Shop Vac Filters

How to Extend the Life of a Shop Vac Cartridge Filter

So, you have used your Shop Vac for some time and you notice that some grime has built up on the cartridge filter and it is black. You have shut off the motor and hoped the filter would get cleaner because the motor is off, however the filter remains very dirty. Now what do you do? You have three options: buy a replacement filter at a cost of $10 to $25 dollars, clean the filter to save some money or buy a paper filter and clean the cartridge filter. This is where Shop Vac filters can help on how you can extend the life of your Shop Vac cartridge filter.

What Is The Use of Shop Vac Filters

The filter is used for both the wet and dry operations and for protecting the motor from overheating. It removes up to 99.9% of the Microns or dust particles which is a high efficiency rating for this type of filter. If the cartridge filter has a build-up of dust and dirt, it will cause the motor to run hot and eventually burn out. If this happens, you will need to buy a new Shop Vac unit.

So, it’s very important to have a clean cartridge filter at all times when using the Shop Vac. By cleaning the filter periodically, you will definitely help extend the life of your Shop Vac vacuum.

How to Clean the Cartridge Filter

Before going out and spending some dollars for a replacement filter, just follow the easy steps below on cleaning the cartridge filter.

Items you will need to clean the filter:

  • Hose (See note below)
  • Old toothbrush (A new one will work fine if an old one is not available)
  • Water
  • Mask

To clean the filter, follow the steps below:

  • Remove the filter from the Shop Vac. Put on the mask to prevent you from breathing the dusty air as the filter is being shaken. Take it outdoors and tap it on the ground to remove any loose dirt.
  • Rinse the filter with a garden hose to remove any built-in dirt. Rinse until the majority of the dirt has been rinsed away. (See note below).
  • Scrub remaining dirt with an old toothbrush. This will allow you to reach the hard to reach places like small crevices where thick dirt can often gather.
  • Rinse once more with the hose to remove any loose dirt.
  • Allow the filter to dry completely. This may take several hours. This is a very crucial step. Using the Shop Vac before the filter is dry will cause dirt buildup on the filter more quickly. It may also cause a musty smell that will emit from the Shop Vac when using it in the future.

Note: For those of you who may not have access to a garden hose, you can use a bottle with a top that has holes in it. Use this to rinse the dirt away from the filter. This will take you a little more time since there is less water pressure when using the pouring method. However, they both will do the job.

Another method is just put the filter inside of a paper garbage bag and tap both on the ground to knock out and remove most of the dust before washing the filter with water. After washing with water, let the filter dry before placing it back in the unit.

Video for Shop Vac Filter

Buying A Replacement Filter

If you should happen to have a very dirty cartridge filter and it will not get cleaned by following the cleaning steps above, it needs to be replaced. Before buying a Shop Vac replacement filter, go to the owner’s manual to find the filter’s model number that is specific to your Shop Vac unit. Not all cartridge filters will fit all Shop Vacs. Replace the old filter with the new one. You are ready to go.

How To Extend the Life of Your Shop Vac

All Shop Vac units can have a paper bag filter installed as well (see video). When you use a paper bag filter along with the cartridge filter, you extend the life of the cartridge filter and motor. The reason is most of the dust or grime that is picked-up will go into the paper bag filter and not the cartridge filter.

By doing this, you extend the life of the Shop Vac motor which will provide you with many years of life without having to buy a new one. When you go to your hardware store, ask the salesperson to help you find the correct paper bag filter for your Shop Vac unit. Or, you can refer to the owner’s manual for the proper bag filter to buy.


You now can see the value of having a clean cartridge filter. It will save you money on having to replace the filter and from buying a new unit because of a burned-out motor. By following these easy steps, you will extend the life of your Shop Vac well beyond the warranty period.

Shop For Shop Vac Filters

You can shop for Shop Vac filters by clicking on an image and you will be taken to Amazon to place the order.

As an Amazon associate I earn from qualified purchases.