Helpful Tips for Cleaning a Pleated Wet Dry Shop Vac Filter

A wet dry shop vacuum is great for heavy duty cleaning throughout your house and in your vehicles. Often called a shop vac based on the brand name and registered trademark “Shop-Vac,” the vacuum with a big tank holds a lot of dry debris or water. If you notice that the vacuum is losing suction when being used for cleaning dry surfaces, it is time to clean the cylindrical pleated filter. The tank could be almost empty, but a clogged filter will dramatically reduce suction. The pleated vac filter can be cleaned and reused many times. However, if you see dust being discharged from the vacuum exhaust, the filter is either not installed correctly or needs to be replaced because it has a hole or tear in it.Shop vac with vac filter

Cleaning the vac filter on a regular basis is a good idea to keep your vacuum working the most effectively. It is amazing how much dust and debris builds up on the filter. Here are a few simple steps for cleaning the filter, including one that is usually not included in other guides.

1. Open Vac
Follow the instructions for your particular shop vac to release the top motor assembly from the lower tank. The cylindrical pleated vac filter should be hanging down from this top unit. With this top unit only partially removed from the tank, bang the lower rubber ring of the filter against the inside of the tank to cause as much debris from the filter to come loose and drop into the tank.

2. Remove Filter
Then completely remove the top unit from the tank and follow the instructions for your shop vac to remove the filter. Note that you might want to wear a dust mask during this whole cleaning process. Then put the filter in a plastic trash bag, hold the bag closed, and gently bang the rubber edges of the filter against a hard surface, such as the floor, to dislodge more dirt from the filter without damaging the filter.

Cleaning vac filter3. Special Step to Clean Out Pleats
If you use the shop vac for cleaning a variety of surfaces, there is usually a mixture of dust, hairs, pet fur, and who knows what else that stays stuck in the pleats. The best way to remove this clingy mix is to use the flat blade of a Scrigit Scraper cleaning tool. The wedge-shaped top end of the scraper is just the right size to remove the debris from each pleat without tearing the filter, though still be careful not to press too hard. While a large screwdriver can be used for this cleaning process, its narrow shape is much more likely to poke a hole in the filter.Scrigit Scraper flat tip

Once you have used the Scrigit Scraper to clean each pleat while holding the filter over the trash bag or can, put the filter bag in the bag and gently bang the filter against a hard surface to knock the loosened debris off the filter.

4. Optional Washing Step and Reassembling the Vac
If you need to resume using the shop vac, reinstall the filter and you are ready to go.  For a more thorough cleaning, use a spray of water from the inside of the cylinder outwards to wash off more dust stuck to the filter. See this video on how to wash the filter. However, once the filter is wet, it must be completely dry before being put back in the vac and used. If you skip the pleat cleaning step using a Scrigit Scraper before washing, the clumps of dust and hairs in each pleat tend to turn into a stringy glop of mud and are then harder to remove. Do NOT use a brush. The bristles will ruin the filter.

Once the vac filter is cleaned, dry, and inspected for damage, put it back in the vacuum. You are ready for more heavy-duty cleaning.