Milwaukee M18 Backpack Vacuum – 2.5 Year Look-Back Review

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Milwaukee M18 FUEL 3-IN-1 Backpack Vacuum 0885-20

2-1/2 years ago we reviewed the Milwaukee M18 Backpack Vacuum. Back then we were impressed with its adaptive design, and backpack ability, providing users with a vacuum that can tackle a wide array of clean-up tasks.

As remodeling contractors, we work hard at keeping dust out of the occupied homes we work on. As a result, we use our vacuums for spot, and area cleanups, as well as use them to collect dust at its source. We use it a lot with my Makita drywall cutter.

On-Board Accessory Storage

We used it to clean drywall dust, thin-set crumbs, concrete dust, wood shavings, sand, dried mud, and other common job-site messes. It does a good job at medium to small-sized debris. We still recommend using a shop vac for major demo debris.

Emptying the Vacuum Bin

The vacuum canister is clear and allows full visibility to the user.  The canister has a capacity of 1-gallon and features an easy-empty, bag-less design. What I mean by this is the debris bin can be emptied in seconds at the touch of a button.

There are three major PLUSES to having a bag-less vacuum:

  1. Cheap – you won’t have to spend any money on purchasing replacement dust-bags
  2. Visibility – clear canister exterior  lets you see exactly what you’re picking up which could be particularly handy for making sure you don’t accidentally suck up valuable small objects
  3. Easy to maintain – thanks to the visibility you’ll be able to easily see when the canister is full and in need of emptying

The negative to not having a bag is you will need to tap off, vacuum, or replace your HEPA filter more often.

The vacuum works off of cyclonic technology, one thing we noticed on this vacuum was the number of rubber seals it has, at the debris canister, and filter section. These seals are the “secret sauce” that allows the vac to maintain its cyclonic-action and maintain suction-efficiency.  Leaks and losing seal, are the biggest killers to CFM and vacuum efficiency.

So did we get this review right?

Yes, we did! Here’s our thoughts looking-back on the Milwaukee M18 Backpack Vacuum.

Suction Improvements

The vacuum uses a HEPA filter with 99.97% efficiency at .3 microns.

This vacuum was designed for and can handle drywall dust, concrete dust, wood/metal shavings, in our original review we noted that the vacuum suction is OK, not great. That’s still true today.

What I mean by that is the vacuum will not pick up larger chunks of drywall or small 1-1/4″ drywall screws.

The most important improvement Milwaukee can make to this tool is to give it corded shop-vac suction.

Longer Hose

The vacuum hose is an accordion-style hose and stretches from 18″ to 6-feet with no negative effects. Most vacuum hoses are unwieldy, but this one blends nicely and retracts to its original position nicely. Kinks are a major failure of vac hoses, over time, and this hose was designed to avoid that.

But we feel that when NOT attached to your back you want the longer hose and MORE suction. Milwaukee does offer a longer 9-foot hose as an accessory.

I see this as a MUST if you’re going to be working off of a ladder, staging, lift, or MRO type repair cart and not wearing the vacuum on your back.

Floor Sweep

The floor sweep attachment has an integrated rubber squeegee which I found pushed or pulled sawdust backward and left a small pile behind.

This necessitates the user having to go back over the pile. The purpose of this rubber sweep is to keep the suction intact but when going over large quantities of dust you may have to make two or more sweeps to catch it all. Once we figured this out we adjusted and planned for it.

Milwaukee did optimize the floor sweep design by raising the housing, 2-3 mm inward, near the wheels. This was done to give better clearance [preventing a log jam] as sawdust and other debris entered the hose orifice. This vacuum has been optimized for hard surfaces but still works well on tight weave carpets

Brush Attachment Needed

Additionally, the vac needs a brush attachment that would be helpful for cleaning the dust of baseboards, trim, windows, radiator fins, and other intricate non-floor surfaces. Something we typically would use this for.

Let’s talk about the 3-in1 feature. We NEVER use it.

Removable Harness

The vacuum is a DRY vacuum and is set up to be worn like a backpack, and easily transforms, with a click of a button,  to a hand-carry handle. Finally, the hook can be used to hang the vacuum on ladders, scaffolding, or any 2x lumber.

We’ve never removed the backpack harness.

Weight and Maneuver-ability

Backpack Vacuum weighs 15.3-pounds as a bare tool. Adding a 9 Ah battery adds 2.5 lbs and a 12 Ah battery 3.5 lbs.  It is easily carried on your back, and maneuverable.

One learning point, we noted, when wearing this as a backpack was to be spatially cognizant of hitting finished work with the protruding canister protruding from your back. This is especially true when working around finished trim, walls, or cabinets.

Buying the Milwaukee M18 Backpack Vacuum

We Recommend Buying this!

Because a vacuum cleaner is no good if it’s a pain to use, empty, loud to operate, or difficult to maneuver it’s important to me that this Milwaukee cordless vacuum is SUPER VERSATILE.

It’s convenient to use, quiet,  easy to empty, and most importantly its runtime performance is decent for an 18-volt cordless tool.

It is especially useful for doing quick spot cleans. Not being tethered to a cord means cleaning takes less time and is easier to use on stairs.

Milwaukee M18 Backpack Vacuum – Look-Back Video Review


About the author

Rob Robillard

Robert Robillard is a remodeler, general contractor, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business located in Concord, Massachusetts, and serves as the Editor of Tool Box Buzz and founding editor of A Concord Carpenter . Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review - Tool and Product Review - Video Channel, , where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the remodeling industry. The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob Robillard

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