How to Make Shop-Vac Stronger and More Powerful

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When it comes to cleaning dust and debris around a job site, many people find themselves reaching for a Shop-Vac because it is tough and versatile. But can you actually make a Shop-Vac stronger?

The best way to make a Shop-Vac stronger is to install a dust collection system (Dust Deputy). It stops the dust from reaching the Shop-Vac, keeping the filter clean longer and making the Shop-Vac more powerful. Replacing the hose to something shorter can also increase suction power.

Additionally, doing a few simple maintenance tasks, like keeping the filter and inlet deflector clean, can work wonders to make your Shop-Vac stronger. In this post, you will learn all the things you can do to make your Shop-Vac more powerful. Hopefully, you can also prolong the life of your Shop-Vac.

6 Ways to Make Your Shop-Vac Stronger

The following are 6 hacks that will dramatically increase the flow rate and suction power of your Shop-Vac. Some of these methods are obvious yet they are rarely considered as a way to make a Shop-Vac stronger. All of the methods below are ranked from the simplest to the most complex.

1. Clean the cartridge filter or replace it 

Does it feel like your Shop-Vac has weak suction? Open the Shop-Vac lid and inspect the cartridge filter. Now be honest, when was the last time you cleaned it? Chances are, it is caked with dust and debris.

The easiest way to make your Shop-Vac more powerful is to clean the cartridge filter from the caked dust and debris. You can also replace it with a new one. When the cartridge filter is dirty, the air cannot flow through, causing the Shop-Vac to produce a weak suction power. 

Either clean the filter or replace it with a new one. If you don't want to buy a new cartridge filter, take it outside and tap it with your hand or blow it away with a leaf blower or a low-pressure compressed air.

A dirty filter restricts the airflow and reduces the Shop-Vac's power.

Alternatively, you can knock the filter against the side of a trash can or dumpster to dislodge any buildup from the folds. Then, shake the filter to help the debris to fall away from the filter. Keep in mind that both of these actions will cause a dust cloud, so stand upwind of the can, or, when appropriate, use a protective mask.

Once the cartridge filter is clean, install it back into the Shop-Vac. This simple hack may sound simple and obvious, but many people do not do this. It will make your Shop-Vac stronger like it’s brand new.

If you use your Shop-Vac every day, I recommend cleaning the filter once a week to ensure you have optimal suction. Remember, 9 times out of 10, the dirty filter is what causes a Shop-Vac to have weak suction power.

2. Change the hose into something shorter and smoother

Did you know that the length of the hose can affect the suction power of a Shop-Vac?

The shorter the hose, the more powerful a Shop-Vac becomes. I figured this out when I doubled the amount of sand and gravel my Shop-Vac picked up after cutting the length of its hose by half.

Additionally, the bore smoothness of the hose can affect the suction power of the Shop-Vac. In fact, I found that a smooth bore vacuum hose can increase the flow rate over a standard Shop-Vac hose by 20%.

So, when it comes to hoses, there are two things you can do to make a Shop-Vac stronger: keep the hose as short as possible and purchase a smooth bore low loss vacuum hose.

Here is a link to Craftsman’s low loss vacuum hose. It comes in lengths of 6 feet, 7 feet, 13 feet, and 20 feet. I find that 7 feet is a pretty standard length that works well and will make your Shop-Vac stronger.

3. Remove the cover of the exhaust vent

One of the simplest things you can do to a Shop-Vac to make it stronger is to remove the cover of the exhaust vent. The Shop-Vac will become noisier, but the suction power can increase dramatically.

Keep in mind, however, that the exhaust vent has a cover for a reason. It is designed to keep particles from flying all over the place as well as keeping the noise to a reasonable level. Do it at your own risk.

4. Keep the inlet deflector clean

Always keep the inlet deflector clean.

The most common place for obstructions to occur in a Shop-Vac is at the inlet deflector. You should regularly check the inlet deflector for dirt and dust buildup, especially when you are working with damp or wet dirt.

When you are using your Shop-Vac to clean up after clay soils, a hard clay buildup will often happen, which you will need to loosen up with a screwdriver. By keeping the inlet deflector clean, you will make your Shop-Vac more powerful and keep its performance in good shape.

5. Use 2 Shop-Vacs in a series

A rarely seen method to make a Shop-Vac stronger is to put 2 Shop-Vacs in a series.

To do this, take the exhaust of the primary Shop-Vac and install it into the inlet of the secondary Shop-Vac. By doing so, you will combine the lift or inches of water by about 80% of the sum of the two. 

Try to keep the horsepower of the both Shop-Vacs and the side of the hose about the same. This unique hack is incredible for adding suction power to a Shop-Vac and is perfect for demanding jobs, like sucking up water out of a hole or out of a basement, for example. 

However, I don’t think this is the most practical method because you would need 2 Shop-Vacs to make this work. Why would you buy another Shop-Vac (and waste money) just to upgrade the suction power?

6. Install a dust collection system (most effective) 

Wet/dry vacuums, also known as Shop-Vacs, rely on their small cartridge filters to clean the incoming air before recirculating it into the room. These filters can quickly become clogged with dust and debris, significantly reducing the Shop-Vac's air suction performance.

Sure you can always take the time to open up your Shop-Vac and clean the filter, but by tapping it or washing it, you permanently damage the fine fiber construction and reduce the lifespan and performance of the filter.

The best way to make a Shop-Vac stronger and prolong the life of its filter is to install a dust collection system. You’ll need three things: a filter bag, a cyclone separator, and a 5-gallon bucket with a lid.

5-Gallon Bucket
Seachoice 5-Gallon Plastic Bucket...
White Distilled Vinegar
2 Pack Distilled White Vinegar Jug,...
Hydrogen Peroxide
Vaxxen Labs Food Grade 3% Hydrogen...
5-Gallon Bucket
Seachoice 5-Gallon Plastic Bucket...
White Distilled Vinegar
2 Pack Distilled White Vinegar Jug,...
Hydrogen Peroxide
Vaxxen Labs Food Grade 3% Hydrogen...

Here’s how it works. First, the cyclone separator will remove 95% to 99% of the dust from the air stream and deposit it into the bucket. The remaining 5% of the debris will then get picked up by the filter bag.

With the bulk of the debris gone, the Shop-Vac’s cartridge filter now only has to capture the very fine particles that pass through the filter bag. This dramatically increases the suction power of the Shop-Vac.

Think of the cyclone separator as the first line of defense and the filter bag as the second line of defense. Anything that passes through is most likely very fine and won’t take a toll on the filter.

You can learn how to install a Shop-Vac filter bag right here.


And there you have it, 6 methods on how to make your Shop-Vac stronger and more powerful. Sure you can install a dust collection system or change the hose, but at the end of the day, keeping the filter clean and maintaining the parts of your Shop-Vac is the simplest way to go. 

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Ryan O'Connor

I write about house cleaning and vacuum cleaners. For me, nothing is more important than a clean environment to ensure both a healthy and happy life. Learn more.