name it!) are rugs with high piles — long and dense fibres that give the rug its signature fuzzy look. There are several kinds available depending on the material used to make the shag rug, such as:
Typical wool rugs include ‘noodle shag’ (with noodle-shaped wool tufts) or ‘shaggy wool’ (which are much thinner, with tighter knots). If you’re bougie enough, there’s also the Flokati rug — Greek traditional handmade wool rugs in either white or cream, which are the fluffiest on the market. The tradeoff for your soft texture is that the soft fibre attracts dust and dirt. They also need extra care while cleaning!
As with everything leather, these are great for the aesthetic… less so for maintenance. Leather shag rugs can be fairly pricey based on quality, and are not recommended for homes with pets. Keep this in a low traffic area of the house so it comes into contact with dirt less often — so sorry, not in the living room where you can show it off!
These are more affordable alternatives to wool or leather since the fibres are artificial, although they’re less comfortable and have shorter lifespans. Their material does, however, make them easier to clean since you can use a steam cleaner! They’re also more likely to come in a variety of colours and patterns to match your interior design — just be ready to change when they wear out.
Shag rug maintenance
Shag rugs collect dust and dirt quickly, so cleaning them regularly is a must. You don’t want any of the grime to accumulate, or your rug might never be the same (meaning: no more fluffy comfort). It’s important to lightly clean your shag rug weekly, if not daily, to keep it in good condition and maintain its fluffiness.
Prevention is key, of course — don’t place your shag rug in areas with high foot traffic (especially from outside), or in areas at high risk of food spills and stains. Keep the area around it clean, from the floor to any surrounding furniture. But dirt, like melted ice cream, is inevitable. Here are a few methods for regular rug cleaning.
1. Brush it off
Wool rugs — especially Flokati ones — are best maintained with regular brushing. If your rug didn’t come with one, check your local shops or online stores. Brushing your rug helps remove any dirt caught between the fibres, and keep it from matting up.
2. Shake it out
If the size is manageable, take the rug outside and shake it vigorously so the dust loosens and falls off. Just be sure to do this out of the wind, or you’ll end up with a face full of dust! You can also whack the rug to get any stubborn dirt off — just mind your aim!
3. Beat it
If your shag rug is too big, or you want to be extra certain it’s clean, hang it face-down over a clothesline or bar and beat the underside with a broomstick or mop handle. Channel your inner frustrations (your footy team lost! your favourite ice cream ran out!) and smack all the dirt off — but be careful not to damage the shaggy rug in the process.
4. Spot clean
Any spills, stains, or similar grime needs to be cleaned immediately. The longer the liquid or debris sits on the fibres, the harder it’ll be to take out. Fortunately, you can spot clean easily, and the cleaning products are right in your kitchen.
Mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water, and pour a small amount on the affected area. Use a microfibre cloth to rub the mixture into the fibres, then let the whole rug air dry in a well-ventilated area. You can rub some lemon juice before drying to cut into the scent!
How to clean a shag rug
While regular, light cleaning and upkeep helps maintain your rug’s condition, dirt will build up regardless. Shag rugs should be deep-cleaned once every few months (or at least twice a year). If your rug accumulates too much grime, it might be a lost cause.
There are several ways to clean a shag rug, depending on material. Use carpet shampoo or dry bath for wool or synthetic rugs, but make sure to follow the product instructions. For leather rugs, use an appropriate leather cleaner. Synthetic rugs are also durable enough that you can use a steam cleaner. Here’s a quick breakdown of each way to clean your shag rug.
1. Carpet shampoo
Check first with the care manual if your rug can tolerate moisture. If it can, rent a carpet cleaner to shampoo your shag rug. This is a device that distributes shampoo and hot water evenly over the rug’s surface, then vacuums the liquid at the same time. This lifts any stains or debris from the fibres instantly. Make sure to thoroughly air dry your rug afterwards to prevent mould or mildew from growing!
2. Dry bath
If your rug cannot tolerate moisture, consider a dry bath! Grab some dry shampoo (if you’re picky, there are dry rug shampoos available) and test it out first on a small section of the rug. You can brush the product out with a wide, soft-bristled brush — and be gentle!
Alternatively, you can use a handheld vacuum or one with a nozzle attachment, and put it to the lowest setting. If nothing goes wrong, repeat the process in small sections until your shag rug is completely clean.
3. Vacuum cleaner
It is generally not recommended that you use a vacuum cleaner on your shag rug, since it could break or damage the piles and cause unwanted shedding. You can use a handheld vacuum or nozzle attachment on a low setting, but stop if any piles break. Alternatively, if your vacuum has a reverse function, you could blow the debris off the piles and fluff the rug at the same time.
One other effective way to clean a shag rug is by vacuuming the underside! Roll up the rug, then turn it over and unroll it face down on a (clean!) floor. Vacuum the back carefully to release and remove any deeply-ingrained dirt, while redistributing the fibres to fluff your rug up. You can use an upholstery attachment for extra suction power — but test first on a small area, just in case!
4. Steam cleaner
Synthetic rugs are durable enough that you can clean them with a steam cleaner. Shake off the top layers of dust first, then lay your rug out. Make sure you use carpet-safe detergent or shampoo, and follow any instructions for the device. Move the cleaner over the shag rug at a slow, even pace to get into every nook and cranny between the fibres. When you’re done, let the rug air dry thoroughly before returning to its proper place.
5. Professional cleaning
If you’re still apprehensive about how to clean a shag rug (and no one can blame you — it’s pretty daunting!) then you can put it in the hands of a professional rug cleaner. Or better yet, hire a professional house cleaner and get all your home cleaned, not just the shag rugs! Then you can come back to furry comfort and dig your toes into your fluffy shag rug — just make sure your feet are clean!