7 Methods for Cleaning a Shag Rug

Published July 27, 2018
Woman vacuuming shag rug

Shag rugs are soft and comfortable, but what do you do if they get dirty? There are several ways you can clean your shag rug depending on how dirty it is.

Suck It Up

Your shag rug has been looking dingy lately. It isn't stained, but you can tell it needs refreshing. Vacuuming the dust can bring back the fluff and refresh the rug.


  1. Set your vacuum to its highest setting. Shag carpeting is just that; it's shaggy. Therefore, if you set the vacuum too low, fibers can get caught in the brush. Turn off the beater bar, use a hand attachment, or use a handheld vacuum.
  2. Vacuum the rug thoroughly to suck up all the dirt. Continue vacuuming until your rug starts to come back to life.
  3. Flip the rug over and vacuum the back. If you are worried about sucking up fibers or breaking them off, vacuum just the back.
  4. Outside, shake out the rug before setting it back in place.

Beat It

Shaking or beating is a great method for regularly refreshing dirty rugs that aren't stained or in need of a thorough cleaning. This method might be difficult for large rugs. You will need:

  • Something solid to beat the rug against or hang it on (a porch rail works well)
  • Broom or beating tool


For a small rug, all you need to do is beat it against something solid, such as hitting it against an outside wall. Larger rugs need more.

  1. Lay the rug over a porch rail or another support stable enough to handle the repeated hitting without breaking.
  2. Beat the broom against the rug repeatedly to loosen debris.
  3. Allow the rug to stay in the sun for a few hours to kill lingering bacteria or germs.

Spot Clean

For spills, spot cleaning works best. The key is to act quickly before the stain sets.


  • White towel (for wet stains)
  • Water
  • Mild dish soap or detergent
  • Soft bristle brush

What to Do

  1. Using the towel, immediately blot the spill. If the spill is a colored liquid, dilute it with water to desaturate the color.
  2. Mix water with a squirt or two of soap.
  3. Dip the bristle brush in the soapy water and gently scrub the area using circular motions. Repeat as necessary.
  4. Rinse with water and allow it to air dry.

Give It a Dry Bath

Occasionally, vacuuming isn't enough because dirt has seeped into the fibers, making your rug look dingy. A dry shampoo for carpets can bring it back to life.

Supply List

  • Dry carpet shampoo (whatever brand you prefer)
  • Soft bristle brush


  1. Vacuum the rug.
  2. Sprinkle the dry shampoo into the rug. (You might want to do this outside if you are prone to making a mess.)
  3. Using a bristle brush, gently work the shampoo into the fibers.
  4. Allow it to sit for the recommended period noted in manufacturer's instructions, usually about 10+ minutes.
  5. Either vacuum or shake the dry shampoo out of the rug.

Steam Clean

A steam cleaner removes deeply set in soil and odors.


  • Vacuum
  • Steam cleaner ( Rent at many grocery stores if you don't have one already)
  • Recommended cleaner


  1. Always start with a freshly vacuumed rug.
  2. Add the water and cleaner to the steam cleaner as recommended and run it over the rug until all the stains and discoloration disappear.
  3. Allow it to air dry, preferably in the sun.

Hand Wash

If you don't have a steam cleaner and your rug isn't dry clean only, then you can try to wash it by hand. Never use a washing machine as these can be too rough for some rugs, even on the gentlest cycle.


  • Tub or other area to wash rug
  • Mild detergent
  • Soft bristle brush


  1. Start with a freshly vacuumed rug.
  2. Fill the tub with warm water.
  3. Add a capful of detergent or more if the rug is large.
  4. Place the rug in the water and allow it to soak for about 10 minutes.
  5. Using your hands and the brush, gently work the stains out of the fibers.
  6. Try to wring out as much water as you can.
  7. Allow the rug to dry.

Call a Professional

If your rug is dry clean only, take it to a dry cleaner if vacuuming isn't completely cleaning it. Attempting to clean it at home could potentially ruin the rug.

Feel the Clean

There are many ways to clean a shag rug depending on how soiled it is. You might be able to get away with just a weekly vacuuming, but sometimes you need bigger artillery.

7 Methods for Cleaning a Shag Rug