Introduction: $5 Drywall Dust Water Filter Gadget for Shop Vacuums

Picture of $5 Drywall Dust Water Filter Gadget for Shop Vacuums

Drywall dust will either frequently clog filters, or rip your filter. Drywall dust will also wreck your vacuum motor.

Typically vacuuming drywall with a shop vacuum will also end up being redistributed through the air from your vacuum.

This is a cheap gadget to filter drywall dust without needing a cyclone, or hepa filter, or an external water filter bucket.

You will need:

  1. A wet/dry shop vacuum cleaner to connect this gadget to.
  2. Two 1 1/2" ABS elbow pipes (measure to fit )
  3. A small length of 1 1/2" ABS pipe to fit your vacuum (measure to fit).
  4. Water
  5. A few drops of soap.

Step 1: Measure Available Width of Vacuum Host Inlet.

Picture of Measure Available Width of Vacuum Host Inlet.

For shop vacuums, this seems to be about 1 1/2" available if your hose is about 2".

The fit does not need to be exact, and ABS pipe comes in many sizes, just find the closest fit.

Since shop vacuums tend to be angled (so that debris doesn't go flying into the filter), you need to measure what's available to you, not the total inner diameter. In my vacuum I've got about 1 1/2" available.

Use this measurement to buy the appropriate ABS elbows and appropriate ABS pipe.

For my shop vacuum my buy list was:

Two 1 1/2" elbows (about $1 each ).

Small length of 1 1/2" pipe (about $1.50/foot ).

Step 2: Cut ABS Pipe to Be Approximately Height Between Outlet and Bottom of Canister

Picture of Cut ABS Pipe to Be Approximately Height Between Outlet and Bottom of Canister

Cut your ABS pipe to be slightly less than the distance from the inside of the bottom of your vacuum to where the hose connects.

Inside your vacuum canister the hose inlet will be angled to deflect debris from your filter, just find an angle that works best with your vacuum.

The length can be in-exact, it will be angled slightly downwards, and the angle does not matter.

Step 3: Connect the Elbows to the ABS Pipe

Picture of Connect the Elbows to the ABS Pipe

Connect one elbow pipe to each end of your cut ABS pipe.

Do not glue the ABS pipe together, the pieces will be snug enough together for this gadgets purpose, and you may need to adjust the angles of the pipe.

Step 4: Push Your Pipe Into Your Vacuum Canister

Picture of Push Your Pipe Into Your Vacuum Canister

It should feel snug, but does not need to fit exactly.

Step 5: Fill Canister With Just Enough Water to Slightly Go Over the Bottom Elbow.

Picture of Fill Canister With Just Enough Water to Slightly Go Over the Bottom Elbow.

Put in a couple of drops of soap. The water will churn like crazy and make many bubbles. Some bubbles is good (traps the dust), too many bubbles is bad (will shoot out of your vacuum).

Then, put in just enough water to just cover the bottom elbow.

Step 6: Turn on Vacuum for a Few Seconds to Test Foaming

Picture of Turn on Vacuum for a Few Seconds to Test Foaming

You want some foaming, it will help trap the dust.

This picture shows what a good level of foaming will look like. This is with only a few drops of soap.

Step 7: Vacuum Your Drywall Dust

That's it, just make sure your shop vacuum water filter is on (usually just a foam sleeve) and start vacuuming your drywall dust.

All of the dust should end up being trapped in the water ( instead of the air, your lungs, and your vacuum motor ).

The video in this step shows the muddy water after vacuuming the drywall compound dust.


jackpot100cid (author)2017-11-29

To those who may read this, I would be careful using the elbow at the bottom and submerging it in water. Two things potentially could or will happen if you do. The first, the more bends there are, the less suction there will be. Vacuum is strictly air flow, the straighter the flow of air, the greater the suction. The second, submerging the elbow in water will completely cut off the flow of air. Now the vacuum motor is being stalled, working very hard to move air(other than what leaks around the lid seal). What it will do is, create a "water dam" in front of the elbow. It will draw the water away from the elbow until it achieves air flow. This is the same as holding your hand over the end of the hose and you hear the sound level rise dramatically. This will also shorten the life of your vacuum if you use it a lot for drywall or other dust. What I suggest is, do not use the bottom elbow and, stop the straight down pipe about 4 inches from the bottom. Then, put about 3 inches of water in the bottom. Picture the inside of the pipe, it is filled with moving air. When the air comes out of the bottom of the pipe, its natural path will be a natural curve all on its own back up to the filter. The dust will contact the water instantly and stay there while free air moves on. This is a GREAT idea though, just needs a couple tweaks.

TailsL (author)2017-10-09

not bad,you better do some small holes at the end of the plunger to reduce bubbling and improve you can add more water and forget soap.

schouk (author)2016-12-11

Man I signed up for this site just to say thanks for the great idea. I just finished cleaning up a 400 sq ft room that I sanded yesterday. Didn't have to stop to clean the filter, and there was zero dust in the air. In the past I have had to repeatedly stop to clean the filter as the shop vac bogged down, and it looked like a fog in the room due to dust getting by the filter. Thanks again.

robmcpherson made it! (author)2016-10-27

This works perfectly. I was vacuuming piles of drywall dust in my daughters bedroom. Zero dust!
I highly recommend you cut your original vacuum elbow (inside the vacuum bottom section, what your hose connects to) so you can easily add an ABS elbow. When you have to add silicone, tape, goop or anything else — you know it's not going to last forever. A cut section tightly covered by ABS elbow will last forever.

Once your original elbow is cut, add the ABS elbow and assembly. Leave just one elbow on to operate as a regular dry vac (and replaces your cut elbow).

The elbow (from the factory)that you cut is meant to deflect material away from filter. Otherwise, stuff would shoot right at the filter and damage it — and your motor.

I used a micrometer to accurately measure my vacuum opening and took it with me to the plumbing store. 2" worked tight but perfect for my Stanley vacuum.

Peter.Steele made it! (author)2016-03-05

... well, I sort of made it. Something similar-ish, but adapted to materials on-hand.

I had a small industrial blower laying around. It originally was part of the dust collector for my CNC router in its previous existence as an engraving machine, but the suction hose on it was only 3/8" ID, and the filter assembly was pretty terrible as well. It barely worked with the engraving spindle, and it definitely did NOT work once I ditched the engraving head and moved up to a Bosch 1617EVS router.

Anyway, the suction and discharge ports on it are 1 1/4", and I had a universal shop vac power tool attachment bushing laying around. I cut it down to the size step that would fit into the suction hose for the blower, and Dremeled out the right size hole in the bucket lid. I was not optimistic that the blower would have enough suction ... but I shouldn't have worried. The first test sucked the sides of the bucket together until they touched and popped the lid seal.

for the suction side, I had a spare 1 7/8" shop vac hose, 7 feet long. A rubber reducer fit neatly on the end of it, and I was able to press a 1" PVC coupling through the small end of the reducer. It's a tight fit - I had to use a bench vise to force it through.

I didn't feel like messing around with PVC glue, so I bought couplings that were threaded on one side, slip-fit on the other. A 2" long pipe black iron pipe nipple threaded into the coupling, and I used a 1 1/4" spade bit to drill a hole through the bucket lid. The hole was just barely too small, so the threads bit in and will help seal the hole up nicely. Another threaded-slip coupling on the bottom of the nipple led to a piece of 1" PVC and an elbow at the bottom, in line with your method.

Works like a charm, as you can see. Now I just have to figure out how to mount the whole thing up to my CNC table. The suction hose on the blower isn't long enough to sit on the floor beside the bucket, and I've got wood / plastic / aluminum / etc all piled up on the lower shelf on the table. That's the project for this afternoon: I have a couple projects I need to cut this weekend.

Thanks for the great idea! My mom had a Rainbow vacuum cleaner when I was a kid - it used the same sort of system - but I'd never have thought to try and replicate it on my own.

I really like what you did, I think I'll do the same adaptation with the separate bucket once I get my shop back in order. Thanks for sharing.

ArthurP16 (author)2015-10-29

Do I still need to have a filter in the vac?

You don't need a filter. The dust will go through and be captured by the water, and the resulting foam from the soap.

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