How To Clean Car Wash Vacuum Filter Bags

Inside look of a car wash vacuum
A look inside a vacuum model which utilizes a grooved ring keep the filter bags in place.

Let’s face it; no one enjoys cleaning vacuum filter bags. They smell bad, look disgusting, and contain vile waste. Even though customers never see the inside of your vacuums, they will see a decrease in suction power if you don’t perform regular maintenance. That is why it is imperative to keep your vacuum bags clean. We will teach you everything you need to know in this guide.

Removing the Bags

Let’s begin with removing the bags. To clean filter bags, you will need to remove them from the vacuum. Extracting the bags is easier when you remove the dustpan at the bottom of your vacuum. Empty it into the trash can and set it aside. While you have the door open, it is a good idea to inspect the door gasket to see if it is in good condition. Check out this video if you need to replace it.

Removing the bags will depend on the brand of vacuum you have. The first type requires you to undo a spring clip located at the bottom of the vacuum and a hook at the top to release the bag. The other style has a groove that secures the bag inside. All you need to do is pull these bags through the openings at the top and bottom. Now your bag is free and ready to be cleaned.

Preparing the Bags to be Washed

Before washing vacuum bags, remove as much debris as possible. Start by shaking loose objects, dirt, and dust into a trash can. Use a brush to break up stubborn refuse caked onto the bag. Then turn the bag inside out and use your hands to push leftover debris to the bottom where it will slide off. After all the loose dirt is gone, you can wash the bags.

Washing Vacuum Filter Bags

Spraying a vacuum filter bag.
Phil from our Fix It With Phil video series demonstrates how to wash a filter bag in a self-self serve bay.

One way to clean your bags is to hang them from mat clamps in a self-serve bay and spray them with a high-pressure rinse followed by soap. The soap will remove foul odors and the fabric will absorb the detergent’s fragrance. Then, finish with another rinse. Hang them to dry in your equipment room or a place customers can’t access. 

Another option is to throw them in your washing machine at home. If you don’t own a washer or don’t want to use yours, take the bags to a laundromat. However, you will need to consider the cost of using the laundromat’s equipment, gas, and travel time. No matter which method you pick, always let your bags air dry. Never use a dryer; your bags will shrink!

Reinstalling the Filter Bags

Once dry, you can put the bags back in your vacuum. Never place the bags in wet because dirt will cling to them. Fun fact, wet filter bags will fill ten times as fast because everything will stick at the top and ruin the suction of your vacuum until you unclog them.

To reinstall a vacuum filter bag, reverse the process used to remove them. You may also want to consider spritzing the bags with fragrance to mask odors inside your vacuum. Your customers will thank you!

A cleaned vacuum filter bag.
Phil shows off a bag that has just been cleaned. If you look closely you can see the groove on the ring in his right hand.

Keep an Extra Set of Filter Bags

One thing to keep in mind, consider purchasing at least one extra set of bags to keep on hand. The vacuum won’t have adequate suction even when one bag is missing from the equation. Your vacuum will remain out of service until all the bags dry unless you have a spare set.

The extra set will allow you to swap out the old bags with the new ones while you clean and dry one set. Once the old ones dry, you can move down your line of vacuums repeating the process until the bags in each of your vacuums are clean. Most importantly, you won’t need to take any units out of service.

Protecting Yourself

You might want to wear some PPE for this job. After all, you have no idea what people sucked into your vacuums. Select a pair of gloves that will protect your hands from sharp objects such as shards of glass and needles. Another piece of gear to consider, especially if you have allergies, is a mask such as an N95 or a respirator for severe allergies. A breathing apparatus will prevent you from breathing in allergens and harmful chemicals while also blocking foul odors. Don’t forget to protect your eyes with safety glasses since particulates can irritate your eyes.

Whether or not your vacuums are complimentary or a paid service, your customers expect them to provide consistent results each time. When customers are confident that your equipment will operate flawlessly, they will likely pay for additional services at your wash and purchase items from your vending machines.

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