How to Clean a Shop-Vac Filter in 4 Easy Steps

Cleaners Talk is reader-supported. This post contains affiliate links, we may earn a commission at no additional costs to you. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

A Shop-Vac is an amazing machine that can pick up large debris and dirty moisture. Equipped with a heavy-duty filter, it prevents harmful particles from escaping. However, you will need to clean the filter regularly.

To clean a Shop-Vac filter, tap it gently against the side of a trash can. You can also use low-pressure compressed air to blow away the stuck dust and debris from the pleated ridges of the filter. Some Shop-Vac filters are washable, but avoid washing the filter more than one time.

In this article, you will learn the correct way on how to clean a Shop-Vac filter. By keeping your Shop-Vac filter free of dust and debris, the machine’s suction performance will not suffer and will work effectively.

How to clean a Shop-Vac filter 

Be honest, when was the last time you cleaned the filter of your Shop-Vac? Chances are, you’ll see it caked with dust and debris. If it’s super filthy, here’s how to clean a Shop-Vac filter the right way:

1. Tap the filter against a hard surface

The majority of Shop-Vac owners bang the filter of their Shop-Vac against a trash can. This method does work and will remove most of the debris, but will create a dust cloud. Instead, do this:

Don a pair of gloves and hold the filter in one hand. Place the filter inside a trash bag, with your entire arm inside. Use your other hand to close the trash bag around your arm. This will prevent the dust from escaping.

Next, tap the filter against a hard surface, like the walls of a large trash can to loosen the caked dust from the filter. Wait for one minute for the dust to settle inside the trash bag before opening it. Since you’ve “wrapped” the filter inside a trash bag, the dust is safely inside. All you have to do now is throw away the bag.

You’ll need a pair of work gloves and a trash bag for this method. It would also be best if you do the cleaning process outdoors, not indoors. The last thing you want is more dust to settle on your house’s surfaces.

On Sale
Ironclad General Utility Work...
  • HIGH PERFORMANCE TASK SPECIFIC WORK GLOVE - The number one selling Ironclad work glove
  • HAND SAFETY - Thermoplastic rubber knuckle protection provides impact and abrasion protection across the knuckles
  • SECURE FIT - Adjustable Hook and Loop Closure provides a secure custom fit for ideal performance

2. Use compressed air to remove more dust

With the majority of the caked dust and debris removed from the filter, it’s time to get rid of the embedded particles. To do this, you’ll need a low-pressure compressed air (no bigger than 40 PSI).

Spray the filter from the outside in using the low-pressure compressed air. Be careful not to rip the paper pleats or deform the pleated ridges permanently by using too much pressure.

Remember, spray the filter using compressed air outside the house. You don’t want dust flying all over the place. It’s also a good idea to don a pair of safety glasses to avoid stray particles from entering your eyes.

On Sale
3M 70071694510 Safety Glasses Solus...
  • SCOTCHGARD ANTI-FOG COATING has an active ingredient that bonds to the lenses to help keep them clear longer than regular coatings, based on 3M internal...
  • DESIGNED FOR CHALLENGING SITUATIONS such as hot and humid conditions, indoor and outdoor work, physically demanding tasks, and climate-controlled areas.
  • COMFORT: Low profile protective eyewear provides soft nose bridge and padded temples for added comfort

3. Wash the filter with soapy water

If all you’ve done is tap the filter and use compressed air to remove the bulk of the dirt, you should be good to go. However, you can take the cleaning process to another level by washing the filter with soapy water.

Contrary to popular belief, most Shop-Vac filters can be washed and, if dried properly, reused. That said, there is a risk of destroying the filter when washing it with water because the pleats are made of paper. Check with the manufacturer of the Shop-Vac filter before you wash it using water.

To wash the Shop-Vac filter, fill a bucket with warm, soapy water and soak the filter for 10 minutes. A dishwashing liquid works best because it breaks down grease. Plunge the filter up and down several times to remove the remaining dust, dirt, and grease that is still hanging on.

After the soapy bath, rinse the Shop-Vac filter with a gentle rinse of fresh water on the sink to remove the soapy water. It’s important to remove the soapy residue because it contains most of the dirt.

4. Let the filter dry before reinstalling

The worst thing you can do to your Shop-Vac is to install the filter when it is not completely dry. Not only will you decrease the performance of your Shop-Vac, but you also encourage the growth of mold.

After washing the Shop-Vac filter, it is paramount to leave it to air dry for at least 24 to 48 hours before reinstalling. You can also leave the filter out in the sun to speed up the drying process.

Remember, a filter that is not completely dry will cause clogging because the dust your Shop-Vac collects will get mixed up with the moisture in the filter. Always let the filter completely dry before reinstalling.

Once you have washed the filter, it is not recommended to wash it again. Over time, the pleats will deform and the paper will become thinner. This will cause the Shop-Vac filter to become less effective. It is important to replace the filter after one wash otherwise, your Shop-Vac won’t be able to filter harmful particles.

Do this and you never have to wash the Shop-Vac filter again

Having to clean a Shop-Vac filter repeatedly is a pain in the bum, especially if you use your Shop-Vac often. But what if there is a hack so that you never have to wash the Shop-Vac filter again?

Installing a dust collection system, which consists of three things (filter bag, cyclone separator, and collection bin) is the best way to make sure the filter never goes dirty again.

If you’re interested to learn more about keeping the filter clean for a long time, read our article about it right here. You will also learn how to keep your Shop-Vac filter from clogging with dirt, grit, and grime.

Bottom Line

And there you go, the complete guide on how to clean a Shop-Vac filter the right way. Keeping your Shop-Vac filter clean will not only prevent it from blowing out dust, but will also make the machine more powerful.

Related articles: