How to Clean Shop Vac Filters

cleaning a shop vac filter

Learn how to clean shop vac filters to help you maintain your vacuum machine well. Shop vacs suck up and shoot out dirt and other stuff. Shop vacs remove stuff you fear touching but still have to be removed. Dirty shop vacs breed germs and other airborne illnesses if you stay for too long before doing the cleaning.

Like most shop vacs, when filters are dirty, the performance of the vacuum machine is affected, and the airflow is significantly reduced. Wrong cleaning causes debris to enter the fan impeller, causing damage. A clogged filter blocks airflow, which in turn reduces suction. If the filter remains blocked for a long time, it puts stress on the vacuum motor leading to reduced performance.

As a side note, check these woodworking designs and projects that I recommend by clicking here.

Why learn how to clean shop vac air filter?

You don’t have to be an expert to maintain your shop vac filter. The cleaning process is simple and takes a few minutes to complete. By regularly cleaning your shop vac filters, you are extending the life of the shop vac and ensuring it continues to run at optimal performance.

Follow all instructions carefully to get the desired results. Don’t operate your shop vac without the right filter float or cage as it prevents water and other liquids from entering your vac impeller, causing damage to the motor.

Most people love wet/dry shop vacs as they are powerful. However, keeping your shop vac filter well maintained helps improve performance and protects your investment. Never use your shop vac without a filter as it allows debris to enter the impeller and damage the motor resulting in a short lifespan of the equipment.

Benefits of knowing how to keep shop vac filter clean

Abrasive particles can enter the motor causing damage, while fine dust can cause a mess or health hazard. Don’t assume that the filter will clean itself. It is much easier and cheaper to replace or clean the filter than to replace a shop vac. Do routine maintenance to prevent issues.

It is easy to clean your shop vac, and you can do splendid work if you pay attention. Below are useful tips you can use to ensure your shop vac remains clean and fully functional without any problems.

Why you should consider cleaning your shop vac filters

Cleaning the shop vac filters regularly is good as it helps keep your vacuum working effectively. You can be surprised how much dust and dirt build-up on your shop vac filters. Can you clean shop vac filters?

You can clean your filter and reuse it many times. When you see dust coming from your vacuum exhaust, it means your filter is malfunctioning or not properly installed. Either way, you need to check it out urgently. How do you clean shop vac filter?

Can you clean a shop vac filter with water? Yes, it is possible for wet shop vac filters. Below is an easy way to clean shop vac filter.

Cleaning your dry shop vac filters

  • Unplug the shop vac power cord
  • Always do this before embarking on the cleaning routine or before you remove the filter to prevent electrocution.
  • Choose a well-ventilated area

Always do the cleaning in a well-ventilated area. Go to an open space as the cleaning releases dust in the air that can cause health problems. Therefore, you shouldn’t do it indoors.

Open your shop vac

Follow the guide instructions for your type of shop vac in releasing the top motor assembly from the machine lower tank. Remember, the cylindrical pleated shop vac filter is hanging down from the top unit. The top unit is slightly separate from the vacuum tank. Proceed to tap the lower rubber ring part of the filter against the inside of your vacuum tank. You will see much debris from your filter coming loose and dropping into the vacuum tank.

Remove your filter

Completely take out the top unit from your vacuum tank and follow manual instructions for your shop vac model when removing the filter. It is probably best if you wear a dust mask when doing this and during the cleaning process. Proceed to put your filter in a trash bag, then close it and gently tap the rubber part of the filter against the hard surface to remove more dirt from your filter without damaging it. Because the area is small, it always keeps debris close to the filter. Tapping helps resettle the debris on the paper material though the cleaning process may take slightly longer.

Clean out pleats

If you are using your shop vac to clean different surfaces, then expect the filter to have a mixture of hairs, dust, pet fur, and other stuff stuck in the pleats. An effective method of cleaning your pleats is using a flat blade or Scrigit Scraper tool to remove the clingy mix.

The wedge-shaped part of the scraper helps remove debris from all the pleats without tearing your filter. Exercise caution and be extremely careful when doing this and don’t press too hard. As much as it is tempting to use a large screwdriver, it’s best you don’t as the narrow shape can poke a hole in your filter.

Use the scrigit scraper to clean your filter while holding the shop vac filter over the trash can or bag. Finish the cleaning them, put your filter bag back in the bag and tap the filter gently against a hard surface to knock any loose debris off your filter.

Use compressed air

You can use compressed air to blow off the debris from the filter. However, blow from the inside of the filter to ensure all debris is gone. Take care not to use a stronger air pressure that can damage the filter.


You can use water to wash off any dust stuck in the filter. The water cleans the filters from the inside of the vacuum cylinder outwards and washes away the dirt.

Remember, once the filter is wet, you must ensure it is completely dry before you put it back in the shop vac. Note that the scrigit scraper part should be done before washing to avoid hairs and clamps of dust on the pleats which can become compact and hard to remove,

Don’t use a brush. Brush bristles run the filter. You can clean shop vac filter with leaf blower.

Benefits of doing routine maintenance

Follow routine maintenance like cleaning the filter after every use to ensure the shop vac is working effectively. Regular maintenance includes drying wet filters, emptying the drum, cleaning the shop vac, etc. Knowing how to clean shop vac reusable filter is vital.

Cleaning a wet shop vac filter

  • Unplug the power cord before you start cleaning or remove the filter to prevent accidents.
  • Remove the filter following the user manual for that particular shop vac.
  • Spray water on the filter using a spigot or hose. Do it carefully to ensure the water pressure is not too strong as it can damage the filter. Tap the filter to dislodge more debris.
  • Allow the filter to dry out completely before you put it back into the shop vac.

It is good to clean the shop vac also when doing the routine cleaning. The purpose is to ensure that no dirt, dust, or debris is left that can compromise the vacuuming process.

Guide to cleaning your shop vac

  • Start by emptying your vacuum machine to ensure there is no debris left inside. Remove the lid from the tank and place a trash bag over the base of your tank and dump the contents into the garbage bag. Seal the garbage bag and dispose of it safely. Be careful so as not to let those dust particles to escape.
  • Place your tank outside then fill it with a mixture of warm water and dish soap. Add one cup of bleach to the mix then leave the tank there for one hour.
  • Start by cleaning the top part of the shop vac. Wash the shop vac filter in the warm soapy water. Do the cleaning using cleaning wipes to wipe down the top of your machine. The wipes will kill 98% of germs. Leave your lid to dry.
  • Remove and clean your hose and attachments. Spray water the cleaning product into the hose to kill germs and leave it outside to dry.
  • Wear your plastic cleaning gloves to protect your hands from bleach and scrub both the inside and outside of the shop vac using a disposable sponge. Spray the tank using a garden hose to remove any leftover soap residue. Replace worn parts like cartridges and filters before you start using your clean shop vac.


Always clean your shop vac after use to maintain optimal performance. The filters are delicate and require careful cleaning. When using scrigit scraper to remove debris, do so cautiously. Clean your filter using the right method to ensure that it is clean. Larger debris can clog your filter quickly and get inside the motor causing damage.

I recently wrote an article showing Which Shop Vac Has the Most Suction. Read it here.

Recent Posts