Are Shop Vac Filters Washable? (Explained!) + How to Wash?

can you wash shop vac filters

You know that Shop-vac filters are a pain when they are dirty and clogged. They don’t work quite as well and sometimes make your shop vac throw dirt back into the air. So you will need to do something about it.

But can they be washed and reused? If we have to replace them every time they are dirty and clogged, we will end up spending too much. How can we then cut down on costs? If shop vac filters are washable, how do we wash them correctly?

In this article, we will be answering these questions in detail. We will also be discussing the possibilities of using shop vacs without filters and how long filters last generally.

Are Shop Vac Filters Washable?

Shop-vac filters mostly come with filters that can be cleaned and reused, however, note that this does not necessarily mean washing, but washing won’t harm them.

Shop-vac filters (when dirty) block airflow, reduce suction, and don’t perform well. At this point, you know that your filters need to be cleaned or washed.

Cleaning Your Shop-Vac Filters

Method 1

You can clean your shop vac filter by gently knocking it against a tree letting the clumped-up dirt fall off to the grass. Do it close to the base of the tree so dust doesn’t scatter in the air risking your health. You can also give it a few gentle shakes inside the trashcan.

Cleaning without water is preferred to washing because some filters aren’t supposed to be washed. This is the case if your shop vac uses paper filters.

Water would only ruin them. This is why you must know different ways of keeping your shop filters clean.

Method 2

Apart from shaking in a trash can and knocking against a tree outside, you can also clean your shop vac filter with compressed air. This works better and is a more efficient way.

You can clean the filter by using a leaf blower, or an air hose. Make sure you do this with low pressure to avoid damaging the filter.

Blow it from the inside out and ensure you do it somewhere outside.

Most Ridgid vacs come with paper-like filters so they aren’t supposed to be cleaned with water. Just clean as instructed above and reuse. If doing this doesn’t get it cleaned anymore, then it’s time to replace it.

Note that there are however filters that you can get easily online, which are compatible with shop vacs, Ridgid vacs, and other wet/dry vacs. These filters are washable.

So you can easily replace the filter that came with your shop vac or Ridgid vac with one that can be easily washed. This ability to be washed is usually clearly written with their features.

Cleanstream filters, Gore-Tex filters, Cartridge filters, and so on, are some of the washable filters you can get for your shop vacs.

How to Clean a Shop Vac Filter with Water?

Shop-vac filters are better cleaned with water and you should do this as often as possible if your shop vac filters are the washable type.

Method 1

One of the ways of cleaning your shop vac filter with water is by using a garden hose.

STEP 1: First unhook the latches of your shop vac. Remove the head and detach the springs to free the primary filters.

STEP 2: Dust the filter by shaking it, then use a garden hose to spray the filter inside out until clean.

Hold the filter in one hand and use the other to spray the inside of the filter starting from the top. And slowly work your way down.

The filter should be turned upside down while in your hand or tilted to one side. This helps the dirt to wash down quickly as you spray the filter.

Ensure the pressure of the water isn't too strong. This can cause damage to the shop vac filter.

Method 2

Another way of cleaning your shop vac filter with water is by soaking it.

STEP 1: Fill your sink with warm water and put some drops of dishwashing liquid. The soap shouldn’t be excess, just enough for the filter to be clean.

STEP 2: Remove the filter from your shop vac and remove clumps of dirt if there are any, with a putty knife. Clumps of dirt could be a result of tangled hair or debris. It makes cleaning in water easier.

STEP 3: Now put the filter in the warm soapy water and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

STEP 4: Then shake it up and down thoroughly so the loosened dirt can easily come off.

STEP 5: Now use a garden hose to spray water on the filter so the soapy water can be washed off.

Remember to allow your shop vac filter to completely dry before putting it back. A wet filter could develop mold, mildew, and start smelling. It's a quick way to damage your filter.

Can You Use a Shop Vac without the Filter? (Washing Alternative!)

You shouldn’t use a Shop-Vac without the Filter because it won’t work efficiently and it can shorten the life span of your shop vac.

Not all shop vacs can work without a filter so before you remove your filters, be sure that the shop vac model you own can manage without one.

Filters prevent fine dust, particles, and debris from entering and damaging your motor. They ensure your motor runs smoothly and lasts long.

Using your shop vac without a filter can also be a risk to your health because dust and dirt are thrown back into the air and you can’t avoid inhaling them.

When Can you Do Without Filters?

There are a few instances when shop vacs are better used without filters.

1- When vacuuming water: Filters sift through the dirt and prevent fine dust and other particles from damaging the motor so they arent necessary when these aren’t being vacuumed.

The water could even damage the filter. There are special filters you can use while vacuuming water but you can do without them if they aren’t available.

2- When Vacuuming Wet Debris: You can also use your shop vac without a filter if you’ll be vacuuming wet debris like leftover food or food spills.

Without these instances, always use filters with your shop vacs. You can only do it occasionally when you suddenly run out of filters and you are far from a store.

How Long Do Shop Vac Filters Last?

How long a Shop-vac filter lasts depends on factors like how often you vacuum, what kind of filter it is, how often you clean it, etc. Shop-vac filters should generally last for about four years under normal conditions.

If you use your shop vac often, maybe every day, or use it for commercial purposes, in factories and companies picking up cement dust, fine dust, etc. your shop vac filters won’t last that long.

You should check it for wear and tear and gauge its performance at least once in 6 months. If it’s damaged or doesn’t work properly anymore, it’s due for a change.

Note that not all filters can be cleaned or washed. If your shop vac uses paper/ pleated filters that are difficult to clean or wash then you will need to replace them more often. You should replace them at least once a year and they aren’t as expensive as washable ones.

There are also many brands of shop vac filters. The manufacturers make them differently and some last longer than others even when used under the same conditions.

Some also have different types of filters for different cleaning types. So before you buy a filter for your shop vac, make sure it’s compatible and it is from a good brand.

Final Thoughts!

Some shop vac filters are not washable. You can however clean them lightly to reuse them. They are to be replaced at least once a year. Some however can be cleaned, washed, and reused many times. These are more expensive and can last for many years.

You can wash them with a garden hose or soak them in warm soapy water. The details of the process have been discussed earlier in the article.

You can also use your shop vac without a filter but only in emergencies. Doing this constantly can damage your shop vac motor.

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