A Shop Vac, also referred to as a Wet-Dry vacuum cleaner, is an essential tool in any home, shop, or construction site. With a very powerful lifting and suction capability, a shop vac is very efficient and effective against the removal of both liquid and dust particles.
In fact, a shop vac can be used for right about any cleaning task – it can pick up small to large amounts of debris, pick up nails and screws and other pieces of debris which would destroy conventional vacuum cleaners, clean up wet spills, vacuum up water in the basement, inflate mattresses and pool toys, retrieve items from a sink or even unclog a pipe, it can clean out your fireplace or wood stove and remove snow from pathways. Once you have a shop vac you can never live without one again.
When you go shopping for a shop vac you will find you have a wide selection both in size and power. Choosing the best wet-dry vacuum is no easy feat. Our list of the best shop vacs is designed to help you narrow down your choice and make choosing the perfect shop vac a breeze.
First Look – The Best Wet/Dry Shop Vacs To Buy
- Best Overall: Vacmaster VBV1210 Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum at Amazon – “The best combination of suction power, durability, portability, and price. For its reasonable price, this shop vac offers excellent value.”
- Best Small: Shop-Vac 2.5HP All Around EZ Wet/Dry Shop Vac at Amazon – “The power of a full-size shop vac with the convenience of a handheld model. This small shop vac is designed for household use with a quiet operating motor.”
- Best Portable: DEWALT DCV581H Cordless/Corded Wet-Dry Vacuum at Amazon – “Lightweight and compact, and can operate on either a rechargeable battery or 120V AC power. It will give you the incredibly convenience that no one can.”
- Best for Car Cleaning: Shop-Vac 2021000 Micro Shop Vac at Amazon – “Just the right size and suction power for everyday car cleaning. Or you can use it for any quick clean up job in your home or workshop.”
- Best Quiet: DEWALT DXV10P 10 Gallon Quiet Poly Wet Dry Vacuum at Amazon – “Featuring exclusive Dewalt’s quiet technology, this unit is much quieter than most full-size shop vacs, up to 50% quieter.”
- Best for Jobsite: Ridgid WD1450 14-Gallon 6-Horsepower Wet/Dry Vacuum at Amazon – “Powerful enough to tackle the toughest cleanup projects at the jobsite, is able to pick up large pieces of mulch in one pass. This vacuum comes with an industry-leading lifetime warranty.”
- Best for Woodworking: Craftsman 17595 16 Gallon 6.5 HP Heavy-Duty Shop Vac at Amazon – “The most powerful shop vac we’ve reviewed, sucks up wood chunks, sawdust, metal shards, big nails and more without a problem.”
- Best for Car Detailing: Ridgid WD4070 4 Gallon Portable Shop Vacuum at Amazon – “Car detailers love it. It is 3 times stronger than shop vacs its size. Its lightweight, small size and large carry handle provide comfortable portability.”
- Best Wall Mount: Bissell Garage Pro Wet Dry Shop Vacuum at Amazon – “This affordable wall mount shop vac will give you more floor space in your garage. It has a super long hose up to 32 foot.”
- Best Cordless: Milwaukee M18 2 Gal. Cordless Wet/Dry Vacuum at Amazon – “This cordless shop vac is designed to be extremely portable with a long lasting battery. It provides optimal ergonomics and easy access to accessories.”
Best Overall Shop Vac
The Vacmaster VBV1210 Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum is our pick as the best shop vac for most people. This is a large and versatile shop vac that can work as a stand-alone leaf blower. It’s designed for big jobs in your workshop or on the job site, but it can handle small messes around the house as well. This is also a quiet shop vac when compared to other shop vacs on the market.
All of these factors make this shop vac one of the best we’ve reviewed. But that’s not all, the best part of the Vacmaster VBV1210 is its price point. This shop vac is very sturdy and well-made and can deliver serious suction power for your most rugged vacuum job, but it has a very reasonable price for its awesome overall quality.
It also has enough attachments to get just about any job done. That’s probably why this shop vac is not only one of the best-rated shop vacs on the market today, but also one of the most popular.
The Vacmaster VBV1210 wet-dry shop vac features a rugged 12 gallon polypropylene tank, onboard accessory storage, an extra large drain for fast emptying and 11 accessories that will be useful for most vacuum and blower applications (7 Ft. x 2-1/2 In. Hose, 2 Extension Wands, Cartridge Filter, Reusable Foam Sleeve Filter, Car Nozzle, Crevice tool, 8 In. Utility Nozzle, Blower Nozzle, Air/Noise Diffuser, Blower Adapter.)
The motor of this shop vac, at its peak, reaches 5 horsepower. For most vacuum jobs around the house or shop, 5 peak HP is more than enough. While it isn’t the largest or most powerful shop vac in the lineup, it is able to suck up 2 gallons of liquid in just 3.9 seconds – faster than many shop vacs its size. The motor can also convert to a 210 MPH blower by pushing a quick release button.
You can use this shop vac as an alternative to your basement sump pump to get water out of your basement if it’s flooded. But this shop vac is not designed to pump water out after sucking them in, if you need a shop vac with built-in water pump, consider the Shop-Vac 9604610 6.5 Peak HP Wet Dry Vacuum.
Overall, the Vacmaster VBV1210 Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum is the best shop vac in our list because it offers the most well-balanced combination of suction power, durability, portability, and price. For its reasonable price, this shop vac offers excellent value.
This is a versatile shop vac that can be used to clean up a variety of messes at home, the workshop and elsewhere. It’s big, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t portable. With four 360-degree casters, it offers convenient mobility so you can take it to clean wherever the mess is located.
Best Small Shop Vac
The Shop-Vac 2.5HP All Around EZ Wet/Dry Shop Vac has the power of a full-size shop vac with the convenience of a handheld model.
This small shop vac is designed for household use with a quiet operating motor, making it a perfect choice for cleaning carpets, stairs, kitchens, blinds, ceiling fans, workshops, cars, or anywhere you have a wet or dry mess. It can also be used to clear clogs from sinks and tubs. Attach the hose to the rear blower port to blow leaves off the porch or dirt out from under appliances.
The Shop-Vac 2.5HP All Around EZ is our pick as the best small shop vac, and for good reasons. This shop vac is very lightweight and portable and comes with easy roll casters and top carry handle. You can lift it up easily by one hand and carry around for quick cleanup. When not in use, you can hang it on the wall to save space.
This small shop vac comes with eight attachments, including a crevice tool that makes it easier to clean out your car when it’s sitting in your garage. It also comes with a 1-1/4 inch diameter accessory assortment containing a 7-foot hose with long extension end, two extension wands, dual surface nozzle, gulper nozzle, round brush and floor nozzle with settings for bare or carpeted floors.
Overall, the Shop-Vac 2.5HP All Around EZ is one of the best shop vacs to buy if you’re looking for a small wet-dry vacuum to use around your home. Although it’s only 2.5 peak HP, it’s still able to handle most dirt, water, and heavy debris. It rolls around easily and has a very long 18-foot power cord so you don’t have to buy an extension cord to use it.
Best Portable Shop Vac
While large, or full-size, shop vacs are extremely useful on the job site and in the woodworking shop, a portable shop vac is just the thing for a trim carpenter or homeowner. Being able to run off both a rechargeable battery and AC outlet, the DEWALT DCV581H Cordless/Corded Wet-Dry Vacuum is the best portable shop vac available that will give you the convenience that no one can.
This corded/cordless shop vac comes with a 2-gallon tank. It’s incredibly lightweight and compact. This makes it be able to use just about anywhere, around the shop or garage or on the jobsite, no matter there is an AC outlet or not.
This portable shop vac will work with any 18V or 20V MAX battery from Dewalt. It lasts for about 30 minutes continuously on a standard 20V 5Ah battery. You can get up to 45 mins on a FlexVolt 6Ah battery. A typical work day will not require you to run 30 minutes of cleaning up.
The best part is this portable shop vac can run on the same 18V and 20V MAX batteries that you use with other DeWalt cordless tools, such as cordless drills, finish nailers, brad nailers, impact wrenches, or miter saws. The suction power is more on the 20V MAX system. We tested this shop vac using a 20/60v 9Ah Flexvolt battery and it worked just fine, though Dewalt didn’t verify this.
This Dewalt vacuum is the best shop vac to buy when it comes to portability. It produces 52-in of water lift and 140-CFM of suction power – enough to clean up typical debris such as wood shaving, sawdust, and drywall dust or water from toilet basins and pipes. It is also small enough to work around the table saw for cleaning up dust in, on, and around the saw.
The vacuum features HEPA-rated reusable wet/dry filter traps dust with 99.97% efficiency and can be easily cleaned by tapping or rinsing with water. The hose measures 5 feet in length and 1-1/4 inches in diameter, giving enough room for large debris. Built-in storage allows you to organize a variety of cleaning accessories, including crevice and wide nozzle tool attachments.
In brief, wet dry shop vacs come in a range of shapes and sizes. And there are many more powerful shop vacs to choose from. But no one offers usefulness and convenience like the DEWALT DCV581H Cordless/Corded Wet-Dry Vacuum does. This is the best shop vac to purchase if portability is what you’re looking for.
Best Shop Vac for Car Cleaning
The smallest shop vac in our list is the Shop-Vac 2021000 Micro Shop Vac. This unit features a 1 horsepower motor with a 1-gallon tank, making it lightweight and extremely portable. This is perfect for cleaning your car interior, or any quick clean up job in your home or workshop.
The Shop-Vac 2021000 Micro comes with a 6-foot power cord with convenient cord wrap. It has a 1-1/4 inch diameter accessory assortment containing a 4-foot hose, gulper nozzle, and crevice tool. The included foam sleeve and disposable filter bag provide the proper filtration for wet and dry pick up. You can use the wall mounting bracket and wall mount tool holder to store the vacuum out of the way when not in use.
Best Quiet Shop Vac
You want a quiet shop vac, this is the best shop vac for you. The DEWALT DXV10P 10 Gallon Quiet Poly Wet Dry Vacuum features Dewalt’s exclusive quiet technology with a dual-stage motor, making it one of the quietest shop vacs we’ve reviewed.
Compared to most wet-dry shop vacuums its size, this Dewalt shop vacuum is much quieter, with the decibel rating is approximately 73dB, while most produce more than 85dB. For example, our top pick the Vacmaster VBV1210 12-Gallon Shop Vac, is considered as a pretty quiet shop vac, has a decibel rating at 80 to 82 dB.
Having that said, you can not expect a wet dry shop vac is as quiet as a typical home vacuum cleaner, like a high-end Miele canister vacuum, but at under 73 decibels, the DEWALT DXV10P is up to 50% quieter than most shop vacuums we’ve reviewed. You’ll definitely be impressed with how quiet it is.
Not only quiet, the DEWALT DXV10P is also very powerful. Its 5.5 peak horsepower motor provides just the amount of suction needed to most cleanup jobs. It has a strong handle for easy carrying, large on/off switch with water-resistant design for safe and quick access, convenient, built-in 20 ft. power cord and accessory bag to get all your accessories/tools organized. Swiveling casters provide ease of movement in any direction while a built-in tank drain makes draining easy.
Best Shop Vac for Jobsite
This Ridgid WD1450 14-Gallon 6-Horsepower Wet/Dry Vacuum is a powerful shop vac designed to tackle the toughest cleanup projects at the jobsite. Of the shop vacs we reviewed, the Ridgid WD1450 offers the most well-balanced combination of the rugged construction, powerful suction power, and large capacity tank. Its 6 HP can pick up large pieces of mulch in one pass, and the vacuum is able to suck up 2 gallons of water in 3.8 seconds – quicker than most shop vacs of its size.
But these factors are not enough to make this unit the best jobsite shop vac in our lineup. Everything in this shop vac seems to be designed specifically to serve you on the jobsite.
A compact design makes it easy to move around. The 360-degree wheels allow you to walk it around by the hose, though the hose did come unattached once or twice. The hose is dual-flex, meaning it can move in any direction without collapsing. With the flip of a switch, the hose can also switch over to a leaf blower. The power cord reaches 20 feet, and the 7-foot hose is long enough to reach your ceiling.
The Ridgid WD1450 has separate filters for wet and dry operation. For dry materials, the vacuum comes with a cartridge filter that you can remove and clean. It’s also not hard to replace. The dual tank flips over, revealing the cartridge without you having to deal with screws or clamps. It’s a three-layer dust filter that captures fine dust particles such as drywall or ashes, dangerous materials that can corrupt your motor.
Overall, this is by far the best shop vac for job site we’ve reviewed. It has a big tank, powerful 6HP liquid suction, and a rugged portable design. And the best part is the Ridgid WD1450 wet-dry shop vac comes with an industry-leading lifetime warranty against material defects and workmanship – what you can’t get from any other shop vac brands.
Best Shop Vac for Woodworking
The Craftsman 17595 16 Gallon 6.5 HP Heavy-Duty Shop Vac is the most powerful shop vac in the list. With a super strong 6.5 peak HP motor, you’ll be able to safely vacuum wood chunks, saw dust, metal shards, big nails and more without a problem.
A large 16 gal. tank helps you vacuum more with less refilling, and with the help of a long 27′ reach hose you can clean up you whole space without having to move the tank around; although this vacuum features heavy-duty 360° swivel casters make it easy to move around on most surfaces. All of these features make this Craftsman vacuum one of the best shop vacs for woodworking shop.
Another handy feature of this large shop vac, is its large 2-1/2-inch diameter hose with Dual-Flex technology for 180-degree mobility at each end to resist kinking. A 2-1/2-inch diameter hose will fit perfectly with the Oneida Molded DIY Dust Deputy Cyclone – the best dust control system that every woodworking shop should have.
The Craftsman 17595 wet/dry vac also features blowing port allows for quick cleaning of leaves and grass clippings in your garage and outdoors, built-in oversized drain on the wet/dry vac allows for convenient emptying of liquids.
Best Shop Vac for Car Detailing
What’s the best shop vac for car detailing? Of course that question may never have one true answer, but the Ridgid WD4070 4 Gallon Portable Shop Vacuum will never disappoints.
This shop vac is designed to deliver powerful performance in a compact size. Its lightweight, small size and large carry handle provide comfortable portability. With a 5 peak HP motor, which is 3 times stronger than shop vacs in its size, this Ridgid vacuum offers the powerful performance necessary for car detailing.
The 20 ft. cord provides an extensive reach and the 18 lbs. design is lightweight and easily portable. The wet/dry vacuum’s large rear wheels and casters provide great mobility over carpeted floors, thresholds and rough floors. The accessory storage caddy keeps accessories organized and close by for easy access. The vacuum also features the Tug-A-Long locking hose that won’t pull loose during use, and a 3-layer fine dust filter allows to capture fine dust particles such as dry drywall.
Overall the vac, capacity and power, accessories and the whole associated set-up are specifically designed for car detailing. This Ridgid small shop vac is widely used by many car detailers. And like most other wet/dry shop vacuums from Ridgid, the WD4070 comes with a lifetime warranty, you can’t go wrong.
Best Wall Mount Shop Vac for Garage
Being able to mount your shop vac on the wall gives you more floor space in your garage, and means you won’t have to maneuver around it all the time. The Bissell Garage Pro Wet Dry Shop Vacuum is an especially convenient shop vac with a wall-mountable design and a long hose up to 32-foot, making it one of the best shop vacuums for use in the garage, car, workshop and more.
The Bissell Garage Pro features 12-amp motor provides powerful suction for garage cleaning needs, whether you’re vacuuming your car or tidying up the shop. This unit comes with a 4-gallon dirt tank and has an LED Full Water Tank to notify you when it needs to be emptied. It also comes with an array of tools for home and car detailing and can even be used as a blower to tidy up your garage and your grounds.
Compared to some of the top wall-mounted garage vacuums on the market such as the VacuMaid GV30 Wall Mounted Garage Vacuum or the Prolux Professional Shop Wall Mounted Garage Vac, the Bissell Garage Pro is nearly as powerful but has a longer hose and at a much lower price.
So if you’re looking for a wall mounted wet/dry shop vac that will save your floor space, this is the best shop vac to buy.
Best Cordless Shop Vac
We love the portability of the DEWALT DCV581H and the fact that it can run on both a rechargeable battery and AC power. But if there is no reason to buy a cordless shop vac with a 120V power cord, the Milwaukee M18 2 Gal. Cordless Wet/Dry Vacuum is really the best cordless shop vac you can buy, with a better price.
This Milwaukee cordless shop vac operates off either an M18 (18V) lithium-ion battery or the company’s older 18V Ni-Cad batteries. Both will provide enough power to suck up wet or dry material into the onboard 2 gallon storage tank. Since the suction is run through its narrow 1-1/4″ hose, it works efficiently and provides more than enough suction for light duty work. This tool will run for about 30+ minutes on a Milwaukee M18 Red-Lithium 9A battery.
This shop vac is designed to be extremely portable. It’s actually a good look, and very little of the structure is wasted, with every nook and cranny well-crafted to provide optimal ergonomics and easy access to accessories and the battery compartment. The vacuum is lightweight (less than 10 lbs), but strong enough that it doesn’t come across as flimsy or delicate. The general feel is that you can toss this vacuum around and not worry about it breaking easily.
This an ideal all-in-one cleaning machine, no matter how far from a power source you have to go.
Compare the Best Wet/Dry Shop Vacs
Choosing The Best Shop Vac – Shop Vac Buying Guide
When looking to buy a shop vac, there are a few things you should take into consideration. There are many different style of shop vacs available, one for your woodworking shop, one for use in the jobsite, one for your home, one for cleaning up your car, and even one for quick clean water, but which is the best shop vac for you?
Tank Size / Capacity
The most important attribute you’ll want to think about is the tank capacity and size. If you have a large mess to pick up, and you have space to store it, you’ll want to purchase a shop vac with a large capacity tank. You won’t have to empty the tank as often and cleanup is a heck of a lot easier. If you are limited on space, living in an apartment for example, look into a smaller, portable shop vac that will be convenient to store.
- Small Shop Vacs (2 to 6 gallons): If the main purpose of your shop vac is to clean up small messes, such as pet hair or everyday debris in your home or vehicle, a smaller shop vac will be more than enough.
- Medium-Sized Shop Vacs (8 to 12 gallons): If you plan on using your shop vac for cleaning up around the home or workshop, you’ll want a shop vac this size. A shop vac this size is great to have in the home if your basement is prone to flooding, as an alternative to your basement sump pump. This is also an ideal choice for professional contractors working on the jobsite who need a shop vac that is a combination of large capacity, powerful suction, and portability.
- Large Shop Vacs (14 to 16 gallons): These are the best shop vacs for heavy-duty jobs, such as cleaning large commercial warehouses. They can also be used in large workshops for easy cleanup. Just beware of how heavy the tank will be when it is full. Make sure you don’t purchase one that’s too big to lift and dump when it gets full.
When we say performance, we’re talking specifically about the suction power. The first thing that comes to mind when selecting a wet/dry shop vac is probably peak horsepower.
Peak Horsepower (HP) is a term used in the wet-dry vac industry for consumer comparison purposes. It does not denote the operational horsepower output of a wet-dry vac, but rather the horsepower output of a motor, including the motor’s inertial contribution, achieved in laboratory testing.
Basically, the more peak horsepower a shop vac has, the stronger its suction will be. But in actual use, many shop vacs do not operate at the peak horsepower shown. So, the best way to know which is the more powerful shop vac is using Water Lift and Cubic Feet per Minute to compare them.
Water Lift (or Sealed Pressure): is best described as suction pressure, measured in inches of water, meaning how many inches the vacuum will lift a column of water up a glass tube. More water lift, More powerful. Many shop vac manufacturers don’t show this number. In that case, you can use peak HP to compare two units.
Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM): Picking up fine debris, such as wood chips or dust? You want a higher CFM rating, which measures the maximum airflow the shop vacuum can achieve at its largest opening.
Most shop vacs are made from durable plastic. Plastic is a lighter weight material and makes it easy to carry from room to room in your home. Today’s plastic shop vacs are very durable and last long.
Stainless steel shop vacs are also available. This is is great for heavy duty work areas, such as body shops and construction sites. But most today’s best shop vacs are still made of plastic.
The filter you need is often based on the type of debris you are picking up. For wet debris, we recommend purchasing a foam sleeve for your filter. For fine debris, purchase a filter with a fine filtration level. For medium debris, purchase a filter with a medium filtration level or better. For large debris, purchase a filter with a general household filtration level or better.
If you or someone you live with has allergies, we suggest using a HEPA cartridge filter or HEPA collection bag. HEPA filter is also the best choice for cleanup lead-based paint, whenever you use lead paint for your painting project.
Accessories and Hose Size
Don’t forget to consider included accessories and hose length. Make sure you are able to reach all the places you want to clean, but also remember a longer hose reduces suction. Think about the jobs you need your shop vac to perform and select a model that comes with the accessories you need.
Blower Port / Detachable Blower
If you have a lot of fall yard clean up to do, or have hard-to-reach areas to clean, your best shop vac should have a blower port and/or a detachable blower. Detachable blower makes a great leaf blower, so purchasing a shop vac with a detachable blower is like buying two tools in one! If you have hard-to-reach areas to clean, purchasing a shop vac with a blower port would be helpful, as you can blow the dust to a place that is easier to clean up.
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