Best wet and dry shop vacs

One of the things shop owners underestimate is how long winding up can take after a day’s work. The cleaning and bookkeeping can cost you an extra hour of precious time you’d rather spend at home with family. Shop vacuums are a valuable investment to get a spick and span workshop within minutes of your time. Lucky for you, here we cover all the basics of what to look for when buying shop vacuums as well as the best wet and dry shop vacs to watch out for on your next shopping trip.

Man outside using shop vac

What to look for

What to look for
Horsepower The Suction Tank capacity
Air power Cubic feet per minute Portability
Storage Type

A wet or dry shop vacuum is more durable, has more suction power and tank capacity than simple home upright vacuums. But that doesn’t mean buying any old model is enough for your workshop needs. Here’s what to include in your market research:

  • Horsepower

Even though all shop vacuums are designed for high power, it is essential to know what your requirements are. Low horsepower (between1-4.5) ones are designed for small-scale messes and spills while medium horsepower (between 5-6) can clean up a house or small garage workshop.

The toughest of them all is the High powered models that range higher than 6+ HP and are usually part of commercial cleaning equipment in warehouses and offices as well as large workshops.

Man using a shop vac

  • The Suction/ Sealed Pressure

Especially when exploring wet vacuums, this one’s an important one on the checklist. This is the suction pressure measured in inches of water the unit can suck up into a container. A rating of above 75 indicates a professional shop grade.

  • Tank Capacity

This indicates the gallons of dirt the vacuum can hold until it needs to be emptied to be used for cleaning again. Like horsepower, this also has three levels. The small tank capacity ranging between 1 gallon – 6 gallons is ideal for small workshops or indoor home cleaning. You can also pick a mid-range option like 4 or 5 gallons for a slightly larger home. This option also means a quiet cleaning session compared to the rest.

A medium tank capacity between 8 – 12 gallons can handle workshop messes and is ideal if you’re looking for more cleaning but less storage space. Medium tank options can have a capacity as large as 14 gallons too. A large tank capacity however is considered is the tank is between 14- 18 gallons. This is perfect for high-level commercial warehouse or workshop cleaning and stubborn messes. Corporate offices usually employ 16 gallons tank capacity models. If you’re confused about units like gallons, meters, and feet, check out our resource on SAE and metric units.

  • Air-watts or air power (AP)

This refers to the literal airflow that is needed to pick up the debris. The higher the AP is, the heavier the level of mess can be cleaned. For example, a higher AP on high-level vacuums can mean it can pick up screws, nuts, bolts, and woodchips.

  • Cubic feet per minute

shop vac in dirty room

This is the airflow that a vacuum claims to lift in a minute. Combined with water lift capacity, these two markers can help decide professionals how powerful it is, even if the horsepower is low.

  • Portability and storage

While it can be tempting to purchase a powerful vacuum for quick and effective cleaning, storage space must always be kept in mind. It’s no use if you’ve got to walk a mile to store your heavy vacuum because that’s more time wasted than saved. A portable model with wheels or an easy handle will be convenient in the long run if you’ve got a long walk from the storage cabinet to the workshop.

Another cheaper alternative for portability is an extension cord. You can easily check out your requirements of extension cords by length here.

Types

Now that you’ve got an idea of what to look out for, let us go through the types you’ll find in the market.

Types
Mop Cordless Dust collection wet/dry
HEPA
  • Vacuum Mop – This is an easy product to maneuver, letting you be in control. The best part is its ability to dually clean the dry and wet mess. That’s right, those wood chips and that water spill can be mopped up in no time with this genie as long as it’s on linoleum, laminates, and tiles.
  • Cordless – These mean machines are designed to avoid the hassle of getting tangled in cords running from the electrical outlet to your work area. Finding a new outlet closer to the area of cleaning is a constant battle. But cordless models are battery-powered, often with lithium batteries that can power long cleaning with suction power, all while completely avoiding any cords! This means you can use them aboard moving trucks and vehicles, especially if you’re transporting liquids and want to clean up any spills easily. If you’re still figuring out temperature control while transporting, check out our neat resource on Thermo king.
  • Dust collection, wet or dry– These are specialists at pesky dust particles that most high-powered models will leave behind to settle on the floor. Often time’s workshop and warehouse work will lead to fine debris and dust that can be harmful if inhaled. Separate attachments ensure that such debris is picked up.
  • HEPA awarded wet/dry – HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air and vacuums with this certification can capture 99.97% of dust, airborne particles including pollen. These filters can also come with anti-microbial layering to prevent unwanted mold or mildew growth.

Does Ridgid make a good one?

Ridgid is a renowned name in the field of hand tools and makes quite a lot of models of shop vacuums, too. The Ridgid VAC1100 has a whopping rating of 4 stars with 61% voting for 5 stars. The Ridgid HD1600 has good customer reviews thanks to its 16-gallon tank capacity and great airflow that cleans up just about any mess you can imagine. The NXT feature lets you take the top attachment off to reveal a perfectly good blower! And that’s how you can save even more money by avoiding buying a leaf-blower.

If it isn’t just leaves you want to get rid of but also pesky gnats, drain flies, and fruit flies, take a look at our handy resource to find out all about it!

What is the best one on the market?

There’s a lot of ongoing competition when it comes to the best shop vac. The number of features, the amazing horsepower, and huge tank capacity makes it difficult to choose any one. But we can surely help you figure out the top 3 in the market this year.

  • Ridgid HD1600 16 Gallon – This model has topped the charts this year thanks to its 6.5 HP which means a great job of cleaning any wet or dry spill. It even comes with the dual advantage of working as a blower.
  • The DeWalt DXV14P is a great substitute to the top choice, and for a reasonable price. While there is no blower feature, you can still move the hose to the exhaust port and use it as one. The power cord is considerably long and the hose is 7 foot which makes cleaning even easier.
  • Vacmaster Professional VFB511B 5 gallon Beast is a top choice for a portable option. Even though this model is smaller than the top 2 listed above, it still has an HP of 5.5 which manages to pull 82.6″ of water with ease. Speaking of messy wet spills, if you’re looking for a good cassette toilet combo for your RV, take a look here.

The VFB511B even has a cord that goes as long as 18 feet to make moving around easy. Additionally, if you’re looking to replace some other cords and wires around the house, take a look at these resources that can help with amp wire gauges and their size chart.

Is 5HP good?

A good horsepower means better suction and airflow leading to deep cleaning quickly but how much is enough for the purpose of a professional?

For a home option that doesn’t have to deal with tough dust and debris like a workshop, 1-2 HP are ideal. However, if you’re looking at cleaning tougher spills and heavier gunk in the shop, the ideal horsepower is 4-5HP. But you must remember that horsepower isn’t the best way to compare them, especially in today’s market where even budget models are packed with great innovative features. Ultimately, it all comes down to what suits your storage, cleaning requirements, and workshop size. Additionally, if you’re looking to start a project that involves welding in your workshop, take a look at MIG and TIG welding before you get started.

shop vac on wooden floor

Brands

Now, let’s look at a couple of brands that are leading the field.

Manufacturers
Craftsman Ryobi
DeWalt Stanley
Milwaukee

Craftsman

With an experience of over 90 years, Craftsman is a top name when it comes to automotive tools, hand tools, workshop and garden equipment machinery, and essentials. The brand claims to have stood the test of time owing to its durable, quality, and innovative products. The tools come with a lifetime warranty which is both a great feature for consumers and an exciting incentive to invest in their products.

Customer and expert reviews suggest that the high-end tools on the pricey side last a lifetime and maybe even to the next generation so the cost is worth it. The designs are ergonomic and suggest that even hobbyists and beginners can get started with novice workshop work with Craftsman’s easy-to-assemble tools. The products last for years on end and a free replacement is promised to anyone who manages to break their product during use.

The company makes cordless and corded outdoor equipment. The Craftsman CMXEVBE17595 16 gallon unit  has 6.5 HP and a 5-star rating from over 86% of customers who bought it on Amazon. At the current price, it’s a catch!

DeWalt

This old but gold company dates back to 1922 when Raymond DeWalt made the first set of innovations to the first woodworking machinery leading to the launch of DeWalt Products company in 1924. As you can see, the company’s interest in innovation and ergonomic design dates back 100 years.

Over the years, DeWalt has been known to evolve certain markers that separate its smart technology from the rest. For instance, the FlexiVolt feature makes it easy for users to switch battery voltage between 20V and 60V.

The brand also uses highly powerful and long-lasting lithium-ion batteries for its 12V, 18V, 20V, and 40Vcordless equipment.

There is a good range of wet/dry options with tank capacities of 10, 12, 14, and 16 gallons where the Horsepower also increases successively. DeWalt offers both corded and cordless varieties, so there’s something for everyone!

Ryobi

Dating back to 1943 when it first opened, Ryobi has long been an underdog amongst home improvement tools and machinery. Their power tools come in a huge variety and are known to hold up longer than 5 years according to customer reviews.

This is a brand that is associated with professional use by workers in the field because of its affordable mid-range tools lineup. Most tools and products by Ryobi are rated between 4 and 4.8 stars which is a good sign. For instance, the Ryobi ONE+ 18V 6 gallons is rated 4 stars on Home Depot owing to its convenient cordless design and super-mobile wheel design. Speaking of wheels, if you’re wondering what the issue with your vehicle is, you might want to check its idle air control valve.

Stanley

If you thought Craftsman and DeWalt were old-timers, think again! Stanley works dates back to 1843 and was the first brand in tape measures. With their humble origins in the manufacturing of hand tools like the screwdriver, Stanley has kept up to date on the modern world needs and now specializes in automotive power tools as well.

The brand has a small but highly rated range of products that customers and professional carpenters and plumbers trust. For instance, the 5 gallons Stanley wet/ dry model is rated 4.5 stars on Amazon with 72% of its buyers rating it 5 stars.

Milwaukee

This brand was known to start in 1918 and strengthened its reputation by manufacturing tools for the US Navy standard throughout the second world war. In 2005, Milwaukee jumped ahead of its competitors with its lithium-ion batteries feature. It recently launched cordless power equipment in keeping with the market standard.

The lineup of tools Milwaukee has to offer is very large, with over 200 products in the M18 line alone. The prices range of this brand is slightly higher than the ones above owing to its specialty trade tools and added features. For example, the 18 Volt cordless Milwaukee 0800-20 wet/ dry has a rating of 5 stars on Amazon.

That’s it, folks!

We hope you have figured out the essential guidelines on how to purchase a good shop vacuum that suits you best. Our comprehensive breakdown of the leading brands in the field will ease your decision-making in the market, especially if you’re on a budget. Remember, good horsepower doesn’t always mean a good product!

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