The Best Way to Professionally Clean Your Shag Pile Rug

5 May 2023
Est. Reading: 3 minutes
What's in This Guide?
Cleaning Items You'll Need.
A leaf blower (optional)
Household upright vacuum with a mechanical brush or beater bar
Shop-Vac or wet-dry vacuum with a narrow attachment
Dish soap
Rubbing alcohol (IPA)
Spray bottle
Hand brush


This cleaning guide will teach you how to professionally clean a shag pile rug at home. Drawing from our experience operating a rug cleaning business in Ireland and having access to professional cleaning equipment at our disposal. We have compiled 3 ways that this can be done at home with equipment that you can readily access or may already own.

What Are Shag Rugs, and Are They Really Worth It?

Shag rugs are a great addition to any home, offering a cosy comfort and an element of warmth, and style. Although they first became popular in the 1970s, they are currently making a comeback.

However, many people do not realise that shag rugs require more attention and maintenance compared to flat weave rugs. The long, thick fibres can easily trap dirt and dust and become easily tangled with everyday foot traffic.

Despite these drawbacks, with a little extra care and the right know-how, they are absolutely worth it in any family home!

How to Clean a Shag Rug Like a Pro

When it comes to shag pile rugs or any type of rug cleaning, the primary concern is the dry grit, dust, and soil in the rug. If you do not remove it, the dry soil is going to emulsify and turn into mud. This in turn will seep into the backing of the rug, leaving behind a damp, musty smell!

Step One: Vacuum to Remove Dry Soil
The most crucial step is vacuuming your shag rug, this will make or break the cleaning process. We start off by giving you three ways to remove the soil from your shag rug:

Method # 1 - The Leaf Blower

  1. Place your rug outside on the dry lawn.
  2. Go over it with your leaf blower in a north-to-south and east-to-west direction. Making sure that the nozzle is close to the rug

This is a terrific way to get a lot of heavy soil out of the rug's pile.

Method # 2 - The Upright Vacuum

If you don't have a leaf blower and want to clean your shag rug inside, use this method.

  1. Place it on its face and run a vacuum with a brush or beater bar over it. Over time, dirt settles into the fibre base. The beater bar works by knocking the dirt onto the ground.
  2. Lift the rug, then vacuum the dirt, and slowly vacuum once more in a north-to-south and east-to-west direction.
  3. Repeat until the rug is not releasing dirt onto the floor anymore.
  4. Flip the rug over and vacuum the face of the rug. Tip: Adjust the height of the upright vacuum to easily allow it to pull the dirt out of the rug.

The above steps should remove in the region of 70% of soil from your shag pile rug.

Method # 3 – Vacuum Using Your Shop-Vac or Wet-Dry Vacuum

  1. Place your rug over a bench or roll it on the floor.
  2. Use the narrow attachment on the vacuum to open the fibres of the rug. This means that you will use the nozzle close to the pile.
  3. Vacuum out the grit.

Step Two: Washing Your Shag Rug
Once you have removed the dry soil, you will be ready to wash your rug.

  1. Add one litre (0.26 US Gal.) of water to a spray bottle.
  2. Mix in 1 teaspoon (i.e., 5 ml) of dish soap. The dish soap is a surfactant and is going to do a bit of cleaning for you.
  3. Add about 20 to 30 ml of rubbing alcohol (IPA). This will help with any oil-based soiling by giving the cleaning agent a bit of a boost. If you have a cat or dog that has peed on the rug, check out our tutorial on urine removal.
  4. Spray the rug with your cleaning solution. Do not add too much moisture to the rug.
  5. Use a brush to gently agitate the soil out of the fibres.
  6. Extract the slurry out of the rug with your Shop-Vac or wet-dry vacuum. Do a square foot at a time and continue doing this until the rug is completely clean.
  7. Allow the rug to air dry. Because we are using little moisture and cleaning solution, the rug will only take a couple of hours to dry in most environments.

Takeaway on How to Clean a Shag Rug at Home

As a professional rug cleaning service, this job would typically take us 45 minutes to complete using our specialised equipment. However, this method is designed to show you how to effectively clean a shag pile rug yourself in the comfort of your own home.

On the one hand, the upside is that you’ll save money by not paying a professional to do it.

The downside is that it is a monumental pain to do it at home, but while more time-consuming and labour-intensive, it gets the job done!

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