Faced with cleaning up messy soot after a fire or cleaning out a boiler room? The first step to soot clean-up success is having the right soot vacuum. You might be tempted to use the same old shop vac you’ve had sitting in your garage, but soot is actually a toxic contaminant. It is crucial that you have a professional-grade and reliable soot vacuum.
This article will discuss the differences between soot, ash, and dust so you’ll be able to identify the substance and understand why it is so dangerous to handle. Additionally, this will serve as your all-inclusive purchasing guide for soot vacs from what to look for in a vacuum to top-brand product reviews. Remove soot confidently with the best value soot vacuums on the market.
Comparison Chart of the Best Soot Vacuums
PowerSmith PAVC101 10 Amp Ash Vacuum with Metal Lined Hose
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Snow Joe ASHJ201
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SootMaster Furnace Vacuum
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Cheetah Ash Vacuum
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How We Chose These Top Picks
Unlike most of the other results of combustion such as ash, soot is actually considered a hazardous by-product. It has been linked to a variety of health conditions especially respiratory tract related. This is why you should use specialized equipment for its disposal, and this is where soot vacuums come into play. There are several factors to look out for when deciding which soot vacuum works for you, and these include:
Portability and Storage
Soot vacuums are an item you use every day. As a result, your appliance will spend quite a bit of time in storage. This is why you should look for a lightweight and compact design that does well in limited space. A lightweight unit is also easier to carry from place to place around your property as needed.
The highest quality soot vacuums have a High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter which is capable to remove 99.97% of all particles in the air that measure from .03 micron and above. Soot particles are really small and require a through filter to get them all. This is why getting a vacuum that comes with a HEPA filter is imperative.
The vacuum power on the motor is important. This will indicate the suction ability of the vacuum and will affect how much air the appliance can move. This is called the Cubic Feet per Minute rating. The range for vacuum power typically goes from 1 to 4.
What’s Soot and Why Does it Need a Special Vacuum?
Soot? Ash? Dust?
What is the difference between these three things?
While they might look similar at a glance and share a lot of qualities, it is important to know the difference before you tackle a big clean up.
Dust and ash particles are relatively harmless when compared to their evil cousin ‘soot’. Dust particles are nearly twice the size of soot and are not created by a combustion process. Dust merely refers to any particles moved by the weather or human action around the area. it can be composed of sand, dirt, skin particles, pollen, and other loose materials.
Ash is the solid that remains after a fire has been burned. It is much lighter in color than soot, since it doesn’t have any gaseous or liquid residue in it from the combustion process. Think of the light gray ash you might find lingering in a fire pit after use. It’s a predominantly mineral-based solid.
Soot is a mainly carbon-based particle that is unbelievably microscopic. It is so small, in fact, that you could fit about twenty particles of soot on the width of fishing line. While soot is mostly amorphous carbon, which sounds harmless enough, it is also carcinogenic.
Soot is the accumulation of impure carbon particles made from incomplete combustion of fuel (wood, coal, or oil for example). The airborne contaminant pollutes the air quality around us and can enter our respiratory systems, creating the potential for cancer to form. If you burn fossil fuels, you will get soot.
Three Different Kinds of Soot you may Encounter
This kind of soot is even harder to clean up than traditional dry soot, because it smears very easily. Soot with oily components come from grease fires, burning fuel like diesel, or burning plastic.
Wet soot results from fires that burn for longer periods of time at lower temperatures. It has a strong odor and can stain surfaces. Wet soot is really just wet smoke.
Dry soot is powdery and easily confused with ash. It comes from fires that burn at higher temperatures and burn material quickly. It does not smear and is the easiest to clean up.
What to Look for in a Soot Vacuum
Before getting into the different brand-name soot or ash vacs available, let’s break down the different qualities you should look for in a soot vacuum. It is important that your soot vac be able to perform in all the areas mentioned below to ensure safe and efficient soot removal.
HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. For a filter to qualify as HEPA, it must be able to remove 99.97% of particles that have a size of 0.3 microns. Soot and ash are larger than the minimum standard and can be eliminated efficiently using a vacuum with a HEPA filtration system.
Washable Double Filter
Having a washable two-layer filter is crucial. Having a double filter system ensures double security against further contamination of the space during the cleanup process. Being able to wash your filter system is important so that you don’t get soot build up in the filter, which over time can shorten your vacuums lifespan significantly.
A CFM rating is a fan’s ability to move air measured in cubic feet per minute. This controls the rate at which the vacuum can reach its fullest vacuuming capacity and a higher CFM helps prevent filter clogs. A CFM rating determines how fast a vacuum can go from zero to completely on.
A higher CFM does NOT mean that the vacuum is more efficient in cleaning up the actual particles, it only means that the vacuum will turn fully on and turn fully off faster. Fans are rated from 50 to 110 CFM generally.
The motor power is what is actually crucial to the vacuum’s strength, its suction abilities using air flow. The better the motor, the more powerful the suction. Most soot and ash vacuums have a baseline horsepower of 1, but there are models that offer up to 4.
You may never know where and when you’ll be needing your soot and ash vacuum. If you run a business that requires you to own a professional grade vacuum, you will probably need to move it from job to job.
This can become cumbersome if the vacuum does not have an ergonomic and portable design for everyday travel. Keep size in mind and make sure it is practical for your specific needs.
Quick Take: Best Best Soot Vacuums
These are our recommendations for the best soot vacuums:
Reviews of the Best Soot Vacuums
Now that we know why a soot vac is so important and what to look for, let’s get down to specific models.
This a soot vacuum that is designed to clean both warm and cool ash from fireplaces. It also works well on wood stoves, pellet stoves, and even barbeque grills. It comes with a quiet yet adequately powerful 10 amp motor.
This enables it to carry out it's working without causing any undue problems with noise pollution. The motor is rated at a reasonable 79 decibels. It comes with a reasonably sized 5.2-gallon canister, with a 3-gallon ash capacity. The vacuum weighs about 13 pounds and measures 14 inches long, by 12 inches wide, and 15 inches deep.
The PowerSmith PAVC101 10 Amp Ash Vacuum comes with a metal lined hose and a metal lined canister. The purpose of lining it with metal is to enable it to withstand high temperatures of working with hot ash.
It also helps prevent the possibility of fire hazards, since any embers and pieces of hot ash do not come in contact with flammable materials. It utilizes a 2 stage filter system that has sonically welded seams to help even the finest of ashes.
The filters are both washable and heat resistant. There are replacements available, but the filters that come with the unit should last you quite a while. The unit also comes with a 2-year limited manufacturer’s warranty.
You can attach casters and it comes with a 16-foot cord to allow you to use it as a normal shop vacuum. This vacuum comes only in green and black, which may be limited color options for some customers. It is also important to note that this vacuum does not have a HEPA filter, which means that some of the extremely small particles may pass through.
What makes this vacuum stand out is the combination of features that make it efficient whether it is working on warm or cool ashes. It is important to note that the unit does not come with a HEPA filter.
Snow Joe ASHJ201
This soot vacuum is designed to handle cold ash only. This means that you have to wait until your fire has completely gone out, and the ashes have cooled before you can clean your fireplace. It uses a reasonably powerful 4 amp motor that is capable of generating 500W of suction power and has a CFM rating of 45 cubic feet per minute.
The canister is relatively large and is capable of storing up to 4.8 gallons of ash at a time. This means you do not have to stop cleaning your grill or fireplace to empty it. The ash removal system is easy and does not involve any bags. You simply lift the container lid.
It utilizes a dual filtration system that uses a reusable dust filter that is easy to clean. One filter is made of a fire resistant that traps really fine particles, preventing them from making a mess by spreading everywhere.
The second is a lighter replaceable pre-filter that is pleated to capture all the large particles before they reach the main filter. To use this appliance, you simply insert the hose into the ash and switch it on. The hose is made from aluminum to prevent accidental burning in case the ash has not cooled enough.
It a lightweight and compact design, weighing in at only 8 pounds when empty. There have been complaints about the unit’s ability to clean certain areas of the grill since the nozzle is a little larger than others. This makes using this grill a chore when dealing with pellet grills. The Snow Joe ASHJ201 comes with a 2-year warranty.
This is a very capable soot vacuum with plenty of laudable features. It is however not suited for cleaning pellet grills, even though the manufacturer claims it can. The return policy is also a tad complicated, so make sure you have tried the product and are satisfied with it before 10 days lapses.
The first thing you notice about this product is that it is relatively heavier than the completion. It weighs about 37 pounds at shipping, with the vacuum itself accounting for 26 pounds. The tank is 6 gallons, with the ash container taking up 3.5 gallons.
The appliance uses 3 ½ gallon disposable bags for collection. The motor head assembly is a steel motor that is built for durability. This motor offers a reasonably powerful 7 amp output, with a decent 94 cubic feet per minute suction. This motor produces about 79 decibels of sound when in full function, which is not excessively loud.
The filter is a removable cloth filter that is easy to clean. The replacement costs for the filter are modest and the parts are easy to find. One of the most prominent features is the 30 feet power cord.
This is to allow for the portability of the vacuum, which is either attached to casters or uses glidemobiles to move it from place to place. The weight and size of the unit make storage a hustle if you have limited space, and may need to be wheeled to the basement when not in use.
This product comes with a hammermark exterior that is mated to an epoxy interior. This is then strengthened with ribs to strengthen the tanks. It also has a double roll overseal. This prevents the tank from leaking. The hose measures 10 feet and is lined with rubber. It is also important to note that the power cord also comes with a grounded safety yellow cord.
This is a vacuum that functions as well as the best in the competition. The points of note are that it is heavier than some of the competition by as much as thrice. The rubber lined hose means that it is not designed to work with hot ash.
This is an imported ash vacuum that is made entirely in China. The hose is made using a durable design that is covered in vinyl. It is made of steel and comes with a metal nozzle to protect from accidental contact with hot ash.
The hose is shorter than most of the competition, which has been a point of complaint from most of the customers. It weighs 21 pounds, which even though is a bit heavier than some of the competition. One is the intelligent features of this model is the auto shutoff feature. This turns off the vacuum in case of accidentally sucking in hot ash.
The stainless steel material that makes up the body of the vacuum is easy to clean. This means any accumulation of dust and grime can be removed simply by wiping it with normal household cleaning supplies.
It does, however, come with a top handle to make it easy to hold, lift, and carry. This product does not require ash collection bags, and the tank emptying process is also easy. All you need to do is remove the lid and empty put the ash, preferably into a compost.
The filtration process uses a HEPA filter and is capable of cleaning up even particles that are smaller than .03 micron. It is important to note that other than the short hose, this product also has a short power cord. This has been a point of concern since it means that your furnace should be at most 6 feet away from an electrical outlet.
This is a good cold as a vacuum. It has a lot of useful features. All these are however undercut by a very short power cable. It makes using it a hustle that might include purchasing an extension cord.
The first thing you should note about this vacuum is that most of the units of measure are in metric. This means that instead of in gallons, the tank capacity is rated to 18 liters, which translates to about 4.7 gallons. It is capable of working with both cold and warm ash, comfortable with temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius (about 104 Fahrenheit). The nozzle is made from aluminum in order to withstand warm ash.
It works well with conventional fireplaces, pellet grills, wood burners, and even barbeque units. The hose is only 3.9 feet long, but is extremely flexible and can be contorted to reach even the far to reach spaces in your stove.
This includes beneath the grates and the contents of the ash pans as well. It weighs only 9.53 pounds, making it easy to carry. It also means that at 12.9 inches long, by 12.6 inches wide and 12.6 inches deep, it is relatively easy to store, taking up limited space.
It uses a washable and replaceable filter that catches out fine ash and soot particles, and the parts are also easy to find. It is capable of containing the ash and dust vacuumed in the tank without leaking.
As the name suggests, the TACKLIFE 800W comes with an 800-watt motor that promises efficient and effective suction. There have however been complaints that the motor is not as efficient as promised, and has trouble sucking the larger particles of ash and wood that are left. It is also not as efficient when dealing with pellet stoves as a result.
This is a budget ash vacuum. This means that you get what you paid for with regards to features. It does not come with most of the bells and whistles that ate attached to more expensive competition.
The Mastercraft is one of the most popular industrial grade soot vacuums. It features ball-bearing swivel casters and a push handle for easy movement. With a steel motor head and 1 horsepower motor, many refer to the Soot Master as the “Cadillac” of soot vacs.
This vacuum’s design is geared towards ash cleanup from wood stoves, fireplaces, barbecues, and ovens. The 3-gallon vacuum is made mostly of metal to prevent heat damage or fires. It’s not really a soot vacuum but can help with the basics when you’re in a pinch.
Now that you know what to look for in a soot vac and are familiar with the highest-quality brands, you can make a fully-educated purchase. Remember, whether it is for your clients’ homes or your own home, removing a contaminant like soot is highly dangerous due to its composition and should be done with professional-grade equipment. Choose any of these soot vacs with amazing value and power to get the job done right.