How to Make a Shop Vac Quieter

Shop vacs are great to use around the house.  They are very portable and very powerful.  I mainly use my shop vac after I wash my car. 

It does an excellent job at cleaning the interior of cars which is why I use them.  All shop vacs usually have one thing in common, and it isn’t good.  They are loud.  Very, very loud. 

Almost like an airplane taking off loud.  Especially when you use it inside of a garage, it seems to just echo and bounce all around, which makes vacuuming very obnoxious. 

Regardless of how loud a shop vac is, they are very handy.  You can easily clean up a garage or home using a shop vac.  Is it possible to quiet a noisy vacuum?  Yes.  It is possible to quiet it down, but it’s not possible to completely soundproof it.

There aren’t too many things you can do in terms of soundproofing a loud vacuum, but here are a few things I have found to be effective at reducing the amount of noise your shop vac makes.

Use Your Shop Vac in an Open Area

Using your vacuum in a small isolated area like a garage can be catastrophic when it comes to noise.  The smaller the area that you use your vacuum in, the louder it will be. 

The main source of noise in a vacuum is high-pitched and will easily bounce off the walls and cause echo.  These echoes will amplify the sounds of your vacuum tenfold. 

Try using your vacuum in the driveway if you are using it to clean a car.

Since the area where most shop vacs are used is usually in an enclosed structure or building, you could also get a longer hose attachment to position the vacuum farther away from you. 

Placing the vacuum far away will indirectly limit the amount of noise that will be heard.  If there is no way to avoid using your vacuum in an enclosed area, then it may be best to make some sort of soundproof enclosure for it instead.

Build a Soundproof Enclosure for Your Shop Vac

Building a soundproof box specifically for your shop vac is an excellent do-it-yourself weekend project.  You will need a few materials to make this work:

  1. Soundproof Foam
  2. Wood
  3. Wheels
  4. Piano Hinge and Latch
  5. Electric Saw
  6. Hammer and Nails
  7. Screws
soundproof vacuum box

The soundproof box will have a front door that can open and close, which is why you will need a hinge and a latch.  First, you will need to measure the size of your shop vac to know how big your pieces of wood will need to be. 

Measure out equal square pieces of the wood.  Glue the soundproof foam on all pieces of wood.  The soundproof foam will be used on the inside of the box to help keep the sound inside. 

Once all the foam is glued to the wood, go ahead and nail all the pieces together until you are left with just the front of the box open. 

This is where you will connect the hinge and the latch.  The last piece of wood will essentially be the door to your box.

You now have the option of adding a smaller piece of wood on the inside of your box on the bottom as a small platform for your shop vac. 

If you do not want to mount a platform on the inside, then you can skip it as it is not necessarily needed.  The next step is to make a cutout on one of the sides of the box. 

This is to provide an area for your shop vac’s hose to come out.  The last thing you will need to add to your box is the four wheels. 

The four wheels are simply attached to the bottom of the box with screws.  For a more detailed guide with pictures and measurements, you can check out this handy guide I found.

Purchase a Quiet Shop Vac

Investing in a new shop vac may be a bit pricey, but a vacuum that is already quiet means that your efforts at making it quieter will be that much more effective. 

There are many different quiet vacuums on the market to choose from, so it can be a difficult decision.  This vacuum nicknamed “Henry,” is an excellent choice for a quiet vacuum. 

Don’t let its childish looks fool you, as this vacuum is top of the line when it comes to cleaning.

There are many positive reviews on amazon stating that this vacuum cleaner is amazing.  It does a great job at sucking without getting clogged. 

Many shop vacs tend to need constant cleaning to fix a clogged filter, but this vacuum uses a special filter design that helps prevent clogging. 

The majority of verified users have stated that this vacuum is perfect for cars, sofas, beds, hard floors, rugs, and couches.

A few users were disappointed because it states that this vacuum is a two-speed.  There are other models of this vacuum cleaner that are two speeds, but this specific one is one speed. 

Whenever purchasing a new vacuum, it is important to read user reviews.  This will help you understand if this vacuum will be up to par with your needs.

Muffle the Air Outlet of Your Vacuum

A lot of the noise your vacuum makes comes out of the air outlet itself.  Look for a vent on either the side or the top of your vacuum. 

This is where the air is expelled during use.  This is called the air outlet.  You can help muffle this by covering it with a piece of cloth. 

Now, this may sound stupid at first, but there are precautions you must take to do this properly without harming your vacuum or you in the process. 

The trick is not to cover the air outlet completely.  Take a few pieces of cloth and cut them to the correct size of your air outlet.

Attach it to your vacuum using tight elastic bands.  Make sure to poke enough holes in it to still allow a good amount of air to escape your vacuum. 

If you cover the vent completely you can overheat or burn out the engine.  Once you have attached the cloth over the air outlet, go ahead and power on your vacuum.  If done correctly, the cloth should blow up like a balloon.  This is what you want to happen.

This method was discovered on an online forum about making a shop vac quieter and was verified by a few users that stated it worked for them. 

It’s kind of a far-fetched idea when you really think about it and seems pretty gimmicky.  Although users did state that this effectively reduced the amount of noise their vacuums made because it restricts the area that the sound has to travel through.

Clean Your Vacuums Air Filter

You should always make sure you use your vacuum with a clean or new filter.  The filter is one of the first places that air is sucked into when your vacuum is turned on. 

The main purpose of an air filter is to catch any dirt and debris from entering the internals of the vacuum.  If you use your shop vac without an air filter or a dirty air filter, you run the risk of damaging it. 

Some vacuums have reusable filters, which should be cleaned after each use.  Simply clean the filter using tap water.  Never install a cleaned filter while it is still wet. 

Even if it is hardly wet, keep it out of the vacuum until it is completely dry.  A wet filter will easily attract new dirt and debris if used before it’s completely dry.

If your vacuum only uses disposable filters, then it is advised to replace the filter after a few uses or as instructed by the manufacturer.

Having a dirty filter will cause the engine to have to work harder to suck the air through the system.  Depending on the type of vacuum you have will determine how often you will have to replace or clean the filter.

Find and Remove Clogs

Turn on your vacuum and then cover the opening of the hose with your hand.  What happens?  It causes your vacuum to become a lot louder since it makes the engine work at full capacity. 

This is what happens when your vacuum is dirty or clogged.  A dirty or clogged vacuum cleaner will cause the engine to work harder to suck the air through. 

This can be easily recognized by listening to your vacuum.  Is your vacuum louder than normal?  Is it having variable sounds when not under stress or load?  This can be a sign of a clogged shop vac.

It’s best to disassemble your vacuum every so often to clean out dirt and debris that may be getting clogged in various areas. 

Having lots of little clogs will make your vacuum work harder, which in turn will increase the noise it will make. 

If your vacuum still seems to be struggling with airflow, then you may need to take it to a professional to see if there is something wrong with the components in the engine.

Use Noise Cancelling Headphones

The use of noise-canceling headphones is very effective if you plan on using your shop vac for a prolonged period of time. 

The only downside to using noise-canceling headphones is that other people around you won’t benefit unless they, too are wearing headphones.

This option is better used if you are always using your vacuum.  These headphones also double up as music headphones, so they can be used in more instances than just for when you are vacuuming.

There are definitely better options out there on the market for noise canceling, but these are very affordable and will get the job done. 

They will not completely eliminate the noise, but they will dampen it quite a bit and is worth a try if you don’t want to purchase a new shop vac or build a soundproof enclosure.

Why Are Shop Vacs so Loud?

The noise levels of vacuum cleaners usually depend on how the engines are designed.  There is usually a fan on the inside that turns at a very high speed. 

This is the fan that sucks in and pushes out the air in your vacuum.  In a cyclone-type vacuum cleaner like a shop vac, the air is sucked in at the center and is blown out at violent rates, which causes high levels of noise. 

The turbulent sounds of the vacuum are very loud, and that is usually what you are complaining about when a vacuum is turned on.

A good thing to remember is that the noise of your vacuum is not related to efficiency.  You can have a very loud vacuum that sucks at doing its job. 

I used to use the vacuum at the self-car-wash all the time.  It’s probably the loudest vacuum I have ever heard, but it was horrible and took forever for me to clean the interior of my car. 

This is the main reason why I switched to a more efficient shop vac.  This is why there are quieter vacuums on the market that actually suck a lot better than cheaper models or brands.

Final Thoughts

Shop vacs are loud.  Very loud.  That’s all there is to it.  The best way around a noisy vacuum is to purchase one that isn’t already obnoxiously loud. 

Once you have a decent vacuum cleaner, you should build a soundproof enclosure for it.  If you do proper maintenance of your shop vac, which includes changing out the filters and preventing clogs, it will keep it running optimally, both performance and noise-wise. 

I would avoid covering your vacuum’s air outlet as you do run the risk of overheating the engine.

This can be a very costly mistake for a little bit of noise reduction.  This can be both a good and bad thing to happen. 

If you end up breaking your shop vac, you now have an excuse to purchase a Henry vacuum which is much quieter than traditional vacuums.