How to vacuum a shag carpet?

You’re ecstatic to place a shag carpet in your living room. You can imagine how it will make your home more beautiful and inviting. Until you realize: ‘how do I vacuum a shag carpet?’

With its deep pile, a shag carpet has a shaggy appearance that enhances the look of any room. It has become a popular contemporary design in many American homes.

But with their thick and deep pile, shag carpets are notorious for being hard to clean. The long tendrils can easily catch dust and dirt. So how do you clean a shag carpet using a vacuum cleaner? This article will let you know how.

How to clean a shag carpet with a vacuum cleaner

A shag carpet is different than other carpet types. Aside from its inviting appearance, it also requires a different kind of care and maintenance.

Apart from long tendrils where dust particles can easily accumulate, shag carpets present another problem: it can be difficult to spot clean them. Once a spill happens, it would likely soak into the bottom if you don’t clean it up right away.

One of the most important pointers to remember when cleaning a shag carpet is to never use a vacuum cleaner with a beater bar. Also known as the roller, it is connected to the rotating brush roles aside from the bristle brushes.

The beater bar damages the individual yarns in a shag carpet. This would make those yarns lose their twist, resulting in the yarns piling up or the carpet shedding. In fact, most cleaning professionals advise the use of carpet rake instead of vacuum cleaner in cleaning thick shag carpets.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t vacuum a shag carpet. You can do so if:

  • Your vacuum cleaner has an upholstery attachment. This is usually small and compact with a gentle suction designed not to ruin rugs and carpets.
  • The vacuum cleaner is lightweight and easy to control. Heavier, older vacuum cleaners often weigh down on shag carpet fibers.
  • With suction control. You’d want a vacuum cleaner with suction control so you can clean the carpet without necessarily pulling out the fibers.
  • The vacuum cleaner has large wheels that can navigate through the carpet pile. Vacs with rubber wheels or rubber coating are ideal because they can run through the carpet without damaging it.
  • The vacuum cleaner has height adjustment so it can effortlessly clean the carpet.

Before vacuuming, make sure that:

  • There is no large debris like pieces of paper, toys, paper clips, and other items scattered on the shag carpet. Pick up any large pieces of debris before vacuuming.
  • The space should be unencumbered. Move anything temporarily such as sofas and cabinets that can get in the way of the vacuuming.

Watch this YouTube video to know more basic tips in vacuuming a shag carpet.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on vacuuming a shag carpet:

Step 1:

carpet shampoo
carpet shampoo

Sprinkle a thin layer of carpet shampoo or freshener on the shag carpet. Look for one that can help in getting rid of pet hair. The shampoo or freshener should also have an inviting scent.

If you don’t have one at home, you may try a DIY solution. Mix equal parts white vinegar with water and pour directly on the carpet. Wait for about five minutes before you start vacuuming.

Step 2:

start carpet vacuum
start carpet vacuum

Plug the vacuum cleaner in an outlet that is nearest to the exit point of the room. This way, you won’t have to walk past the freshly vacuumed carpet to unplug the vacuum cleaner.

Step 3:

Adjust the height of the vac
Adjust the height of the vac

Adjust the height of the vac to its lowest setting. Then set its power to the highest setting and attach the upholstery tool.

Start your cleaning job at the opposite corner of the room’s exit point. This would ensure you won’t be vacuuming into a corner.

The most efficient way of cleaning a shag carpet is to use short and back-and-forth motions. This can help in piling up as much dirt and dust as possible. Moreover, it can prevent the vacuum from getting stuck into the carpet. Avoid side-to-side motions as you might pull out the carpet piles.

Watch how this guy vacuums a Costco shag carpet. As he mentions in the clip, he pushes the vacuum forward by about an inch and then pulls it backward by about two inches. He uses his body weight in doing so he won’t exert a lot of effort in cleaning.

Work your way from one end to the other end of the carpet. Once you have reached the end, go back to the other end and repeat the process. It can be a tedious process but it can go a long way towards ensuring the health of your family, especially if you have kids.

Step 4:

empty vacuum cleaner
empty vacuum cleaner

Check the bag or canister to see if it half or two-thirds full and empty it. You’d want to keep the suction of the vacuum cleaner strong during the shag carpet cleaning.

If you haven’t bought a vacuum for carpet, you should consider getting a canister vacuum. The ideal vacuum cleaner for a shag carpet has height adjustment, large wheels, and comes with an upholstery attachment.

You may also get a robot vacuum for carpet cleaning as well as a corded stick vacuum. Read reviews online to determine whether the vac cleaner you are planning to buy is ideal for cleaning a shag carpet.


Vacuuming a shag carpet is not exactly the easiest task. You would need a vacuum cleaner that’s designed for this particular type of carpet; one that has height adjustment, suction control, and large wheels. You’d also want a vac that is lightweight and easy to move around.

Aside from having the right piece of equipment, you’d need a lot of patience in vacuuming a shag carpet. It may sound like a tedious task but it’s something you have to do if you want to protect your health and that of your loved ones.