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Shag Rug in LivingroomShag Rug in Livingroom

The shag rugs we see today are direct descendants of the shag carpeting that was all the rage in homes of the 1970s. Available for purchase today are a large variety of shag area rugs which come in all shapes, sizes, and materials.

Who wouldn’t like the addition of a comfy, furry, cozy shag rug in their home? But, buyer beware, shag rugs may be a great decorative idea, but the cleaning challenges for the homeowner, and the professional rug cleaner as well, can quickly turn that idea into a terrible household reality!



Chunky wool shag rugs are woven in both Greece (Flokatis) and Morocco. The Flokatis usually come in solid, off-white natural colors and resemble big sheepdogs on the floor. The Moroccan rugs look similar to the Flokatis but tend to have geometric designs rather than the solid color creations of the Greeks.

Flokati RugFlokati Rug
Moroccan RugMoroccan Rug


Today, there is also a huge variety of wool shag rugs ranging from dyed to undyed, from spun to felted, and from thin strands to big needle shapes. Some of these custom wool creations consist of wool strands tufted into a cotton canvas foundation, often utilizing latex to hold them together.


Shedding and Pilling

The wool yarn used in these rugs is made from short wool fibers (known as staple fibers). These are spun together to produce a longer shag length. Thus, they tend to pull apart with use. Rugs made from the looser, chunkier wool often shed for years.

Pilling can occur on tighter-spun fibers, somewhat like on the elbows of wool sweaters after much use. Although a washing can sometimes lessen the shedding, in many cases, the shedding will continue for the life of the rug.

Tough to Vacuum

Standard vacuum cleaners will not work on these rugs. On large rugs the DIY homeowner may have to groom with a horsehair brush to pick up surface matter and use a crevice tool to pull up the rest of the matter that gets embedded into the foundation of these rugs.

It might be possible to hang the rugs outside and use a leaf blower  to beat and blow out the dirt and grit. Smaller rugs can be taken outside to shake them free of loose particulate matter.

These types of shag rugs should be periodically taken to a professional rug washing plant where tumblers and compressed air tools can help remove soil as well as fluff up the fibers.

Tough to Wash and Decontaminate

Wool shag rugs will become extremely heavy when they are wet. Agitation is a problem because of the tendency to lose fibers and because the wool rows do not easily open up to release soil from the base. This again should be the job for rug washing plants where special tools are available.

Shag rugs with urine contamination will often need extended soaking to remove the contaminants. (Again, a job for the professional rug washer.) If the homeowner is tempted to wash smaller rugs in a commercial washer, the alkalinity and the temperature must be watched carefully because these rugs can yellow and shrink if improperly laundered.

Flokati Rug Yellowed

Prone to Moths and Carpet Beetles

The wool of this type of shag rugs can be very susceptible to moths and carpet beetles because of the difficulty of vacuuming them. The rug foundations are rarely reached by a vacuum. Bugs like dark, undisturbed places with a food source. Fibers deep at the base of the rugs are a perfect home for them.


This is the next popular category of shag rugs. They are created with strips of material tied together to create a rug. The strips can be either leather or cotton, both of which are often dyed.


Loss of Sizing

A starch sizing is often utilized on the leather and fabric pieces used when making these shag rugs and the problem is this sizing washes away, destabilizing the rugs. 

The leather of these rugs are woven into a cotton foundation. When the cotton is washed, the leather strips themselves do not wash up well. It is possible to use leather cleaning products after a washing to condition and revive the leather.

The cotton rag shag rugs wash well but tumbling may be needed (as in a rug washing plant) to help bring life back into those fabric strips.

Loss of Color

Depending on the quality of dyeing, both leather strip shag rugs and cotton rag shag rugs may bleed when washed. A rug washing specialist will know how to use the proper solutions to correct this.

It is important to understand that pet urine can also create dye bleed problems, even in a colorfast rug.

Fabric Unraveling and Knots Untying

Foot traffic tends to loosen the knots of these hand-tied rugs, and strips can be pulled loose and require repair. Especially with cotton fabric, wear and tear over time can cause the fabric strips to unravel and fray.


These types of rugs are artificial silk shag rugs and they are very popular today. The manufacturers use synthetic fibers to craft these shaggy, shiny creations.

Synthetic Silk Strands


Unable to Hide Soil

These fibers have no ability to hide soil and thus the rugs become grey very quickly in traffic areas. It would be helpful to brush these fibers with a horsehair brush or wipe them down with microfiber cloths which can help grab loose soil before it begins to discolor the traffic areas.

Polyester Shag Rug

The Heavy Cotton Backing Absorbs Every Spill

Many of these silky shag rugs have thin strands strung through a very thick cotton foundations. Spills will move immediately past the strands and get soaked up into that thick cotton. Thus, every spill is a potential disaster that requires professional cleaning.

Tufts Remove Easily From These Rugs

The silky strands are not knotted or tied but simply looped into a backing material. The result can be loose tufts in traffic areas and any dusting, scrubbing or extracting can easily lead to a loss of fibers. The cleaning of these rugs is best left to the professional rug washer.

Viscose Shag Rugs

Polyester Fibers Easily Fray and Scratch, Viscose Easily Breaks

Polyester fibers are made from plastic, so they tend to scratch and wear in a way that makes them reflect light differently in different areas. These areas get dull instead of shiny and can sometimes be mistaken as dirty areas instead of simply as worn areas.

Synthetic Shag Rug

Viscose fibers are very weak so they tend to split and break away in traffic areas and these areas also may become dull as a result.


Shag rugs can lend a charming, decorative touch to any room. That is, until they get dirty! This is why the shag carpets of the 70s quickly fell out of favor.

ABC has all the equipment to clean and sanitize your shag rugs with the goal of bringing them back to their original beauty whenever possible. After a thorough inspection, if we feel your rug cannot be cleaned to our satisfaction, we will let you know of any problems that could arise so you can make an informed decision of whether or not to have the rug cleaned.

During the COVID-19 Shelter in Place ban, our hours have changed but we have been open so customers can drop rugs off or have them picked up and delivered without actual contact being necessary. 

Please call or text our office at your convenience at 607-272-1566 and check our webpage at and Facebook for more information.

Please stay home and stay safe through this very trying time.

Please note: A good amount of the information in this article has been reprinted by permission from Lisa Wagner at

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