Do you work in construction, woodwork, or mechanics? Is your workplace difficult to clean due to the nature of your environment? Cleaning your workshop or factory doesn’t have to be a hassle, and we’ll show you why.
Vacuuming industrial spaces is different from residential cleaning because heavy-duty machines are typically required. Your choice of shop vacuum will need multi-purpose capabilities to handle all sorts of messes.
Shop Vacuums vs. Residential Vacuums
A shop vacuum, also known as a wet/dry vacuum, is a machine with industrial capabilities for use in workshops. They’re built to handle dirt not commonly found in homes, as well as spills.
Also, these vacuums have larger capacities than standard vacuums. They’re usually modeled after canister machines for ease of use.
At their core, shop vacuums aren’t that different from residential ones. Their operation is the same, and they’re relatively similar in function.
One thing that sets them apart, though, is that shop vacuums can pick up all sorts of debris. They suck up everything from wood chips and sawdust, to nails and bits of metal (1).
Shop vacuums are made of stronger and more durable materials to support this.
They’re multi-purpose machines with more versatility than their standard counterparts. So, if you were to use a home vacuum in place of a shop vacuum, it would probably break in no time.
Residential machines aren’t designed to accommodate the heavy-duty work that shop vacuums can handle. The latter is standard in various industries because of their efficiency and usability.
Advantages of a Shop Vacuum
Beyond their ability to manage heavy-duty messes, there are more benefits to using a shop vacuum in your workshop or studio. Here’s what you can expect when you invest in one:
1. Stronger Suction
This won’t always be the case. But since shop vacuums are meant for heavier messes, they’re generally higher-powered than home vacuums are. The extra suction that you can get out of one, not only makes it easier to clean, but saves you a lot of time too.
You won’t have to bother sweeping first, or manually picking up shards of material that home vacuums can’t handle.
The suction of shop vacuums is also extra-efficient in terms of their wet/dry capabilities.
2. Higher Capacity
Remember that shop vacuums are considered industrial, so they’re built to take on larger messes. It will depend on the type of shop vacuum that you buy, but more often than not, they have much larger dirt capacities than home vacuums do.
You don’t have to empty shop vacuums as often as residential ones, so you’ll save time too.
Shop vacuums are one of the most versatile machines you can find. With a little creativity, the possibilities are almost endless.
They are rarely for dry use only, but that’s not what we mean here. These machines can handle all sorts of tasks beyond cleaning — from unblocking drains, to clearing snow.
4. Surprisingly Affordable
You might think that shop vacuums will cost you an arm and a leg because they’re specialized, but it’s the opposite. Branding and features may add extra cost, but most shop vacuums are budget machines compared to standard vacuums.
You don’t have to take our word for it. Compare the prices of our recommendations with domestic vacuums to see for yourself.
Saving money on the purchase is not the only consideration. There’s also a big chance that you’ll get a machine that lasts longer and does more.
5. They Resist Clogging
Think about it: shop vacuums are meant to handle larger debris. If they get clogged easily, they wouldn’t be useful in workshops, would they?
However, they’re not immune. So if you neglect to maintain your machine, it will clog eventually. This is not an easy feat, though, and it would take a lot of dirt to block the suction from one of these vacuums.
6. They’re Blowers Too
Again, this depends on the specific model you choose. But almost all canister shop vacuums can function as blowers. All it takes is attaching the hose to the exhaust rather than the suction.
This can be extra-handy in your workshop if you often create fine debris, say from woodworking. It will quickly and efficiently clear your station before you vacuum.
Try using it as a blower in your yard. It might not be a true leaf-blower, but it will still work well.
How to Choose the Best Shop Vacuum
You won’t have as much variety in shop vacuums as you will in residential machines. Most shop vacuums have the same set of features, with only their specs setting them apart from each other.
That said, don’t buy one blindly. Choose one that will work well for you by keeping the following in mind:
- Size: It’s not a huge difference, but shop vacuums are larger than residential ones. So, think about how much space you have for storage, and how easy it will be to move around.
- Weight: This coincides with the size, but don’t forget to account for the water it may hold. Be sure that you’ll be able to lift it without strain, even when it’s full.
- Hose length: You’ll have a choice in hose length with different machines. So double check that it will reach far enough in your space. Having adequate range will increase overall maneuverability.
- Wet/dry: Chances are your shop vacuum will have wet/dry capacity, but this is something you need to double check. Never assume that a vacuum can handle liquids. If you use a dry vacuum on wet messes, you can ruin the machine, or worse, endanger yourself.
- Suction: Shop vacuums are mostly rated in horsepower. As with other measurements, the higher this number, generally, the stronger the suction.
- Filtration: HEPA filters aren’t standard in wet/dry vacuums, so you’ll have to think about whether you need one. Some machines can have them installed, but shop vacuums that include them are rare.
- Maintenance: How easy will your model be to empty? Some shop vacuums come with a tank drain feature that makes emptying water a whole lot easier. Others might come with a pump, and some you’ll have to lift to drain manually.
Considerations Before You Buy a Shop Vacuum
We strongly recommend shop vacuums, but they may not be for everyone. Before you place your order, think about what owning one entails.
- They’re not for home use: Shop vacuums are powerful, multi-purpose machines but there are some things they can’t do. Typically, they’re not built with brush rolls, and so will be ineffective at picking up hair. Tools for upholstery also often aren’t included, so they won’t do well on fabrics.
- Storage is tricky: Depending on how big your machine is, storage can be a problem. They’re unlikely to fit into closets easily, and are better suited for workshops with more space.
- Not the best for allergies: We mentioned that they tend to lack HEPA filtration, so they won’t do if you have allergies. If you can install a HEPA filter into the machine, it will probably cost extra money and effort.
- Maneuvering them can be difficult: Remember that shop vacuums are heavy-duty. They’re not designed for precision, but rather focus on effect. They take on more debris, dirt, or liquid, and the heavier they become, the more effort it takes to move them.
- They can be loud: Standard vacuum cleaners average between 70 and 80 decibels—as loud as a traveling car (2). Shop vacuums are bound to be louder than domestic models, as they’re built for more substantial work. Their noise levels can be amplified still further if there’s sound reflection by the walls of your workshop.
Vacuum Getting Louder?
Best Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum Reviews of 2020
We’ve covered our bases, so now we can take you shopping. We’ve chosen the top seven products based on specs, features, value for money, and customer satisfaction.
All of the following vacuums are corded canisters and intended for use in workshops. Though there is variation in their specs, you may find that they’re similar in terms of filtration and capabilities.
1. DeWalt 9 Gallon Poly Wet/Dry Vacuum
For starters, this model has powerful suction at 1400 pascals, so it’s efficient. Its 9-gallon dust bag gives extended usage before needing to be emptied.
The large wheels spell faster and easier work and its swiveling casters make for better maneuverability.
It comes with an accessory bag for handy storage of the extras you receive.
Then a fine-dust cartridge filter is built-in, for smaller messes. It also features a tank drain, for effortless emptying. If all else fails, there’s a handle for easy lifting and carrying.
You can also use this vacuum as a blower. We love that it includes a floor nozzle, utility nozzle, and crevice nozzle.
- It comes with handy accessories.
- More maneuverable.
- Extra convenience.
- The cable is short.
- It’s not ergonomic.
Why We Love It
We like that this model comes with a range of handy extras. Each component increases the utility of this shop vacuum and is reminiscent of standard machines. You also save money on buying them separately.
We especially like the utility nozzle. It’s also great that you can easily organize your accessories with the complimentary bag.
The swivel casters attached to this model make it so much easier to move and control. Shop vacuums can be hefty, but this one is designed to lessen the load. You won’t have to overexert yourself, and the machine will face all directions for better reach and accessibility while you’re vacuuming.
This is a true multi-purpose vacuum that you can use on almost all surfaces and substances. We appreciate the addition of a fine-dust filter, tank drain, and accessory bag. These features will save you effort and time.
We recommend this model to those of you who often deal with all sorts of mess in their workspace. The vacuum will handle everything efficiently.
Keep In Mind
The Cable Is Short
While customers are pleased with the efficiency of this machine, they’re not so satisfied with its power cable. It’s only 10 feet long, and won’t serve you well in large spaces. A few customers have also mentioned a tendency for the cable to disconnect from the machine.
This isn’t a deal-breaker in our books, but it can be mildly frustrating while you clean. Regardless, we think the efficiency of this vacuum is worth the minor hassle.
It’s Not Ergonomic
The body of this vacuum isn’t very tall, so operating it and reaching the handle, may place some strain on your back. A few users noted discomfort in bending too far to grasp it.
Even so, users are still happy with this product, and there are no reports of the handle being inconvenient while the vacuum is carried.
|Power||5 hp, 90 CFM, 1400 Pa|
|Hose length||7 feet|
|Features||Swiveling casters, fine-dust filter, carry-handle, tank drain, a built-in blower|
|Accessories||Crevice nozzle, floor nozzle, utility nozzle, Two extension wands, washable cartridge filter, mesh accessory bag|
2. Craftsmen Heavy-Duty Shop Vacuum
Right off the bat, this vacuum has a whopping 16-gallon capacity. This should be more than enough for most workshops. It includes a 20-foot power cord, and a 1440-watt motor.
It’s intended for heavy-duty work over large areas. You can use it as a blower, and it has a built-in drain. The hose implements dual-flex technology for 180-degree mobility.
You get a few handy accessories too. Included are a utility nozzle, car nozzle, and wet nozzle. It also comes with a Qwik Lock filter, a dust collection bag, and two extension wands.
- Immense capacity.
- It comes with cool accessories.
- Excellent reach.
- It’s noisy
- Storage can be a hassle.
Why We Love It
This shop vacuum has the highest dirt capacity that we could find. Sixteen gallons will go a long way. Think of all the time you’ll save on maintenance.
It’s especially handy for those who work in large workshops or factories, or people who have giant messes to clean. If you deal with metal shards, wood shavings or other large debris, this might be the vacuum for you.
Like our top choice, you will receive a handful of useful accessories when you purchase this model. We think it’s great that Craftsmen added a car nozzle into the mix.
It’s also an excellent pick for those of you who work in autobody shops, as it will kill two birds with one stone.
Not only do you get a 20-foot power cord, but there’s also a dual-flex hose and two extension wands. You’ll be able to reach difficult spots and clean large surface areas with ease.
We particularly like the dual-flex hose. This is the only shop vacuum we found that boasts one. So if you’re looking for extra versatility, this is a good place to start.
Keep In Mind
Customers note that this vacuum makes excessive noise. If you have pets or children around your workshop, they may be easily frightened by the motor in this machine.
It may be possible to install a muffler, but this will cost you extra. Remember though, that this is an industrial vacuum after all, so noise is expected.
Storage Can Be a Hassle
Buyers also say that this vacuum is larger than you’d expect. It makes sense, considering the high capacity, but storage might be inconvenient if your space is small.
|Power||6.5 hp, 1440 watts|
|Hose length||7 feet|
|Special features||Dual-flex hose, built-in drain|
|Accessories||Qwik Lock Filter, car nozzle, wet nozzle, utility nozzle|
3. Vacmaster Professional
This mid-range model incorporates a multitude of useful features and accessories. It gives you 370 air watts of suction and has a 20-foot cord. What’s more, it can hold 12 gallons of dirt and has a built-in drain.
Its casters swivel a full 360 degrees, and it has a kink-resistant hose. The power button and handle are conveniently placed for easy access and control. Plus, you can use this vacuum as a blower too.
Accessories include a utility nozzle, floor nozzle, crevice tool, and squeegee brush. You also get a fine dust cartridge filter, foam wet filter, and an air and noise diffuser.
- It’s quieter.
- Increased maneuverability.
- Powerful suction.
- It tangles easily.
- There’s a design flaw.
Why We Love It
The noise and air diffuser makes a big difference. Most shop vacuums do not include this technology. It makes for less stressful cleaning and is easier on your ears.
This could be the perfect choice if you have animals or children around you. The noise it produces will also be less distracting if you share your workspace with others.
We like that the casters swivel a full 360 degrees. Though this vacuum is a little on the large side, you shouldn’t have any problem moving it around. So, it’s convenient for faster, less strenuous vacuuming.
Customers are delighted with the suction power that this model offers. Some users mention that it exceeds expectations, and goes above and beyond in cleaning. In conjunction with the swivel wheels, your cleaning time will speed up even more.
Keep In Mind
It Tangles Easily
In what appears to be an oversight of the manufacturer, the cord and the hose are on the same side. Customers say that the wheels and cord tangle too easily because of this careless design.
However, we think the suction power outweighs this small inconvenience. Given enough time, you will get used to it. Still, be prepared to untangle often if you don’t take keep an eye out while you’re busy.
There’s a Design Flaw
Another problem with this vacuum’s design is the small twist in the suction hole, where some debris is likely to clog. Considering that shop vacuums shouldn’t clog easily, this could prove to be quite frustrating.
Users who brought this up still complement the machine’s capabilities. You’ll have to spend a little extra time on maintenance, but other than that, the product is terrific.
|Power||5.5 hp, 370 air watts|
|Hose length||7 feet|
|Special features||360-degree swivel wheels, noise and air diffusion, built-in drain|
|Accessories||Utility nozzle, crevice tool, floor nozzle, squeegee brush, fine dust cartridge filter, foam wet filter, air and noise diffuser.|
4. Bissell MultiClean
This popular model has a 6-gallon dust bag and is built for multi-floor use, even inside your home.
It’s suitable for hard floors, rugs and low pile carpets with wet/dry capacity for each. You get handy tools that other shop vacuums often lack. These include tools like a dusting brush, crevice tool, and an upholstery tool.
It’s intended for, and best used in garages, but has the same capabilities as most standard vacuums. So, it’s a great choice if you’re looking for a shop vac that you can also employ on your residential floors. Plus, it uses two-stage filtration, so it’s efficient for deep cleaning too.
- Upholstery tool.
- Multi-floor use.
- Good for deep cleaning.
- It’s better for liquids.
- Quite noisy.
Why We Love It
We mentioned that shop vacuums typically exclude upholstery tools and aren’t intended for fabrics. However, this machine breaks the mold. It’s a great addition to an already versatile vacuum.
Unlike other shop vacuums, you can use this model inside your home. It’s designed to work on all types of floors, including carpets and rugs. The wet/dry capabilities apply here too.
So, with this machine, you can save money by not buying different vacuums for different tasks.
Good for Deep Cleaning
We like that this vacuum utilizes two-stage filtration — a step above most other shop vacuums. It’s more effective at cleaning and strengthens the overall suction of the machine.
Keep In Mind
It’s Better for Liquids
Customers say that the dry suction from this machine is somewhat mediocre. Users agree that it shines in wet suction capability though, so it is still a worthy investment.
We recommend this model to you if you deal with frequent spills in your workshop, but don’t have much use for dry vacuuming.
|Power||1.59 hp, 11 amps|
|Hose length||6.5 feet|
|Special features||Adjustable wand, two-stage filtration|
|Accessories||Dusting brush, crevice tool, upholstery tool, precision wet and dry suction tool, detailing/inflating nozzle, precision blower tool|
5. Vacmaster 6 Gallon Vacuum
If you’re looking for a more compact shop vacuum, have a look at this Vacmaster. Though it’s small, it matches the capacity of many other shop vacuums.
This model includes a 7-foot hose and a 12-foot power cord. It has onboard storage for the range of accessories that come with it, saving more space. You can easily store this one in a closet or corner.
Accessories include an air control nozzle, two extension wands, and a multi-surface floor nozzle. You also get a reusable foam sleeve, dust brush, and cartridge filter crevice tool, and 2-in-1 utility nozzle.
- Great accessories.
- Easy storage.
- Decreased suction.
- Short cable.
Why We Love It
Shop vacuums tend to be on the heavy side, but this one is compact and only weighs 15.8 pounds. It’s easier to move and maneuver, which in turn gives you faster cleaning. Consider this machine if your workshop has more than one story.
Great Accessories Included
In total, you get 11 useful accessories with this product. The attachments help you clean various surfaces, while the extras give you more reach and suction. Considering that it’s lightweight, you get more accessibility with this vacuum.
In addition to being quite a small model, its onboard storage makes organization straightforward. It’s unlikely that this machine will be a burden when you need to stow it.
Keep In Mind
Because of its size, some suction is lost. Users seem to be aware of this going in, and are satisfied with the machine regardless. The only frustration expressed is that because of the lower suction, vacuuming takes a bit longer.
This vacuum is better for smaller spaces, as its cable is only 12 feet long. In its defense, it has a standard 7-foot hose, and it comes with two extendable wands for extra reach.
|Power||3 hp, 840 watts|
|Hose length||7 feet|
|Special features||Onboard accessory storage|
|Accessories||Two extension wands, multi-surface floor nozzle, crevice tool, round dust brush, reusable foam sleeve, cartridge filter, air control nozzle, dust bag|
6. Armor All 2.5 Gallon Vacuum
This little guy sets the bar for affordability. It’s a compact machine, not intended for the same duties as others on our list, but efficient regardless.
Its capacity is 2.5 gallons, with a two horsepower motor. It converts to a blower, and automatic shut-off protects the vacuum from overflowing. A 6-foot hose and a 10-foot power cord give you reach.
It comes with cool accessories too. Included are a 2-in-1 utility nozzle with a brush, crevice tool, blower adapter, deluxe car nozzle, and detail brush. You also get a reusable cloth filter and foam sleeve filter.
- It’s compact.
- Practical accessories.
- Better for detailing.
- Low capacity.
Why We Love It
This shop vacuum will save a lot of space in your workshop and fit easily inside cabinets or on shelves. You can consider it the handheld of the shop vacuum world. It’s lightweight, portable, and accessible.
This Armor vacuum is the most affordable shop vacuum we’ve found. So, if it does what you need it to, it will save you money too. Plus, the addition of all of its accessories also saves you money on purchasing add-ons.
For such a compact vacuum, the range of attachments is excellent. The car nozzle is a great addition — definitely not a standard extra in shop vacuums.
Keep In Mind
Better for Detailing
It’s expected with such a small machine, but this model lacks the suction and range of standard shop vacuums. It’s best used for detailing, or cleaning smaller spots. The same applies to its wet capability; use it on minor spills for optimal efficiency.
This vacuum can hold 2.5 gallons of dirt. It’s impressive relative to its size, but customers criticize how high maintenance it is. Some users say you will have to clean it out after every use.
|Power||2 Hp, 53 CFM, 720 watts|
|Hose length||6 feet|
|Special features||Auto shut-off protection|
|Accessories||2-in-1 utility nozzle with brush, blower nozzle/adapter, crevice tool, deluxe car nozzle, detail brush, reusable foam sleeve filter, reusable cloth filter|
7. Stanley 6 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum
This vacuum has many features that you’ll appreciate. It gives you 1400 pascals of suction and has a 4-horsepower motor. Plus, it can hold six gallons of dirt.
Intended for heavy-duty work, it can convert easily into a blower. It has swiveling casters for a full range of cleaning and extra maneuverability too. Included are a crevice nozzle, utility nozzle, clamp ring, dust bag, and foam filter.
This machine is also efficient when it comes to dry dirt, and works well in large spaces. It doesn’t have too many bells and whistles, but it does just fine.
- Swiveling casters.
- Strong suction.
- Basic but effective.
- Water suction could be stronger.
- It’s not durable
Why We Love It
Swiveling casters make a world of difference in how you move your vacuum. They compensate for the hefty size of the machine with increased maneuverability. This vacuum is easy to control, so you’ll be able to clean faster and more efficiently.
At 1400 pascals, you’re getting a fair amount of suction power from this vacuum. It’s highly effective on dry dirt. Plus, thanks to its design, it helps you clean better and faster than many other models. There’s also the 6-gallon dust container, which is a good working size with the machine’s suction power.
Basic But Effective
Some shop vacuums are flashy but ineffective. This model is the opposite. Though it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles others may have, it works well, and isn’t that what counts?
Keep In Mind
Water Suction Could Be Stronger
There are a few users who, although satisfied with the machine’s specs say its water suction isn’t as efficient as they’d hoped. So, it will suit you best if you only have to deal with small spills in your workshop.
It’s Not As Durable
Some users say that this machine isn’t built to last. A few people reported mishaps that led to easy breakage, and some note that it’s not as sturdy as expected.
Handle it with extra care to prevent unnecessary damage and to prolong its lifespan.
|Power||4 Hp, 1400 Pa|
|Hose length||5 feet|
|Special features||Blower convertible, swiveling casters, accessories holder, carry handle|
|Accessories||Two extension wands, crevice nozzle, utility nozzle, foam filter, clamp ring, cloth bag, dustbag|
|DeWalt Poly Wet/Dry||Most Versatile||5 hp, 90 CFM, 1400 Pa||9 gal||7 ft||Swiveling casters, fine-dust filter, carry-handle, tank drain, a built-in blower||Crevice nozzle, floor nozzle, utility nozzle, Two extension wands, washable cartridge filter, mesh accessory bag|
|Craftsmen Heavy-Duty||Highest Capacity||6.5 hp, 1440 W||16 gal||7 ft||Dual-flex hose, built-in drain||Qwik Lock Filter, car nozzle, wet nozzle, utility nozzle|
|Vacmaster Professional||Value For Money||5.5 hp, 370 air W||12 gal||7 ft||360-degree swivel wheels, noise and air diffusion, built-in drain||Utility nozzle, crevice tool, floor nozzle, squeegee brush, fine dust cartridge filter, foam wet filter, air and noise diffuser.|
|Bissell MultiClean||For Home Use||1.59 hp, 11 amps||6 gal||6.5 ft||Adjustable wand, two-stage filtration||Dusting brush, crevice tool, upholstery tool, precision wet and dry suction tool, detailing/inflating nozzle, precision blower tool|
|Vacmaster 6-gallon||For Storage||3 hp, 840 W||6 gal||7 ft||Onboard accessory storage||Two extension wands, multi-surface floor nozzle, crevice tool, round dust brush, reusable foam sleeve, cartridge filter, air control nozzle, dust bag|
|Armor All Vacuum||Most Affordable||2 Hp, 53 CFM, 720 W||2.5 gal||6 ft||Auto shut-off protection||2-in-1 utility nozzle with brush, blower nozzle/adapter, crevice tool, deluxe car nozzle, detail brush, reusable foam sleeve filter, reusable cloth filter|
|Stanley Wet/Dry||Dry Dirt||4 Hp, 1400 Pa||6 gal||5 ft||Blower convertible, swiveling casters, accessories holder, carry handle||Two extension wands, crevice nozzle, utility nozzle, foam filter, clamp ring, cloth bag, dustbag|
Less Effort, More Effect
Shop vacuums serve a purpose that residential machines can’t match. They clear your space of dirt and liquids so that you can work in a cleaner, safer environment. They’re built to take a lot more knocks than home vacuums are, and can pick up industrial debris with little effort.
We recommend that you get one if you own or work in a factory, workshop, or other industrial space. We’ve shown you our picks of the best wet/dry shop vacuums, but which one do you like the most? We enjoy hearing from you, so be sure to tell us your favorite in the comments.