How to Vacuum Shag Rug (in 4 Easy Steps)

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Vacuuming a shag rug is a bit different from vacuuming other types of rugs because their long-haired fibers pose a unique challenge to the standard vacuum.

Typically, these fibers clog your vacuum’s underside, making it near impossible to extract all the dirt, allergens, and debris between the threads. This could lead to permanent staining and other damage that will reduce your shaggy carpet’s overall longevity and result in a dirty or lackluster appearance.

Luckily, there is a way to efficiently vacuum your shag rug without resorting to a trip to a professional carpet cleaner. In this article, we will provide an in-depth guide on how to properly vacuum your shag rug in a few simple steps. You’ll learn what tools are ideal for this task and which methods provide the best results.

1. Make Sure You Have a Crevice Tool Attachment

First thing’s first; if you don’t have a crevice tool attachment for your vacuum on hand for this guide, you’ll want to quickly purchase one because these vacuum accessories are crucial for vacuuming shag rugs.

The design of standard vacuum heads or bristled attachments inhibit a deep shag rug clean because the long-haired rug fibers clog the vacuum holes and reduce airflow. As a result, the vacuum can’t pull up dirt, dust, and debris from between the fibers effectively.

So, if you’ve ever run your vacuum over your shag rug before and then noticed dirt is still trapped within, this is why. Using your standard vacuum also increases the chances of damaging your shag rug, especially if the threads are long enough for you vacuum to grip and potentially pull out.

If you want your shag rug looking good as new after a vacuum session, then you’ll need an attachment with plenty of open space, but slender enough to penetrate deeply between fibers. The crevice tool attachment is the ideal choice for this, but the upholstery tools is a viable alternative if you have that on-hand instead.  

2. Loosen Up the Debris Between Your Shag Rug Fibers

Now that you have the proper tools for the job, you can start preparing your shag rug for vacuuming.

Even decorative shag rugs experience some degree of foot traffic, which presses any dirt, debris, or other contaminants that was on the rug’s surface down between the fibers where it often settles and compacts at the carpet’s base or backing.

These dense clumps of debris can be difficult to remove with a simple vacuuming, even if you’re using the proper attachments, so the best method would be to loosen them first.

There are two methods that professional carpet cleaners recommend for doing this, and no, shaking it isn’t one of them as this will send debris flying all over your space and only create more work for you.

The Leaf Blower Method

The first is to take your shag rug outdoors or to a large space you don’t mind getting dirty, such as your garage, and then use a leaf blower to quite literally blow out all of the loose debris.

These high-powered tools are exceptional at loosening up compacted clumps and removing other debris completely. Simply place the nozzle an inch or so above the surface of your shag rug carpet and move the hose in a north, south, east, west, direction to thoroughly blast air between its fibers in all directions.

The Beater Bar Method

Of course, if you don’t own a leaf blower or would prefer to not go through the process of hooking up and lugging your shag rug outside, there is an alternative method using your standard vacuum. For this, flip your shag rug over so the base of the rug is facing up.

Next, select the “beater bar” setting or tool and slowly vacuum over the reverse side of the rug. Ideally, the suction this method provides will loosen the debris which will then fall onto the floor underneath.

Once you’ve vacuumed in all directions, roll up your shag rug and set it aside so you can vacuum up all the debris that fell onto the floor underneath.

3. Place the Rug Over a Slim, Round Surface

Hopefully by this point, you’ve removed a majority of the debris, dust, allergens, and other gunk that’s been clogging up your shag rug. Now, the hard work begins of removing everything that’s left, from loose dust to caked-in mud, and more.

The best way to vacuum between shag rug fibers all the way down to their base is to lay your carpet over a slim, round surface in your home, such as a stair railing, drying rack, coat rack rod, or something similar.

Draping your shag rug over these poles will allow you to separate the fibers more, allowing your crevice tool to suck up anything between them without getting clogged the way it would if you had the rug lying flat.

This will mostly likely be a slow process as you work your way along your shag rug using what is arguably the smallest vacuum tool, but the results are well-worth it; especially when you consider not only how clean your shag rug will be, but how much better it will look and how much longer it will last.

4. Perform One Final Vacuum The Standard Way

If the cleaning process above has completely wiped you out, you could feasibly stop there and would have a near perfect shag rug. But, we recommend going the extra step and giving it one more pass with the vacuum.

Now that the majority of the debris within your shag rug has been removed, place it back in its original location and vacuum it once more using the entire vacuum rather than a tool.

This should help you eliminate any remnants.

Now you’ll have a allergen-free shag rug that hopefully won’t need to be vacuumed again any time soon. On a side note, this is the ideal time for you to steam clean or wash your shag rug since it is free of debris.

You won’t want to apply any sort of liquid to your shag rug beforehand, as it will turn any dirt to mud that will likely stain your rug’s fibers and pose a serious challenge to remove.

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