Milwaukee Dust Extractor Review
With solid Pro performance across the board and a $599 price tag, Milwaukee's dust extractor is one of the better values out there.
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Those of you in the masonry and construction professions have probably felt the burn from OSHA lately. As they’ve come up with new regulations regarding the acceptable limits of breathable silica dust, companies have rushed to come up with tools that comply with the new regulations. Efforts to make the jobsite safer are probably never a bad thing, and one of the areas where manufacturers have been especially proactive has been in the world of dust extraction solutions. That being the case, we figured that giving some OSHA-compliant dust extractors the ol’ shootout treatment would be timely and helpful. Fresh off the heels of the shootout, we’ve decided to take a closer look at each of the entries. This week, we’re taking a look at the Milwaukee Dust Extractor. One of the smaller models we tested at 8 gallons, the 8960-20 is a highly portable solution for keeping the jobsite, as well as your lungs, free from silica dust.
Like all dust extractors we tested, the Milwaukee 8960-20 uses a HEPA filter to capture dust particles 0.3 microns or greater in size. Milwaukee also ships this dust extractor with a HEPA filter, which isn’t necessarily the case with everyone.
Auto Filter Cleaning
It also features automatic filter cleaning, which is a requirement for OHSA silica dust compliance. Every 15 seconds, the dust extractor reverses the air flow to push debris out of the filter and extend its efficiency. While most manufacturers use the reverse air flow method, it has a couple of drawbacks and there is another method out there. Check out the shootout for the details.
Auto Tool Activation
The Milwaukee Dust Extractor also features pass-through power, whereby you can hook up a power tool to the power outlet on the dust extractor. As the extractor senses when power runs to another source, it will automatically turn on to collect dust as you work and shut off when you’re done. But you’re limited to just 4.6 amps of draw through it, so it’s applications in masonry are pretty small. It’s not unusual for this class of dust extractor, but a couple of other manufacturers give you a bit more juice to work with.
This model also features a variable speed dial. Most of the time, you’ll probably run it at full power. But when you’re running another tool, you need to kick down the power to the vac since there are 12 amps total to work with.
With dust extractors, Milwaukee shines when it comes to cable and hose storage. Where most of the models we looked at were kind of lame in this department, Milwaukee at least included elastic bands to hold all the chaos close to the unit. Storing the extractor doesn’t need to look like a tornado rolled through that particular corner of the shop. We realize that the idea is to store the hose inside the canister, but Milwaukee gets that many of us prefer not to.
“Unlike blowers that market both CFM and airspeed, dust extractors pretty much stick to CFM and water lift ratings. Contrary to what you might think, these are two very different measurements. CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) measures how much air the motor is moving through the hose. Water lift measures the lifting power which is very different since water creates a closed air system. You need both for optimal performance. Suction power gets debris moving, while air volume keeps it going.”
-Kenny Koehler, Pro Tool Reviews’ Managing Editor
We ran all our dust extractors through a couple of tests to see how they measured up. We also looked at how they all performed with clean filters, and then filters that had 20 lbs of concrete dust lovingly run through them. Measurements were also taken as the extractors ran through their auto clean cycles, just to see how performance was affected.
Looking at the water lift test, the Milwaukee Dust Extractor pulled water up 70.5″ of 2.5″ tubing. This was using a clean HEPA filter. With a dirty filter in, we did see a drop in performance, but not much of one. The Milwaukee 8960-20 still pulled 69.5″ of water. There was less of a disparity here than with any other model, save the Makita.
The numbers put Milwaukee in 4th place out of our 5 units. But it’s still doing enough work to stay within the limits of Pro-level for this class comfortably.
On paper, Milwaukee’s unit pulls 148 CFM – just 2 CFM behind our leaders’ specs. At the end of the hose, however, the performance wasn’t as close and there was a lot of variance across the board for all of our units.
There are a couple of takeaways with this. First, the differences in the area that each dust extractor cleared were small – just 1/16″ difference in some cases and our testing isn’t a replacement for a certified CFM rating. The second is that it’s the 148 CFM rating that tells you what you need to know for OSHA-compliance. Probably the most significant finding is that at 148 CFM, Milwaukee is just 2 CFM short of being able to move from a 5″ grinder to a 6″ grinder. That’s not the only application, of course, but an example of why the rating matters.
While the Milwaukee model was not necessarily the most powerful dust extractor we tested, there is one performance-related category where the Milwaukee stands out. In all our testing, we noticed that the Milwaukee dust extractor handled dust the best. There was only about a 1.3% drop in performance after running 20 lbs of concrete mix through the filters. That’s compared to a 7.5% drop on the high end.
Even though the performance falls away from what we’re used to seeing in Milwaukee’s power tool rankings in a shootout, each category stays well within our expectations for Pro level. At $599, you get a solid performer for quite a bit less than most of the competition – earning it a high value rating from us. Whether you’re just looking for a good shop vacuum or you need to make sure you’re OSHA-compliant, the Milwaukee Dust Extractor is a choice you can be confident in.
Milwaukee Dust Extractor Features
- Unique two-step filtration system includes a HEPA filter, which captures 99.97% of all particles 0.3 microns or greater
- On-board tool activated plug allows users to start and stop the vacuum with a power tool
- Quiet operation: 69dB
- Suction control dial for performance control
- 13 Foot Anti-Static Hose
- Large wheels, locking swivel casters for jobsite durability
- Water level float valve shuts off suction when tank is full
Milwaukee Dust Extractor Specs
- Model: Milwaukee 8960-20
- Motor: 12 amps total (7.4 vac only)
- CFM: 148
- Tested Water Lift: 70.50″
- Capacity: 8 gal
- Hose Length: 13′
- Cord Length: 22′
- Price: $599
- Warranty: 3 years