6 Best Shop Vacs – 2022 Buying Guide

By Maria Hernandez / January 20, 2022 / 0 Comments

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A shop vac is a specialized vacuum cleaner designed for the construction industry. It can clean up dry and wet messes easily. But what are the best shop vacs on the market? Can you use these vacuum cleaners in a residential setting?

You’ll be happy to know there are shop vacs many homeowners use in their garages or personal craft shops. To help you find the best wet/dry vacuum cleaner, we’ve reviewed seven of the most powerful units on the market.

To further assist you with your purchase, we’ve also provided an extensive buyer’s guide on how to choose a wet dry shop vacuum. Keep reading to find out more about these versatile and powerful vacuum cleaners.

Our Top Picks

  1. Best Overall: DeWalt 12 gal Poly Wet/Dry Vac
  2. Best Professional: Vacmaster VJH1612PF Beast
  3. Best for Limited Storage: Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro 2306A
  4. Best for Portability: Ridgid Portable 50313 4000RV
  5. Best Budget: Craftsman CMXEVBE17584
  6. Best for Thick Dust: Fein Turbo Wet/Dry Vac

Note: The Shop Vac brand has been removed from our product recommendations. They ceased operations in Sep. 2020. You can read more here.

Wet Dry Shop Vac Buying Advice

Best Overall: DeWalt 12 gal Poly Wet/Dry Vac

Floor Critics Rating (4.9):

  • Price: A
  • Portability: B+
  • Cleaning Effectiveness: A
  • Noise: A
DeWalt 12 gal Poly Wet/Dry Vac
DeWalt 12 gal Poly Wet/Dry Vac

Shop Vacuum Specs:

  • Manufacturer: DeWalt – part of Stanley Black & Decker (founded in 1924, HQ in Baltimore, MD)
  • Model: DXV12P
  • Weight: 23.2 lbs.
  • Hose length: 7 feet
  • Cord length: 20 feet
  • Size: 12 gallons
  • Power: 5.5 Peak HP
  • Airflow: 105 CFM (cubic feet per minute)
  • Warranty: 3 years, 1 year free service
  • User Manual
  • Customer Support: 1-800-433-9258

DeWalt, a well-known name in both pro and homeowner construction tools, entered the wet-dry vac market with the intention of expanding its iconic yellow and black design to all the goods you’ll need in your workshop.

This model is one of a range of sizes offered that seems to satisfy the most enthusiastic hobbyist or DIYer out there. It features a plastic canister, so emptying it regularly will be a good idea to avoid odors.

A drain removes wet messes from the canister tank. The rear blower port is good for moving debris like leaves out of the way, and the unit overall travels easily on swivel casters. The on-off button is large and prominently colored so you won’t accidentally change the setting while engrossed in a task.

The system comes with numerous accessories with their own carrying pack, a point that some customers like and others don’t. Some complain about the suction power and blame the washable filter for restricting the airflow. Overall, though, most users are delighted with the power and variety of tasks this DeWalt can conquer in their workshops and around the house.

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Best Professional: Vacmaster VJH1612PF Beast

Floor Critics Rating (4.8):

  • Price: A
  • Portability: B+
  • Cleaning Effectiveness: A
  • Noise: A-
Vacmaster VJH1612PF Beast
Vacmaster VJH1612PF Beast

Shop Vacuum Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Vacmaster – part of Cleva North America (founded in 2002, HQ in Greenville, SC)
  • Model: VJH1612PF0201
  • Weight: 24.65 lbs.
  • Hose length: 7 feet
  • Cord length: 20 feet
  • Size: 16 gallons
  • Power: 6.5 Peak HP
  • Airflow: 150 CFM (cubic feet per minute)
  • Warranty: 5 years
  • User Manual
  • Customer Support: 1-866-384-8432

As we’ve found with other manufacturers, Vacmaster makes a range of wet-dry vacs across sizes and features. This model features amazing airflow, the reason it can support a detachable blower with settings up to 240 mph. The extra-large drain port on the tank helps you avoid clogs as you remove wet debris from its plastic canister.

This is a very powerful machine (which is why the pros love it) and some users have noted that blowing an electrical breaker is a possibility if you plug it into a circuit less than 20 amps. The longer power cord helps you avoid extension cords, and both the cord and the long hose can wrap around the machine. Extensive accessories store in slots around the wheeled base of this unit.

Customers note that the muffler in this vac makes it quiet to run, unique among this style of vacuum. Based on the six and a half horsepower motor, it would be nice if it offered a bit more suction, note others. For heavy duty shop or construction site needs, however, this Vacmaster makes the grade with pros and DIYers alike.

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Best for Limited Storage: Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro 2306A

Floor Critics Rating (4.6):

  • Price: B
  • Portability: A-
  • Cleaning Effectiveness: B+
  • Noise: A-
Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro 2306A
Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro 2306A

Shop Vacuum Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Bissell (founded in 1876, HQ in Grand Rapids, MI)
  • Model: 2306A
  • Weight: 11.5 lbs.
  • Hose length: N/A
  • Cord length: 25 feet
  • Capacity: 14.5 oz. dirt cup / 28 oz. water tank
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • User Manual
  • Customer Support: 1-800-237-7691

If you live in a small space where storage will be an issue and need a machine to do all your dirty work, you’ll want to consider this Bissell.

While it doesn’t feature the type of suction or power you’d find in a workshop system, that isn’t the reason you’d buy this unit. The manufacturer notes that it is not designed to be a standard dry vacuum, though customers rave about its performance doing precisely that.

An advantage this machine has over other wet-dry vacs is that it can be used safely on different types of flooring material. Users vote positively for its effectiveness on tile and hardwoods as well as wall-to-wall carpet and area rugs. A single pass over the average stain lifts it out, and a double pass over set in versions takes care of the issue.

Note that this is not the vacuum to use if you’re working on major renovation projects or creating a lot of sawdust or dirt in the garage. It doesn’t have the strength or capacity to do that debris justice, and you’ll end up ruining its internal parts. If your pets are making your tiny home a mess, though, this Bissell will help you deal with the results.

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Best for Portability: Ridgid Portable 50313 4000RV

Floor Critics Rating (4.6):

  • Price: A-
  • Portability: A
  • Cleaning Effectiveness: B+
  • Noise: B
Ridgid Portable 50313 4000RV
Ridgid Portable 50313 4000RV

Shop Vacuum Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Ridgid – part of Emerson Electric (founded in 1923, HQ in Elyria, OH)
  • Model: 4000RV (Catalog #: 50313)
  • Weight: 14.5 lbs.
  • Hose length: 8 feet
  • Cord length: 20 feet
  • Size: 4 gallons
  • Power: 5.0 Peak HP
  • Airflow: 92 CFM (cubic feet per minute)
  • Warranty: Lifetime
  • User Manual
  • Customer Support: 1-800-474-3443

While we can’t confirm the suction capability of this Ridgid brand vacuum, users note that its five horsepower motor is more than up for cleaning professional messes.

Its small size allows it to get into places larger machines can’t, making it a favorite of contractors like plumbers under sinks. The 20 foot power cord and low amperage requirements (nine amps) means it won’t require an extension cord and won’t blow out circuits.

The amount of air this vacuum moves is on par with much larger pro units. While the weight isn’t light by itself, the sleek design and longer hose allow you to put the base down and work without fear of not having enough distance. The quick filter release and fine dust accessory make even drywall dust easy to clean.

Customers wish this vacuum came with more accessories. Subjectively, they can’t agree on whether it is quieter than expected or a bit louder. However, for a portable unit backed by a lifetime warranty, this Ridgid seems to live up to the manufacturer’s reputation.

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Best Budget: Craftsman CMXEVBE17584

Floor Critics Rating (4.5):

  • Price: A
  • Portability: B+
  • Cleaning Effectiveness: B
  • Noise: B

Shop Vacuum Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Craftsman – part of Stanley Black & Decker (founded in 1927, HQ in New Britain, CT)
  • Model: CMXEVBE17590
  • Weight: 13.0 lbs.
  • Hose length: 7 feet
  • Cord length: 10 feet
  • Size: 9 gallons
  • Power: 4.25 Peak HP
  • Airflow: 72 CFM (cubic feet per minute)
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • User Manual
  • Customer Support: 1-888-331-4569

Rated as a medium-duty machine, this Craftsman features the durability we’ve come to expect from the brand at a reasonable price. It is a good all-around vacuum for indoor and outdoor projects, while not quite as powerful as the larger units on our list. That’s okay, because you’re buying this for the price, and you know it’s not for the pro-level high-volume user.

The power cord wraps around the top handle, and the hose attaches to the body. Accessories can also be stored on board. Filters release easily for fast clean up and replacement.

Customers say adding more length to the hose or putting on more attachments reduces suction power. While four and a quarter horsepower is deemed to be adequate under industry standards, some customers had a hard time sucking up debris they considered as usual stuff with this machine.

However, Craftsman has proven to be a workhorse under normal conditions and many that were purchased a decade ago are still going strong.

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Best for Thick Dust: Fein Turbo Wet/Dry Vac

Floor Critics Rating (4.6):

  • Price: B
  • Portability: A
  • Cleaning Effectiveness: A+
  • Noise: B
Fein Turbo Wet/Dry Vac
Fein Turbo Wet/Dry Vac

Shop Vacuum Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Fein
  • Model: 92027060090
  • Weight: 17.86 lbs.
  • Hose length: 13ft
  • Cord length: 19ft
  • Size: 5.8 gal
  • Power: 1,100W input
  • Airflow: 151 CFM
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • User Manual
  • Customer Support: 1-412-922-8886

The Fein wet dry vacuum cleaner features a high-performance turbine that produces 151 cfm flow rate and a 98.4” water lift. You’ll also appreciate that it has a low noise of 66 dB. Handling this vacuum is effortless because it features a 360° rotation, making it  suitable for cleaning tight spaces.

Attached to the vacuum is a 19 ft power cord, so you’ll be able to reach every area of a large room without changing to another power outlet. There’s also a 13 ft hose that allows you to vacuum in hard to reach places.

What’s more, this wet dry shop vac has a large 5.8 gallon capacity so you don’t have to continue emptying the unit out while you work. You can use it to clean up all types of messes such as oil spills, coffee, dust, and crumbs. Lastly, the vacuum features a top carry handle so you can lift the device easily.

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Comparison Table

VacuumOur Rating Capacity AirflowCordHoseWeight
DeWalt 12 gal Poly Wet/Dry Vac
DeWalt 12 gal Wet/Dry Vac
View on Amazon –>
View on Farm & Fleet –>
Best Overall

Overall: 4.9
Price: A
Portability: B+
Cleaning Effectiveness: A
Noise: A
12 gal.105 CFM20 ft.7 ft.23.2 lbs.
Vacmaster VJH1612PF Beast
Vacmaster VJH1612PF Beast
View on Amazon –>
View on Walmart –>
Best Professional

Overall: 4.8
Price: A
Portability: B+
Cleaning Effectiveness: A
Noise: A-
16 gal. 150 CFM 20 ft. 7 ft. 24.6 lbs.
Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro 2306A
Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro 2306A
View on Bissell –>
View on Amazon –>
Best for Limited Storage

Overall: 4.6
Price: B
Portability: A-
Cleaning Effectiveness: B+
Noise: A-
1.75 gal. NA25 ft. Wand11.5 lbs.
Ridgid Portable 50313 4000RV
Ridgid Portable 50313 4000RV
View on Amazon –>
View on Home Depot –>
Best for Portability

Overall: 4.6
Price: A-
Portability: A
Cleaning Effectiveness: B+
Noise: B
4 gal. 92 CFM 20 ft. 8 ft. 14.5 lbs.
Craftsman CMXEVBE17584
Craftsman CMXEVBE17584
View on Amazon –>
View on Farm & Fleet –>
Best Budget

Overall: 4.5
Price: A
Portability: B+
Cleaning Effectiveness: B
Noise: B
9 gal. 72 CFM 10 ft. 7 ft. 13.0 lbs.
Fein Turbo Wet/Dry Vac
Fein Turbo Wet/Dry Vac
View on Amazon –>
View on Walmart –>
Best for Thick Dust

Overall: 4.6
Price: B
Portability: A
Cleaning Effectiveness: A+
Noise: B
5.8 gal. 151 CFM 19 ft. 13 ft. 17.9 lbs.

The Complete Wet/Dry Shop Vac Buyer’s Guide

What You Need To Know About Wet-Dry Vacs

Most homeowners opt for standard vacuum cleaners because they’re not aware of how versatile the best shop vacs can be. Many people still believe these units are simply for commercial use in workshops or construction sites.

However, there are many shop vacuum models on the market you can use in the home, as you can see in our shop vac reviews above. However, before you buy your wet dry shop vac, you’ll need to know how to choose the best one for your cleaning projects.

If you have dogs or cats that shed hair regularly or children who often spill liquids on your floors, then you may want to invest in a wet dry vac. To give you more information on these vacuum cleaners, we’ve provided a section highlighting what a wet dry vac can do and how to choose one based on features and specifications. Keep reading this section to find out more.

What are The Advantages of Owning a Wet/Dry Vacuum?

Have you been looking at the many wet/dry shop vacuums for sale, but you’re not sure how these machines can benefit you? Check out this list of advantages to understand why shop vac models are so popular and valuable!

  • A wet/dry shop vac is a very powerful machine; much more powerful than regular vacuums that you use in your home. These devices will take care of the biggest messes within seconds and can cut your working time in half. All the things you can’t handle in your workshop with a regular vacuum cleaner will be a breeze to your shop wet-and-dry vac.
  • Purchasing a wet/dry vacuum gives you the equivalent of two vacuum cleaners packed into one machine. 
  • These are durable machines that are suitable for all kinds of workshops, garages, etc. The only thing you have to ensure is that you find the right model for your needs. For example, suppose you need the best vacuum for your wood shop.

In that case, you should consider getting a vacuum that will gather the wood shavings off your floors and furniture while being gentle. Find one that includes a soft brush attachment and you’ll be good to go.

  • These vacuums are equipped with filters that capture dust, dirt, debris, pet hair, mites, etc.
  • A great wet-and-dry vacuum will suck water off your carpets after a spill or flood, so they’ll be dry much faster.
  • You can clean liquid spills and leaks, something you can’t do with a regular vacuum.

The Function Of Wet Dry Shop Vacs

Types Of Messes A Wet Dry Vac Can Clean

One advantage of wet dry vacs is they are versatile units that can clean any type of mess on various floor types. These vacuum cleaners are designed to work in harsh conditions, so they can clean up any difficult mess without breaking.

Depending on the unit’s suction ability and model type, you can clean up wet messes such as sewage water, coffee, pet messes, leaks from toilets and sinks, and even oil spills. You can also remove dry messes such as sawdust, pet hair, fine sand, and food crumbs.

Most wet dry vacs have specialized filters allowing you to clean up any type of mess on concrete, carpets, or hard floors.

Removing Fine Dust Or Allergens

This can’t be stressed enough. The standard vacuum cleaner isn’t designed to pick up fine particulates, and without a filter, allergens will float in the air after you clean. If you’re prone to dropping, say, baking flour, you want the ability to vacuum in the allergens & dust without having the machine’s exhaust sending it back out into your atmosphere.

Not all wet-dry vacs come with a fine particle filtering system. The vacuum you use for your floors and carpets has a filter, but it also isn’t optimal for things like flour. Unless you have an allergy-specific HEPA filtering system, you won’t have adequate pickup capability.

Specifications To Consider When Buying A Wet Dry Shop Vac


There’s no polite way to say this – the kinds of things your wet-dry sucks up will over time develop odors. They permeate the plastic of the system and the materials of the filters. For this reason, having a system you can clean thoroughly trumps using a household vacuum and dealing with lingering smells of dog, cat, or your failed attempt at cupcakes for the rest of its existence.

For this reason, we like wet-dry vacs with canisters or debris containers that can be washed out and dried completely. A wet-dry that cleans itself has not yet been invented, so you’ll need to stay on top of this to ensure your house stays fresh-scented after its use. Exhaust from the machine will carry any smells throughout the working area.

Filters can also attract and hold on to odors. If you’re diligent about washing the washable kind and replacing disposable filters and debris bags regularly, you can avoid a smelly mess. Replaceable filters and debris bags come with a cost, though for the average low-volume user, that expense is not significant.

Dirt Bucket Capacity

There’s a reason commercial shop-vacs are such a big size. Workers don’t want to be stopping every few minutes to carry the full canister to the dumpster. You won’t want to either, so think about debris capacity before you buy.

While we’re on this topic, consider where you’ll dump the debris too. Directly into your trash receptacle seems like a good idea, but fine dust inside your can results in clouds each time you add a bag from the house. If you’re dealing with a trash shoot, you can’t toss the contents out without bagging it.

If your debris is a mix of wet and dry, your predicament becomes more complicated. Wet stuff alone can be dumped in a utility sink or down a toilet, but when mixed with any dry debris, that’s impossible. Some people spread an old shower curtain liner over a five gallon bucket to use as a strainer when emptying their wet-dry vacs to separate the contents before disposal.

Power Cord Length

If you’re using this machine as a shop-vac in the garage, will your power cord be long enough to span your space? How about vacuuming the car’s interior out in the driveway? You want a cord length that works for your needs.

If space is at a premium in your apartment or condo, you might also consider retractable cords. Not many large machines come with this feature. Winding up the 60-foot cord can be a chore almost as big as the cleaning itself.

If you live in an older home or you’re buying a larger capacity machine, pay attention to the amperage required to run your wet-dry vac. The standard 15-amp wall plug might be fine for your television and a few other electronics, but once you add on a vacuum, it could blow the breaker.

That’s why many pro users recommend plugging your wet-dry into a dedicated 20 amp circuit or using the plugs in your kitchen which are usually on higher amp circuits.

Does It Have Multiple Functions?

Do you need to vacuum the interior of your SUV with this machine? You’ll want accessories and a portable size. How about blowing the leaves off outdoor steps (a reverse airflow or ‘blower’ feature) or vacuuming the wood shavings from the inside of your furniture-making project (with a soft brush working best)?

Once you have a wet-dry vac, you’ll find many more uses for it than you can currently imagine – unless you’ve had one before and know it will go from house to garage to car to vacation setting. It’s a good idea to think about your possible future requirements too, since these vacuums are made to be durable and to last.

Note that manufacturers do not recommend using these machines as a replacement for your standard vacuum. They provide too much suction and can’t be adjusted for less. You’ll burn out the vac’s motor because it affixes to the floor or carpet and can’t suck in the air it needs to run.

Noise Level

A feature none of us can ignore is the noise this gear makes when it’s running. Most aren’t designed with insulated motors or mufflers like our household vacuum. They also do not have the exhaust controls and other design aspects that make them good around sleeping babies or spouses.

There is no workaround here. These mechanicals are loud, often louder than adults should be hearing on a regular basis, much less kids or skittery pets. Consider ear protection for you and others when you use your wet-dry and be conscious of the hours you’re operating the vac so you don’t bother neighbors.

Safety Features To Consider

Filters on most smaller wet-dry vacs are not made to remove all particulates from the air moving through the machine. Some will exhaust out into the air you’re breathing, and for that reason, wearing breathing protection of some kind can be important if you’re cleaning up, say, drywall dust after sanding or the remnants of your kids’ flour fight. Some machines come with a special fine dust filter for this purpose.

Liquids can also hold toxic substances you shouldn’t be breathing. Before cleaning up a questionable wet spill, read about the material either on the original product packaging or online to make sure there are no special handling requirements. If you’re using this machine for fine particles or a wet mess with questionable substances in it, mask up.

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How Do I Minimize A Shop Vac’s Sound?

Even the best shop vacs make loud noises, but that’s a small price to pay for their powerful performance. Unfortunately, most people find these sounds irritating, and they can sometimes even be too much to handle. That’s why you should consider protecting your ears, using the tips we listed below.

Before we continue with the best ways to minimize the sounds of shop vacs, you should know that a small shop vacuum will put out quieter sounds than a larger model; however, it won’t be as powerful.

Get a Longer Hose Attachment

If the hose of your vac is short, the vacuum will be much closer to you, and the noises will be louder. In this case, the solution is quite simple; get a longer hose attachment.

Thanks to the attachment, you’ll be able to get to all the parts of the room without the vac being too close to you and your ears.

Clean the Air Filter Regularly

This is one of the best, most straightforward tips, and most people forget about it. If you notice that it’s been getting louder over time, a quick air  filter cleaning might solve your problems.

A shop wet/dry vac will release loud noises right from the start, but a dirty filter can cause damage to the machine, and it will become even louder. Therefore, regular maintenance is key if you want to preserve the health of your shop vacuum, and that includes cleaning the filters and removing the debris and dirt.

Start by removing the bag located in the machine tank. Remove all the contents from the bag, then clean the tank. You can use water and soap or detergent.

Add a little bleach, and let it sit in the tank for at least an hour. Then, grab your sponge, clean the tank thoroughly, and wash it with water.

You should also remove any other filters and clean them with water and detergent. The vac’s hose can also retain dirt, dust, and debris; therefore, you should clean it as well. The final step of your journey is getting all the attachments and washing them with water and soap.

Put all the parts back together and turn on your wet/dry vacuum. If dirty filters were the cause of the loud sounds, you’ll immediately notice that the vac is much quieter. 

Use A Shop Vac Muffler

Did you know that you can muffle the air outlet of your big or small wet/dry vac? Since this is where most of the sound comes out, you can subdue the noises with a DIY muffler.

To start the project, you only need a clean cloth or towel. Start by locating the air outlets on the sides of the shop vac, then measure them. Next, cut the cloth or towel in the same size as the outlet, and place the cloth over it. 

Remember to add holes to the cloth to let part of the air go through the outlet. Covering it completely can damage your vac because heat will stay inside the engine along with the air being blocked. With the holes, you reduce the noise without overheating the engine.

When the cloth is attached correctly, turn on the machine. If the sounds are quieter, your job here is done.

Build A Shop-Vac Sound Enclosure

Building an enclosure for your shop wet/dry vacuum isn’t as tricky as it sounds. The procedure is relatively straightforward and can spare you from loud noises that feel like echoes in your head. 

This box is a great DIY project you can finish within a day or two. Here’s what you need:

  • Hammer
  • Screws
  • Saw
  • Hinge and latch
  • Nails
  • Soundproof foam panels
  • Wood
  • Wheels

Start by going over the shop vacuum reviews, select the best wet/dry vacuum for your needs, then measure its size once it arrives. Write down the measurements and cut the wood into pieces that are slightly larger than the vac. Next, connect the soundproof foam panels according to the exact measurements, but leave one side open.

Cut two holes in the materials; one for the hose and one for ventilation. During the next step, you need to create a door with the hinge and latch that will cover the open side of the vac where you didn’t add a soundproof panel.

Add the wheels, fit the vacuum into the box, and you’re ready to go.

Use Personal Hearing Protection

Even if you’re not bothered by the noise of your vac, you should protect your ears with noise-canceling headphones. This step is essential if you’re planning on using the vac for long periods. The truth is that even the best small shop vac will be loud, so put on your headphones and spare yourself from unpleasant and dangerous noise levels.

How To Clean And Maintain A Shop Vac?

Cleaning and maintaining your wet/dry vacuum cleaner will prolong its lifespan, keep your workspace/home healthy, and reduce the noise it releases. First of all, you should clean the vacuum at least once a month. Start by removing the canister and the bag, then empty the bag contents.

Fill the canister with water and soap and scrub it with a sponge. Next, add a little bleach to eliminate all the bacteria and germs present on the surface. If the canister is very dirty, you can let the bleach do its work for a day before cleaning it with water.

Wait for the container to dry completely before you place it back into the vacuum.

Another thing to remember is to check and clean the filters. You should also make this a monthly practice. If you notice that the filters are damaged, ripped, or stained, replace them with new ones.

What Are Some Relevant Shop Vac Tips?

Here are three extra tips to follow and consider before buying a shop vac:

  1. Size Makes A Difference

Should you go for a small shop vac or a big one? In this situation, size matters. It’s closely connected to the capacity of the vacuum and what kind of cleaning jobs you need it for; for example, smaller jobs and smaller messes require a small wet/dry vac.

In these cases, there’s no need to invest in a big vacuum that’s more expensive and more powerful. The bigger vacuums come with many features and are more suitable for big messes in bigger rooms.

  1. Storage Space

Consider the storage space you have available for your vacuum before adding one to the cart. If your storage space is limited, you should think about getting a smaller shop vac. When you have enough storage room, you can opt for large sizes with a bigger capacity.

  1. Brand Reputation

Before purchasing a product, check the brand’s reputation. You should always go for high-quality brands with a history of positive customer reviews and interactions. If you want the best shop vac, you have to do your research and shouldn’t go straight for a cheap brand that you’re not familiar with or can’t find any information about.


What Is The Main Purpose Of A Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum?

Wet-dry shop vacuums are primarily used on construction sites, as they are versatile enough to clean up almost any kind of mess. This is why they are also great for home DIY projects, or for anyone who wants an easy way to deal with a variety of messes.

The cleaner can be used for liquid spills, especially if there is debris mixed in with the spill, such as broken glass. It can also be used to clean the fireplace, remove snow from the doorstep, or even empty the water from a waterbed.

The machine can also be turned into a blower, which can be used for tasks such as unclogging sinks.

Is It Possible To Use A Shop Vacuum As A Blower?

Yes, it is possible to use your shop vacuum as a blower for activities such as leaf clearing, blowing out your dryer vent, or for removing debris from tools.

It is a simple matter of removing the hose from the vacuum port and attaching it to the exhaust port of the vacuum cleaner, and you will get blowing rather than sucking action when you turn on the cleaner.

How Important Is A Filter On A Vacuum?

There’s a good reason why large shop-vacs come with reusable or replaceable filtering systems. They’ll be clogged all the time from the dust of a job site or home improvement effort. That’s why so many are made to be washed out and staying on top of that is important.

If your allergies or those of others in your household are severe, shift your messy projects outdoors or to a larger open area like a garage.

Consider other methods of keeping the dust out of your lungs, like wearing individual breathing masks rated for smaller particulate matter. Buy a vacuum with a reusable dust filter that can be cleaned after each use to avoid ongoing expenses.

Remember that liquids can carry allergens and toxic substances too. You’ll want to take precautions when working around solvents or chemicals, even outdoors. Some are best sopped up, not sucked up, so read your product labels for the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Will A Small Shop-Vac Be As Effective As A Large One In Sucking Up Nails?

The number one reason this is a big no-no is the damage it can do to the machine. Yes, we said they’re generally durable, but that’s under normal conditions.

Nails and screws torpedoed through a plastic tube and into a plastic canister, rattling around in a volume of suction and airflow, reduces that durability faster than normal. Get a broom and a dustpan instead to pick up as much of the material as you can first.

How Large Does My Investment Need To Be For A Quality Wet-Dry Vac?

Shop-vacs can be found at value prices with stripped down features and accessories. That may be all you need for your projects. Household machines with greater portability and more features will run you more but have less heavy-duty uses.

You want to consider a wet-dry vac as an investment, but one with a lifecycle marked by how frequently (and how hard) you use it. A whole house renovation will burn it out faster than the occasional run through the SUV and pick-up of broken potted plant. Luckily, you have affordable choices from which to select.

Do Canister Drain Plugs Really Remove The Liquid Inside?

Opinions on this are mixed. You’ll often hear a professional say that they don’t last long because they tend to become clogged, especially if they have any kind of bend or elbow to them. Household users can find them to be very handy with mixed messes.

It depends on what you’re draining. Something that can build up in the drain with use and clog it will be different from regular suction on liquids and little else. The experience will vary depending on what you’re cleaning with the machine.

What’s Not To Love About Wet-Dry Or Shop-Vacs?

Probably the number one complaint is the amount of dust that comes out the exhaust flow of a wet-dry vac. For the standard model, the filter might not control fine particles. It’s always a good idea to sweep up as much as you can when dealing with dusty substances before using the vacuum for what’s left over.

The other issue is related to durability. Plastics pick up odors, and depending on what you’re cleaning, those odors can stay with you even after a project or mess is a distant memory. For this reason, people with frequent smelly cleaning needs should select a machine with a metal canister that fights off lingering residue.

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Our Testing Criteria For Wet-Dry Vacs

There is no one best wet-dry vac, but rather the one that is best for your specific cleaning requirements. For this reason, we include criteria that should guide you to the one that works for your unique situation. Other features of each machine have been noted in the comments for that gear.


Capacity refers to how much debris the canister can hold before emptying, expressed in gallons. Small units hold about six gallons or less, while the large capacity can be over 14 gallons.

You want to pick a wet dry vac with a relatively large dirt canister capacity, but make sure it doesn’t compromise the weight of the machine. The ideal capacity for a home wet dry shop vac is around 5 gallons.


While stick vac (and particularly cordless stick vacs) have carrying ease and weight in their corner, smaller, lighter shop-vacs also exist. Some have removable canisters, most larger models come with rolling capability, and others require you to turn the whole unit over to empty it. We grade this criterion on a standard A to F scale.

If you’re going to be using your wet dry vac at home and at the workshop, you want to be able to carry it around easily. The units we chose in our reviews either have straps, wheels, or top carry handles for you to transport your vacuum cleaner without hassle.

We’ve also included cordless and battery operated devices for you to choose from, so you don’t necessarily need an outlet to use your vacuum.


Airflow is the speed/volume of air able to flow through the machine. It is expressed in cubic feet per minute or CFM. If you have heavier or larger pieces to pick up, you want higher CFM.

The wet dry vacs we chose to review all have high CFM airflows, so they’re guaranteed to pick up any type of debris off of various floor types. If you’re using the unit to pick up pet hair, you may want to opt for a vacuum with a 150 CFM and above.


Suction picks up liquid, which weighs more than you’d think. The standard measurement is how far the suction can lift a precise sized tube of liquid. We grade the suction on inches when available, though not all manufacturers readily provide this data.

We also tested these vacuums’ suction control. Some units allow you to increase the suction power to clean up heavier debris. You can also lower the suction power if you’re cleaning up light dust or hair.

Hose Length

Hose length is a trade-off. Too short and you can’t reach debris, but too long means you need better suction strength to pull that gunk through the distance. We give you the hose length that comes standard with the machine (without accessories or additions).

We found the ideal hose length without compromising on suction power is 4 ft. If you pick a machine that has a longer hose, make sure it has quality suction power to remove dirt from the floor easily through the hose.


When you’re using your machine, its weight will become as important as its bulk and features. Think about muscling around a heavy canister and motor with a short hose and lots of ground to cover. Here we note the weight, and if it comes with a long hose and power cord, it receives its kudos in the product comments.

We also factored in the size of the canister, motor, and extra features attached to the machines we reviewed. Some units will be heavier because they have larger dirt canisters or motors.

You should always pick a vacuum with a larger motor because it will have a higher performance. Heavier machines will always come with wheels so you don’t have to carry it around while you’re cleaning.

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The Verdict

While wet-dry shop vacs may have been developed for use in places like construction sites, where builders need to deal with a lot of different kinds of debris, it makes a great addition to the cleaning kit of any home.

These cleaning machines make dealing with any kind of mess simple and swift, as you can do it all with just one machine. Whether you are dealing with spilled milk, spring cleaning the fireplace, or tackling sawdust piles from a home DIY project, you can use a shop vacuum.

Do you have any experience using a wet-dry shop vac at home? Share your thoughts and tips with the community in the comments section below.

About Maria Hernandez

Senior Floor Critic, 25 years of experience in residential and commercial cleaning

Maria Hernandez has 25 years of experience in residential and commercial janitorial and cleaning services. From hardwood to carpet to marble floors, Maria has developed a deep expertise in cleaning and maintaining many different flooring types. Visit Website.

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