Should I clean my dust collector's filter bag?
The inside of my dust collector's filter bag is really gunked up with a solid layer of powdery sawdust. The collector seems to be drawing less air than it used to. Should I throw the bag into the laundry to get it clean?
—Scott Villalon, Jacumba, Calif.
Scott, according to the experts at American Fabric Filter Co., a fine layer of dust coating the inside surface of the bag actually works with the fibers of the filter to trap small particles. But if you notice a thick crust of dust (called "dust cake"), or you're seeing dust bleed through the filter, or you experience significantly decreased suction, it's time to act.
Before you toss the filter bag in the washer, try these steps: With the dust collector running and the bag inflated, tap the bag with your hand or a broomstick. If that doesn't clear up the cake, try blowing compressed air against the outside of the bag with the collector running. Still not getting satisfactory results? Then remove the bag, turn it inside out and vacuum any remaining dust cake, as shown above.
If you're still not happy with the bag's performance, the folks at American Fabric and Filter say that a spin in the washing machine could clear up any remaining problems, acting as a "reset" for the filter. (We suggest an industrial machine at your local laundromat rather than the one that normally keeps your whitie-tighties white and tight.) Turn the bag inside out, use the cold setting, and wash it on a gentle cycle with laundry detergent. Tumble-dry the bag on the air-only, no-heat setting or hang it outdoors in nice weather to dry completely before using it again.