How To Clean Shag Carpet (Clean and Easy)

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clean shag carpet

Shag carpeting is a plush and comfortable material, but you should not clean it the way you clean most other carpets. Instead, let’s take a quick look at how to clean them properly, then dive into the full explanation of why we do it this way.

Key Takeaways:

To remove stains and smells, mix equal parts white vinegar and water, then spray onto the carpet, or pour it directly on the staining. Then, hang to air dry if possible. For general cleaning, shake the carpet outside, then hang it up. Using a long-handled broom, mop, or racket, hit the carpet repeatedly to get the dirt out. Keep your distance and try not to breathe dirt in.

If you can’t remove your carpet, use a dry carpet shampoo and follow the instructions. Avoid eating and drinking in rooms with shag carpets, and always remove shoes before entering.

Steps for Cleaning Your Shag Carpeting

For a fast clean, mix equal parts white vinegar and water, then pour onto stains and hang the carpet up to dry. For regular cleaning, shake it outside, then hang it face-down and use a long-handled broom or mop to strike it and knock the dirt out.

What Should I Know About Cleaning Shag Carpets?

vacuum shag carpet

The first thing to know about cleaning shag carpets is that permanent carpets are not the best idea. Shag works much better as a rug or as removable sections you can take out whenever you want. The main reason for this is that vacuuming the front of shag carpets can destroy them.

Shag is not like most other carpeting materials. If it were, using a powerful vacuum to suck out all the dirt from the deep fibers would be a great solution. Still, the specific construction style of this material means that vacuuming is far more likely to wreck your carpet than clean it.

Instead, shaking loose dirt out and then smacking the back of the carpet a few times is significantly more reliable for getting the carpet as clean as possible. If you really want to make it cleaner, you can vacuum the back side of the carpet. Doing this with an upholstery attachment can provide targeted, effective care and help your carpet remain soft and fluffy for its whole lifecycle.

How Often Should I Clean Shag Carpets?

It depends on how often you use the carpeting, but in general, you should clean it at least once or twice a week. Otherwise, dirt and debris could sink towards the bottom of the carpeting and cause permanent damage to the fibers. Shag is a high-maintenance carpet material, though fortunately, cleaning it rarely takes more than a good vacuuming would.

What Should I Do If I Can’t Remove My Shag Carpeting?

dry clean for shag carpet

If you can’t get your shag carpeting somewhere outside, consider investing in dry carpet shampoo (you can make your own). Make sure to choose a shampoo that’s appropriate for your carpeting material. Something that works on wool may not work on synthetics, and it’s always better to check the materials and be sure.

Follow all instructions on your cleaner. If you need to vacuum anything up, use a small handheld vacuum that offers the maximum amount of control. Permanent shag carpeting is significantly harder to clean regularly than removable carpeting, but it can be done if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

Consider buying a broom or a rake specifically designed for shag carpeting. These tools can help move dirt and debris out of the carpet and into an area where it’s easier to vacuum up. Personally, we recommend trying to have at least one part of a shaggy carpet “open” to another room with a different material. Brushing all of the dirt out can be an effective alternative for smacking the carpet.

What Else Can I Do to Protect My Shag Carpeting?

The best protection for shag carpeting is prevention. If possible, try to ensure people never eat or drink in a room with shag carpeting. Do not use shag for a doormat, and try to make sure people never walk on it with dirty shoes. You may want to put some kind of dirt-grabbing mat just outside of your shag carpeting to further limit its exposure to debris.

If the room has windows, try to let the sunlight hit your shag carpeting as often as possible. If your carpeting is removable, you can even put the carpet outside in nice weather. This helps loosen dirt and makes the carpet easier to clean. Consistent care is essential to the long-term protection of your carpet, so the more often you can do this, the better.

Is There Any Way to Use A Vacuum On My Shag Carpet?

vacuum use on shag carpet

Yes, but you need a vacuum specifically designed for the task.

The best vacuum cleaners for shag carpeting have variable height settings that can keep the most powerful suction away from the carpet fibers.

Long bristles can agitate dirt in the carpet and make it easy to vacuum out, so those are also helpful.

Never use a beater bar on shag carpeting. Smacking the back of the carpet is a good way to loosen dirt, but beating the front with a vacuum cleaner will quickly destroy the material and leave you with an ugly mess.

What Sorts of Materials Are Available and How Do They Affect The Cleaning Process?

There are several different types of shag carpets available on the market, and the material does have an impact on how easy they are to clean. If you haven’t bought your shag carpeting yet, keep these characteristics in mind. You can also see our rundown of the major carpet brands.  


Flokati is a type of handmade 100% wool shag carpeting. While they normally come in just cream and white, you can dye them to almost any color. If you’re worried about dirt showing through, consider dying flokati brown or black. This can help hide dirt and make the carpet look great, even if it’s difficult to clean it as well as you’d like to.


Non-flokati wool is a popular alternative. These have a luxurious texture, but since the fibers are only loosely attached to the bottom, they’ll come out easily if you apply too much force. Wool is a bad choice for vacuuming, but gentle brushing usually works well.


Synthetic shag carpets don’t have the same quality as wool, but you can use a steam cleaner or a steam mop on them. This makes them noticeably easier to clean and a better choice if you want permanent carpeting instead of a rug or removable sections.


Leather shag carpeting is unusual, and often expensive, but it also responds well to just about any leather cleaner you can find on the shelves. However, leather is not pet-friendly, so you may need to limit access if you want to buy this material.

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Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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