How To Clean A Shop Vac Filter

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  March 19, 2022
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What is the most important tool in any work area? If you ask me, I will say it is a shop vac. Whether it is your home garage or your business, a shop vac is the most important tool to own. It keeps your work area clean and safe. It is also beneficial in many ways since it is more powerful than a traditional vacuum. A shop vac (like these top choices) can pick up dirt, spills, debris better than any other vacuum out there. For this reason, the filter also gets clogged quickly. When you clog the filter of a shop vac, you lose suction power. Now, you can just buy a replacement filter and throw out the old one. But filters don’t come cheap. And, unless you have a lot of cash to spare, I would just look for alternative options. Clean-A-Shop-Vac-Filter-FI In this article, I’m going to show you how to clean a shop vac filter so that you won’t have to replace one every time your filters get clogged.

How Do I Know If I Need To Change The Filters?

There are times when you can simply clean the filter and start using it again. However, if you notice any rips or tears, this is a good sign that you should replace your shop vac filter. Shop-vac tends to last for many years, with proper care and maintenance. If you continue using it with a teared-up filter, dust and other particles will escape the filter and get into the main unit. This will clog your shop vac and lessen the lifespan of the motor. Now, most of the time, the filter can be rinsed using a high-pressure hose or a power washer. However, there are other techniques that you can apply to effectively clean the filter and make it ready for its next use.

Cleaning A Shop Vac Filter

The tool that cleans your workspace also needs cleaning. Take the time to clean the internal components of your shop vac to prolong the lifespan of the motor and ensure reliable and efficient operation. A shop vac may contain more than one filter. Depending on their condition, you might need to replace them. However, most of them are reusable and for that reason, knowing how to clean a shop vac filter is a must if you don’t want to buy replacements. Filters don’t come cheap, and you don’t want to spend the equivalent of a shop vac on filters. Aside from one area, which is the filter, these versatile units have little need for maintenance. With that being said, let’s jump right into the process.

Picking The Perfect Time To Clean Your Shop Vac Filter

Every filter has an expected lifetime. If you use your shop vac more often, you might need to check the filter before it reaches its expected lifetime. You see, the paper filters inside a shop vac can easily become clogged. It might seem obvious, but when was the last time you checked the label of your particular filter? If you are a heavy user or frequently use your shop vac to control fine particles, the filter inside the vacuum can wear out quickly. Now, depending on the filter’s condition, you might need to change it out or clean it. If you don’t want to spend money on filters or you can’t change it for some other reason, you can try cleaning the unit. There are two ways you can go about this.
  • Traditional Method
First, let’s talk about the old school method. Take your shop vac outside and empty the bucket. Tap the bucket and dump the debris. After that, wipe it out. This will remove the dust that is clinging to the sides. Dislodge any buildup on the filter by knocking it against the side of a solid object. You can use a trash can or dumpster for this purpose. This way, dust particles that are inside the fold will fall away. Now, things can get messy quickly, and you will soon see yourself surrounded by dust clouds. Make sure to wear appropriate safety gear like a protective dust mask.
  • Cleaning With Compressed Air
For a more thorough clean, you can use low-pressure compressed air. Make sure to keep the pressure low and do it outside of your workspace. Blow off the filter to remove debris and dirt. However, start with the lowest pressure setting, or else the filter can get damaged. Most of the filters that are inside the shop vac are dry filters. This means you can clean them using water. As for the water pressure, keep it low. You don’t want to tear the filter while cleaning. Also, make sure to thoroughly dry the filter before reinstallation. If it remains wet, dry debris will easily jam the filter. What is even worse is that the paper may mold.

Steps For Cleaning A Dry Shop Vac Filter

In the following section, I’m going to go through the steps of cleaning a dry shop vac filter. Before you start cleaning, make sure to follow these steps.
  • Always clean in a well-ventilated area
  • Unplug the vacuum
  • Wear a protective mask
Avoid cleaning dusty filters indoors. The dust particles can cause some serious health problems. 1. Opening Up The Shop-Vac The first step is to open up the shop vac safely. Follow the instruction manual to remove the top motor from the machine safely. After that, locate the filter area and safely remove the filter. Next, follow the steps shown in the manual to disassemble the shop vac for a more thorough clean properly. 2. Tapping The Filter At this point, make sure to wear a dust mask. Now, tap the filter, and you will see a lot of dust falling from it. Put it in the trash bag and give it a good shake. Now, you can use compressed air to blow all the extra dirt hanging from the fold. 3. Cleaning The Pleats Expect some clingy mix stuck in the filter if you use your shop vac to clean different surfaces. For example, pet fur, dust, hairs, and a mixture of other stuff can get stuck in the pleats. To clean this section, you can use a Scrigit Scraper tool or a flat blade to effectively clean the pleats. You need to be extra careful not to tear up the filter while using a scraper. A Scrigit Scraper has a wedge-shaped part that can remove dirt from the cleats without tearing the filter. 4. Compressed Air Once you have cleaned the pleats, you can now blow the rest of the dirt off by using compressed air. Make sure to blow air from the inside of the filter. This way, you can ensure that all the dirt and debris are gone from the filter. 5. Washing Finally, give the filter a good wash. You can take the filter and use a water hose to wash it. This will take off any dust that is stuck.

Final Thoughts

Shop vac takes care of your workshop and you should take care of your shop vac. Shop vac filters like the Shop-Vac 9010700 and the Shop-Vac 90137 are suitable for reusing after cleaning. Cleaning a shop vac filter might seem like a lot of work, but it is for the wellbeing of your shop vac. If you want to ensure your precious machine is working effectively, routine maintenance is absolutely necessary. It’s not just the filters. You should also clean the vacuum itself.
Also read: check the best upright vacuum cleaners right here

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.