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There’s nothing worse than having sawdust all over your workshop or job site. It’s not merely annoying, it’s downright hazardous, and reduces air quality.
And if you work with wood dust and other construction dust then your standard vacuum cleaner isn’t going to cut it.
But if you’ve found this article, you know there is an easy solution.
There’s an array of dust extractors out on the market today, and we’ve handpicked our Top 5 for you, and provided honest reviews, coming up below.
Then we have a buying guide for you which outlines the different things you might like to think about before you buy.
To top that off, we also have a section where we attempt to answer your most frequently asked questions.
In a hurry? This is our winner!
Best Dust Extractor – Comparison Table
Best Dust Extractor – Reviews
Best Dust Extractor – Buyer’s Guide
There’s a lot to think about when buying a dust extractor, but we’ll go through each point step by step.
Dust extractor categories
Dust extractors fall into three main categories: L, for low dust class, M for medium dust class, and H for high dust class. An L class unit is only suitable for lower toxicity dusts like gypsum in plasterboard, or for soft woods such as spruce, fir, or pine, or small amounts of graphite. An M class unit can be used for other wood dusts such as beech and oak, and for concrete. If you wanted to remove carcinogenic dusts however, or germs, then you will need a H class unit.
The suction power of a dust extractor is measured in cubic feet per minute, or CFM. The higher the CFM the faster the dust gets cleared up. Models with ratings from 50 CFM up to 150 CFM are considered only appropriate for light duty works. Industrial dust extractors have much stronger suction power, going up to as much as 300 CFM or sometimes higher.
On some models you’re able to adjust the suction according to what job you’re using it for.
Capacity of the extractor
Dust extractors can vary quite considerably in their dust collection capacity, ranging from as little as 3 litres and going up to as much as 50 litres. If you regularly have a lot of dust to clear up then having a dust extractor with a large collection capacity will save you having to constantly stop to empty it out.
Please don’t overlook this aspect of your dust extractor, as it’s this which will directly affect the air quality in the vicinity.
The majority of dust extractors on the market will use either the Microfilter or the HEPA filter. Both are very effective, but the HEPA filter does have some advantages over the Microfilter. Namely, that they are really good at trapping the allergens and microbes that can cause respiratory problems. They are also less likely to clog up.
Some dust extractors have an automatic filter cleaning function which is a great feature, but if you buy one that does not, then it’s best to get a dust extractor with filters that can be washed and recycled.
Hose and attachments
The hose of the dust extractor needs to be able to withstand some wear and tear, so needs to be composed of adequately strong yet flexible material. The longer the hose, the better it’s reach and the better able you are to reach areas that would be missed with a shorter hose. Also the dust extractor can often come with handy attachments which can help remove dust from awkward nooks and crannies.
Just as the hose needs to be of good quality, so do the wheels. Castor wheels are ideal.
Sometimes dust extractors can be rather bulky, and if you’re only going to use it in your workshop, and you have plenty of room for it, this is fine. However if you need to transport the dust extractor from site to site, something more compact and lightweight might suit you better.
Some dust extractors can throw out a lot of noise which isn’t always favourable, and doesn’t always fair well with neighbours. Machines with a sound level ranging between 60 to 85 decibels are manageable enough but anything 95 decibels or higher and you’ll need ear protection.
The main benefit that you get from using a branded dust extractor is just how compatible it is across the brand’s range of products. We can highly recommend the Bosch Professional GAS 18V-10L Dust Extractor (our Number 1) for example, which is compatible with the whole Bosch 18 V Li-ion range.
OK, we’re going to level with you here. Getting a good dust extractor is going to cost money, and you’re not going to get a good one for under £100 (unless you’re specifically looking for a handheld one). You can get ones that have all the bells and whistles you can imagine, but for most jobs you needn’t spend much more than, say £300. Although this goes up considerably for more commercial and industrial jobs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use a vacuum cleaner for dust extraction?
Vacuums are made to vacuum and extractors are made to extract. A vacuum cleaner is not designed to clean or enhance air quality following the release of dust from drilling. A lot of particulate is suspended in the air after machining, and protecting yourself from it’s hidden dangers is a must.
Some people have tried converting their vacuum cleaners for dust extraction, but this process can be very tricky and hard to get done right. Our advice is to always go for a dust extractor wherever possible.
How dangerous is wood dust to health?
Exposure to wood dust has long been associated with a variety of adverse health effects. The respiratory effects alone include asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and chronic bronchitis. Other symptoms include dermatitis, eye irritation, mucosal and nonallergic respiratory effects, and, worse again, cancer.
The OSHA permissible exposure limit for nuisance dust is 15 mg/m3. But don’t worry, dust extractors represent a real solution. You’ll see a real benefit from any one of the dust extractors in our Top 5.
What is the difference between a dust extractor and a shop vac?
A shop vac is a dust collection system rather than an extractor. It’s basically a vacuum that’s designed to work best on small-sized debris, using low air volume and a narrow hose. The debris then goes into the collection tank unfiltered. Down the road this could cause the shop vac’s motor to play up and cause trouble.