Can You Vacuum Without A Filter? [Read Before You Try!]

On average, vacuum cleaners’ manufacturers recommend changing your vacuum’s filter every 3-6 months.

Don't Miss Out! ⏳ Click For Amazon's Exclusive Vacuum Deals!

And although these filters are fairly inexpensive, some people may find changing them regularly a nuisance and be tempted to ditch their filters altogether!

But can you vacuum without a filter?

Vacuuming without a filter is possible but not recommended. Without a filter, your vacuum may spit out what it picked up, spreading dust and causing allergies. The motor of your vacuum will be exposed to debris that would normally get trapped in the filter. This will shorten the lifespan of your vacuum.

Let’s take a look at what alternatives you have 🙂 

Can You Vacuum Without A Filter?

If you bought a vacuum that was built to work with a filter, you should never vacuum without one.

Most modern vacuums have 2 or 3 filters.

The only vacuum cleaners for your home that will not need separate filters to work properly are bagged vacuums since their bags act as filters.

What Happens When You Vacuum Without A Filter?

As mentioned in the intro, vacuuming without a filter can result in the following:

  • Your vacuum will spit out what it picked up
  • Dust spreading in the air can cause allergies
  • The motor of your vacuum cleaner becomes exposed to debris
  • The lifespan of your vacuum is shortened

What Can I Use To Replace A Vacuum Filter?

You may have seen other websites or forums mention you can replace your vacuum filter with the following:

  • A sponge
  • Coffee filters 
  • Paper towels


But, as tempting as it may sound to make your own vacuum filter, I recommend you stick to buying the right filter for your machine.

Vacuum cleaners are built according to the manufacturer’s standards, so replacing original/compatible parts can damage your vacuum.

This means that any warranty that comes with your vacuum will be void!

Can You Use A Shop Vac Without A Filter?

Shop vacs are built to withstand heavy-duty cleaning, including but not limited to:

And more.

So, vacuuming without a filter will allow all these materials to get into the motor and ruin your shop vac.

Most importantly, you would not want these types of materials to spread in the air!

Even if you are just using your shop vac to vacuum your house, you should make sure the correct filter is installed. 

In fact, shop vacs come with different filters depending on what you need to use them for.

For example, if you want to use your shop vac to vacuum up water, you will need to change the filter to a foam one.

What Can I Use Instead Of A Filter On A Shop Vac?

The paper towel trick seems to work better on shop vacs, but it is a time-consuming way of replacing your shop vac filter. In addition, just like with a regular vacuum, if dust gets into the motor because you have not used the right filter, your shop vac warranty will be void.

This channel, Chilling with H, explains well how to use a paper towel as a filter on a shop vac:

However, I recommend you stick to original/compatible parts instead.

Accidentally Used Vacuum Without Filter – Should I Worry?

Damage to your vacuum motor should only occur if you consistently use your vacuum cleaner without a filter. 

If you accidentally used your vacuum without a filter a couple of times, nothing bad should happen.

Simply clean your vacuum cleaner and install the correct filter before you use your machine again.


If you want your vacuum cleaner to last, make sure you use the correct filter and stay away from DIY methods.

Although you can vacuum without a filter, this will cause harm in the long-run, including:

  • Allergies
  • Damage to the vacuum motor
  • Shorthen the lifespan of your vacuum