We received a question via the blog the other day that we are sure has crossed the minds of many shag rug owners and prospective owners – “How do I clean a shag rug?”

Googling the question brings up a variety of methods, so many in fact that one could come away more confused than they were before researching. We hope to offer some guidance that will help.

Shag rugs come in a wide array of materials and construction, so the first step is to determine what the rug is made of and how it is made. This will help you think about the effects moisture will have on the rug and the backing.

Many rugs have a backing that is affixed with glue, so this eliminates any type of heat cleaning. Synthetic rugs may melt or degrade with high heat so that should be avoided.

The main tool for both large and small rugs is a small clean wash cloth – white is best because you will be able to see if the dirt is being removed and there will be no chance of any color transfer if the wash cloth bleeds its color.

The first step is to vacuum the rug to lift up any dust or loose dirt. Tip: Especially with white/light colored rugs, clean the wheels of the vacuum so you don’t make track marks as you vacuum.

Set the height for high pile, at the highest possible setting to raise the roller bar the furthest away from the pile.

Do not move the vacuum back and forth.

Start at one end or side and go all the way across the rug in one smooth motion, all the way to the other side and then off the rug.

Turn the vacuum around, off the rug, and proceed along the next portion of the rug in the same way.

Repeat the process once more, making sure that you are going in the opposite direction than you did the first time on each section of the rug.

This is a good way to do your weekly vacuuming to avoid soil build up and maintain a nice fluffy shag rug.

For spot cleaning:

Note: Colored rugs may fade in the area cleaned so test clean a very small, unnoticeable area before attacking the larger spot. If there is fading, the overall method is probably better, with a little extra effort to the spotted area.

First try a greaseless, mild dish detergent (Dove or Woolite are good choices) and mildly warm water spritzed onto the spot from a water bottle. Let it sit for a minute or two. Then, gently rub the spotted area in a circular motion, being sure to stay within the confines of the spot; you don’t want to spread the soil to the surrounding area of the rug. Then with another cloth press/dab any excess moisture. Let air dry.

If that doesn’t do the trick, try a product like Folex. Spray that on the spot and let it sit for a several minutes. With a clean, dry, white washcloth/rag, repeat that same circular motion and then with another cloth press/dab any excess moisture. Air dry.

For overall cleaning:

A warm sunny day is the time to do this project because you can use the sun to dry the rug, indoors or outside. For white/cream color rugs there won’t be noticeable fading. With some color rugs there may be some fading. You can test a small area to determine how much and decide if the color change overall will matter as much as having the taint of dirt.

This is a hands and knees project. However, if approached systematically, it isn’t that difficult and can be done in an hour or less depending on the size. Don’t wear shoes. Bare feet may have dirt or oils from walking around so wearing white socks is best. It is probably a good idea to either wear shorts or white/grey sweats for this project.

Place the rug in front of a big window to take advantage of the warm sunlight for drying. If nice enough to do outside, lay down some plastic (a drop cloth works well) or several cut open paper bags as a barrier between the ground and the rug.

Follow the same steps as above but on a larger scale.

Start at one end and closely spray the rug moving backwards so you aren’t walking over the wet portion of the rug as you go. For 8×10 and larger rugs you may want to do half the rug at a time, horizontally rather than vertically.

After a few moments, use a white wash cloth/rag in each hand and begin the circular motion process. This time start at the edge of the rug and move forward so you are crawling over clean rug as you go.

Let air dry, checking periodically to avoid over exposure to the direct sunlight.

Once dry, vacuum again using the method described above.

Two general tips that will help maintain your shag – vacuum regularly and take care of any spills/spots as soon as possible. Cleaning as close to the time of the incident will result in greater success at removing any spots and staining.

An easy method for some 100% synthetic rugs, including the backing, is to take it out into the yard and hose it down, front and back. Then leave it in the sun to dry. Again, you will want to consider the possibility of some fading and determine if that is ok with you for your needs and the look you want to maintain in your home.

As an alternative, you can contact a local professional cleaner. But, be aware that the price of this kind of cleaning can be more expensive than the rug in some cases. Best to talk with the cleaning company directly and make sure they have all the information about the materials and construction of the rug before signing on the dotted line.

Let us know how this process works for you and share any variations you make and the results. Our readers will be appreciative of your experience.


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