Can I use my cordless shop Vac without a filter?

Perhaps you’re on the search for a proper gear that will clean up your garage mess, whether dry or wet; a shop vac can handle the job effectively irrespective of the sort of mess that needs handling. However, numerous individuals are always divided on whether a cordless shop vac with no filter can be used for cleaning and still get the desired outcome. One of the primary questions these individuals always ask is; can I use my cordless shop vac without a filter? 

Yes. You can effectively use a cordless shop vac without a filter or bug. A cordless shop vac only requires a filter to prevent dust from blowing off. It is important to note that you should only use the shop vac without a filter when cleaning the wet debris and water. However, when working on dry debris, you must use a filter to offer more surface area to enhance the airflow and minimize clogging that can compromise dust collection

Cordless shop vacs are certainly the most effective vacuum cleaners in the garage world or preferably other areas that require heavy-duty cleaning. Besides, they’re top-rated to be lighter than other standard vacuum cleaners and, more importantly, don’t need to be plugged into a socket wall to work.

A picture of an individual using a cordless shop vac to clean debris from the floor surface

The purpose of a filter

First up, let’s get a clear glimpse of the primary purpose of using a filter in a shop vac. It’s indeed true that the first thing we all think about when shopping for a shop vac for the first time is the importance of a filter and under what conditions a shop vac can be used without a filter.

Well, filters are mainly used to collect nails, dry dust, or screws. This is the most straightforward reason for using a filter in your dry or wet vacuum cleaner. Thus, when working on the dry matter, the filters are essential to prevent the clogging of your shop vac by the dry substances. However, when working on wet materials, you do not need to worry about the filter as there are no fears of possible clogging by dry matter.

DIY ways to use a shop vac without a filter

Cordless shop vacs are generally designed to suck up almost everything. It’s a perfect choice to have around to perform all kinds of vacuuming work as they are incredibly versatile and powerful.

That said, it’s recommended that you use a shop vac for cleaning wet debris only if you decide to go without a filter. If not, your vacuum is prone to get clogged and may fail or stop functioning. Similarly, when vacuuming wet places or items, you ought to remove the dust bag, that is, if you have one. 

Additionally, if you decide to use your shop vac without a filter, ensure that it can support itself without one since not all vacuums can run without a filter. Also, make it a priority to use it in an open area to prevent the dust from being blown back out into your house. 

Placing some water in the tank’s bottom can help to trap some dust, mainly if your vacuum cleaner uses water as a filtration system. However, if you’re not sure of the process, kindly avoid attempting the process as it may cut short your device’s lifespan. 

How a cordless shop vac works

These units are often referred to as bucket vacuums since they are often shaped as buckets. They are popularly used and recognized for cleaning commercial buildings, filthy areas or for cleaning woodworking shops.  

They are mostly identified to possess a powerful suction capacity and motor to suck all kinds of dust or even bigger lumps of garbage that require cleaning. Usually, these units work on the same principle, just like any other regular vacuum cleaner. However, the only slight modification of a shop vac is that it can perform way better than a traditional household vacuum cleaner. 

These units are designed to suck up larger particles of dirt and clean up liquid spills found in workshop or industrial areas. Additionally, you can always use them in your home. Although they are pretty easy to use gadgets, the lack of more satisfactory pointed attachments may make it difficult for the machine to pick up all the tiny particles found in homes. 

Although a shop vac comes in multiple models, most models feature a floating ball mechanism that stops the device when the tank is full. It usually creates a high pitch noise, which gives you the sign that the device is full and needs to be emptied. Always ensure you rinse your vacuum and preferably leave it outside to dry before storing it.

Using a shop vac for wet cleaning

Although using a shop vac for wet cleaning is seemingly possible, it might be quite stressful, especially in large areas like pools. Conversely, the process cannot damage your unit, yet it can be tiring to empty the tank after every 20 seconds. 

Nonetheless, if it’s requisite that you must do it, always ensure that you have an output hose that will significantly make the cleaning process faster by making water go out even as it rushes in. At all times, be careful as the hose may not necessarily manage the water.

Do you use a filter in a shop vac for water?

The primary purpose of a shop vac is to prevent the dust from blowing out of the top during the cleaning process. However, if you are cleaning a wet surface or for water, you will not need a filter, and you can entirely remove it from the model. 

Water and other liquids damage the filters. In the end, you may destroy the vacuum if you suck up the water without removing the filter. Thus, you do not need to use the filter in your cordless shop vac when cleaning a wet surface or water.

The below video shows how to vacuum water with a shop vac

Understanding the battery capacity

Since we are dealing with a cordless version of a shop vac, it’s quite essential to understand the battery capacity. Well, a cordless shop vac can operate independently. However, before making a purchasing decision, it’s, without doubt, crucial for you to check the runtime that its battery can offer. 

For starters, 18 or more volt batteries can provide much longer runtimes because of their large capacities. Similarly, another vital aspect that you can always consider is the time that the shop vac takes to charge up completely. Well, most cordless shop vac batteries will take at least 3-4 hours to completely recharge.  


Power is also an essential aspect when dealing with a cordless shop vac. Often, when talking about power in a cordless shop vac, what we refer to is always its suction pressure. This metric refers to the amount of airflow which passes through the nozzle of a vacuum machine per minute and is often measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). 

If a shop vac has a higher CFM, it tends to pick materials a lot faster. Similarly, the suction power or water lift is another metric of power in cordless shop vacs that should be considered. If your shop vac has a higher water lift capacity, the heavier the items it can pick.

DIY ways to improve filter performance

First up, ensure you determine and understand the purpose of a filter. If perhaps you need to vacuum water or other wet items, you can always go for a foam filter. If you prefer using it for dust cleaning, a dust bag can correctly handle the job for you. 

Well, don’t forget to maintain your filter. Regularly maintaining the filter and filter cartridge can potentially increase the filter’s lifespan, which is the right way to protect your investment. Keep in mind that there’s no magic formula for improving a filter’s performance, but by doing things right, you’re prone to see significant improvements. The choice is yours!

Frequently asked questions

Do I really need a filter for wet vac?

Ideally, the role of a filter is to prevent dust from blowing out while cleaning. In this essence, wet surfaces don’t necessarily need a filter mainly because the liquids can entirely damage your filter. You don’t want to damage or ruin your vacuum potentially, so it would be best to remove it. 

Can a shop vac be used for picking up leaves?

Indeed, more so if you’re not in a hurry to pick them pretty quickly or a pick-up is a concern. Nevertheless, it’s more counter-productive for you to round up every last leaf using a leaf blower.

Can I vacuum clean a dry place without a bag?

Of course, it’s very much possible. However, it might not be that effective. Using a bag will save you a lot of stress by preventing clogs. If your shop vac lacks a bag, the chances are that it will get damaged much faster.

Why does my filter keep on blowing dust back?

Well, it could be that you failed to install the filter well or possibly there’s a hole in the motor. You may want to check these two things before proceeding. Similarly, it could also be that the dust is too smooth, in which case we recommend a filter with a high-efficiency disposable bag. 

Is it okay to use my shop vac in a basement?

If your basement is flooded, you’ll need a way to get rid of the annoying water. Interestingly, shop vac has multiple series of units designed for such kinds of job. A pump vacuum can correctly handle large quantities of water from one location to another. You’ll only need to connect one end of the hose to the pump. The water will then be transferred where you want it to go as you pump.  

Below is an example of one of the primary best cordless shop vac units available in the markets with the HEPPA filter that can help you work both on dry and wet surfaces. You can by this model at Amazon at an avoidable price and you can never regret your investment in this unit.

Makita XCV11Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 2 Gallon HEPA Filter

  • It has powerful brushless motors that ensures that sufficient energy is supplied. Energy loss through friction is also minimized by the brushless motor.
  • The HEPPA filter model is effective and can capture up to 99.97% of the debris and this enhances its effectiveness.
  • Has a high run time of up to 60 minutes. The extended usage is supported with its lightweight and compact design.

Buy On Amazon

Final thoughts

Well, it’s okay to use a cordless shop vac without a filter. However, we strongly recommend the use of a filter to avoid damaging your vacuum. For your shop vac to perform to its maximum strength, ensure it’s well-maintained. If you take good care of your shop vac, the longer it will serve you!

Moreover, suppose you’re allergic or sensitive to dust, then it’s only logical for you to buy a shop vac that comes with a filter. More importantly, always ensure that it’s HEPA filter, one of the most valuable types of filter you can always find.

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