Everything About Shag Rugs

If there is a rug type in the current market that is a real pain in the neck to clean (besides rugs with jute foundation) that is shag rugs. Far and away THE most difficult rugs not only to maintain but also clean, although, admittedly, they are a pretty cool and fun. Yeah, they look super cute and invite you to roll, walk, play (or whatever else pleases you) on them. So, in theory, one can easily understand the fun of it. Unfortunately, the coolness factor quickly fades when you find out just how expensive it is to have them cleaned by a professional and keep them looking good for long (to clean a much more valuable silk rug is cheaper than cleaning a shag rug due to the extra hand work required to clean it!). So, unless you are buying a shag rug to have something cool in the home, knowing that you will need to replace it in a few years (when it will get so dirty that no one will want to “play” with it anymore). Now, you may say that where you buy a shag rug plays a role in its value. For example, a shag rug from IKEA should probably be cheaper and of lower quality than one bought from a designer ship market, right? Quite right. You should know that ALL values of shag rugs have their challenges to get them clean. So, what do you do if you own a shag rug? Here are some valuable details you should know of.

1. Shag Rugs Grab Everything (and won’t let go)!

Because they have a felted type of wool, they act as magnets and attract everything from pet hair to bread crumbs. This means that if your pet twists and curls on it, you will never EVER get the pet hair out. Did your kid just crumble food on the shag rug? Say farewell to the hope to get all of the crumbs out. Try any vacuum you want.

2. Shag Rugs Yellow Over Time

Generally, wool yellows over time from exposure to particular chemical (i.e. laundry detergents), exposure to light, or because they have been woven on jute foundation (here all you need to know about jute) or another construction with latex backing. Usually, wool undergoes a whitening procedure (aka it is bleached) to make it more presentable and eye-pleasing. Unfortunately, this does damage to the wool and it is mathematically precise that it will yellow over time. No matter the whitening technique used (sometimes low percentage hydrogen peroxide is used to whiten wool), damage (even a little) is done to the already weakened fibers.

3. Large Shag Rugs are Difficult to Vacuum

sexy image with pink shoes on soft carpet

Due to their construction, shag rugs are almost impossible to vacuum efficiently with a regular vacuum (if you own a Dyson, forget about vacuuming a shag rug. You will ruin it completely), using an upholstery attachment or a canister vacuum is definitely more preferred than anything else. To vacuum in between the sides of the fibers and row by row. As for the grit in the base of the rug, you can kiss it goodbye as you will probably never manage to get it all out. Spills also cause trouble and you do need to attend to them immediately. But, that’s how you should do with any type of rug, right? Yes, but in shag rugs you have to be REALLY fast because the spills work their way down into the foundation (heavy cotton), when things get even more difficult. Now, what if your canister is too strong or you have come rather too strong on the spot? You most likely have ended up with some tufts on your hands. Since they are not that securely positioned, tufts can be pulled out quite easily, making your rug look like a head with alopecia.

Even though wool is by far the most suitable fiber for rugs, the rugs do need to be short pile woven ones. It all depends on fiber density. Some high quality shag rugs have significantly more fiber density than the looser weave construction found in cheaper shag rugs, which means they are more protected and grab a lot less lint, dust, and hair (and if they do, they don’t embed it deep in the fiber base, where cleaning and sanitizing are seriously challenged).

4. Acrylic Shag Rugs are Highly Flammable

Indeed, unlike wool, there is fire hazard with shag rugs. When lit with a flame, wool self-extinguishes (when in the form of a fiber). This is because it has high moisture content in wool fibers, which literally allow wool to put itself out. No wonder wool is a preferred fiber for clothing or a rug, among others. Have you ever noticed that everything inside an airplane, from the seat fabrics to the floor, are generally wool? Makes sense. They won’t burn unless under strong flame for prolonged time.

Many people buy acrylic rugs because they are the next best thing (as the eye sees it) to wool, only without the price. How to tell acrylic from wool or anything else? It lucks the vibrancy, luster, and feel or dyed wool. Also, the texture is harsher to the touch (it is plastic, so it makes sense). Acrylic shag rugs are cheap to buy, very difficult to clean, their tufts can be pulled out easier, and grab gunk and hold on to it. So, even if they have the look of wool, they are nothing close to it.

Funny though because when acrylic was discovered to be dangerously flammable when used in clothing, government standards were established, and fabrics had to be fire retardant (most commonly referred to as modular acrylic). Unfortunately, nothing like that has been applied to shag rugs. So, if you are about to buy an acrylic rug, beware, despite the screaming deal you might have got on the price. You might be bringing a serious fire hazard into your home. Now, if you absolutely have to purchase one, better choose one with a low pile as it will be harder to “ignite” (if you can take that risk to find out yourself).

5. Designer Shag Rug are Expensive and Costly to Maintain

Everything comes with a price, they say, and, usually, a designer shag rug is costly. Leather shag rugs are very desirable for their aesthetic appeal, with their perky, stiff leather strips and cool looks. However, once they age, they lose their color, sizing, and overall “look”. To clean them, you will have to use a leather cleaner. Don’t fully wash them, though, because washing can make them stiffer and remove the sizing and color. For a house with pets, it is not a wise option as they will need a serious bath to remove pet puddles from the backing material, which is, most of the times, absorbent cotton.

What’s the Deal with Synthetic Shag Rugs?

Synthetic shag rugs can be any rug made from viscose, nylon, or polyester. Some synthetics are made to look like silk (usually blending polyester and viscose) while others are made to resemble leather strips. One of the reasons to opt for a synthetic rug is that it can take the chemicals and heat of “steam cleaning” or hot water extraction since it is primarily plastic fibers. This means that a synthetic rug can be surface cleaned much easier and significantly less costly compared to rugs with natural fibers (i.e. wool), considering that steam cleaning takes only a small fraction of the time other washing and cleaning techniques do.

Unfortunately, it will be very tough even for the rug cleaning companies with powerful tools at their disposal to clean the long strands of synthetic shag rugs. They will, ultimately, have to clean them with upholstery cleaning hand tools, which is extra effort and time (and, of course, more money to spend), plus they will most possibly pull the tufts out that way and unravel the rug. No matter how one sees it, it is not even close to a win-win situation. Want to know all there is about synthetic rugs and many more? Feel free to browse the other pieces we have posted!

Cleaning Challenges with Shag Rugs

Whether you are a shag rug owner of professional rug cleaner, there are particular difficulties involved in cleaning a dirty shag rug, which are all presented below.

1. You can’t Vacuum them

Even if you have an upholstery attachment tool or canister, you will still not be able to vacuum them to the point they are completely clean, unless you literally vacuum them as mentioned earlier to get the dirt and hair out of the middle of these rugs.

2. You can’t spot clean them.

baby with dummy standing

Blot spills with the speed of light or just give up. The backing material of shag rugs is usually cotton, which will suck up the spill, with everything that comes along with that (i.e. attract bugs, if the spill is related to food).

3. You can’t clean it yourself.

Forget about DIY formulas and techniques. First of all, these rugs are super heavy to move. Try drying them and you will soon realize that it would be another of Hercules feats to do so on your own. For the professional rug cleaner, cleaning a shag rug would probably mean that they have it in a full wash system and try to clean it with a softer pressure water in between the rows with the help of come constructions that will make grime release easier. Also, an expert rug cleaner will have to be careful not to cause pile loss or distortion.

4. You Can’t Properly Remove Odor

One thing is for sure with shag rugs: you need a lot of water to get rid of the contaminants from pet urine since the cotton foundation absorb urine like a sponge. However, if you thought you could just surface clean it, think again. This will not solve the problem for sure. You need a professional to handle this task and even then if you are among the unfortunate ones, and your rug has latex adhesive in the backing, you are never going to remove all of the odor completely our of the shag rug. Definitely not a rug to be placed in a home with pets not properly trained for obvious reasons.

5. You Can’t Get a Cheaper Clean

Even in cases when your shag rug should be steam cleaned, you can’t clean it that way because of its construction. This leaves you with only one option, which is to clean wash it. Who would take up such a labor intensive task? And, would you be willing to pay for it? Think about it. The cleaning price of a shag rug can be more than the price you paid to buy it. This means you can easily save your money and buy a new one every couple of years or so. Note that under regular use, rugs should be cleaned every two years (anywhere from 18-24 months). So, if you vacuum or dust them regularly, you can extend the cleaning necessity to 30 months. However, any longer than 30 months makes the rug unsuitable to have inside the home (it turns into a germ source after all that foot traffic it has got over the course of 3 years). Imagine how many paws and feet have walked over it! Better get a new one, instead – a clean one!

Several decades ago, there used to be wall-to-wall shag rugs until people realized how difficult it wash to keep them clean. Today’s shag rugs will probably go out of style when it becomes apparent that they are expensive and tough, which makes maintaining its good looks for long a challenging hurdle.

Unquestionably, wool rugs are the best option if you want a high-quality rug in your home that you can clean and keep at pristine condition for many years to come. If you are interested in finding out how often you should clean your rug, how to treat pet puddles on woven rugs, or how to protect your favorite rug from moth and bugs, check out our other articles that give insiders’ advice and useful tips.

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