How To Turbo Charge Your Shop Vacuum

Feb 14 2021 | posted in: Uncategorized | 0




In this article on How to Turbo Charge Your Shop Vacuum a number of ways are described that can upgrade the performance of a shop vacuum.  The following 7 items will dramatically improve the flow rate and even vacuum suction performance of a shop vacuum. Some are obvious yet some are rarely considered.

1-Upgrade your hose to one with low losses

2-1/2″ commercial vacuum Hose (2″ ID) w/flexible threaded hose cuffs.


Flow losses in hoses can be dramatic depending on the bore smoothness and the length of hose.

A rule of thumb on standard vacuum hose – If you double the length of hose, you will double the flow rate losses. We found in testing gravel pickup, that we doubled the gravel pickup in pounds/sec by cutting the length of standard shop vacuum hose in half. 

Therefore if you want to decrease losses, a better hose with smooth bore is the way to go.  We found in our testing that smooth bore vacuum hose increased the flow rate over standard shop vacuum hose by 20%.

When it comes to hoses there are two things you can do:

  1. Keep your hose as short as possible.
  2. Purchase a smooth bore low loss vacuum hose.

Here is a link to our low loss vacuum hoseIt comes in lengths of 4ft, 8ft, and 10ft.  We found that 8ft is a pretty standard length that works well.

2-Open the air outlet

One of the easiest things you can do with a shop vacuum that has an exhaust vent, is to remove the cover.  The noise will increase, however, the performance increase can be dramatic.  The exhaust port is something to pay attention to especially if you want to put two shop vacuums in series as mentioned below in item 6.

Closed air vent on shop vacuum restricts the airflow performance


Open air vent improve shop vacuum performance


3-Upgrade your filter

Filter Bucket Accommodates Ridgid and CleanStream filters.


Upgrading to the highest flow rate filter possible can significantly increase flow through a shop vacuum.   If you are not working in a dusty environment, there is no reason to use a HEPA filter when the foam wet/dry filter will work just fine.

We have found CleanStream filters to have excellent all around performance for Ridgid Vacuums. They are slightly larger and have better all around performance.  Get two.  Keep a clean one handy for swapping out. They are washable and can be dried using the warm exhaust port air of your vacuum.   Attach a hose and set it inside the filter while you are using the vacuum.


4-Keep the filter clean

Dirty filter vs clean filter.  Washable filters allow for cleaning and reusing.  Have a spare.


Depending on the dirt you are working with, filters can clog up and reduce the performance.   We have found that when digging holes in dirt, the filters don’t get as clogged up as much as when picking up fine sawdust.   The dirt is much heavier and settles into the bottom of the drum fairly fast. In general, if your performance drops off, check the filter.  It may just need banging it on the side of the vacuum drum to knock off enough to dramatically improve the performance.


5-Keep the inlet deflector clean

Dirty shop vacuum inlet deflectors will reduce the vacuum’s performance


The most common place for obstructions to occur in a shop vacuum is at the inlet deflector.  When working with damp dirt, this is the location for buildup and should be checked.  With clay soils, a hard clay buildup will occur and will need to be loosened with a screwdriver.

6-Use two shop vacuums in series

Putting two shop vacuums in series dramatically increases suction performance


A rarely seen method to improve the suction lift of a shop vacuum is to put two vacuums in series.   Take the exhaust from your primary vacuum and put it into the inlet of your secondary vacuum.  This will combine the lift or inches of water by about 80% of the sum of the two.   If you are wanting to lift water out of a hole or out of a basement, this inexpensive method is impressive.  Try to keep the horsepower of the vacuums and the side of the hose about the same.

7-Use a pre-filter bucket for wet conditions

Cat 6 Tools Cyclonic Vacuum Bucket attached to a Radgid WD19560 Shop Vacuum with Low Loss Hose.


Cat 6 Tools Tangential Inlet Vacuum Filter Bucket with low loss hose attached to a Ridgid WD19560 vacuum


We mention filter buckets as this is our new line of equipment at Cat 6 Tools. We have two types:

One is a Commercial Grade Cyclonic Vacuum Bucket.  The deflector inlet and outlet are in opposite directions and bad stuff like clay and water drop out and only a small amount of moisture carries over leaving the shop vacuum extremely clean with very little performance degradation.

Our second is a Commercial Grade tangential Inlet Vacuum Filter Bucket for wet/dry applications.   This bucket has a very efficient tangential inlet as well as a standard Ridgid Filter holder.   The float assembly automatically shuts off flow when the bucket is full.  You can use a foam filter in the shop vacuum and a foam filter in the filter bucket.  This maximizes airflow rate.