How to clean a shag rug – 4 expert tips to easily restore its soft, fluffy look

Make your rug look like new with our expert guide

Antique Ivory Shag Rug from Ruggable in a white and cream boho style bedroom
(Image credit: Ruggable)

Considering shaggy rugs are some of the cosiest rugs you can purchase for your home, it's no wonder they're such a popular choice for decorating a room. However, while their long and fluffy fibres make them a treat underfoot, this equally poses a challenge when it comes to cleaning. This puts knowing how to clean a shag rug at the top of things we ought to learn, especially if you want to keep it looking luxurious.

Chances are, you probably already know how to clean a rug. However, due to the nature of a shag rug's high pile and unique texture, there are some extra considerations to be made when cleaning a shag rug that differentiate this job from anything else.

So, if you want to preserve the look of your carefully curated living room rug ideas and keep your decorative rugs looking spotless for longer, we asked experts for their best advice on maintaining a shag rug and restoring its former, fluffy look.

Bedroom with white painted floorboards, white rug, white chest of drawers displaying prints and ornaments

(Image credit: Future PLC/Douglas Gibb)

How to clean a shag rug

The fibres of a shag rug are typically long and dense, making it a tad problematic for even the best vacuum cleaners to reach dirt and debris trapped deep down.

Jess Farinha, founder of London House Cleaners says that although vacuuming regularly helps for general maintenance, you're only really skimming the surface and still leaving debris trapped in the base.

Jess Farinha, founder of London House Cleaners
Jess Farinha

Jess Farinha is the heart and soul behind London House Cleaners, a beacon of cleanliness and organisation in the bustling city of London. More than just the founder, Jess is a dedicated cleaner and organiser who's poured years of love and expertise into making homes and businesses shine.

What you'll need

Routine cleaning

So to effectively clean a shag rug, it requires a combination of strategies and tools.

That said, don't let this scare you as it's still a fairly simple cleaning job to carry out that will only set you back a handful of easy steps.

1. Clear the area

Before beginning, it's worth creating some space for you to perform the task effectively. Remove any furniture sitting on top of the rug, and clear as much space as you possibly can.

2. Pre-loosen the dirt

Using a wide-tooth comb or small carpet rake, gently take this through the shag rug and begin raking in the direction of the map. 'This gets rid of the trapped dirt and debris located at the base of the fibres,' explains Jess.

By doing this, you're also fluffing up any of the long fibres and lifting the pile that might have flattened as a result of daily footfall.

Brown dog lying in a fluffy rug beside a console table with two shelves below a window in a grey wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson)

3. Flip it and vacuum

Once you've had a chance to rake through the shag rug, flip it over so the fibres are facing away from you and grab your favourite vacuum cleaner and attach a brush vacuum tool attachment to it.

Where possible, stay away from using a vacuum with a rotating beater bar attachment. Instead, Joshua Warren, floorcare expert at recommends a brush head attachment to prevent the rug from being ripped during vacuuming.

'Vacuuming a shag rug requires a delicate hand (and tools) to avoid damaging the long fibres of the rug,' he continues.

Apart from that suggestion, you can pretty much use anything from your best cordless vacuum or a handheld model for this part of the process. Irrespective of what vacuum you use, what's important is that you're only keeping the setting on low and on a suction-only setting.

'This provides significant power to get rid of dirt without damaging the rug,' explains Jess.

American stye cottage at Christmas. Bedroom with off-white walls, cream shag pile on beige carpet, vintage chest of drawers and double bed with light green throw

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

4. Flip it again and repeat

After vacuuming the backside of the shag rug, turn the rug back around so the fibres are facing you and simply repeat the process. After this, it'll pretty much just be a case of continually flipping it and vacuuming until you're pleased with the results.

When cleaning a shag rug, you must be patient as it's unlikely for the rug to be clean in just one go – especially since you have to be a little more careful with it.

'Make slow, deliberate passes with the vacuum cleaner, overlapping the strokes to ensure thorough cleaning,' advises Jess.

Cordless vacuum cleaner vacuuming floor

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Deep cleaning

In the case that your shag rug requires a bit more TLC than just a routine vacuum, there are some things you can do.

Similar to the methods used for cleaning a carpet without a machine, you can opt to sprinkle some baking soda on your rug to deodorise any odours and make your shag rug smell fresh once again.

When dealing with stains, it's important to simply spot clean where necessary with gentle methods like using white vinegar for cleaning or a diluted fairy liquid and water solution with a hard bristle brush. Whatever you do, do not aggressively rub or scrub away at the stain. Instead, go in gentle circular motions like you would when cleaning a wool rug.

Alternatively, if you need to clean solid stains on a shag rug, you can try to just scrape these off first before going in with spot cleaning and vacuuming.

Upholstered footstool, fluffy rug, sofa, crochet throw

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)


How to make a shaggy rug fluffy again?

To make a shaggy rug fluffy again, you can use a wide-tooth comb or handheld carpet rake like this one from Amazon to detangle the long fibres and spruce up the pile to its former fluffy state.

Are shaggy rugs easy to hoover?

Shaggy rugs are relatively easy to hoover, as long as you're using the right attachments. Where possible, steer clear of vacuums with rotating beater bar attachments as these could cause damage to the shag rug's fibres.

Instead, consider using a brush head on a low, suction-only setting to effectively clean a shag rug and make it look like new.

And just like that, you're now fully equipped with the necessary knowledge to effectively clean a shag rug.

The next time your rug needs a freshen-up, remember to refer back to all you've learned to restore your favourite shag rugs to their super soft, fluffy states that made you fall in love with them in the first place.

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is a Junior Writer at Ideal Home. She's always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham where her love for journalism blossomed following her internship at ArchDaily. Now focused on home tech, Jullia works on writing features and explainers to help people make the most of their home appliance investments. When she isn't writing, she loves exploring the city, coffee shop hopping, and losing hours to a cosy game.