Shop Vacuum Cleaners and Shop Dust Collection

Shop vacuum cleaners used to be ineffective at keeping your workshop clear of dust, but with better filter technology and more horsepower, they are now a good substitute for a dust collection system in a small shop.

Shop Vacuum Filters

"Gore" filters from Cleanstream are available to fit most full size shop vacuums. Their 'Pro' filters can be used with wet or dry cleaning jobs and are washable.

Gore Cleanstream filters are high efficiency, with the 'Pro' having a HEPA rating. Ultra-Web from Donaldson is another name to look for. Ultra-web filters use extremely fine nano-fiber technology.

A true hepa shop vacuum does not allow leakage of air past the filter. This is very important when dealing with hazardous materials

Shop Vacuum Bags

Shop vacuum bags make life a lot easier when it comes to emptying the dust out of the vacuum. Instead of having to up-end the heavy machine over a bin, it's so much less hassle just to take the top off and remove the bag.

Some manufacturers use the bag as a pre-filter to help avoid clogging the main filter. Festool shop vacuums use a self-cleaning fabric collection bag as a pre-filter.

Shop Vacuum Cyclones

Putting a cyclone separator between dust and shop vacuum cleaners is another very good way the stop your high efficiency filter from getting clogged up too quickly.

Cyclone separators use centrifugal force to collect the debris into a bin, leaving relatively clean air to go through the shop vacuum filter.

Clearvue make cyclones to designs by Bill Pentz, who is the acknowledged expert in the field. Now in production again is the Clearvue Mini CV06 which is handy because it's small enough to sit on top of some shop vacuum cleaners using an adaptor, or on a trolley alongside, giving one manoeuvrable machine.

Oneida make the "Dust Deputy", which is a handy little cyclone to combine with a shop vacuum and can be directly mounted on the Festool CT.

Phil Thien generously gives details about how you can make your own cyclone separator.

Shop Vacuum Size and Power

To use shop vacuum cleaners as dust collectors, they must have sufficient ducting size and enough power to keep the dust particles in suspension in the air stream.

Most serious shop vacuums have a duct size of about two inches, less than that and the airflow can be restricted, particularly with long lengths of intake hose.

The CFM (cubic feet/minute) of a shop vacuum should be as high as possible, as should the airspeed in feet per minute, which keeps the dust suspended.

Ignore manufacturer's claims about 'peak horse power' when they talk about electric motors. This is the current draw that that the motor needs when starting and is not sustainable. Look instead at the amperage the motor is rated at.

Wet or Dry Shop Vacuums

Most shop vacuums are designed for either wet or dry pick-up. If you're using paper filters or bags, these will need to be removed before picking up moisture.

A foam sleeve should be added instead of the filter for wet use unless you have one of the washable type filters as mentioned above.

Other things to look for when considering shop vacuum cleaners for wet use are the provision of a drain, so you dont have to lift a vacuum full of water, and a level gauge that tells you how full the machine is.

Shop Vacuum Hose Connections

A positive locking hose is good when you want the shop vacuum to be led around your workshop by the hose (nose?). Purely suction tapered connections can come out at inconvenient moments.

Another thing that makes life easier is a swivel connection on the hose. This makes the snake a lot easier to handle and manoeuvre.

Warm ash vacuums are a special case. They're designed to collect the finest of ash from hearths, woodburning stoves and pellet stoves. For more information have a look at

For an explanation of the significance of the criteria on the shop vac manufacturers pages, please go to the shop vac reviews page.

Craftsman Shop Vacuums Cheap, cheerful, (bright red usually), and powerful per buck.

Fein Shop Vacuums Very fine machines

Festool Shop Vacuums Designed to connect to hand power tools.

Ridgid Shop Vacuums Ridgid Shop Vacuums have addressed the issue of noise by introducing their Scroll noise reduction system and adding a muffler to some models.