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How to Clean a Shop Vac Filter

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Shop vacs are great to remove dirt, dust, and debris from any surface. However, due to the nature of their work, they use a filter that you need to clean regularly. If you don’t know how to clean them, though; don’t worry, you can learn how to clean a shop vac filter using the methods below.

How to Clean a Shop Vac Filter

The only part in a shop vac cleaner that needs regular cleaning is the filter. Some of these vacuum cleaners have more than one filter. There are some models that you simply can’t clean and replace. For the ones that you need to clean, there is a simple process you can follow to clean them. 

On that note, you can categorize filters as wet or dry filters. This is important because you need to clean each category in a different way. You will find guidelines for cleaning each type of filter below.

Cleaning Wet Shop Vac Filters

In this scenario you will need:

a vaccuum cleaner among other utensils

Start by removing the wet filter from the vacuum cleaner. Once you have compiled the materials you need, use the steps below to begin.

Step 1: Prepare the Shop Vac

Start by making sure you have unplugged the shop vac from its electrical outlet. Take the gadget outside and find a clean, well-aired spot to start the cleaning process. Remove the powerhead and place the item upside down.

Step 2: Remove the Filter

Remove the filter retainer by turning it anticlockwise. This step is mainly for older shop vac models. Remove the filter and place it on the bag. In some cases, the filter may be caked in gunk. Use elbow grease to help lubricate the filter to make it easy to remove.

Step 3: Clean the Filter

Smack the filter to remove any loose dirt and dust. This process also helps in removing any debris. Now you can wash the filter. Always consult the owner’s manual before you clean a wet filter.

The manual should give you insight into the type of cleaning agents you can use. Generally, dishwashing soap and water should suffice. However, you may need cleaning agents to handle stubborn stains.

Once you finish cleaning, let it dry. Ideally, you should leave it in a clean dry place for at least 12 hours. Shake the wet filter after this duration to see if there are any water droplets present. Touch all the surfaces to ensure there is no moisture. If you are sure it is dry, reinstall it and you will be done. 

Cleaning Dry Shop Vac Filters

You can also clean a dry shop vac filter with affordable materials you can purchase at your local store. The process is simple and should take less than an hour.

If you want to do a thorough cleaning, you will need:

  • A can of compressed air
  • A clean empty garbage bag
  • Some toothpicks
Close up of wooden toothpicks

Cleaning a dry filter is a lot like cleaning a wet filter. You will need to follow steps one and two above to remove the filter. Once you have successfully removed it, use the steps below. 

Step 1: Shake the Garbage Bag

Place the filter on the clean garbage bag and smack it. If the filter is not extremely dirty, this step should be enough. For dirty filters, you will need to use the can of compressed air. Spray air starting from the inside of the filter.

Step 2: Clean Clogged Dirt or Debris

You may notice there is some dirt or debris that is logged on the pleats of the filter. Use a toothpick to remove the dirt or debris. Be careful not to puncture the filter. You should only use the toothpick to take out the grooves. Once you feel satisfied, you can re-install the filter and that’s it!

How Often Do You Need to Clean the Filter?

With time, filters on shop vacs get clogged. This is a result of the gadget sucking up dust, dirt, and debris. Finer particles are responsible for clogging because thicker particles only jam up the device.

You cannot estimate or guess when you need to clean the filter. However, there are some signs you should look for. These signs will tell you if your filter needs to be cleaned or replaced.

For example, you may notice your vacuum cleaner is not as powerful as it used to be. This may be due to lower suction power. The common cause for this is a dirty filter. It may also start producing abnormal sounds suggesting it is having a hard time vacuuming.

Another sign of a dirty filter is losing power even when the hose isn’t jammed. The machine may be trying to suck in the debris with difficulty due to a dirty filter. Additionally, the device may start blowing smoke.

When the filter is dirty and clogged, the air pushes out dust. This dust comes out through the exhaust in the form of a smoke cloud, hence the term “blowing smoke”. You don’t need to be a tech guru to see the signs.

You just need to be keen when using a shop vac. Before you start cleaning, you need to know the type of shop vac filters to determine the best method to clean them.

Types of Shop Vac Filters

There are two main types of shop vac filters i.e. paper pleated and foam filters. Each has been designed differently and works differently. Although they all filter dirt and debris, cleaning them is different.

Paper Pleated Filters

Paper pleated shop vac filters are made by pleating paper and wrapping it around a ring. The pleats look like ridges and they trap fine particles, debris, and dirt. Since this is their job, they are likely to get dirty very quickly.

The upside is they are affordable compared to foam filters. They are also easier to clean. The downside is their cleaning options available are limited. Usually, the quality of the type of filter (wet or dry) will determine the cleaning options you can use. 

Foam Filters

The other type of shop vac filter is the foam filter. This type of filter is not common in shop vacs. It has better filter capabilities than a paper filter. However, it is normally part of a HEPA system and even sometimes as a pre-filter.

Final Notes

A shop vac filter plays a crucial role in the operation of your shop vac. If you want optimum performance from this gadget, always make sure you clean the filter regularly. If for some reason you can’t follow the methods described above, do not hesitate to use the services of a professional vacuum cleaner.

Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.