How to Clean Wet Dry Vac Filters

If you notice that your Shop-Vac® wet dry vac is discharging dust from the exhaust or losing suction power, you may need to clean or replace your filter. How you go about cleaning your filter will differ based on the type. There isn’t really a set schedule you should use to clean your wet dry vac filters, rather it depends heavily on your use.

One thing that is true regardless of which filter you have, is that you should check for tears or holes and replace the filter if any are found.  Our filter finder can help with that! Even a small hole can cause dust to come out through the exhaust and/or cause damage to the vacuum. 

You may think that picking up lots of larger debris would clog the filter quicker, but the opposite is true. If you’re picking up a lot of fine dust, your filter will clog faster. Even if you aren’t seeing dust or losing suction power, you should periodically check your filter to make sure it isn’t completely caked with debris.

Reusable Dry Filters

Our reusable dry filters can be rinsed off and reused over and over again, but it’s very important that they are completely dry when you put them back in your wet dry vac. Rinse them with water to remove debris and then leave them out to dry before you replace them. Do not machine wash or dry.

Foam Sleeve

If you primarily use your vac to pick up wet messes or are using reusable dry filters, part of your filter is a foam sleeve. The good news is, you can clean this too. Start with shaking off excess debris with a rapid up and down motion.

If the filter is extremely dirty, and shaking just isn’t cutting it, hold it under running water for a couple of minutes, making sure you rinse from the inside of the filter outward. Once you’ve rinsed it thoroughly, make sure it has plenty of time to dry before you replace it or else you may end up with mold or mildew build up over time.

Cartridge Filters

The way you clean your cartridge filter depends on which filter you have. There is one thing all cartridge filters have in common when it comes to cleaning: do not brush, clean filter media with abrasive materials, or scrub to clean between pleats – all of these actions will permanently damage the filter’s ability to stop dust.

While it may seem like many of these have similar instructions, it’s important to note whether or not they can be rinsed, and if they can, whether it’s solely the outside, or from the inside out. We’ve broken some of them down below:

  • Standard Cartridge, Ultra-Web® and Antimicrobial Filters

    Remove the filter from the vac and shake or tap on the inside of a waste can. If that doesn’t do the trick, you can clean it with water by rinsing from the inside of the filter outward. Don’t forget to allow it to completely air dry before reinstalling (approximately 24 hours). Use our Power Pic Pro cleaning tool to help.

  • HEPA Filters

    If you have a HEPA (90340 and 90341) filter, you can remove the filter from the vac and tap it against the inside of a garbage can to loosen debris. You can take cleaning to the next level on the HEPA filter by rinsing the outside surface of the filter with running water – just make sure you avoid dampening the inside of the filter and that you give it plenty of time to dry before putting it back in the vac. Use our Filter Flosser cleaning tool to help.

We’ve covered our standard wet dry vac filters, but what happens if you have a specialty wet dry vac filter that isn’t listed? You can find cleaning instructions in your vacuum user manual. If your filter can’t be cleaned, or you’ve cleaned it a few times and it’s worn out, and you need a new one, you can use our filter finder to make sure you get what you need from our selection of wet dry vac filters. Happy cleaning!