How to Vacuum Up Drywall Dust (Safely and Properly)

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If you have ever taken on a DIY project involving drywall, you may have been left wondering how to clean up afterward. Drywall dust is particularly fine, resembling a powder, and can be a real pain to clean up.

You can get the invasive dust out of your home or work area easily with the help of a good quality shop-vac.

Once you have selected the right vacuum for the job, a few other steps can help make cleaning up drywall dust quicker, easier, and generally more manageable. Prepare the right space, tools, and manage the mess throughout your project. Read on to learn all you need to know about properly vacuuming up drywall dust. 

Is It Safe to Vacuum Drywall Dust?

Before doing anything rash when cleaning up drywall dust, you must know what you can or cannot do.

Drywall dust is incredibly fine, so it can linger throughout your home even after the most meticulous cleanup efforts. Because of this, many we are often asked the question: Is it OK to vacuum drywall dust?

It is safe to vacuum drywall dust as long as you use an industrial Shop-Vac that is designed to pick up fine particles. Avoid using a household upright vacuum because drywall dust can easily clog the filters. 

Once you have a Shop-Vac ready, here's how to vacuum drywall dust...

How to Vacuum Up Drywall Dust:

1. Properly Prepare before Starting Your Drywall Project

First, prepare your space before you begin sanding or drywall work.

Use plastic or paper disposable drop cloths instead of cloth reusable drop cloths which can be hard on your washing machine. Turn off all fans, heat, or air conditioning. You can keep windows and doors open if it is not a windy day or a window fan blowing outwards for ventilation.

Cover up all furniture and upholstery and, if you can, cover your vents with paper or whatever you have on hand. Covering the vents prevents dust from entering your HVAC system. No one wants drywall dust being blown through the whole house by their forced air.

Try to cover everything you do not want to spend time cleaning later.

2. Take Breaks to Clean Up While You Work

As you work, stop every now and then to do a quick clean-up. This will prevent any dust build-up from overwhelming your workspace. This will prevent the task from becoming too daunting later. It is also difficult to work around drywall dust.

Drywall dust can be picked up on anything, so keep an eye on the following items:

  • Your shoes
  • Your tools
  • Any adhesives you are using

Clean as you go whenever possible. Stop and take breaks to clean up some of the mess.

Do not just clean up the dust. Clean up everything you can.

The less clutter lying around, the fewer surfaces there are to collect dust as you sand. Sweep and vacuum up the majority of the dust as often as possible to keep the dust from spreading.

Keep the dust from spreading by minimizing the amount of foot traffic in your workspace. Make sure not to schedule any major deliveries or visits during the time you plan to be working on the drywall. Anyone who walks out of your work area will carry dust with them, which will later be deposited elsewhere.

3. Select the Right Kind of Vacuum for Cleaning Up Drywall Dust

Be sure to choose the right vacuum for the job.

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A heavy-duty shop-vac works best for vacuuming up drywall. Residential-use vacuums may develop a clogged motor or filters if exposed to such a large amount of fine particulate. They also have a smaller collection bin, so they are not ideal for cleaning up particularly dusty or large workspaces.

Larger capacity wet/dry vacuums can collect fine drywall dust without issue since they are manufactured for heavy industrial or commercial use. A vacuum with a 12-gallon tank should be more than sufficient to clean up your project's drywall dust mess.

Vacuums with 20-gallon tanks and up can be useful for larger drywall dust clean-ups.

Attachments and hoses can be very useful when vacuuming up drywall dust, especially if you are working in a room that has lots of different surfaces. Drywall dust can fit into all kinds of nooks and crannies. Different vacuum attachments can suction drywall dust efficiently from certain sections of a room.

  • Use a vacuum with a long hose when possible.
  • A wide attachment works well for broad surface areas like flooring, walls, and countertops.
  • Thin, long, and pointy attachments can be used for cleaning cracks and crevices.

4. Always Dust and Sweep Before Vacuuming Up Drywall Dust

Once you have your shop-vac handy, you will first need to do a thorough dusting and sweeping (with a broom) of the entire area. Dry-dust the entire room or area from top to bottom, ceiling to floor with a towel or Swiffer type duster made for picking up small particles.

You will likely find drywall dust has made its way into a lot of small areas.

A damp towel can be used to help remove dust without making a bigger mess. Make sure the towel is just barely moist and not wet, as a wet cloth will smear the dust. Make sure to work from top to bottom. Always dust your higher surfaces first and sweep second to avoid spreading dust onto areas you have cleaned. 

After dusting all the surfaces, sweep or dry-dust the baseboards and floors with a regular broom. You will probably not be able to get up much of the dust that has collected in any cracks or crevices but will be able to remove any settled dust.

Again, dry dusting works best as wet drywall dust forms a difficult-to-clean filmy residue on surfaces.

5. Use a Shop-Vac to Clean Up All Visible Drywall Dust

Now you can use your shop-vac to collect the visible dust from your entire work area.

Do not forget to dust and vacuum the actual drywall sheets after they are hung on the walls, focusing specifically on any areas that were mudded and sanded. A super clean wall surface is important for the next steps in your drywall project, like priming and painting.

You will most likely need to vacuum the whole work area two to three times. Use your shop-vac's attachments and tools to go around the room and collect dust from baseboards, edges, and any cracks in the flooring. The attachments on a shop-vac also work well at getting in small and difficult-to-reach places.

Take another quick look around and use your shop-vac to collect dust from any surfaces you may have missed while dusting. This should be a final step, and often you will find new dust has settled in areas you have already cleaned. When finished, make sure to properly clean your shop-vac to prolong the lifespan.

If possible, empty the vacuum's basin and clean your shop-vac's filter immediately following its use on drywall dust or any fine particulates to ensure your vacuum is able to get proper filtration the next time it is used. Failure to properly clean your vacuum's filter may result in eventual overheating and other issues.

6. Tidy Up with Cleaning Supplies

While thoroughly dry-dusting and vacuuming your space, you may find there is still residual dust on your hard surfaces. You can safely clean it up by using a few household items you probably already have.

The following items should be used after initially vacuuming the bulk of the drywall dust. It may take a few passes to get your space completely clean.

  • Use a microfiber cloth
  • Use a rung-out sponge
  • Spray canned air

Slightly dampen a microfiber cloth or squeezed-out sponge. Make sure to use plain water since no cleaning agents are necessary for this task and work in small sections.

Canned air can work well if you have a very small crack or crevice that a vacuum does not seem to be working on. This will push the dust out of the area and into the air.

If your surface is soft or made of cloth, you should first try to get as much dust out of the fabric as possible using your shop-vac or other means. Do this often to get surfaces fully clean and free of dust.

Once you have removed all the dust you can, fabrics can normally be laundered or dry-cleaned as usual.

Final Words

And there you have it, a simple guide on how to vacuum up drywall dust. By using the right vacuum cleaner for the job (in this case, a high-quality Shop-Vac), you will clean up drywall dust quickly and easily.

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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.