Buyers Guide: Wet/Dry Vacuums

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

Buying the Best Wet/Dry Vac

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Wet/dry vacuums are often seen in construction and workshop settings, but they can also be a major convenience in the home. Ahead, learn what features and options to look for in a top-quality model, and don’t miss our roundup of favorite picks among the best wet/dry vacuum options available.

  1. BEST FOR LIGHT DUTY: Stanley 3 Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum
  2. BEST FOR MEDIUM DUTY: Ridgid 10 Amp 5 Peak Hp 12 Gallon High Performance Wet/Dry Vac
  3. BEST FOR HEAVY DUTY: WORKSHOP Wet/Dry Vacs Heavy Duty General Purpose Wet Dry Vacuum Cleaner

Pros and Cons of Owning a Wet/Dry Vac

PROS

Wet/dry vacuums are great for:

  • Cleaning up leaks and spills.
  • Removing water from wet carpeting so it can dry more quickly.
  • Sucking up piles of blown-in leaves that collect in corners of the garage and shed.
  • Cleaning away woodchips and shavings in workshops.
  • Vacuuming the inside of automobiles.
  • Blowing leaves off the sidewalk (if the vacuum has a blower connection).

CONS

Wet/dry vacs have a lot going for them, but do consider the following:

  • Wet/dry vacuums tend to be big, and their canister shape can make them a challenge to store.
  • Wet/dry vacs are not designed to filter out dust and other tiny airborne particulates. Unlike standard household vacuums, which have sealed collection containers, wet/dry vacs have unsealed containers that let dust escape during use. While most come with washable filters, and some include dust bags to reduce a portion of the dust, wet/dry vacuums do not contain dust as well as a household vacuum.
The Best Wet/Dry Vac at Any Size

Photo: amazon.com

Key Considerations

Capacity

Wet/dry vacuums vary widely in capacity. The smallest such units hold less than 2 gallons, while the largest hold more than 14 gallons.

Attachments

Many wet/dry vacuums come with attachments. Nearly all models come with a wide floor utility nozzle, which connects to a rigid extension wand. Other common attachments include a crevice nozzle for sucking debris out of tight corners and an elbow wand for reaching around corners or overhead. Many models also boast a wet nozzle with a squeegee edge for banishing liquid spills and a brush nozzle ideal for car interiors.

Options

Many wet/dry vacuums feature a drain plug that lets you release liquid without having to remove the inside collection canister. Blower connections are also common; these allow you to use the vacuum for such things as blowing sawdust into a corner or clearing leaves way from the garage door.

Filters and/or dust bags work to capture dust as you vacuum, but be aware that the the filters built into wet/dry vacs are not designed to capture all dust. Most filters can be cleaned and reused, while dust bags can be reusable or one-use only, depending on the model.

Hose length runs from six 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 garage to the other without having to pull the whole vacuum along with you. While this is handy in many cases, long hoses have a tendency to get twisted if they’re not wound carefully after use.

Power and Performance

Bear in mind that in the context of wet/dry vacs, the horsepower of a given unit refers to the unit’s motor output, not to its performance ability. While it’s true that higher horsepower translates into a more powerful motor, other factors also affect the amount of suction a given vacuum delivers (the length and diameter of the hose, for instance). Our advice? Don’t ignore horsepower when selecting a wet/dry vac, but don’t focus too much on it either.

Our Top Picks

Best Wet/ Dry Vac - Stanley

Photo: amazon.com

1. BEST FOR LIGHT DUTY: Stanley 3 Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum

Weighing in at only 8.65 pounds, this compact Stanley shop vacuum is quite easy to tote from room to room. It features 3 peak horsepower, a washable filter, and a 4-foot hose for sucking up small spills quickly. Attachments include a gulper nuzzle for flat areas as well as 3-in-1 crevice tool to get into tight spots. Easy-release latches let you remove the top and dump the collection container. At only 16” high and 11” wide, the Stanley 3 Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum can be stowed in a closet or on a large shelving unit.

The Best Wet/Dry Vac at Any Size - Rigid 12-Gallon

Photo: amazon.com

2. BEST FOR MEDIUM DUTY: Ridgid 10 Amp 5 Peak Hp 12 Gallon High Performance Wet/Dry Vac

For a more powerful motor, choose this model from Ridgid that features 5 peak horsepower and a sizable 12-gallon collection tank. The tank comes with a built-in drain spout for easy emptying of liquids, and four sturdy swivel casters make it simple to pull across the floor. Attachments include two extension wands, a utility nozzle, an automobile nozzle, and a wet nozzle. There’s a 7-foot hose, a reusable filter, a reusable dust bag, and a blower connection. It weighs in at under 19 pounds and measures 26” high and 22” wide.

The Best Wet/Dry Vac at Any Size - Emerson 16-Gallon

Photo: amazon.com

3. BEST FOR HEAVY DUTY: WORKSHOP Wet/Dry Vacs Heavy Duty General Purpose Wet Dry Vacuum Cleaner

With durability, power, impressive storage collection capacity and a multitude of attachments, this 5.0-peak-horsepower option is for big-time cleanups. It boasts a copolymer drum, instead of the standard plastic drum found in most wet/dry vacs, so it resists cracking. Plus, there’s a built-in auto-shutoff float that senses when the liquid level in the drum gets too high and shuts off the vacuum automatically 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.