Best wet and dry shop vacuums

two shop vacs

One of the things shop owners underestimate is how long winding up can take after a day’s work. The cleaning can cost you an extra hour of precious time you’d rather spend at home with family. Shop vacuums are a valuable investment to get a spick and span workshop within minutes of your time. Lucky for you, here we cover all the basics of what to look for when buying the best shop vacuums. Here are the best wet and dry shop vacuums to watch out for on your next shopping trip.

shop vac

What to look for

What to look for
HorsepowerThe SuctionTank capacity
AirpowerCubic feet per minutePortability
StorageType 
Man outside using shop vac

A wet or dry shop vacuum is more durable and has more suction power and tank capacity than simple home upright vacuums. But that doesn’t mean buying any old model is enough for your workshop needs. Here’s what to include in your market research:

  • Horsepower

Even though all shop vacuums are designed for high power, it is essential to know your requirements. Low horsepower is designed for small-scale messes and spills, between 1-4.5HP. Medium horsepower can clean up a house or small garage workshop, between 5-6HP.

The toughest of them are the high-powered models that range higher than 6+ HP. They are usually part of commercial cleaning equipment in warehouses and large workshops.

Man using a shop vac
  • The suction and sealed pressure

Especially when exploring wet vacuums, this one’s an important one on the checklist. The suction pressure is measured in inches of water the unit can suck up into a container. A rating of above 75 indicates a professional shop grade.

  • Tank Capacity

This indicates the gallons of dirt the vacuum can hold until it needs to be emptied to be used for cleaning again. Like horsepower, this also has three levels. The small tank capacity ranging between 1 gallon to 6 gallons is ideal for small workshops or indoor home cleaning. You can also pick a mid-range option like 4 or 5 gallons for a slightly larger home. This option also means a quiet cleaning session compared to the rest.

A medium tank capacity between 8 – 12 gallons. It can handle workshop messes and is ideal if you’re looking for more cleaning but less storage space. Medium tank options can have a capacity as large as 14 gallons too. However, a large tank capacity is considered if the tank is between 14 and 18 gallons. This is perfect for high-level commercial warehouse or workshop cleaning and stubborn messes. Corporate offices usually employ 16 gallons tank capacity models. If you’re confused about units like gallons feet, check out our resource on SAE and metric units.

  • Air watts or air power (AP)

This refers to the literal airflow needed to pick up the debris. The higher the AP is, the heavier the level of mess can be cleaned. A higher AP on high-level vacuums can mean it can pick up screws and nuts. Bolts and woodchips are also no problem.

  • Cubic feet per minute
shop vac in dirty room

This is the airflow that a vacuum claims to lift in a minute. Combined with water lift capacity, these two markers can help determine how powerful it is.

  • Portability and storage

It can be tempting to purchase a powerful vacuum for quick and effective cleaning. However, storage space must always be considered. It’s no use if you’ve got to walk a mile to store your heavy vacuum because that’s more time wasted than saved. A portable model with wheels or an easy handle will be convenient in the long run. It’s great you’ve got a long walk from the storage cabinet to the workshop.

Another cheaper alternative for portability is an extension cord. You can easily check out your requirements for extension cords by length here.

Types

Now that you’ve got an idea of what to look for, let us go through the types you’ll find in the market.

Types
MopCordlessDust collection wet/dry
HEPA  
  • Vacuum Mop – This is an easy product to maneuver, letting you be in control. The best part is its ability to clean the dry and wet mess dually. That’s right. With this genie, those wood chips and that water spill can be mopped up in no time as long as it’s on laminates and tiles.
  • Cordless – These mean machines are designed to avoid the hassle of getting tangled in cords. Don’t be forced to run from the electrical outlet to your work area. Finding a new outlet closer to the area of cleaning is a constant battle. But cordless models are battery-powered, often with lithium batteries that can power long cleaning with suction power. They do so all while completely avoiding any cords! It means you can use them aboard moving trucks and vehicles. They’re great if you’re transporting liquids and want to clean up any spills easily. If you’re still figuring out temperature control while transporting, check out our neat resource on Thermo king.
  • Dust collection, wet or dry– These are specialists at pesky dust particles that most high-powered models will leave behind to settle on the floor. Workshop and warehouse work will often lead to fine debris and dust that can be harmful if inhaled. Separate attachments ensure that such debris is picked up.
  • HEPA awarded wet/dry – HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air. Vacuums with this certification can capture 99.97% of dust and airborne particles, including pollen. These filters can also come with anti-microbial layering to prevent unwanted mold or mildew growth.

Does Ridgid make a good one?

ridgid shop vac

Ridgid is a renowned name in hand tools and makes quite a lot of models of shop vacuums, too. The Ridgid VAC1100 has a whopping rating of 4 stars, with 61% voting for 5 stars. The Ridgid HD1600 has good customer reviews thanks to its 16-gallon tank capacity. It offers great airflow that cleans up just about any mess you can imagine. The NXT feature lets you take the top attachment off to reveal a perfectly good blower! And that’s how you can save even more money by avoiding buying a leaf-blower.

If it doesn’t just leave you to want to get rid of but also pesky gnats and fruit flies, take a look at our handy resource to find out all about it!

What is the best one on the market?

There’s a lot of ongoing competition for the best shop vacuums—the number of features or the amazing horsepower. The huge tank capacity could also be the deciding factor, making it difficult to choose anyone. But we can surely help you figure out the top 3 in the market this year.

shop vacs still wrapped
  • Ridgid HD1600 16 Gallon is our favorite. This model has topped the charts this year thanks to its 6.5 HP. It means it does a great job of cleaning any wet or dry spill. It even comes with the dual advantage of working as a blower.
  • The DeWalt DXV14P is a great substitute for the top choice and for a reasonable price. While there is no blower feature, you can still move the hose to the exhaust port and use it as one. The power cord is considerably long, and the hose is 7 feet which makes cleaning even easier.
  • Vacmaster Professional VFB511B 5 gallon Beast is a top choice for a portable option. Even though this model is smaller than the top 2 listed above, it still has an HP of 5.5 and manages to pull 82.6″ of water with ease. Speaking of messy wet spills, take a look here if you’re looking for a good cassette toilet combo for your RV.

The VFB511B even has a cord that goes as long as 18 feet to make moving around easy. Maybe you’re looking to replace other cords and wires around the house. Look at these resources that can help with amp wire gauges and their chart.

shop vacs on concrete floor

Is 5HP good?

A good horsepower means better suction and airflow, leading to deep cleaning quickly. How much is enough for a professional?

For a home option that doesn’t have to deal with tough dust and debris like a workshop, 1-2 HP is ideal. If you’re looking at cleaning tougher spills and heavier gunk in the shop, the ideal horsepower is 4-5HP. But you must remember that horsepower isn’t the best way to compare them, especially in today’s market. Even budget models are packed with great innovative features. Ultimately, it all comes down to what suits your storage and cleaning requirements. Consider your workshop’s size. If you’re looking to start a project that involves welding in your workshop, take a look at MIG and TIG welding before you get started.

shop vac on wooden floor

Brands

Now, let’s look at a couple of brands leading the field.

Manufacturers
CraftsmanRyobi
DeWaltStanley
Milwaukee 

Craftsman

With the experience of over 90 years, Craftsman is a top name when it comes to automotive tools and hand tools. They also make great workshop and garden equipment machinery. The brand claims to have stood the test of time owing to its durable and innovative products. The tools come with a lifetime warranty, which is a great feature for consumers and an exciting incentive to invest in their products.

Customer and expert reviews suggest that the high-end tools on the pricey side last a lifetime. They may even last to the next generation, so the cost is worth it. The designs are ergonomic and suggest even hobbyists and beginners can start with novice workshop work with Craftsman’s tools. The products last for years. A free replacement is promised to anyone who manages to break their product during use.

The company makes cordless and corded outdoor equipment. The Craftsman CMXEVBE17595 16 gallon unit has 6.5 HP and a 5-star rating from over 86% of customers who bought it on Amazon. At the current price, it’s a catch!

DeWalt

This old gold company dates back to 1922. It’s when Raymond DeWalt made the first set of innovations to the first woodworking machinery. It led to the launch of the DeWalt Products company in 1924. As you can see, the company’s interest in innovation and ergonomic design dates back 100 years.

Over the years, DeWalt has evolved certain markers that separate its smart technology from the rest. For instance, the FlexiVolt feature makes it easy for users to switch battery voltage between 20V and 60V.

The brand also uses highly powerful and long-lasting lithium-ion batteries for its 12V through 40V cordless equipment.

There is a good range of wet and dry options with tank capacities ranging from smaller models to 16 gallons. The horsepower also increases successively. DeWalt offers both corded and cordless varieties, so there’s something for everyone!

Ryobi

Dating back to 1943, when it first opened, Ryobi has long been an underdog amongst home improvement tools and machinery. According to customer reviews, their power tools come in a huge variety and are known to hold up longer than 5 years.

This is a brand associated with professional use by workers in the field because of its affordable mid-range tools lineup. Most tools and products by Ryobi are rated between 4 and 4.8 stars which is a good sign. The Ryobi ONE+ 18V 6 gallons is rated 4 stars on Home Depot owing to its convenient cordless design and super-mobile wheel design. Speaking of wheels, you might wonder what the issue with your vehicle is. You might want to check its idle air control valve.

Stanley

If you thought Craftsman and DeWalt were old-timers, think again! Stanley’s work dated back to 1843 and was the first brand in tape measures. Stanley has updated modern world needs with their humble origins in manufacturing hand tools like the screwdriver. He now specializes in automotive power tools as well.

The brand has a small but highly rated range of products that customers and professionals trust. The 5 gallons Stanley wet and dry model has rated 4.5 stars on Amazon, with 72% of its buyers rating it 5 stars.

Milwaukee

This brand started in 1918 and strengthened its reputation by manufacturing tools for the US Navy standard throughout the second world war. In 2005, Milwaukee jumped ahead of its competitors with its lithium-ion batteries feature. It recently launched cordless power equipment in keeping with the market standard.

Milwaukee’s lineup of tools is very large, with over 200 products in the M18 line alone. The prices range of this brand is slightly higher than the ones above, owing to its specialty trade tools and added features. For example, the 18 Volt cordless Milwaukee 0800-20 has a rating of 5 stars on Amazon.

FAQ

What is the best dry vac on the market?

The Craftsman CMXEVBE17595 is certainly one of the best dry vacuums out there. It can also function as a wet vacuum. It has 6.5 horsepower and a 16-gallon capacity that triumphs over all kinds of dust and dirt. No wonder it’s the fourth best-selling vacuum on Amazon.

Are wet/dry vacuums worth it?

Certainly! Forget only cleaning dust and debris. Now you can clean up spills and all that mush you have to mop over. This is ideal for those who work in the garage and spillover oil or water. It’s even better after a party when the house is a mess. And the mess entails liquid as well as solid substances. Wet/dry vacuums are certainly worth the hype.

How do I choose a wet/dry vac?

There are plenty of factors to consider before buying a wet/dry vacuum. The first one is that suction power translates to horsepower. If you’ve got very fine debris that needs vacuuming, you need a higher horsepower than for a home. The capacity in gallons is also important. If you have a large area you want to cover with minimum runs to empty the vacuum, you’ve got to get a high-capacity vacuum. Filters are also necessary since not everything will be picked up using standard filters. For example, lead and asbestos will require special HEPA filters.

What is a good CFM for a shop vac?

CFM or Cubic feet per minute measures the rate of lifting dust off the ground in shop vacs. Since some customers require high suction power for finer dust or quicker jobs at cleaning spills, a higher CFM is required. Anything between 100-130 CFM is good enough for a residential purpose. For industrial purposes, the CFM can go as high as 1000CFM.

Let’s get started with your all-new dry/wet vacuum.

How to use a wet/dry vacuum

  1. Empty the contents.

    Make sure you empty the bag so you can start afresh. This will already be done if you’re used to emptying the contents after every use.

  2. Latch on the attachment.

    If you’re cleaning up a spill, use the flat attachment. If it’s the corners of a room or fine hair, use the brush attachment.

  3. Start vacuuming!

    Start the vacuuming and clean all the areas thoroughly. Empty the bin in the middle if you need to.

  4. Empty the bin.

    Once you’ve finished, empty the trash bin. Roll the cord inside and store the vacuum in a cool, dry space away from sunlight.

That’s it, folks!

We hope you have figured out the essential guidelines for purchasing a good shop vacuum that suits you best. Our comprehensive breakdown of the leading brands in the field will ease your decision-making in the market. It’s great if you’re on a budget. Remember, good horsepower doesn’t always mean a good product!