The Best Wet/Dry Vacuums of 2023

Suck up just about everything from spills in the kitchen to debris in the yard with one of these handy wet/dry vacuums.

By Glenda Taylor and Tom Scalisi | Updated May 19, 2023 11:59 AM

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The Best Wet Dry Vacuum Options

Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

Workshop and DIY projects create piles of sawdust, sanding dust, and all sorts of tiny bits of debris that add to general clutter and chaos. Wet/dry vacuums, sometimes called “shop vacs” because they’re often found in construction and workshop settings, make quick work of cleaning up both liquid spills and dry messes.

Another variety of vacuum that cleans up both wet and dry messes is the vacuum mop. Vacuum mops perform as traditional vacuums with the added ability to clean up liquid spills and wash flooring.

To help those on their vacuum-shopping journey, we performed hands-on testing with some of the best wet/dry vacuums on the market. We compared suction, accessories, and more to determine which vacuums are worth the investment. Ahead, learn about the features and options to look for in a top-quality shop-type model, and don’t miss the roundup of some of the best wet/dry vacuum options available.

  1. BEST OVERALL: DeWalt 12-Gallon Poly Wet/Dry Vac
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Vacmaster 12-Gallon 5 HP Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
  3. BEST LIGHT-DUTY: DeWalt 20V MAX Wet/Dry Cordless Vacuum
  4. BEST MEDIUM-DUTY: Craftsman 9-Gallon 4.25 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vac
  5. BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Workshop High-Capacity Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner
  6. BEST FOR DUST COLLECTION: Craftsman 16-Gallon 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vac
  7. BEST WITH HEPA: Vacmaster Pro 8-Gallon HEPA Wet/Dry Vacuum
  8. BEST FOR CARS: DeWalt 18/20V MAX Cordless/Corded Wet/Dry Vacuum
  9. BEST FOR PORTABILITY: Ridgid Portable 4-Gallon 5.0 HP Motor Wet/Dry Vac
The Best Wet/Dry Vacuum Option

Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila

How We Tested the Best Wet/Dry Vacuums

Testing the best wet/dry vacuums wasn’t rocket science. We needed to see how well they work, how they suck up dirt, how they handle liquids, and how much we liked their attachments. After all, that encompasses the basics of wet/dry vacuums.

First, we prepared roughly 2 gallons of soil for the dirt test. We placed the dirt in a bucket, removed the filters inside the vacuums, and used only the hose to suck up the dirt. We started with the compact models, then moved to the medium-duty models, and finally went after the heavy-duty shop-style vacuums. We timed them all for comparison and emptied each canister for the next test.

Next, we filled the same bucket with 2 gallons of muddy water and repeated the testing process. Starting with the compact models and moving up to the heavy-duty vacuums, we timed how long each took to suck up the muddy water.

We also took other things into consideration, like how easy each vacuum was to assemble and how well the attachments fit and worked. By the end of the test, we had a good idea of what worked, what didn’t, what we liked, and what we’d improve upon if we could.

Our Top Picks 

The ability to suck up both dry and wet messes with a single vacuum eliminates the need to have separate vacuums on hand. The following wet/dry vacs are some of the best, varying in power, size, and messes they can effectively tackle. Some are better suited for a job or work site than for use in a home.

One of these may be the boon needed for keeping the home or work space tidy. And, to make sure shoppers are spending that hard-earned money wisely, we performed hands-on testing with these models, putting them through the paces of sucking up both dry and wet messes. Keep reading to find the right model for a shopper’s specific needs among our list of top wet/dry vacuums.

Best Overall

The Best Wet/Dry Vacuum Option: DeWalt 12-Gallon Poly Wet/Dry Vac

For cleaning up after DIY and other household projects, this DeWalt wet/dry vac stands out. It has a medium-capacity 12-gallon collection tank and comes with a powerful 5.5-hp motor for strong suction. The bright-yellow canister stands 25.4 inches tall and is 17.5 inches in diameter, which is big enough that most users will need to stow it in a garage or workshop.

The DeWalt vacuum comes with a 20-foot power cord and features a 7-foot-long flexible suction hose. This tool weighs 24.9 pounds and comes with a handle that makes it easy to carry up a staircase or load into a truck bed. The vacuum also comes with some accessories, including a utility nozzle and crevice tool, for various cleanup jobs. Buyers also receive a nifty accessory storage bag that attaches to the vacuum.

During testing, the DeWalt proved to be an excellent vacuum overall. While it wasn’t the most powerful model, it was fast and efficient. We particularly liked the onboard storage pouch as it does a better job of retaining attachments than any other method. The only downside we could find is that setup took a while since the wheels and their brackets, along with the brackets for the tool pouch, needed assembling.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Shop style
  • Power: 5.5 hp
  • Size: 12 gallons


  • Powerful suction; ideal for most cleaning projects
  • Onboard storage pouch; great for storing attachments without losing them
  • Simple and effective cord and hose management


  • Setup took a while (but we’re stretching to find a con)

Get the DeWalt Poly wet/dry vacuum at Amazon, The Home Depot, Acme Tools, Blain’s Farm & Fleet, or DeWalt

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Wet/Dry Vacuum Option: Vacmaster 12-Gallon 5 HP Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum

Enjoying the powerful suction of a wet/dry vacuum shouldn’t break the bank. The Vacmaster shop vacuum comes with a medium-capacity 12-gallon collection tank and features a respectable 5-hp motor. Best of all, it comes at an affordable price point. The Vacmaster stands 24.49 inches tall and is 20.52 inches in diameter. It comes with a 7-foot flexible hose and has a 12-foot power cord.

This shop vac does double duty as a blower by removing the powerhead from the canister and connecting it to one of the two included extension wands. The vacuum weighs in at 24.4 pounds, and buyers receive additional nozzles and a crevice tool for cleaning in tight spots.

If it wasn’t for the Vacmaster’s impressively low price point, it might’ve taken another more prestigious award. The truth is that we found this vacuum to be as good as the other models on this list. In fact, it might be a 5-hp vacuum, but the design allows for suction as powerful as the larger vacuums we tested. Also, this model is the only one with a detachable motor that the user can operate as a corded leaf blower. The one downside that we found is that it doesn’t come with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, but most don’t.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Shop style
  • Power: 5 hp
  • Size: 12 gallons


  • Punches above its weight class in suction power and user-friendliness
  • Affordable price point compared to similar options
  • Vacuum motor detaches and operates as a blower if needed


  • Doesn’t come with a HEPA filter; may not get dust and fine particles

Get the Vacmaster 12-gallon wet/dry vacuum at Amazon or NewEgg

Best Light-Duty

The Best Wet/Dry Vacuum Option: DeWalt 20V MAX Wet/Dry Cordless Vacuum

Those looking for a light-duty shop-type vac may need to look no further than this cordless wet/dry vacuum that is powered by a 20-volt lithium-ion battery. Weighing in at just 8 pounds, this vacuum is lightweight enough to carry from room to room with ease, and users can take it to remote locations without electrical outlets, such as garden sheds.

This light-duty cordless shop vac comes with a small-capacity 2-gallon collection tank and is just 17.25 inches long by 12.31 inches wide by 13.12 inches high , so it’s possible to store it on a shelf in the garage or workshop with ease. It comes with a 5-foot flexible hose and a top handle for carrying. Buyers receive a crevice tool and wide-nozzle tool attachment for cleaning messes in a variety of spots.

Since we’re being honest, how about an admission? We’ve been using this tiny wet/dry vac for weeks. It was just too compact and convenient to leave in the box. While it certainly doesn’t have the power of the corded models, we found it to be incredibly handy and portable, and we especially liked that it accepts all of our 20-volt DeWalt batteries. The tools store onboard for a streamlined design as well.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Tool/shop style
  • Power: 20-volt batteries
  • Size: 2 gallons


  • Incredibly convenient design; compact and easy to carry as needed
  • Operates on any DeWalt 20-volt battery; great for DeWalt tool fans
  • Smart onboard storage; easier to swap out accessories


  • Doesn’t quite have the power of some corded models currently available

Get the DeWalt 20V MAX wet/dry vacuum at Amazon, Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, Acme Tools, or DeWalt.

Best Medium-Duty

The Best Wet/Dry Vacuum Option: Craftsman 9-Gallon 4.25 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vac

The classic-style Craftsman wet/dry vac doesn’t come with many bells and whistles, but it features a powerful 4.25-hp motor and offers an ample 9-gallon collection tank suitable for cleaning up medium-size messes found in most home workshops and garages. It is 16.61 inches long by 18.42 inches wide by 24.28 inches high, which is slightly more compact in size than competing medium-duty models.

The Craftsman vac includes a 10-foot power cord and a 7-foot flexible hose. It also comes with accessory storage right on the canister, and buyers receive several additional attachments, including a wet nozzle, utility nozzle, crevice tool, and two extension wands.

This model from Craftsman is not the most powerful, and it doesn’t have the highest capacity. But the corded shop-style vac got the job done during testing. It made short work of dirt and dust, pet hair, as well as muddy water. It did require a bit of assembly, including attaching the wheels to the bracket and the brackets to the vacuum, but it wasn’t terrible.

We did, however, find that it was very easy to secure the vacuum motor to the canister slightly askew, which absolutely destroyed suction. While that’s not necessarily a deal breaker, buyers should be aware of this issue.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Shop style
  • Power: 4.25 hp
  • Size: 9 gallons


  • No slouch when it comes to suction; suitable for multiple cleaning tasks
  • Comes with dust collection for easy cleanup; suitable for dander and pet hair
  • Filters pop on and off easily; good time saver


  • It’s a little finicky to assemble; may be hard for first timers

Get the Craftsman 9-gallon wet/dry vacuum at Amazon, Ace Hardware, Craftsman, Blain’s Farm & Fleet, or NewEgg.

Best Heavy-Duty

The Best Wet/Dry Vacuum Option: Workshop High-Capacity Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner

With durability, power, impressive storage-collection capacity, and several attachments, this Workshop wet/dry vacuum is for big-time cleanups. It boasts a large 6.5-hp motor and a copolymer drum that resists the potential cracking of the standard plastic drum found in many wet/dry vacs.

This model has a built-in auto-shutoff float that senses when the liquid level in the drum gets too high and shuts off the vacuum to prevent overflow accidents. In addition to a blower connection, a drain spout, and a 7-foot hose, the attachments list runs long and includes all of the following: a wet nozzle, a utility nozzle, a car nozzle, and two extension wands for carpeting as well as hardwood floors.

Sometimes, when a tool claims to have a certain amount of suction power, it ends up disappointing. The Workshop shop vac tied for the most powerful model in our test, and it did not disappoint. This vacuum cleaned up both dirt and muddy water the fastest of all the vacuums in our test. We also liked that this model has a lot of onboard storage spots, allowing for more attachment organization than most other models. Also, draining out the dirty water was a cinch thanks to the built-in drain plug.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Shop style
  • Power: 6.5 hp
  • Size: 16 gallons


  • Unbelievably powerful; handles most indoor and outdoor jobs easily
  • Enough capacity for even the toughest jobs; suitable for commercial use or in garages
  • Drain port makes emptying 16 gallons of liquid from the dirty water tank a breeze


  • No HEPA filtration; may not trap finer particles

Get the Workshop wet/dry vacuum at Amazon or Tractor Supply Co.

Best with Dust Collection

The Best Wet/Dry Vacuum Option: Craftsman 16-Gallon 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vac

The option to collect dust in a disposable bag is a perk with this Craftsman wet/dry vac. The vacuum features a powerful 6.5-hp motor and a 16-gallon-capacity tank that can be used with or without a dust-collection bag.

Buyers receive one bag, and replacement bags are sold separately. Disposing of dry debris is simple with a disposable bag that the user can lift out of the collection tank and throw away. Dust-collection bags are only used when vacuuming dry debris and pet hair.

The Craftsman comes with a 7-foot flexible hose and a long 20-foot power cord, giving the user ample reach for most cleanup situations. With two extension wands, a car nozzle, a crevice nozzle, a utility nozzle, and a wet nozzle, this wet/dry vac is well suited for DIY and home renovation projects.

We found the Craftsman to deliver just as much power as advertised, making short work of everything we threw at it. We like the power, the fact that it comes with dust-collection bags, and even its organization. The power cord wraps around the handle (which we had to install ourselves, for some reason) and the hose has brackets (that we also had to install) that hold it in place. However, if the hose and cord storage are ideal, the attachment storage is anything but; attachments popped off the vacuum as we pushed it around.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Shop style
  • Power: 6.5 hp
  • Size: 16 gallons


  • Lots of power; capable of tackling most projects, indoors and out
  • Comes with dust-collection bags for ease of cleanup
  • Brackets for hose storage; keeps everything neat and organized


  • Onboard storage isn’t secure; accessories may fall off and get lost
  • Finicky assembly compared to similar options

Get the Craftsman 16-gallon wet/dry vacuum at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or Blain’s Farm & Fleet.

Best with HEPA

The Best Wet/Dry Vacuum Option: Vacmaster Pro 8-Gallon HEPA Wet/Dry Vacuum

For maximum dust control, check out this Vacmaster Pro 8 wet/dry vac, which has two HEPA filters—a HEPA microfiber prefilter and a HEPA cartridge filter. This vacuum is designed to clean up both wet and dry messes. The HEPA filters (used only in dry mode) will keep even tiny particles of dust and pollen from reentering the air in the room.

The Vacmaster features an 8-gallon collection capacity and comes with an extra-long 30-foot power cord and a 10-foot-long flexible hose. It also comes with several accessories, including a crevice tool, two steel extension wands, a dust brush, and more. This model can be fitted with a disposable collection bag (not included), which limits dust from entering the air when dumping the bag.

From the second we unboxed this Vacmaster, it was clear that it’s an industrial beast. Where other models come with plastic attachments, this one comes with heavy-duty aluminum for hardwood floorsas well as some carpeting. And the attachments are akin to those on canister-style vacuums from decades ago, meaning they’re durable and feature click-in buttons and adjustable suction.

The 10-foot hose is much longer than any other wet/dry vacuum on the list, and the wheels and casters are of high quality for easy rolling. But we found a couple of issues, including that it’s not exceptionally powerful, and we don’t understand why Vacmaster hides this model’s hp rating.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Shop style
  • Power: Unspecified
  • Size: 8 gallons


  • By far the best attachments in the group; includes a tool for every task
  • Excellent wheels and casters; easy to move around
  • 10-foot industrial hose long enough for most tasks
  • Comes with HEPA filter; a noticeable bonus compared to other options


  • Didn’t have quite the power of the other Vacmaster

Get the Vacmaster Pro 8-gallon wet/dry vacuum at Amazon, Vacmaster, or Acme Tools.

Best for Cars

The Best Wet Dry Vacuum Option: DeWalt 18/20V MAX Cordless/Corded Wet/Dry Vacuum

This compact DeWalt shop vacuum is quite easy to tote from the garage to the car. Operable via its built-in electrical cord or the included 20-volt rechargeable battery, this model features a washable (reusable) HEPA filter and an extendable hose for sucking up small spills, pebbles, and dirt quickly.

This pick has a 2-gallon canister for holding ample dust, debris, and other materials, and the crush-resistant, fully integrated, 5-foot hose with a wide head allows for ample reach in small spaces like under the seats, between seat grooves, and on carpets. The hose can also be wrapped around the canister and secured for compact, easy storage.

For added ease of use, the included battery-charger kit comes with a 4-amp charge-rate charger for quick charging between uses. Perhaps best of all, the DeWalt can be stowed in a closet or on a large shelving unit.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Shop vacuum
  • Power: 20 volts
  • Size: 2 gallons


  • Provides both corded and cordless functionality
  • 5-foot hose with wide head; suitable for most jobs
  • Integrated HEPA filter; not many similar models include this
  • Includes a battery-charger kit and soft storage bag


  • May not provide ample suction power for heavy-duty tasks

Get the DeWalt 18/20V MAX wet/dry vacuum at Amazon, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Acme Tools, or DeWalt.

Best for Portability

The Best Wet/Dry Vacuum Option: Ridgid Portable 4-Gallon 5.0 HP Motor Wet/Dry Vac

Small but mighty, the Ridgid portable wet/dry vacuum features a compact 4-gallon tank. Surprisingly for its size, it also comes with a powerful 5-hp motor, making it a highly effective vacuum suitable for moving from room to room or transporting in a car trunk. It has a 20-foot power cord and a flexible 8-foot quick-release hose. It weighs in at 12 pounds and is 19 inches long by 15 inches wide by 16.5 inches high in size.

The Ridgid wet/dry vac does double duty as a blower by removing the powerhead from the canister. It comes with a car nozzle and a diffuser for use with the blower option, and it can be fitted with a filter bag (sold separately).

It’s rare to find a wet/dry vac with more power than capacity, but this model from Ridgid has it. We like this vacuum’s powerful motor, but we like it even more since the model is incredibly portable. And, to combat its high-performance motor, it comes with a noise diffuser that keeps it quiet. It really could use a few extra attachments, but it’s a top-tier vacuum either way.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Indoor/shop style
  • Power: 5 hp
  • Size: 4 gallons


  • More horsepower than gallon capacity
  • Comes with noise diffuser to make it run more quietly
  • Compact design; very easy to tote around


  • Low on attachments; may not be suitable for specialized tasks

Get the Ridgid wet/dry vacuum at Amazon or Ridgid.

Jump to Our Top Picks

What to Consider When Choosing a Wet/Dry Vacuum

The most important consideration in choosing a wet/dry vacuum is figuring out its primary intended use. A large 10-gallon shop vac is unlikely to fit in a home’s hall closet, while a compact, handheld model wouldn’t be much help on most construction sites. After determining its main use, buyers also have various other aspects to consider, including desired capacity, weight, the type of power it uses, and whether certain attachments are necessary.

Types of Wet/Dry Vacuums

The ability to clean up both wet and dry messes with the same vacuum eliminates the need to lug two different types of vacuums around. In small homes and workshops, storage space may be limited, so multipurpose cleaning tools will often leave more open floor space. In the wet/dry category of vacuums, three types stand out: shop vacuums, vacuum mops, and handheld vacuum models.

Shop Vacuums

A mainstay in the DIY industry, shop vacuums have high-powered motors and heavy-duty suction power to suck up all manner of dirt and small construction debris. They feature bucket-style canisters that hold a large amount of debris—up to 14 gallons or more. These models come with a long, flexible hose and a couple of different attachments for vacuuming when standing or for sucking up debris from tight spaces.

Many shop vacs also clean up liquid messes, earning the label “wet/dry” shop vacs. These powerful vacuums can help reduce the amount of water in a flooded carpet or help drain out a clogged sump-pump basket. A wet/dry shop vac also can be used for a variety of cleaning tasks, including cleaning gutters.

Vacuum Mops

A handy newcomer to the home-cleaning arsenal, vacuum mops combine traditional vacuuming ability with floor-washing ability. They resemble conventional household vacuums but may contain both a dust-collection bin and a dirty-water collection bin. Depending on the model, users can often switch between vacuuming and floor washing at the touch of a button.

Depending on the brand and quality, vacuum mops may come with additional features, such as a rotating brush roll, floor lights, and easy-dump collection bins. Some also come with a reservoir for holding floor-cleaning solution. Many models are suitable for cleaning hardwood floors since they don’t leave water or cleaning solution standing on the wood long enough to cause damage like a standard mop would.

Handheld Vacuums

For quick cleanup jobs, a handheld wet/dry vac can be very helpful. These compact little cleaners come in a variety of styles.

  • Shop style: Made to resemble larger shop vacs, these miniature vacuums feature the same canister-type collection system but on a much smaller scale. They include flexible hoses and sometimes a couple of attachments. They also come with a handle for carrying them along while vacuuming up wet or dry messes.
  • Indoor style: Often cordless, these handheld vacuums feature a motor base that snaps onto a vacuum funnel, which can be used to pick up pet hair from a sofa or carpeted stairs in a jiff.
  • Tool style: Major power-tool manufacturers will often make small handheld dry or wet/dry vacuums that accommodate the same lithium-ion batteries required to run their larger cordless tools. For those who use one brand of power tool regularly, it’s a simple task to switch a battery from, say, a cordless drill to a handheld shop vac to clean up a small mess quickly.

Size and Weight

From lightweight compact models to large canister commercial models, wet/dry vacs span a wide range of sizes and weights. The smallest shop-type vacs may weigh less than 3 pounds and stand about 1 foot high and wide, while heavy-duty shop vacs with large stainless steel canisters can weigh more than 35 pounds and stand 3 feet tall or taller.

In general, larger shop vacs are better suited for workshop use. Compact models are more appropriate for household use and hauling in the trunk or back seat of a car. In-home wet and dry vacuums and vacuum mops are comparable in size and weight to traditional household vacuums and can weigh less than 2 pounds for handheld models or as much as 18 pounds for larger upright models.

Corded vs. Cordless

Most medium-duty and heavy-duty wet/dry vacuums have power cords, and as long as an electrical outlet is handy, they never run out of power. Cordless vacuums are suitable for either quick indoor cleanups or for limited-project debris, like wood shavings left behind when a carpenter installs trim around windows. In the latter case, a carpenter might opt to carry a lightweight cordless shop vac that accepts the same lithium-ion battery as a drill or saw.

The cord length of a corded vacuum can be extended by attaching an extension cord, but only use the type of cord recommended by the vacuum manufacturer. In many cases, this can mean using a 14-gauge cord if the cord is less than 50 feet long or using a 12-gauge cord if it is more than 50 feet long.

Power and Performance

In the context of wet/dry vacs, the horsepower of a given unit refers to the motor output of a corded shop vac, not performance ability. While it’s true that higher hp translates to a more powerful motor, the length and diameter of the hose and other factors influence the amount of suction that a vacuum delivers.

When it comes to cordless battery-operated vacuums, power is indicated in volts instead of hp. Corded vacuum mops, like traditional household vacuums, typically don’t list hp.

  • Light-duty: These wet/dry vacs range from 1 to 4.5 hp for corded vacs and approximately 18 to 20 volts for cordless vacs. They are ideal for small cleanup tasks around the house or in an automobile.
  • Medium-duty: Featuring 5- to 6-hp motors, medium-duty wet/dry vacs are well suited for cleaning up after DIY and small construction projects. They’re also a boon for helping remove water from basements. Equivalent power in a cordless wet/dry vac takes a more powerful battery, with an average of 20 to 24 volts or higher.
  • Heavy-duty: The big boys of the bunch, heavy-duty wet/dry vacuums have motors with more than 6 hp of power and are often for commercial use. Battery-operated versions of heavy-duty wet/dry vacs are relatively rare, but advances in technology may make them more common.


Wet/dry vacuums vary widely in capacity, which refers to the size of their collection tank.

  • Small capacity: This includes most vacuum mops and handheld models, and these units will hold from 0.5 to 6 gallons of debris, depending on the style. Household models feature the smallest capacities, but they are often easiest to dump. At the upper end of the small-capacity scale are compact shop-type models that are well suited for DIYers and crafters.
  • Medium capacity: This size range features collection bins that will hold 6 to 14 gallons of debris, making them well suited for larger workshops or frequent removal of standing water.
  • Large capacity: At the top end of the size options, large-capacity wet/dry vacs come with collection tanks that hold 14 to 18 gallons. These are typically used on busy construction sites and can help remove flood water quickly.

Hose Length

Hose length runs from 6 to 30 feet, depending on the model. Longer hoses allow users to mount the vacuum in a central location and vacuum from one end of the room to the other without having to pull the entire vacuum along with them. While this is handy in many cases, long hoses tend to get twisted if they’re not wound carefully after use.

Some of the best shop vacs will come with a holder for winding the hose for storage. But, if not, the hose is usually detachable and can be hung in loops on a wall hook.


The filters in wet/dry vacs vary widely, and their primary purpose is to trap dust and small bits of debris to keep them from recirculating in the air. Most shop vacs feature a corrugated paper filter with rubber seals on both ends that keep dust from blowing around the filter and into the canister.

Wet/dry vacs may also feature a foam prefilter that keeps larger particles from entering the corrugated filter, which reduces clogging and extends its useful life. Manufacturers usually suggest removing the filters before using the vacuum to suck up water.

Special multistage filtration systems may come with HEPA filters made to trap up to 99.97 percent of airborne dust, pollen, mold, and bacterial particles that are larger than 0.3 microns in size. HEPA filtration is found in a few shop-type vacs, but they are more frequently found in residential vacuum mops and other wet- and dry-capable in-home vacuums.


Several wet/dry vacuums come with accessories that connect to the device and expand its functionality, so they have the ability to do more, such as reaching into tight spots, like a stick-type vacuum. Nearly all models come with a wide floor utility nozzle, which connects to a rigid extension wand. Additional attachments can help tackle several cleaning problems.

  • A crevice nozzle is used for sucking debris out of tight corners.
  • An elbow wand is used for reaching around corners or overhead.
  • A wet nozzle with a squeegee edge is used for banishing liquid spills.
  • A brush roll or nozzle is used for cleaning upholstery and car interiors.
  • Reusable or single-use dust bags are used for collecting debris.
  • A blower connection allows users to clear leaves away from the yard or garage door.

Additional Features

While shop vacs are designed mainly to be functional and don’t have a lot of bells and whistles, in-home wet/dry vacuums may have a few more features.

  • A drain plug lets users release liquid without having to remove the inside collection canister.
  • Built-in cord and hose holders help keep the cord and hose tidy when storing.
  • Filters with antimicrobial ingredients prevent mold and mildew growth in the filter.
  • Wall-mounted shop vacs save floor space in utility rooms and closets.
  • Washable filters allow the user to clean the filter rather than shell out the money for a new one.

The Advantages of Owning a Wet/Dry Vacuum

Wet/dry vacs are found in virtually every workshop and garage, and for good reason. They’re tough, durable, and they offer powerful suction for cleaning up DIY messes. Here are a few advantages of having a wet/dry vacuum on hand.

  • Eliminates the need for two separate tools.
  • Cleans up leaks, spills, and debris in the home.
  • Traps pet hair, dust mites, and other ultrafine particles (if the vacuum has HEPA filtration).
  • Removes water from wet carpeting so it can dry faster.
  • Cleans the inside of automobiles.
  • Removes wood chips, shavings, and debris from a jobsite or workshop.
  • Sucks up piles of blown-in leaves that collect in corners of the garage and shed.
  • Blows leaves off the sidewalk (if the vacuum has a blower connection).


Investing in a wet/dry vacuum simplifies cleanup for a variety of messes, but before buying, consider the vacuum’s intended use, where it will be stored, and whether it should be portable. For those thinking about buying a wet/dry vacuum for the first time, a few questions are to be expected. Here are answers to some of the most common questions.

Q. Is a shop vac the same as a wet/dry vac?

The terms are often used interchangeably, but some shop vacs might not feature the wet-suction capabilities of other models.

Q. Is a shop vac more powerful than a regular vacuum?

That depends on both the quality of the regular vacuum and the quality of the shop vac. In general, however, a shop vac is more powerful than a household vacuum because they are made to suck up large or heavy objects. But, shop vacs are also capable of sucking up liquid as well as small particles.

Q. Can I vacuum water with a shop vac?

Many shop vacs (not all) are also wet/dry vacuums, and users can suck up dirty water as well as dry messes. Some shop vacs can also act as a pump for removing large quantities of water from areas like tubs and showers, pools, ponds, and more.

Q. Can a wet/dry vac clean carpets?

A shop-type wet/dry vacuum is often the tool of choice for sucking water out of a flooded carpet or for cleaning dust, debris, and pet hair from carpet fibers. However, those with high-pile carpet fibers may have a trickier time using a wet/dry vacuum (depending on the model).

Q. How do I choose a wet/dry vac?

Figure out what type of messes you need to vacuum. Then, select a wet/dry vac with the power and capacity to tackle those messes easily. Tip: Look for the horsepower and tank capacity of a given vacuum to determine the kind of messes it can tackle.

Q. What is the most powerful wet/dry vacuum?

Among the most powerful wet/dry vacuums is the Workshop wet/dry vacuum, which comes in as the Best Heavy-Duty pick in this lineup. Not only does this model provide 6.5 horsepower for tough debris and dust, but it also has a 16-gallon-tank capacity for taking on larger messes.

Why Trust Bob Vila 

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.

Meet the Testers

Glenda Taylor is a product tester and writer specializing in the construction, remodeling, and real estate industries. She and her husband own a general contracting company, and Taylor is experienced in both residential and commercial building applications. She tests a wide range of power tools as well as other home improvement, household, and lawn-and-garden products.

Tom Scalisi is a full-time DIY and construction writer for many of the largest websites in the industry, including Bob Vila, This Old House, Family Handyman, and Forbes. He also owns and operates a pest control blog, He spent years working in industrial building maintenance.