Dust Collector Cleaning Tips

My central dust collector is a Jet DC 1100

Overview: Central dust collection systems are great tools to have in your studio and when they’re installed correctly, are very effective at removing the copious amounts of dust that we create during power sanding. In the early days of my studio, I operated without a large central collector. Although I was able to use less sophisticated systems to handle the bulk of the dust I created, the conditions were always less than optimal.

Luckily, those days are long gone and I now use three types of equipment to deal with dust when I’m working in the studio:

  1. Primary dust collector: Jet DC 1100C Dust Dog, 1.5HP, 115v, 1100CFM, 6” ID piping on all lines
  2. Secondary Collector: Jet AFS 1000 wall mounted 3-speed air filter (550/702/1044 CFM of filtered air)
  3. Tertiary protection: 3M AS-400LBC PAPR (Personal Air Purifying Respirator), 170 liters per minute for 8 hours per battery charge

The first collector uses a large canister filter on the top of the unit for fine dust and a lower collection bag for larger debris. The second collector uses two woven filters to trap the dust that is collected. The third system is a head mounted helmet style respirator and features a primary foam filter with a secondary interior high efficiency filter.

Note: Although the 3M PAPR is a respirator and not a dust collector, I’m including it here because it is a part of the overall dust collection and personal protection equipment I use in my studio to deal with dust.

One thing is for sure… If you turn and sand a lot, you’re going to have to clean your dust collector filters regularly. It’s not fun (ok, it’s really, really not fun), but it is necessary if you want to maintain the proper airflow and keep your dust collector or respirator working efficiently. Through the years, I’ve tried numerous ways to clean the filters such as vacuuming them, using a brush on the surface and washing them with water. A good rinsing with water has been my cleaning method of choice for the two Jet dust collector filters, as well as for the primary foam filter on the PAPR. Note the internal HE filter “sock” on the PAPR cannot be cleaned and must be replaced when necessary.

Cleaning Tips for the Jet 1100CFM Dust Collector Canister

Note: Before attempting to clean/inspect any dust collector, or air filter, unplug the unit from the wall to prevent the motor from accidentally coming on when you’re working on it. Safety First!

The upper part of the DC 1100 dust
collector contains a large pleated filter

The large Jet canister collector and the wall-mounted air cleaner both feature removable filters that can be cleaned and are easily replaced if necessary. The large Jet canister filter has a pair of handles on the top of the canister that are connected to paddles on the inside of the filter. These paddles scrape against the interior pleats as you turn the handle. This is supposed to help release impacted dust on the surface of the interior filter walls.

It works to a degree, but I found that even when I turned the handles at the end of every day, the interior walls still held on to quite a bit of fine dust in the deepest part of the pleated crevices. My initial solution was to disassemble the collector once a month and vacuum the interior to remove the fine dust on the inside of the collector. This helped quite a bit, but it was a messy job for sure and there was always some impacted dust left on the interior surface after cleaning that impacted the overall airflow.

One day when I was through vacuuming the dust collectors upper pleated filter, I decided to try washing the filter with a garden hose to see if that would help remove some of the fine dust that was left on the filter walls. I was hesitant at first to wash the filter, but after inspecting the filter construction I determined that it would probably hold up well to being washed by water. The pistol grip on my garden hose allowed me to easily vary the spray pattern and pressure of the water stream as I washed the exterior of the filter (spraying first from the from the outside to the inside of the filter).

This dislodged an amazing amount of the fine dust and it was sure easier spraying the filter with water, instead of vacuuming it! Once the exterior had been thoroughly cleaned, I gave it a few light sprays on the inside to remove any of the remaining dust. To dry the filter, I place it in the sun and set it on edge, to drain any accumulated water. Once the sun goes down, I place the filter back in the studio on the floor and set a small high velocity fan to blow on the inside of the filter overnight. The next morning, it’s as dry as a bone and ready to be reassembled on the collector base.

I’ve been washing my Jet Dust Dog filter canister for several years and I’ve never experienced any problems from washing the filter. The housing has never rusted either. In fact, I’m still on my original canister filter, which is now more than eight years old. That’s pretty good service in my book. The only repair I have had to make on my unit is to replace the foam seal on the bottom of the canister (where it mounts to the top of the lower housing). Jet used some type of open cell foam for the seal and I replaced it with a high quality closed cell foam seal that’s much more durable.

Additional Dust Collector Cleaning Tips

The impeller housing should be inspected
periodically for any debris that may be
left in the bottom of the housing

Since I have the dust collector already broken down for a cleaning, I like to give it a once over to check for any large particles that may be left in the impeller housing. There is always something in there when I look such as slivers of bark, or other odd bits of suction debris that do not make it through the spinning impellers. Once this is removed, I inspect the impeller for any damage to the metal fins. I’ve been lucky thus far; my fins still look new and have never been damaged by any debris. After closing up the impeller housing, I move on to the motor area and the upright supports.

I usually vacuum the motor housing to remove any dust on the cooling fins. There is not much to do with the upright supports, except to double check that the bolts are tight. The last thing I do is to inspect the plastic dust collection bag for any holes or splits. If I find any, I use heavy duct tape to seal them back up. Although you can simply throw the bag away each time it fills up, I prefer to dump the contents and reuse the bag until it is no longer practical to tape the holes or splits. By reusing the bags, I can make each bag last about a year and a half, which significantly lowers my disposable bag costs.

Cleaning Tips for the Jet AFS 1000 Wall/Ceiling Mounted Air Filter

Jet's AFS 1000 air filter may be
mounted on the wall or ceiling

Jet’s ceiling/wall mounted AFS 1000 air filter features two filters, a primary 5 micron electrostatic filter on the exterior and a large pleated 1 micron filter on the inside of the housing. My primary filter is the washable electrostatic version in the metal frame, not the disposable filter that Jet offers. I wash both of these filters as well, using a garden hose. This collector tends to fill up rather quickly, as it’s always on when I’m in the studio.

The exterior filter captures most of the dust and needs cleaning about twice as often as the interior pleated filter. I remember when I bought this air filter, the salesman told me to expect to replace the filters several times a year, depending on usage. I opted for the washable exterior filter instead of the disposable filter to save on replacement costs.

The electrostatic primary filter on the AFS 1000

I remember cringing when I saw how much the replacement filters cost (especially the interior pleated filter), but I’m happy to say that I’m still on my original set of filters (interior and exterior) after more than eight years of use. Rinsing the filters is the only way I’ve found to remove the fine dust that gets caught up in the woven fabric filter. I use a small fan to speed the drying of the thick woven fabric filters. If weather allows, I also place the wet filters outside in the sun to dry.

Cleaning Tips for the 3M AS-400LBC PAPR Respirator

3M's PAPR AS-400 respirator

My 3M PAPR respirator has two filters, a rather course foam pre-filter and an internal (mounted above your head) high efficiency filter. The foam pre-filter is easily removed for cleaning under running water. I typically clean this filter at the end of every day. I also use a small vacuum hose to remove any accumulated dust that is around the pre-filter, or motor housing area.

The PAPR’s high efficiency filter cannot be cleaned and must be replaced when the efficiency drops below a certain level. A flow check device is included with the respirator to help you judge when to replace the filter. The PAPR works by drawing ambient air through the outer foam pre-filter and passing it up through the top of the helmet, where it passes through a high efficiency filter.

The filtered air then flows down around your face and exits at the periphery of the faceseal. Seals help prevent any mixing of the interior filtered air with the outside contaminated air. It works very well indeed, but the unit is none too cheap to purchase. My unit cost about £545.00 ($900.00) with the optional smart charger and some additional replacement filters.

The clear front visor takes a bashing from debris, so I keep one of the clear visor protectors on it to help keep the actual visor surface in better shape. The clear protectors can be easily changed and are relatively inexpensive to purchase. If the main visor becomes scratched (as it does from time to time), I use a plastic polish like Novus 20/20 or something similar, to power buff the surface with a soft cotton buffing disk.

This returns the visor to a “nearly new” condition in short order. I also use the plastic polish on my traditional full-face shield visors; it works like a charm and allows you to greatly extend the useable service life of each shield.

Safety Note: Always follow all manufacturers safety instructions before working with your lathe, or any of the tools or products you may use. If you are unsure about any operation, obtain competent professional instruction before proceeding. Use and wear all necessary safety devices during turning and observe safe woodturning practices to prevent accident or injury.

Steven D. Russell is a professional studio woodturner, teacher and writer. He has written numerous articles for international woodturning magazines, which have been published in more than 78 countries around the world. Steve has demonstrated in numerous cities across the United States. His studio, Eurowood Werks, specializes in bowls, platters and hollow forms with unique visual and tactile treatments.

Steve is also the current and founding President of the Lone Star Woodturners Association, Inc., an AAW member chapter. The LSWA is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization dedicated to teaching and demonstrating the art and craft of woodturning.

Steve is also a featured writer for the Guild of Master Craftsman's "Woodturning" magazine, published in London England. Woodturning magazine is the world's leading magazine for woodturners. Look for his articles covering technical topics, or project based articles in an upcoming issue.