Shag carpets and other high pile options feel luxurious to the feet and are often lovely to look at. But they can be hard to maintain. It can be a struggle to remove dust, dirt or pet hair from these carpets — even more than other carpets.
Many vacuums just aren’t up to the task. The rules of hard floors don’t apply to carpets — especially when dealing with thick, fluffy, high pile materials. For the best results in vacuuming these, you’ll have to be specific when choosing a machine.
We’ve been there, and we have a solution (or seven) for you.
Shag vs. High Pile: What’s the Difference?
All shag carpets and rugs are high pile, but not all high pile carpets and rugs are shags. In the carpeting world, “pile” describes the height or density of your rug.
Carpet fibers longer than half an inch are considered high pile, while those longer than 3/4 of an inch are plush. (1).
Shag is a superficial title that refers to the look of some high pile carpets. They vary in size, shape, material, and length, but each has a common denominator. Shag carpets are deliberate in their unkempt appearance, hence the name.
Did you know that shag carpets aren’t a modern invention? They rose in popularity in the 60s, but historians say they date back to ancient Greece. Back then, they were made of goat hair and weren’t called shags, but the premise was the same (2).
Shag carpets — in fact, all high pile carpets — are designed for comfort. Sure, they protect your floors as all rugs will, but they feel good under your feet and are soft to sit on.
Their drawback is that they attract more dirt. It’s easier for dust, dander, and hair to cling to the lengthened fibers of high pile carpets. These materials are also excellent at harboring dirt that you can’t see.
Why You Need a High Pile Vacuum
The easiest way to combat this extra, hidden dirt is to buy a high pile specific vacuum cleaner. We’ll cover individual specs once we’ve convinced you that you need one. For now, here’s what a high pile vacuum can do for you.
1. Sufficient Suction
There’s a problem with vacuuming high pile carpets. If your machine’s suction is too low, it won’t have much effect, so dirt, dust, and other allergens will remain. On the other hand, if it’s too high or rough, it could damage your carpet by pulling the fibers apart.
Choosing a vacuum that’s made for — or that can manage — high pile carpets will ensure that neither of these will be a problem. You’ll get ample suction to clean your carpets efficiently, without the worry of ruining them.
2. Specialized Features
If you choose your vacuum wisely, you can get extras that protect your carpets too. These could be advanced features, for example, adjustable rollers or suction. Or, it could come with attachments, specifically designed for high pile carpets.
Tip: Don’t use the same head or tools that you would on a low pile carpet. The bristles can be too hard or strong. This could destroy the fibers of your shag.
3. Higher Capacity
Vacuums for high pile carpets tend to have larger dirt capacities than those intended for harder floors. Perhaps a reason for this is that we vacuum high pile carpets more regularly to avoid dirt building up.
High pile carpet vacuums — in general — are often heavy-duty machines to facilitate this. The chances are that your vacuum will have sufficient room for all the dirt and hair it collects in an outing around your home.
4. Great for Pets
It looks like high pile vacuum manufacturers assume that if you have a shag rug, hair is going to be your biggest problem. So these vacuums almost always have the correct features or attachments to remove it.
This is a big help to pet owners, who may be surprised by how much pet hair their plush carpets hold. Some vacuums come with HEPA filters, which work wonders for people with allergies. Since decreased suction is best for shags, you might find that a high pile specific machine makes less noise.
5. Less Effort
Some people think that a carpet rake is an excellent alternative to vacuuming. But this is not true. Carpet rakes are meant to restore dull fibers, but won’t remove dust that’s embedded between them.
You might think that sweeping is a good alternative, but it’s not recommended for shag carpets. A broom pushes the dirt around instead of picking it up and might damage your high pile.
Using an inappropriate vacuum could, similarly, be problematic. At the end, it may even require more work than necessary.
Instead, a good vacuum for shag carpets typically has optimized suction. This will save you both time and effort. You won’t have to break a sweat when you use them, because they’re effective at removing even deep-set dirt and debris.
The Truth About Carpet Rakes
Types of High Pile Vacuums
Vacuums designed only for high pile carpets are few and far between. So it’s likelier that you’ll choose a vacuum with shag capabilities. often added as accessories or attachments.
You can choose any vacuum you prefer, provided that it’s equipped for high piles. There are many kinds to choose from, and here’s what we recommend:
Uprights are sometimes seen as the original and best. Though they’re not the most versatile machines, they work exceptionally well on both carpeted and hard floors. They have good suction, high capacity and are often built with shag carpets in mind.
Upright vacuums are an excellent choice for high piles because what they lack in features, they make up for in suction and efficiency. They’ll clean your carpets more consistently than other types of vacuums will.
They’re an affordable option too and are easy to use. An upright’s shape is the most ergonomic you can find, and it’s unlikely that you’ll strain your back while using one.
- Made for floors.
- Usually multi-floor.
- Easy storage.
- Better for your back.
- Not versatile.
- Heavier than others.
- Usually lack accessories.
Canister vacuums are designed very differently to uprights. Rather than containing the machine’s motor, dust bag and head in the same unit, canisters have independent components. The wand is attached to the case with a hose, and the machine trails behind you as you work.
These models are wonderful when it comes to versatility. They usually come with a range of accessories that make it easy to clean a variety of objects. You can use them on drapes, upholstery, mantles, and even picture frames.
Additionally, because you use a wand, you have more reach. Canisters are usually lighter than uprights but can match them in suction.
A great benefit of canister vacuums, in carpet cleaning, is that you can easily switch out the brush roll to match your needs. This is useful in preserving the condition of your shag carpets. Their precision tools and accessories, when correctly used, reduce the risk of damage.
- Accessories typically included.
- Great for most surfaces.
- Storage is a hassle.
- Decreased control over the machine’s path.
- Assembly and dismantling required.
If you don’t want a chunky vacuum, consider a stick. You can even choose a cordless model if you like. Stick vacuums may fall short of uprights and canisters in some areas, but they’re fantastic for cleaning your whole home.
For one, they cost more. But when you pay attention to what they can do, you’ll understand why. Stick vacuums are designed to have higher dirt capacities and stronger suction in a more compact and versatile machine. They also often convert into handheld vacuums.
Truly, stick vacuums have the broadest range of capabilities of all vacuums. Almost all stick vacuums are multi-surface. You can use them to clean the interior of your car just as easily as your floors. Plus, they’re lighter, take up less room, and can even save you money on electricity.
Stick vacuums are great for high pile carpets because of how easily you can control them. They’re also unlikely to ruin your carpet’s body and can be used for both touch-ups and deep cleaning.
- Most versatile.
- Could be handheld convertible.
- Cordless options available.
- Storage is a breeze.
- Most portable.
- Cost more.
- Less suction than traditional vacuums.
- Not as durable.
- May require charging.
Robot vacuums are the new kid on the block, and very few models are designed to cope with shag and high pile carpets. The ones that are have large wheels that auto adjust the height of the vacuum.
This helps the robot move easily on different surfaces. It also ensures that they can apply optimal suction for that surface.
Roller brushes or a roller bar with bristles will damage your carpet. So robot vacuums built to cope with high pile are designed with brushless, tangle-free dust extractors.
They’re not for everyone, but they could change the way you clean your floors. The idea is that you don’t have to think about cleaning at all. Robot vacuums are automated, and no manual effort is needed to operate them.
Depending on the model, you can program its boundaries, schedule it, and leave it to charge itself. Some work through virtual home assistants like Alexa, but others are controllable with a remote or app.
Robot vacuums are perhaps the least versatile models you can find, but they’re the most sophisticated. We love how convenient they are.
- No manual effort needed.
- Often include automatic floor adjustment.
- Battery operated.
- Take up little room.
- Quieter than other vacuums.
- Low capacity
- Charging required.
- They have blind spots.
How to Choose the Best High Pile Vacuum
Though there are many to choose from, you shouldn’t buy a vacuum solely based only on the type you like most. Its specs, features, and capabilities, matter more. Here’s what you should look out for when purchasing one.
- Strength: This could present itself as either suction or bristles, so it’s best to pay attention to both. You may be able to get away with powerful suction if the machine’s brush roll is built for soft carpets. But if both the bristles and the suction are too strong for delicates, they probably are for your shag or high pile.
- Accessories: Check for shag carpet specific accessories. Keep in mind that these won’t be the same as the accessories for low pile rugs.
- Weight: High pile carpets are thick, so using a heavy machine on them could be challenging. Bigger vacuums will surely give you more range and speed. Just make sure that they don’t weigh a ton.
- Multi-Floor: Does your home have hard floors too? If so, you’ll want to get a vacuum that can handle both with ease. Many models have different modes for hard and soft floors, and some might adjust automatically.
How to Vacuum a Shag Carpet
We have a few helpful tips that you can put to use once your new vacuum arrives. They will supplement your machine and make your cleaning so much more effective. Plus, they take little effort and are worth considering.
1. Shake It First
This only applies to rugs, but lifting it and giving it a good shake will loosen dirt. It could also bring deep-set dirt closer to the surface. That way, the vacuum won’t struggle when it sucks it up. It’s best to do this outside.
Another method is to hang your rug over a clothesline and gently beat it. Don’t be too aggressive with it, especially if you have a plush rug. The objective is to loosen the dirt, not tear your rug apart.
Using both of these methods can send dirt flying straight into your face. So, try to position yourself so that the wind will carry it away from you. This is even more important if you have allergies.
2. Don’t Use Shampoo
Dry shampoos work well on carpets because they penetrate the fibers and loosen dirt inside them. For shag carpets, though, the risk of damage is too high. The chemicals are often too harsh, and you could be left with a stained or ruined carpet.
If you do have stains or caked-in dirt on your high pile rugs, it’s better to get them professionally cleaned.
3. Upholstery Attachments Work Well
Upholstery tools are designed to handle fabric. Some are even built to tackle delicates, so they’ll work well on your plush carpets. They’re usually made with smaller surfaces in mind, so you may not be able to clean wall to wall with one.
They can be more efficient on smaller rugs, though.
If you don’t mind the effort, they’re a great way to take care of your shags. These tools are considered standard, and many models come with them included.
The Best Vacuums for Shag Carpets and High Pile of 2020
Our primary goal is always to recommend trusted products to our readers. To choose these, we always read information from the manufacturer and what customers think about the product. Today, we have seven recommendations for you, based on their efficiency, features, and customer satisfaction.
1. Soniclean Soft Carpet Vacuum
This vacuum places emphasis on soft carpets. It has patented technology, not found in other models, that vibrates to loosen even stubborn dirt set in your carpet.
Its EZ-Push adjustable vent system and large wheels allow smooth movement over thick carpets. The Soniclean features an ultra-soft brush roll, which effectively cleans and protects your shag and plush materials.
You can switch between Quiet Mode to reduce noise and Deep Cleaning Mode for your extra-thick carpets. It also works when laid flat, for extra reach under furniture. The addition of a HEPA filter means it’s suitable for allergy sufferers too.
A nice touch is the Sonicfresh fragrance pod which will leave your carpets smelling clean.
Why We Love It
Ultra-Soft Brush Roll
If you’re worried about damaging your plush carpets, this vacuum could be for you. It’s built especially to preserve the condition of your high pile materials. So, it’s extra gentle while cleaning them.
Most vacuums only suck up whatever is within reach of its head. This model uses unique, patented technology to drive dirt out of your carpets. By vibrating, embedded dirt comes loose for more efficient vacuuming.
It rotates at a whopping 200 vibrations per second. We don’t think dirt is a match for this vacuum.
Don’t you think it’s lovely that Soniclean included this? We do. Your carpets will smell better than ever after you vacuum them, and it removes the need for other products.
Keep In Mind
It’s handy that Soniclean built this with a quiet mode because customers say it’s one of the loudest. Its efficiency is worth the noise, but it might not be ideal around pets, or those with sensitive hearing.
It’s Not Bagless
The dirt is collected in HEPA filter bags that come separately to buy in packs of seven. This will be an ongoing additional cost.
Mediocre on Hard Floors
Though this model does have multi-floor capabilities, it’s spectacular on carpets, but average on hard floors. Users mention that it didn’t meet expectations when switching between the two.
|Brush roll type||Soft nylon bristles|
|Special features||EZ Push, ultra-soft brush roll, quiet mode, jam protection, full bag indicator light|
|Accessories||HEPA filter bag, Sonicfresh fragrance pod|
2. Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute
The Dyson Cyclone V10 is a cordless model that gives you an hour’s run, and three suction modes to choose from. It’s a multi-surface vacuum that you can use on all carpets and floor types.
Advanced whole machine filtration makes this model an excellent choice for pet owners. The Torque Drive cleaner head digs deeper into carpets to remove more dirt and debris, including pet hair.
You also get handy accessories to optimize your carpet cleaning. Included are a crevice tool, combination tool, soft dusting brush, and mini motorized tool. Its low suction setting is best for high pile carpets.
Why We Love It
Torque Drive Cleaner Head
The brush with this machine is engineered to remove more stubborn dirt from carpets. Its motor gives stiff nylon bristles a boost in dislodging dirt embedded between carpet fibers.
On this vacuum’s lowest suction setting — which is recommended — the Torque Drive cleaner head gives you 35 minutes of fade-free power.
Another reason this vacuum is excellent for pet owners is its filtration. It traps up to 99.97 percent of allergens, leaving you with cleaner, fresher air. This is an important feature for shag carpets that could harbor unseen dust, dirt, and other irritants.
The whole-machine filtration also means that you get steadier suction. Your vacuum won’t lose its efficiency, and you’ll get more out of it for longer.
This vacuum works well on high pile carpets, but you can use it for so much more. You can easily convert this stick vacuum into a handheld. It’s suitable for floors, furniture, upholstery, fabrics, and car interiors too.
We think it’s got great value, and its included accessories will save you money too.
Keep In Mind
Customers note a design flaw in this model. The battery is sealed and inaccessible. This doesn’t affect its efficiency but means it can’t be replaced.
It’s great that this vacuum is cordless because it’s easily accessible and maneuverable. The only problem is that it takes almost four hours to charge. This is less time than many other sticks, but it won’t always be ready to go.
|Power||25.2-volt lithium-ion battery|
|Brush roll type||Stiff nylon bristles|
|Special features||Fade free power, whole machine filtration, acoustic engineering, handheld convertible, three power modes|
|Accessories||Combination tool, crevice tool, mini motorized brush, soft dusting brush|
3. Shark Navigator Deluxe
Customers are happy with this product’s efficiency on shag carpets. It’s an upright weighing in at just under 15 pounds. The two-liter dustbin is easy to empty. And the extra-long wand adds an extra 10 feet to this vacuum’s reach.
The unit boasts a few advanced features, like Brushroll Shutoff technology for precision. It also includes anti-allergen complete seal technology and is built for lossless suction.
Accessories include a crevice tool, dusting brush, and an upholstery tool. You can switch between them comfortably for more efficient cleaning of your whole home.
Why We Love It
Unlike many other uprights, you can attach a wand to this model and clean above ground. It’s one of the most versatile and maneuverable products of its kind.
We like that this upright comes with an upholstery tool. This model is an excellent choice if you’re looking for powerful cleaning beyond your carpets.
You can control the brush roll in this model. This makes it a tremendous multi-floor vacuum that gives you more control in cleaning your shags. Your high piles are safe from damage.
Keep In Mind
Cord Is Unsatisfactory
The design of the vacuum could be a little more ergonomic. While the cord is 25 feet long, some users say that its placement is inconvenient. It’s difficult to reach. Customers also mention that it can get in the vacuum’s way.
A few users say that attaching the accessories is not easy to do. Working with the detachable canister also takes some getting used to. Regardless of these criticisms, customers are happy with the vacuum’s efficiency.
|Brush roll type||Stiff|
|Special features||Brush roll shutoff, anti-allergen complete seal technology|
|Accessories||Crevice tool, dusting brush, upholstery tool, extra-long wand|
4. Eureka NEU182A PowerSpeed
Here’s a vacuum that gives you the best of carpet cleaning and saves you money too. It includes a dynamic motor that works with its brush roll to lift stubborn dirt and debris. Its 12.6-inch nozzle covers more ground in less time.
This is a multi-floor vacuum that has five adjustable heights, including a “High Carpet” setting. It’s suitable for both carpets and hard floors. Smooth wheels prevent scratches, imprints, and other damage on your floors.
What’s nice about this machine is that it has an extra-large dust container that can hold 4.1 liters of dirt. Accessories included are a crevice tool, upholstery tool, brush tool, and detachable wand.
Why We Love It
You can choose between five different levels of cleaning. We like that you can be specific for your different floorings. This makes cleaning your shags easier and safer.
A 12.6-inch cleaning path is helpful on high pile carpets that generally take longer to clean. It also saves effort if you need to go over a spot more than once.
Compared to most other vacuums, a 4.1-liter dust container is a lot. You’ll be able to contain more dirt, which means you’ll spend less time emptying it.
Combined with the wide cleaning path and ample, 25 feet, cord length, this is a wise choice if you want to save time.
Keep In Mind
Customers say that this machine, although efficient, is not the smoothest. It’s not the heaviest upright, but it is large. Users mention that when switching to different floors, some effort is required.
Customers have also said that this vacuum makes a fair amount of noise. Regardless of the criticism, both in its size and sound, most people are satisfied with its power.
|Special features||Five adjustable heights, 12.6-inch cleaning path, dynamic motor.|
|Accessories||Crevice tool, upholstery tool, brush tool, detachable wand|
5. Shark Apex (AZ1002)
This model has a few features you’ll appreciate. For one, its Zero-M technology resists tangles, so it’s an excellent choice for pet homes with high pile carpets. It features a Powered Lift-Away canister for extra reach and versatility.
A dual brush roll system penetrates deep carpets and polishes hard floors. It’s one of the best multi-floor vacuums on the market.
Accessories include a crevice tool, upholstery tool and a Pet Power Brush.
Why We Love It
This vacuum won’t only clean your floors; it will clean itself too. The Zero-M brush roll is designed to remove hair and other fibers from its bristles automatically. You’ll save a lot of time on maintenance.
The brush roll, HEPA filter, and Pet Power Brush are a testament to how pet-friendly this vacuum is. It won’t just remove hair and dander from your high pile carpets, it will clean the air around you as well.
This is an excellent multi-floor vacuum that deep cleans carpets and shines hard floors. It goes above and beyond in cleaning all types of floors.
Keep In Mind
Customers say that this is a hefty machine that can be awkward and cumbersome to work with. But it is an upright model, so its weight and mobility are within reason.
It Cuts Out
While users are satisfied with the efficiency of this vacuum, a few have mentioned that it cuts out without warning sometimes. This is a mild inconvenience that not all users experience.
|Brush roll type||Tangle-free|
|Special features||Zero-M Brushroll, DuoClean technology, Powered Lift-Away Canister|
|Accessories||Crevice tool, upholstery tool, Pet Power brush|
6. Roomba 980
Widely regarded as the best robot vacuum for high pile carpets, this model isn’t lacking in features. It has ten times the suction power of previous Roombas. Plus, it can last for up to 120 minutes a run.
It comes with a filter, dual multi-surface rubber brushes, and uses the Premium 3-Stage Cleaning system. The iAdapt 2.0 Navigation leads it effortlessly around and under furniture.
You can schedule this vacuum to run at any time, and it is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Why We Love It
Great for Pet Hair
The multi-surface rubber brushes have many uses, but our favorite is removing pet hair. These brushes co-operate to manage all types of dirt. They resist clogs and tangles as well.
You can use Alexa and Google Assistant to operate this vacuum through voice commands. There’s also the option both to monitor and control the vacuum through the Roomba app.
Long Run Time
Two hours run time is a lot by robot vacuum standards. It’s more than enough time to deep clean high pile carpets. When the battery runs out of juice, the Roomba will find its way to its charging station.
Keep In Mind
Small Dust Container
It’s a robot vacuum so don’t expect too much from its capacity. It holds 0.6 liters of dirt, which is not bad for a robot vacuum. Still, customers say that they wish it were larger, to reduce maintenance.
Unlike other robot vacuums, this one does not come with a remote control. You will have to use your smartphone or virtual assistant to operate it.
|Power||Ni-MH Battery, 14.4V; Capacity: 4500mAh, 64.8Wh|
|Brush roll type||Rubber|
|Special features||Self-charging, scheduling, Google Assistant and Alexa compatible, Roomba App|
7. Miele Complete C3 Marin
This canister vacuum will work well on all types of carpets, including shags and rugs. Its five height adjustments make for quick transition from hard floors to carpets.
The automatic setting makes it effortless and safe when switching between surfaces.
With a massive 4.5 liter capacity, it will efficiently complete vacuuming most homes before needing to be emptied.
The ergonomic handle is a comfortable addition. Six-stage suction control, an LED headlight, and a telescopic wand are added for your convenience. It also features an automatic cord rewind and a bumper strip.
Included are the standard accessories; a dusting brush, upholstery tool, and a crevice nozzle.
Why We Love It
Not many canister vacuums have automated features, so this one is ahead of its class. Beyond the sophistication, it means that all of your floors — not just your high pile carpets — are protected.
You can choose between six suction levels, which is excellent for your shags. We recommend starting on the lowest setting to see which one works best for you.
Canister vacuums are not always easy on your hands, so we like the ergonomic handle. Lifting and carrying this model is easy and won’t cause strain, pain, or discomfort.
Keep In Mind
Customers who rated this vacuum highly say that you must be careful. It works well for shag rugs and high pile carpets, but has powerful suction. So it shouldn’t be used on extra-delicate carpets. It might get stuck on shag carpets on its higher suction settings.
This model is one of the more costly ones on our list. It has advanced features compared to most other canister vacuums, so it’s justified in our books.
|Brush roll type||Electro brush|
|Special features||HEPA filter, six-stage suction control, automatic cord rewind, LED light, ergonomic handle, bumper strip, telescopic wand, Parquet twister floorhead, five height adjustments|
|Accessories||Upholstery tool, crevice tool, dusting brush|
|Product||Award||Power||Brush roll||Capacity||Multi-floor?||Special features||Accessories|
|Soniclean Carpet||Best For Plush Carpets||N/A||Soft nylon bristles||N/A||Yes||EZ Push, ultra-soft brush roll, quiet mode, jam protection, full bag indicator light||HEPA filter bag, Sonicfresh fragrance pod|
|Dyson Cyclone V10||Best For Pets||25.2-V||Stiff nylon bristles||0.75 L||Yes||Fade free power, whole machine filtration, acoustic engineering, handheld convertible, three power modes||Combination tool, crevice tool, mini motorized brush, soft dusting brush|
|Shark Navigator||Best Multi-Floor Upright||1200 W||Stiff||2 L||Yes||Brush roll shutoff, anti-allergen complete seal technology||Crevice tool, dusting brush, upholstery tool, extra-long wand|
|Eureka PowerSpeed||Best Budget Pick||960 W||N/A||4.1 liter||Yes.||Five adjustable heights, 12.6-inch cleaning path, dynamic motor.||Crevice tool, upholstery tool, brush tool, detachable wand|
|Shark Apex||Best Deep Cleaning||1350 W||Tangle-free||1.13 L||Yes||Zero-M Brushroll, DuoClean technology, Powered Lift-Away Canister||Crevice tool, upholstery tool, Pet Power brush|
|Roomba 980||Most Convenient||14.4V||Rubber||0.6 L||No||Self-charging, scheduling, Google Assistant and Alexa compatible, Roomba App||N/A|
|Miele C3 Marin||Best Canister||1200 W||Electro brush||4.5 L||Yes||HEPA filter, six-stage suction control, automatic cord rewind, LED light, ergonomic handle, bumper strip, telescopic wand, Parquet twister floorhead, five height adjustments||Upholstery tool, crevice tool, dusting brush|
Magic Carpet Cleaning
See? Cleaning your shag carpets doesn’t have to be a pain, and it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune either. Vacuums that are suited to your needs are easier to find than you may think.
The best vacuums for shag carpets and high pile rugs take precautions to protect your floors.
Make sure the vacuum you choose specifies the type of floors and fabrics it’s best suited for. This will remove any confusion and save you from any damage to your precious rugs and carpets.
Which one of our favorites do you like best? We enjoy hearing from you, so tell us your thoughts below.