Making a Carbon Filter ShopVac Extension

Here is a little trick to help pull out any chemical odors from the air as you are working on your project.

A set of activated carbon tubes are attached to the exhaust of a shop vacuum to filter the air
A set of activated carbon tubes are attached to the exhaust of a shop vacuum to filter the air

You just point or set the vacuum hose where you are working, as close to the chemical as possible, and let it suck it in. The vacuum will then exhaust the air through the carbon on the other side, thereby filtering out the harmful components, and also the bad smells.

The overall airflow of the vacuum will be decreased, but it is really not being used to vacuum, but filter the air, so air volume is not as important.

Here’s a picture of the whole thing disassembled:

Simple parts found at a hardware store can be used to clean harmful chemicals (and smells!) from the air
Simple parts found at a hardware store can be used to clean harmful chemicals (and smells!) from the air

Basically, it is comprised of a few parts: a 2″ PVC wye (“Y”) fitting. (A 2″ tee or cross could also be used.) Wedged into the ports of each of the ends of the wye are carbon filter tubes used in household reverse osmosis drinking water filters. These filters can be found at any hardware store, and cost just a few dollars apiece.

You could use just a straight coupler and only one filter instead of the wye, but the airflow is decreased even more. If I had to make this all over, I think I’d use a 2″ cross and three carbon filters instead of two.

The two main things that you have to do are: plug up the ends of the carbon tubes so that the air that is being exhausted by the vac is forced through the black activated carbon. I used a wooden dowel, with electrical tape wrapped around the edge until just the right diameter was achieved.

The other thing that you have to do is grind down the end of the wye just slightly so that it will fit into the vac’s exhaust hole. It may be slightly different for all makes and models, but on mine, a few minutes with a dremel sanding drum was about all it took. The filter can then be fit into the exhaust by a simple friction fit.