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 available for in-home use. These vacuum mops perform as traditional vacuums with the added ability to clean up liquid spills and wash flooring.
Ahead, learn about the features and options to look for in a top-quality shop-type or home-type model, and don’t miss the roundup of some of the best wet/dry vacuum options available.
- BEST OVERALL: DeWALT 12 Gallon Poly Wet/Dry Vac
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Vacmaster VBV1210 12-Gallon 5 HP Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
- BEST LIGHT-DUTY: DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Wet-Dry Vacuum
- BEST MEDIUM-DUTY: CRAFTSMAN 9 Gallon 4.25 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vac
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: WORKSHOP High Capacity Wet Dry Vacuum Cleaner
- BEST WITH DUST COLLECTION: CRAFTSMAN 16 Gallon 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vac
- BEST WITH HEPA: Vacmaster Pro 8 gallon Certified Hepa Wet/Dry Vac
- BEST FOR HOME USE: Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro Wet Dry Vacuum and Mop
- BEST FOR CAR: Armor All 2.5 Gallon 2 Peak HP Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
- BEST FOR PORTABILITY: RIDGID Portable 4-Gallon 5.0 HP Motor Wet Dry Vacuum
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 models.
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 vacuum also can be used for a variety of cleaning tasks, including cleaning gutters.
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 collector 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.
Vacuum mops may come with additional features, depending on the brand and quality, such as rotating brushes, floor lights, and easy-dump collection bins. Some also come with a reservoir for holding floor-cleaning solution.
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 come with flexible hoses and sometimes a couple of attachments are included. 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 that 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.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best 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.
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 a 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 to workshop use. Compact models are more appropriate for household use and hauling in the trunk or backseat 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- and heavy-duty wet/dry vacuums are corded, 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 may opt to carry a lightweight cordless vac that accepts the same lithium-ion battery as a drill or saw.
The cord length of a corded vac can be extended by attaching an extension cord, but use only the type of cord recommended by the vacuum manufacturer. In many cases, this may 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 (hp) of a given unit refers to the motor output of a corded shop vac, not performance ability. While it’s true that higher horsepower translates into 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 (V) instead of horsepower. Corded vacuum mops, like traditional household vacuums, typically don’t list horsepower.
- Light Duty: These wet/dry vacs range from 1 to 4.5 horsepower 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-horsepower motors, medium-duty wet/dry vacs are well-suited to 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, these powerful wet/dry vacuums have motors with more than 6 horsepower 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 to 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 for 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 from 14 to 18 gallons. These are typically used on busy construction sites and can help remove flooded water quickly.
Hose length runs from 6 to 30 feet, depending on the model. Longer hoses allow you to mount the vacuum in a central location and vacuum from one end of the room to the other without having to pull the whole vacuum along with you. 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 it 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 pre-filter 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 filtration systems may come with high-efficiency particulate air (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 filters are 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 it has the ability to do more such as reach 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 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.
While shop vacs are designed mainly to be functional and don’t have a lot of bells and whistles, in-home wet and 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-mount capabilities for in-home models 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.
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 to a job or worksite than for use in a home. One of these may be the boon needed for keeping your home or workspace tidy.
For cleaning up after DIY and other household projects, the DeWALT Wet/Dry Vac is a standout. It has a medium-capacity 12-gallon collection tank and comes with a powerful 5.5-horsepower motor for strong suction. The bright yellow canister stands 25.4 inches tall and is 17.5 inches in diameter, making it 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 to make it easier to carry the vacuum up a staircase or load it in a truck bed. It also comes with some accessories, including a utility nozzle and crevice tool, for various cleanup jobs. Buyers also will receive a nifty accessory storage bag that attaches to the 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-horsepower 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.
The vacuum 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 also will receive additional nozzles and a crevice tool for cleaning in tight spots.
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 vac comes with a small-capacity 2-gallon collection tank and is just 17.25 inches long by 13.12 inches tall by 12.31 inches wide, 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. Users will receive a crevice tool and wide nozzle tool attachment for cleaning messes in a variety of spots.
The classic-style Craftsman Wet/Dry Vac doesn’t come with many bells and whistles, but it features a powerful 4.25-horsepower motor and offers an ample 9-gallon collection tank suitable for cleaning up medium-sized messes found in most home workshops and garages. It is 24.28 inches tall, 18.42 inches wide, and 16.61 inches deep, 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 will receive several additional attachments, including a wet nozzle, utility nozzle, crevice tool, and two extension wands.
With durability, power, impressive storage collection capacity, and several attachments, the WORKSHOP Wet/Dry Vacuum is for big-time cleanups. It boasts a large, 6.5-horsepower 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.
The option to collect dust in a disposable bag is a perk with the CRAFTSMAN Wet/Dry Vac. The vacuum features a powerful 6.5 horsepower motor and a 16-gallon capacity tank that can be used without 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 lifts out of the collection tank and is thrown away. Dust collection bags are only used when vacuuming dry debris.
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.
For maximum dust control, check out the Vacmaster Pro Wet/Dry Vac that has two HEPA filters—a HEPA microfiber pre-filter 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.
For cleaning pet fur and messes from indoor area rugs and hard flooring, consider the Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro Wet Dry Vacuum and Mop. This traditional-looking stick-type vacuum is specially designed for the family with pets. It cleans up both dry debris, and wet spills or pet accidents. Its special cleaner tank holds Bissell’s Multi-Surface Solution, and two 8-ounce containers of solution are included. Refill solution can be ordered separately.
The cleaning solution dispenses on the floor to wash and deodorize, and then both solid debris and liquids are sucked up and collected in an easy-to-dump bin. Solids are separated from the liquids via a strainer screen. The Bissell wet/dry vacuum works like a carpet cleaning machine for hard flooring and area rugs.
The Armor All Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum is compact enough for cleaning and detailing cars, yet it comes with a 2-horsepower motor for vacuuming up ground-in dirt, dust, and other messes. It weighs 7 pounds, and is just 14.4 inches tall, 14.2 inches wide, and 10.6 inches deep, making it small enough to set on a floorboard while cleaning. The Armor All vac comes with a 10-foot power cord and a 6-foot flexible hose.
Attachments include a utility nozzle, crevice tool, deluxe car nozzle, and a detail brush that’s designed for removing all traces of dust from heat and air vents and other tiny spots in cars that can be hard to clean. A sturdy top handle allows the user to carry the wet/vac with ease.
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-horsepower 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 by 15 by 16.5 inches.
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).
The Advantages of Owning a Wet/Dry Vacuum
They’re 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 dander, 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 job site 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).
FAQs About Your New Wet/Dry Vacuum
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 may not feature wet-suction capabilities.
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.
Q. Can I vacuum water with a shop vac?
Many shop vacs (not all) also are wet/dry vacuums, and users can suck up water as well as dry messes.
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. It is not, however, a carpet cleaner.
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 easily tackle those messes.
Q. What is the best wet dry vac for home use?
Among the best options for home use are the Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro Wet Dry Vacuum and Mop and the Tineco Floor One Cordless Lightweight Wet Dry Vacuum.
Q. What is the most powerful wet/dry vacuum?
Among the most powerful wet/dry vacuums is the WORKSHOP High Capacity Wet Dry Vacuum Cleaner, which comes in as the Best Heavy Duty pick in this lineup.
Minor disasters that include a sink that overflows and soaks the carpet and a clogged sump pump may require the ability to suck up excess water, and that’s where wet/dry vacuums excel. Shop-type models can be more powerful but large and unwieldy, so getting the right model is essential. In most cases, a vacuum mop is better suited for general indoor floor cleaning than a shop vac.