Seven Essential Tools
The easiest path to a clean shop is to control the dust while working. Even with the best dust collection systems, things are still going to get dirty though. Here are the tools you’ll want to get your shop back to new after finishing your latest project.
You’re going to want two varieties in your shop: a standard broom and a push broom. The push broom is great for moving big piles of sawdust and wood shavings, while the standard broom helps clear out the corners and underneath your workbench. For standard brooms I prefer ones that have bristles made out of straw or corn, like this one. They just seem to age better, and since they’re not made of shiny plastic you won’t notice how dirty it gets over time. When looking at push brooms I tend to go with one that has flagged bristles, since they’ll do a better job of collecting fine dust. This one from Harper is reasonably priced and would fit right into a workshop.
Wet Dry Vac
The easiest way to get dust out of all the nooks and crannies is with a quality vacuum. Get one with the right attachments and it can even replace your broom. You can find a good one for under $100, or one with all the bells and whistles for $600+. I personally like the Karcher WD 5/P (you can read my review here,) that fits in the goldilocks space in the middle for only $200.
The fastest way to clean off a big flat surface like your workbench or table saw is with a bench brush. You don’t need to spend a lot, this one for $7.50 on Amazon works great.
The physics of air movement are interesting; the force of drawing air in affects a much smaller area than air being pushed out. What that means for cleanup is that any dust that you can’t reach with the tip of your vacuum hose isn’t going to get picked up. But, change the direction of that air movement and suddenly you’re in business. A leaf blower is the perfect tool for the task, and can play double duty as a yard tool as well. The Whisper series leaf blowers from Ryobi are a personal favorite- the one I have is so quiet I can still use it at night when the kids are sleeping without worry of waking them up.
I usually give my shop an extra deep clean once a year: get everything as close to new condition as possible, lube any machines that need it, and clean up every last bit of sawdust. In order to get the stuff that’s really in the crevices of tools, you need a more surgical approach than a leaf blower can provide. Enter compressed air. While the canned stuff works fine, a compressor with an air gun attachment is even better. As a bonus, they’re convenient for filling up car tires and running pneumatic tools.
Once all of the dust in the shop is under control, it’s time to wipe everything down. I like to use a degreaser like Zep since it’s safe for plastic and metal, but great at cutting through grime. I also use it to clean saw blades; just let the blade soak for a bit in a tin pie plate, then scrub with a cleaning brush. Most of the time if you think you need a new blade, it really just needs a clean.
Last, but far from least, you’ll want to protect yourself while cleaning up your shop. Agitating all that sawdust puts a ton of harmful particles into the air. Any sort of mask helps, but you’ll want something like a KN95 or RZ Mask to filter out the smallest particulates.
Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.