1. Archive

Tips to keep your workshop clean

(ran HN edition)

A clean workshop is safer and more efficient. If your shop is really dusty, it's a good idea to wear a dust mask and goggles when sweeping or brushing debris.

Preventive care

Anticipate dust. Before undertaking a large messy sanding or sawing job, tape or staple plastic drop cloths around the work area. Create covers to prevent dust accumulating on your power tools.

If your home's heating or cooling system has ducts that serve your workshop, block off the duct intake grilles temporarily or turn off the system while doing heavy sanding. Otherwise, fine dust particles will be spread all over the house.

One way to capture fine airborne dust is to mount a furnace filter on the air-intake side of a box fan, using duct tape or an elastic stretch cord. Put the fan next to your work area, blowing away from you. Vacuum the filter when it becomes filled with dust.


A shop vacuum is a must for keeping a workshop clean.

If the crevice tool on your vacuum isn't long enough to reach the accumulated sawdust and dirt behind shop cabinets, make your own extra-long crevice vacuum attachment using the cardboard tube from a roll of gift-wrap paper. Fit one end of the tube in the hose nozzle and secure it with duct tape. Flatten the tube along the rest of its length.

To avoid billowing dust when emptying a shop vacuum, line the vacuum canister with a large plastic trash bag. Fold the top edge of the bag over the canister rim so that the top holds the bag in place. To empty the vacuum, gently close the bag and dispose of it.

You can extend the life of your shop vacuum filter and avoid having to clean it frequently. Clip off the legs of an old pair of panty hose, knot each cut leg and then stretch the waistband top over the filter. Suction won't be affected. Clean the panty hose by rinsing it.

More tips

Here are some other suggestions to keep your workshop clean:

Use a spare hair dryer to blow away dust, dirt and shavings in the shop.

Trim frayed bristles from an old paintbrush. Use it to sweep fine sawdust or filings from your bench top or clean out blind corners on a drill press or lathe.

Keep a child's broom handy for sweeping around stationary tools, workbench legs and other tight spots you can't reach with a regular broom.

To get small fasteners back into their containers quickly, make a scoop from the top of a gallon plastic milk jug with a handle. Use kitchen shears to cut off the bottom of the jug at an angle. After you scoop up the fasteners, use the scoop as a funnel to pour the items back into their containers.

Pick up spilled washers, nuts or nails with a magnet in a plastic sandwich bag. After the spilled items stick to the plastic, turn the bag inside out and pour them back into their containers.

You also can use a magnet to clean up small metallic filings. Put plastic wrap around the magnet, sweep it over the work area, then fold the wrap over the filings and discard it.

Separate screws, nails and other potentially reusable small metal items while sweeping up. Glue the flexible magnetic strip onto the front edge of a dustpan with contact cement. The items will cling to the strip when you empty the pan.