Your shop vac is the workhorse of your home improvement projects, sucking up everything from sawdust to spilled liquids. While its job is to keep your work area clean, the wet/dry vacuum itself can get very dirty in the process. A clean shop vac filter and air intake help keep your vacuum running properly, so don't skip shop vac maintenance.
Clean the Filter
The air filter in your shop vac handles a lot of heavy work and can get clogged quickly, so regular cleaning is a must. It's a good idea to put on a respirator before cleaning the filter and other parts of the shop vac since the particles can fly into the air easily. Start by shaking the excess dirt out of the filter into a trash can. This is best done outside since the dirt will fly up into the air.
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You might need to dig into the pleats of the filter to remove all of the debris. One gentle way to do this without damaging the filter is by using a plastic putty knife to remove gunk from the pleats. Once you get the larger chunks out of the filter, grab your air compressor and set it to about 40 PSI to blow out smaller particles gently.
You can also wash the filter in soapy water. A grease-fighting dish detergent is a good option, especially if you've used the vacuum on oily or greasy items. Let it soak for a few minutes, swish it around in the water, and hose it off to rinse all of the soap. Let the filter dry completely before you reassemble the shop vac and use it again. If the filter doesn't come clean or is damaged, replace it with a new one.
Clean the Exterior
The exterior of the shop vac can get very dirty depending on the working conditions. Brushing, vacuuming, or wiping the debris from the outside cleans it easily. Focus on the air intake, using a vacuum to suck out any debris to ensure proper airflow to keep the vacuum running well.
The casters can also get dirty from little chunks getting stuck in the wheels. Wipe them down or blow out the debris. Keeping them clean can keep them rolling smoothly. You can oil the casters as well if they don't roll well.
Check the Hose
If you suck up larger chunks, like debris from drywall repair, the larger pieces can get stuck in the hose and clog it. You should quickly notice if you have this issue since the suction will likely drop. You can usually feel the flexible hose to locate a clog. Disconnect the hose and shake out the clog or work the clog toward the end with your hands. You can also push a broom handle or wooden dowel through the hose to push the clog through to the closest end.
Work on the Accessories
Cleaning up the accessories prepares them for the next time you use your shop vac. Wipe off the dust and debris from any accessories. You can also wash hard plastic accessories in soapy water and rinse them well. If you have a brush attachment, wipe out debris or fibers caught in the bristles. You can usually buy accessory replacements if they get cracked or if the brush attachment loses a lot of bristles.