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Vacuum cleaner for the clay studio, yes or no?


Kakes
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I've heard that mopping is the best way to clean a studio, but what about a vacuum cleaner? I was told to vacuum out my kiln occasionally. I was wondering about the various models out there, wet/dry vacuums, heap filters, etc.  Do any of you use a vacuum, and what type?  Is it a terrible, dangerous idea?

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Hepa  only and for production central vac exhausted to outdoors which can also be fitted with hepa discharge.

Simple rule:  Mop never sweep, vacuum to remove dust or catch dust as it gets produced as close to where it gets produced as possible.

If the vacuum is not hepa rated it can broadcast dust throughout the entire studio.

Edited by Bill Kielb
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I vacuum my studio once a year, during my big studio cleaning week. I use a vacuum with a Hepa filter bag, and wear a respirator while I’m vacuuming. Even if the bag isn’t full, I throw it away when I'm done, Then I leave the studio and don’t come back for at least 24 hours. 

I vacuum the floor and every horizontal surface, including the tops of the radiator pipes that run across the ceiling. There will be a fine layer of dust on everything. Without a vacuum I would not get things as dust free. After vacuuming I will wet mop the floor. The floor ends up much cleaner compared to not vacuuming first, because all the clay dust does not clog up the mop water. 

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5 hours ago, GEP said:

I vacuum my studio once a year, during my big studio cleaning week. I use a vacuum with a Hepa filter bag, and wear a respirator while I’m vacuuming. Even if the bag isn’t full, I throw it away when I'm done, Then I leave the studio and don’t come back for at least 24 hours. 

I vacuum the floor and every horizontal surface, including the tops of the radiator pipes that run across the ceiling. There will be a fine layer of dust on everything. Without a vacuum I would not get things as dust free. After vacuuming I will wet mop the floor. The floor ends up much cleaner compared to not vacuuming first, because all the clay dust does not clog up the mop water. 

Wow, that's impressive. I'm definitely going to start doing that. What type/brand of vacuum do you use? I need to buy a new one - the one I'm using is a dinky, old handheld type that spews everything out its rear end.

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50 minutes ago, Kakes said:

Wow, that's impressive. I'm definitely going to start doing that. What type/brand of vacuum do you use? I need to buy a new one - the one I'm using is a dinky, old handheld type that spews everything out its rear end.

I have a Miele vacuum, and use their bags and filters, 

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Not to suggest but I think we just grabbed a Rigid brand (Home depot) shop vac with a hepa filter kit for our kilns at the studio. We anticipate that we will install a much larger central system with six or seven stations distributed throughout so this will not be necessary at some point. There are a bunch of brands out there though for sure. Maybe a search on Amazon gets you more value.

 

Edited by Bill Kielb
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Open windows and/or doors on a windy day, running fans - also stir up dust, which be bad. I see dust concerned potters running fans full blast to dry greenware - in the studio! What?

If there will be wind - as in, I'm opening the rollup door - might as well put on the respirator, vacuum, mop, then open the doors and windows, come back after a while. 

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  • 5 months later...

I'm using a Shark vacuum cleaner in my studio and vacuum my studio once 2 months. This is so versatile and it really picks all the dust. The most important thing is that it has a HEPA filter. I've read many reviews on vacuum cleaners with HEPA and this one seemed to me the best for my studio. I'm not disappointed, it does its' work very well and it's easy to clean (it takes 2-3 minutes). Fully justifies the money spent on it.

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it depends?

I do run our cordless stick vac in the studio - it doesn't blow dust around as much as the shop vac, works well, and filters well (hepa exhaust, yep) - to pick up food crumbs, dirt I just tracked in, etc. That said, I run a wet mop over the floor to keep clay under control, so I'm vacuuming between work sessions  stuff off a clean floor, not clay, as I'm really trying to limit any dry clay to workpieces and scrap bin, particularly the floor, for the walking on stirs the dust up. I run a wet mop after every clay session. 

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I thought I'd report back about what I ended up with.  After much research, I bought a Nilfisk Aero 21-01 PC HEPA vacuum which cost about $350 directly from Nilfisk. They sell through Amazon too. This was the most reasonably priced of the vacuums that I felt like I could trust to not blow silica dust back all over my studio - they have lots of documentation on this. One thing I found is that there are a lot of vacuums labeled HEPA, but that in no way guarantees safety from dust. Even though I do mop every day, I really needed a vacuum for cleaning (like vacuuming out the kiln occasionally).

There are a couple of quirks with this model: there is no cord storage, it doesn't come with a brush attachment (I ordered one from Nilfisk for a few dollars), and the hose is super long which is kind of a pain for maneuvering around tight areas but some people might like that you don't have to move the canister around much. For a bit extra, you can get the model that hooks up with power tools - I wish I'd gotten that one. Oh well.

 

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1 hour ago, Kakes said:

I thought I'd report back about what I ended up with.  After much research, I bought a Nilfisk Aero 21-01 PC HEPA vacuum which cost about $350 directly from Nilfisk. They sell through Amazon too. This was the most reasonably priced of the vacuums that I felt like I could trust to not blow silica dust back all over my studio - they have lots of documentation on this. One thing I found is that there are a lot of vacuums labeled HEPA, but that in no way guarantees safety from dust. Even though I do mop every day, I really needed a vacuum for cleaning (like vacuuming out the kiln occasionally).

There are a couple of quirks with this model: there is no cord storage, it doesn't come with a brush attachment (I ordered one from Nilfisk for a few dollars), and the hose is super long which is kind of a pain for maneuvering around tight areas but some people might like that you don't have to move the canister around much. For a bit extra, you can get the model that hooks up with power tools - I wish I'd gotten that one. Oh well.

 

The long hose will be nice, the reason you shouldn't use a vacuum in the studio isn't because of the HEPA filtration or whatever, it's because the air from the exhaust stirs up silica dust thats elsewhere in the studio.  So since the hose is long you can put the vacuum outside of the studio and that way it won't be kicking up dust

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4 minutes ago, liambesaw said:

The long hose will be nice, the reason you shouldn't use a vacuum in the studio isn't because of the HEPA filtration or whatever, it's because the air from the exhaust stirs up silica dust thats elsewhere in the studio.  So since the hose is long you can put the vacuum outside of the studio and that way it won't be kicking up dust

The Nilfisk is completely sealed, and I didn't notice any exhaust, but that doesn't seem possible, now that you mention it. I'll check next time I'm in the studio..

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hey congrats on the buy, sounds like a nice vac.

If you are still worried about the dust you can add a dust separator such as a dust deputy or Rockler dust right. I bought the home depot one (dust stopper). Most are under a $100 and since you have a long hose you can probably just set the vac centrally and the dust separator next to it and connect the hose to the dust separator and it to the vac.  on mine everything is 2 1/2" so didn't need any extra pieces. That will eliminate almost all of the dust even getting to the vac and thus pretty much eliminate the issue since there is nothing coming into the vac to speak of and the vac itself can be positioned where the exhaust air is not stirring anything up.

Edit:

Not sure if my approach is needed as many potters work in studios for years and years without having health issues from clay dust. I have been getting an education on this stuff because I am trying to completely eliminate plaster dust I create cutting molds and the dust we generate from clay in the studio since we are in there a lot of hours these days and its a small 600 foot space. The plaster dust is a danger to our pottery and the clay dust to us. The HEPA filters on shop vacs are better than nothing but extreme dust with shop vacs has some real limitations.  You also need to make sure they are changed frequently.

The closest discussion I could find for plaster/silica was drywall and apparently many of the HEPA filters found in common shop vacs will handle fine dust like this poorly.  Shop vacs will generally exhaust dust it can't process so the finer stuff may still just exhust back into the air and the vac will also will stir up dust with the exhaust air as its moved around the studio (Liam brought this up above) so using one as a dust collection system has some limitations to consider. Also the CFM (sucking power) of many of them is not enough to move fine dust. You want to try to get above 150 CFM and closer to 175 if you can. That is usually a pretty big shop Vac.

I want to completely eliminate any plaster dust I create and I also want to clean clay dust up without blowing it all over the place as I move around so the dust separator is where I landed. On Amazon you can buy longer hoses for pretty cheap (2 1/2 inch ones are common) and as I said you can then leave the setup sitting in one spot. The dust separators can also be on wheels easily so it and the shop vac can be moved around a bit to cover the whole studio as you vacuum and mop.

Just a though but I must admit I do really like being in my studio more with the layer of dust eliminated.

 

Edited by Stephen
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  • 11 months later...
On 1/31/2020 at 10:59 AM, Stephen said:

hey congrats on the buy, sounds like a nice vac.

If you are still worried about the dust you can add a dust separator such as a dust deputy or Rockler dust right. I bought the home depot one (dust stopper). Most are under a $100 and since you have a long hose you can probably just set the vac centrally and the dust separator next to it and connect the hose to the dust separator and it to the vac.  on mine everything is 2 1/2" so didn't need any extra pieces. That will eliminate almost all of the dust even getting to the vac and thus pretty much eliminate the issue since there is nothing coming into the vac to speak of and the vac itself can be positioned where the exhaust air is not stirring anything up.

Edit:

Not sure if my approach is needed as many potters work in studios for years and years without having health issues from clay dust. I have been getting an education on this stuff because I am trying to completely eliminate plaster dust I create cutting molds and the dust we generate from clay in the studio since we are in there a lot of hours these days and its a small 600 foot space. The plaster dust is a danger to our pottery and the clay dust to us. The HEPA filters on shop vacs are better than nothing but extreme dust with shop vacs has some real limitations.  You also need to make sure they are changed frequently.

The closest discussion I could find for plaster/silica was drywall and apparently many of the HEPA filters found in common shop vacs will handle fine dust like this poorly.  Shop vacs will generally exhaust dust it can't process so the finer stuff may still just exhust back into the air and the vac will also will stir up dust with the exhaust air as its moved around the studio (Liam brought this up above) so using one as a dust collection system has some limitations to consider. Also the CFM (sucking power) of many of them is not enough to move fine dust. You want to try to get above 150 CFM and closer to 175 if you can. That is usually a pretty big shop Vac.

I want to completely eliminate any plaster dust I create and I also want to clean clay dust up without blowing it all over the place as I move around so the dust separator is where I landed. On Amazon you can buy longer hoses for pretty cheap (2 1/2 inch ones are common) and as I said you can then leave the setup sitting in one spot. The dust separators can also be on wheels easily so it and the shop vac can be moved around a bit to cover the whole studio as you vacuum and mop.

Just a though but I must admit I do really like being in my studio more with the layer of dust eliminated.

 

Hi Stephen- thanks for the info. I'm also interested in purchasing a vac, and have read the comments above. Could you upload a photo showing how the dust separator attaches to the vac? I'm not sure I understand it. Thank you!! 

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On 1/31/2020 at 9:59 AM, Stephen said:

dust deputy or Rockler dust right.


@Ayelet

Dust deputy by Oneida and rockleer dust separators are NOT  hepa rated nor will they make a non hepa vacuum hepa rated. They are cyclonic style prefilters generally able to remove relatively large particles by cyclonic action hence they have traditionally carried the name separator or collector. They depend on the weight of the particle and air velocity.

There are cyclonic systems that are hepa rated  ( $1000.00 + dollars) and usually contain a larger form of redundant pulse cleaned hepa filters in them. Basically they are a hepa vacuum tied to a separator.

These days hepa rated stuff carry two filters that during operation will alternately pulse clean one at a time providing decent filter life and good working velocity.

In other words,  In my opinion, just ensure it is hepa rated. There is a good reason for the hepa rating as it must block 99.97% of  3 micron or larger particles statistically in operation.. The merv system for air filters such as furnace filters is NOT equivalent to a hepa rated filter.

Hepa rated vacs that alternatively pulse clean their filters get decent life from the filter set.

Edited by Bill Kielb
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14 hours ago, Ayelet said:

Hi Stephen- thanks for the info. I'm also interested in purchasing a vac, and have read the comments above. Could you upload a photo showing how the dust separator attaches to the vac? I'm not sure I understand it. Thank you!! 

sorry not by shop for pic but just search in google on dust deputy or dust stopper and you will see a bunch of examples of each. The dust deputy sits between the hose in and the shop vac and I find it reduces (by a lot) the dust that gets to the shop vac.  I use it though to pull plaster dust off a CNC router that is in a sealed enclosure. Without the dust stopper the shop vac was putting out some dust out into the studio and when I added this that stopped. I do wood and pottery and have a larger dust collection system for my wood working tools.

 Another way to go if you have an outside door is to just get a large shop vac and buy a really long hose and sit the shop vac outside. 

No doubt bill knows what he's talking about so for sure take that into account. My shop vac is hepa rated, not sure about the dust collector. I do know that there is no residual dust at all from hours of cnc cutting plaster so there's that. 

Hope that helps, good luck! 

 

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19 hours ago, Stephen said:

sorry not by shop for pic but just search in google on dust deputy or dust stopper and you will see a bunch of examples of each. The dust deputy sits between the hose in and the shop vac and I find it reduces (by a lot) the dust that gets to the shop vac.  I use it though to pull plaster dust off a CNC router that is in a sealed enclosure. Without the dust stopper the shop vac was putting out some dust out into the studio and when I added this that stopped. I do wood and pottery and have a larger dust collection system for my wood working tools.

 Another way to go if you have an outside door is to just get a large shop vac and buy a really long hose and sit the shop vac outside. 

No doubt bill knows what he's talking about so for sure take that into account. My shop vac is hepa rated, not sure about the dust collector. I do know that there is no residual dust at all from hours of cnc cutting plaster so there's that. 

Hope that helps, good luck! 

 

Thank you and Bill so much! 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi all, I thought I'd share some additional info since I've learned very helpful stuff on this forum, thought I'd repay the favors. After owning my hepa vac for a year and a half, I'm pretty satisfied with it. (NILFISK Aero 21-01 HEPA). It comes with an 11' hose which is very handy for controlling the exhaust direction, as someone mentioned above. I can place the vacuum just outside my studio, with the exhaust port facing out so there's no turbulence kicking up any clay dust within my studio. I hadn't thought about this issue when researching hepa vacuums, that no matter how well sealed, they all have an exhaust that blows the ( filtered) air out.  ALSO, I discovered that the exhaust portal is exactly the same as the intake, so I am ordering another 11' hose to attach to it and put it out the door for areas I can't quite reach with the one hose.

I did check w/NILFISK tech who told me that no one had ever asked about this before (?), and referred me to a sales rep who he said had more 'field' experience. The rep assured me that this should be fine & wouldn't impact performance. As a not insignificant aside, Nilfisk has excellent customer service. (I have no connection to Nilfisk, except as a satisfied customer, lol)

Of course, I'm not 100% sure that this set-up is completely safe, but it's as close as I can get. I only vacuum once a month or so ( I do mop daily), while wearing a respirator, and try to do it at the end of Friday, so any dust can settle over the weekend.

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I do this while vacuuming my kiln.  My kiln is outdoors and I just link 2 hoses together to extend the distance between me and the vacuum, and then put a hose on the exhaust as well.  I also put an inch of water in the shop vac.  Mine is not hepa filtered, but it's outside.  You may need to use a big rubber band to hold the hose on the outlet, mine will shoot the hose out if I don't.

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I've recently started using an iRobot Braava  Jet m6 robot mop for the studio and gallery.  I just tell it which area I want mopped and off it goes.  I only have to do a bit of touch-up mopping around wheel legs, etc.  This has been a great time saver and really helps to control dust, and saves wear and tear on the back and hips.  Wonderful for after the first session of Intro to Wheel classes.  The only downside is initial price.  With washable/reusable mopping pads, operating expense is low.

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Not to bust a bubble, but a robotic system is unlikely to be sufficient for removing the invisible silica particles (this is not the same as visible "clay dust" and is more harmful (potentially) to the lungs over time). That device is unlikely to have the correct high grade of HEPA filtration  for a ceramic studio. 

On 2/17/2021 at 2:55 PM, Piedmont Pottery said:

robot mop

 

Edited by LeeU
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17 hours ago, LeeU said:

Not to bust a bubble, but a robotic system is unlikely to be sufficient for removing the invisible silica particles (this is not the same as visible "clay dust" and is more harmful (potentially) to the lungs over time). That device is unlikely to have the correct high grade of HEPA filtration  for a ceramic studio. 

 

Just to clarify, the device I referred to does not have any vacuum or suction action, so HEPA filtration is irrelevant for this device.  It sprays a small amount of water or cleaning solution in front of itself, and then goes over the area with an adsorbent pad.  This action is repeated until the specified cleaning area is completely covered.  The clay is caught in the damp pad, which is then removed and washed out for reuse.  The entire process is a wet one, so I really don't see that it could contribute to putting dust into the air, microscopic or not.  I would guess that my walking back and forth while using a regular mop would put significantly more dust in the air than this little robot.  Of course, I also have ultra high efficiency air filters in my air handler and a stand-alone multistage HEPA air cleaner running constantly in the studio, so I certainly agree that dust control is very important, especially in a studio that is open to the public.

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7 hours ago, Piedmont Pottery said:

so HEPA filtration is irrelevant for this device

Opps---   :)  Now I am curious to hear some more about this system, if there are others in the forum who have some info to add. Intriguing. Love the idea of something rolling around slurping up the stuff, if it really gets the teeny-tiny micrometer things.

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