Dust extractors, do I really need one?

If you're still sitting on the fence, working with a good dust extractor has so many benefits. Here are five fundamental reasons to own one.

  1. Removing material from the work surface gives you a clearer line of sight. Ultimately the finished product is more precise.
  2. Your work rate accelerates and so the job gets done faster.
  3. Do you hate cleaning up? Dust extraction is another time saver that helps to reduce this.
  4. A longer life for tools and accessories. Less dust goes into the motor and accessories like sandpaper won't clog as often.
  5. Your health! Dust in whatever form it takes does serious damage to your lungs. So let the extractor breath it in, not you.

Here are two interesting videos from the Health and Safety Executive. These show the amount of dust that could be creeping into a person's lungs without extraction.

Dust created hand sanding

Capturing dust with extraction

Mirka sander

Doing the dirty work for you

Festool has carried out research into how much time you can actually save by using extraction. After conducting a survey with 300 UK tradespeople they found that people typically spend one to two hours tidying up after a job. This can amount to up to four days a month cleaning up. Something to think about, especially when you consider your daily rate and how much time you could save with an extractor doing most of the work for you.

People that use extraction on a job also comment how they've received referrals for work because of how clean they are. Sure, the quality of work is fundamental. But if you're going in and working on someone's kitchen or bedroom the last thing they want is a load of dust blowing through the house. Perhaps another reason to clean up your act?

OK, so what dust extractor do I need?

Dust extractors fall into three main categories, L, M and H. These categorise the dust you're working with into how harmful it is, either, low, medium or high. There are many articles and discussions surrounding what type of dust extractor is needed in the work place. The most credible source for greater clarity on the subject is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). As Britain’s independent regulator for work-related health, safety and illness the HSE has published two guides that are essential reading for choosing the right extractor for your needs.

Sometimes these technical guides can be hard going, but these are easy to follow and well worth a read.

On-tool extraction dust control

A useful guide for selecting, operating and maintaining on-tool extraction.

Read guide

On-tool extraction dust control

Clear information on how to suitably control dust risks including wood dust, silica dust and lower toxicity dust.

Read guide

One point that is mentioned in the first article by the HSE is this: "Note: An L (Low) class unit is only suitable for lower-toxicity dusts like gypsum in plasterboard."

The recommendation here is clear, if you work with wood dust and other construction dust then your standard vacuum cleaner isn't going to cut it. To be as safe as possible you're really looking at M class as a minimum.

Bosch gives examples of the type of dust and the classification of extractor that should be used. It should be noted however that the technical requirements for dust extraction will differ by country.

Dust Class Maximum permeability Maximum allowable concentration For example*
L ≤ 1.0% Dusts with maximum allowable concentrations (MAC) > 1 mg/m³
  • Corian
  • Graphite (in small amounts)
  • Soft woods (spruce, fir, pine)
M < 0.1% Dusts with maximum allowable concentrations (MAC) ≥ 0.1 mg/m³
  • Wood dusts (beech, oak)
  • Concrete containing quartz
H < 0.005% Dusts with maximum allowable concentrations (MAC) < 0.1 mg/m³
  • Carcinogentic dusts (lead, carbon, tar, nickel, cobalt, copper, cadmium, etc.)
  • Mould, bacteria, germs
  • Formaldehyde

*Bosch specifies: Due to the different regulations and specifications in the countries, we cannot accept any liability for its contents. Please always observe the national, prevailing regulations.

Features to look for in your next dust extractor

Once you're clear about the class of extractor you need there are some features to look for that can make the job easier.


Fine particles can quickly clog filters. Having an auto clean feature helps to sustain the suction power as these automatically clean the filter. Bosch, Festool, DeWALT, Makita and FEIN all have extractors with this function.

Automatic on and off

A handy feature so the dust extraction starts as soon as you turn on the power tool.

Delayed shut off

As with the Festool CTL 26 E, here the extractor keeps sucking after the power tool has stopped to remove the last particles of dust.


Think about how much dust you're going to be creating. If it's some heavy machining then a larger capacity like the Festool CTM 36 E AC or FEIN's Dustex 35 MX AC might be better.