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Can you ever use a wet/dry vacuum cleaner (shop.vac, Kubota, Stanley, etc) to clean wood sanding dust?

My one experiment so far resulted in complete clogging of the paper filter after cleaning the dust from hardwood floor sanding. Replacing the dry filter (corrugated paper cylinder on a metallic mesh backbone, ~$20) after each such use is a bit of a stretch, and yet I'm not sure how else I can thoroughly clean the dust left behind.

  • There are lots of tutorials online for making a cheap cyclone filter out of plastic paint buckets or a small trash can and a few curved hose adapters. This will capture the vast majority of the dust before it gets to the vacuum. – fixer1234 Apr 30 '17 at 18:44
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Follow the manufacturer's instructions and use a paper (or cloth) bag filter for fine particulates. They are cheap and disposable, and they prevent clogging of the main filter element.

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Each brand/model uses a specific type. They work great and it is a easy and inexpensive solution.

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Having run into the exact same problem, I might be able to make a recommendation to assist you.

There are many variations on this theme, but they are all based on the "cyclone" principle. Spinning air cannot hold particles as easily as "linear" flowing air. Physics (SCIENCE!) is your friend.

One can build one's own cyclone vacuum assistant or purchase one. Having too many projects not completed or not started, I decided to purchase one, but building one is not all that difficult. Consider searching Instructables for Cyclone Vacuum and you'll discover many options.

My purchased unit, from ClearVue Cyclones seems to be perpetually out of stock, although the much higher priced versions are available. A friend purchased a competitor's model, which had a smaller diameter cone and is experiencing poorer results.

Cyclone Mini-Vac unit

It appears that the larger the diameter of the entry point and the taller the cone, the better is the separation. As a test, I dumped some powder coating powder on the floor. Starting with a completely clean cyclone bucket, I sucked up the powder with the shop vac attached. A problem with powdercoat powder is that it passed through all but the finest of filter material and clogs the stuff that stops it.

My shop vac bucket was clean, while the cyclone vac bucket was dead black inside.

Sawdust and metal shaving (my application) don't stand a chance. I added some bracing strips rather than use the supplied fabric strap to attach the vac to the cyclone bucket.

Cyclone and shop vac

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    Thanks. Yet the product they're selling now seems bizarre. Why is the "cyclone component" not built into the unit in the first place!? – Calaf Apr 30 '17 at 19:00
  • I've wondered that myself. – fred_dot_u Apr 30 '17 at 20:38
  • @Calaf, you can make a simple cyclone separator out of a paint bucket and a vacuum cleaner wand. It won't be as efficient or effective as a properly designed cyclone. This unit is the real thing, which will more effectively remove the really fine particles. Look at its height compared to the bucket. It can be fastened on any collection container, so the manufacturer leaves that up to you. – fixer1234 Apr 30 '17 at 21:33
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I use the "CleanStream" brand filters by Gore available for more popular shop vacs.
They will clog when loaded up, but you can blow (outdoors) or wash them out. The filter material withstands water and can be reused many times for years.

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