LAST UPDATED: November 06, 2018

The Best Shop Vac (Review & Buying Guide) in 2020

Best Choice armor vac Armor All Utility Wet/Dry Vacuum
Premium Pick The Best Shop Vac (Review & Buying Guide) in 2020 CRAFTSMAN 16 Gallon 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vac
Best Value The Best Shop Vac (Review & Buying Guide) in 2020 Vacmaster Red Edition 1101 Portable Wet Dry Shop Vacuum

You may know that Shop-Vac  is a brand of wet and dry vacuum cleaners that are heavy duty and often used specifically to clean up shops or areas that are particularly challenging. Nowadays, you will find the name used to describe any type of vacuum cleaner that has wet and dry capabilities. You can recognize a shop vac by its bucket-shaped body, high-powered suction, and generally its bulkier appearance.

Shop vacs are used in a variety of different situations but are seen as the ideal solution for woodworking areas, construction sites, and shop floors. These beasts are different from your average vacuum in that they are capable of sucking up debris such as nails, wood chippings, and screws. The best shop vacs are able to clean up liquids too. This type of wet and dry vacuum cleaner does not mess around.

There are many advantages to owning a shop vac. However, finding the best one can be a daunting task as there are literally hundreds of models claiming to be number one. We’ve taken the hard work away from you, so you don’t have to trawl through shop vac reviews and still feel confused. Below is a list of the best shop vacs on the market and why we believe they make a good choice.

You can thank us later.

The Best Shop Vac

This shop vac is especially good for use inside a car, as it’s been designed to pick up both wet and dry debris. The good thing about this model is that it even comes with the right type of accessories needed for motorcycles. We found that one of the most impressive features is that the vacuum can be converted so that it can blow, which is fantastic for removing dust and debris from your vehicle as well as drying your car grills and wheels.

The Armor All Utility Wet/Dry Vacs are perfect for cleaning both wet and dry spills. The operation of the vacuum is quiet too as the system has an air and noise diffuser. This is a powerful little beast. The small shop vac has a two-horsepower motor that automatically shuts off when it detects that the tank is full.

Not bad for large spaces, the vac features a 10-foot cord with wrap and a six-foot hose. For vehicles it has a deluxe car nozzle, blower nozzle and detail brush too. Never have we been so excited to vacuum a car before now!

Key Features
  • Wet & Dry Cleaning
  • Powerful Motor
  • Blower Nozzle
  • Specific Car Accessories
  • Two Year Warranty
Specification
  • Brand ArmorAll
  • Model AA255
  • Weight 7 lbs

This Vacmaster shop vac is one of the best on the market. Whether you are looking for a shop vac, car vac, or just maybe a good value wet and dry vac, then we think that this is a good option. For one thing, this product is versatile. The Vacmaster comes with two extension wands, a specific car nozzle for those hard-to-reach places, and a utility nozzle. If that wasn’t enough, the vacuum also has a fully detachable blower with a staggering blowing speed of 210 mph.

Not just a small shop vac, this product has a 12-foot cord and extensions, so it is ideal for larger spaces too. Perfect for both wet and dry clean-ups, this vacuum would make a great choice for those looking for a good all-around product that’s ideal for offices, shops, and workshops.

Key Features
  • Wet & Dry Cleaning
  • Quick Release Detachable Blower With 240mph Speed
  • Extra Large Drain Port
  • Balanced Top Handle Design and On/Off Dust Sealed Switch
  • Two Year Warranty
Specification
  • Brand Vacmaster
  • Model VBV1210
  • Weight 24.4 lbs

The CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Shop Vac is a two-gallon vacuum that is capable of sucking up wet and dry materials and liquids. It features a strong 35 CFM motor and a 20-volt cordless system, which makes it very portable and convenient for cleaning your vehicle. It also has a HEPA filter, which according to the manufacturer eliminates 99.7 percent of dust and allergens.

The 7.8-foot flexible hose has a decent amount of reach and makes cleaning quick and easy. There’s also onboard storage to contain the hose when you’re done using the tool. Overall, it has good suction, works well in small spaces, and the battery lasts a decent amount of time. Craftsman also provides a three-year limited warranty with this product.

However, cleaning auto carpeting can take some time because the suctions isn’t as powerful as some bigger shop vacs. In addition, it doesn’t include a battery charger, which drives up the cost as you must purchase one separately if you don’t have one already.

Key Features
  • 35 CMF motor
  • 20 volts
  • Hepa filter
  • Three-year limited warranty
Specification
  • Brand Craftsman
  • Model CMCV002B
  • Weight 9.98 pounds

Some people say that there’s absolutely no comparison between a Shop Vac, Rigid Shop Vac, Craftsman Shop Vac, and a Vacmaster but we think that all have their own unique benefits. There is no doubt, however, that this vacuum provides some serious horsepower (4.5 Peak Horsepower Motor) and a nice range of features.

This product has been made with heavy-duty cleaning in mind. With a sturdy stainless steel body, powerful motor and wet and dry-ability, it’s perfect for the home, workplace or workshop. It’s also great for the car as it features a handy range of accessories that can be neatly stored on the vacuum body.

One of the main selling points of this particular product is the fact that it has a full-circumference dolly — but what on earth does that mean? Nothing to do with big toys, a full circumference dolly refers to the shape of the tank and makes the vacuum easier to maneuver.

Easy to use and powerful, this is how we would summarise this Shop Vac.

Key Features
  • Powerful Motor
  • Wet & Dry Cleaning
  • Wide Range of Accessories Included
  • Sturdy Design
Specification
  • Brand Shop-Vac
  • Model 5989300
  • Weight 15 lbs

We like this Stanley wet and dry vacuum as it has a lightweight and compact design which is easy to carry and even easier to store. The body of the vacuum has four swivel casters which provide nice maneuverability and makes vacuuming smaller rooms a simple task.

This four-gallon shop vac doesn’t cut corners when it comes to power. Providing a four horsepower motor, you’re going to get good suction power when it comes to cleaning up those wet and dry spillages.

The Stanley shop vac comes with several handy accessories too so you can get to those hard-to-reach areas. You’ll find that this vacuum offers multiple uses and would be ideal for car cleaning, offices, shops, and the home.

Key Features
  • High-Performance Motor
  • Lightweight & Compact Design
  • Wet & Dry Cleaning
  • Swivel Casters For Better Maneuverability
Specification
  • Brand Stanley
  • Model SL18129
  • Weight 8 lbs

If you’re looking for the best wet dry vac then you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option than this Vacmaster. It’s a versatile piece of equipment, in that it can handle both wet and dry cleaning and with a not-so-small six-gallon tank, can hold a lot of debris before it needs emptying.

The addition of a 12ft cord and 7ft hose means that this vacuum isn’t going to shy away in large spaces. The kit comes with two extension wands too, for those difficult spots that are otherwise tricky to reach.

Sometimes it’s the little things that count and with this vacuum, we really like the fact that the accessories can be stored onboard – meaning you’ll never have to look for those essential smaller pieces ever again. If you’re wondering what the smaller pieces are for then we can tell you that with this kit, you’ll have absolutely everything you need for hard floors, carpets, walls, car interiors, and tight crevices. If you have a garden or tree in your yard, you’ll be happy to hear that the vacuum can be used as a blower too, so you can clear away those piles of dead leaves in minutes.

The Vacmaster has a weather-resistant design and comes with a two-year warranty too.

Key Features
  • Weather Resistant Design
  • Dust Sealed Switch and Top Handle
  • Blower
  • Wet & Dry Cleaning
  • Two Year Warranty
Specification
  • Brand Vacmaster
  • Model VQ607SFD
  • Weight 16.2 lbs

If you’re looking for a professional wet dry vac that will be able to handle small to medium jobs then this DeWalt vacuum might just be the one for you. It’s portable, but still sturdy enough, with a six-gallon tank to soak up any workshop or car spillages.

The DeWalt model provides a powerful cleaning solution for your business or home with a not-so-modest four horsepower motor. The shop vac also boasts a built-in blower port which can blow debris and sawdust from any workshop as well as leaves from a yard.

We always favor a vacuum with casters such as this model, which has ultra durable and rubberized caster wheels that allow smooth swiveling and therefore a smooth vacuuming experience. This can make such a difference when you have tight rooms to navigate on a daily basis.

Key Features
  • Wet & Dry Cleaning         
  • Ultra Durable, Rubberized Casters
  • Built-In Blower Port
  • Powerful Motor
Specification
  • Brand DEWALT
  • Model DXV06P
  • Weight 14.77 lbs

The Vacmaster Portable Wet Dry Shop Vacuum can also be converted to a blower and features a two-horsepower motor with 65 CFM airflow. The 2.5-gallon vacuum has a 14-foot cleaning reach and weighs just over six pounds, which makes it easy to carry around. It can suck up both dry debris and liquids at home, in your shop, or in your vehicle.

One of the best things about this vacuum is that it’s easy to store. It comes with a mount so you can secure it to the wall of your shop when it’s not in use. There is also cord, hose, and accessory storage built into the unit. Users note that even though it’s on the smaller side, it’s a great value and very useful overall. It’s lightweight and perfect for quick clean-ups.

However, there have been some complaints that the hose is a little short. In addition, it’s not as powerful as some bigger, more robust shop vacuums.

Key Features
  • 14-foot cleaning reach
  • Also operates as a blower
  • Can be mounted on the wall
  • Lightweight
  • On-board accessory storage
Specification
  • Brand Vacmaster
  • Model Red Edition
  • Weight 6.16 pounds

This shop vac means absolute business. Where the previous vac was perfect for small jobs around the home, this is the absolute opposite; this machine can take on much bigger jobs. This vacuum cleaner has a very high capacity for spillages and debris and boasts the largest tank on our list…an impressive 16 gallons. In fact, it’s the most powerful WORKSHOP vacuum cleaner on the line, with a 6.5 peak horsepower motor. This beast can pick up 1 gallon of water per second. That’s the quickest we’ve ever seen anyone take a drink!

The shop vac is perfect in a professional capacity as it’s also built for ease and speed. Firstly, there is a Qwik Lock Filtering System which allows fast wet and dry vacuum filter changes. Secondly, there is a large drain port located at the base of the vacuum, so you can easily empty wet mess. Lastly, the WORKSHOP shop vac also provides an integrated blowing port which allows the user to blow unwanted debris from the workspace, home or garage. This can also be used on driveways and yards, to clear away leaves.

The vacuum is also covered by a 5-year limited warranty.

Key Features
  • Qwik Lock Filter Fastening System
  • Accessory Storage On The Vacuum
  • Integrated Blowing Port
  • Powerful Motor
  • Largest Capacity On The Line
  • Drain Port
  • 5 Year Warranty
Specification
  • Brand Emerson
  • Model WS1600VA
  • Weight 23.4 lbs

If you need a serious shop vac for heavy-duty clean ups, consider the Craftsman 16 Gallon 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vac. This model has a powerful 6.5-peak horsepower motor, making it ideal for garages and job sites featuring large-scale renovations, construction, etc. The vacuum comes with a utility nozzle, wet nozzle, and car nozzle as well as a 2-1/2-inch hose that’s designed not to kink.

Other great features are the power cord organizer and on-board hose storage as well as the Qwik Lock Filter Fastening System, which allows users to easily swap out the wet dry vacuum filters. The machine also has an extra-large drain to quickly and easily empty liquids and a blowing port, so users can remove debris such as leaves from decks, garage floors, etc.

While the vacuum is a little bulky, it’s not very heavy, so it’s not too cumbersome to move around. There have been some complaints that it emits an unpleasant rubber and plastic odor for a short period of time, but it eventually dissipates.

Key Features
  • Powerful Motor
  • Blowing Feature
  • Wet & Dry Cleaning
  • Kink-Free 2-½-Inch Hose
  • Three Different Nozzles
  • On-Board Hose Storage
  • Extra-Large Drain
Specification
  • Brand Craftsman
  • Model CMXEVBE17595
  • Weight 26 lbs

Best Shop Vac Buying Guide & FAQ

Our essential buying guide will look at the type of features you will need to look at when considering a new shop vac. We will then look at the most commonly asked questions about shop vacs before giving you our verdict on what we believe was the best on our list.

Features to Consider When Buying a Wet Dry Vac

Before you go ahead and order a shop vac you’ll need to look at the features in order to determine your exact needs and if the product meets them.

These are some of the important features you should think about:

Size – If you are only looking for a small shop vac for your home and backyard then there’s not much point in buying an industrial-sized beast with a six horsepower motor. Firstly, look at your own specifics. If you need a sturdy shop vac for your workshop or store then considering a bigger, more powerful vac might be sensible.

vacuum cleaning a car trunk

Who will be using your shop vac?

Take a look at the weight of the vacuum and remember this will become heavier when full! If this vac is for your 80-year-old grandma, perhaps the 16-gallon tank isn’t the best choice?

Integrated Blower Port – is this something you really need? Could you sacrifice this for a cheaper option? If you are planning to use this for your garden or need debris moved from your workspace, then an integrated blower port will definitely come in handy.

Accessories  –  what are you going to be using the shop vac for? If the main purpose of the vacuum cleaner is to use it for your car then look for a shop vac with extensive car accessories. If you want it for your garage at home and the garden then opt for the integrated blower port. Take a look at the accessories and apply them to your demands. Some shop vacs don’t have great accessories for carpets, so take this into consideration before you buy.

Ease of Use – again, look at the weight and size of the vacuum in relation to who is using it and what it’s going to be used for. Is it easy to empty? Some shop vacs have features such as drain ports for easy emptying. Does it have handles? Can it be easily stored?

Warranty – we would always prefer to choose a vacuum that includes a decent warranty. Better to be safe than sorry.

Benefits of Using a Wet and Dry Vacuum

Not everyone needs a wet and dry vacuum but most people could certainly benefit from one. We can’t tell you how helpful it is to use a vacuum which can easily pick up nails, screws, and bits of sharp debris without blocking the filter. Not to mention how great it is to have a vacuum that can clean away spillages in minutes.

Having a separate blower port is super handy too, as you can not only use it to blow away larger debris such as workshop materials and leaves but you can also use it to dry your car after washing and to remove stubborn dirt in the wheels.

Wet Vac Uses

Leaking washing machine? Not a problem with a wet and dry vacuum. Spillages on the floor? Easy peasy. A wet vac will sort these problems out in no time at all. Some of the vacuums on this list are that powerful they can drink up to 1 gallon of water per second. Think how useful that can be in an industrial capacity.

How to Clean a Shop Vac Filter

The only type of filter that you can clean is a reusable dry filter. These can be rinsed and reused. To clean your Shop Vac filter you will first need to remove the filter, rinse with water until it runs clear and leaves to dry, completely, before inserting it back into the machine.

vacuum cleaning a car front seat

Best Shop Vac FAQ:

Q:  Why does my Shop-Vac® wet dry vac blow dust back into my room?

A:  There are several reasons why dust could be blowing back into the room. Normally this is due to a hole in the filter, a problem with the installation of the filter or the dust being too fine for the filter to capture.

Q:  Which filter should I use for wet pickup?

A:  You should use a foam sleeve for a wet pick up and with some models, you can add an additional tear-resistant wet-dry collection bag, as often when a shop vac picks up water, it’s also picking up sharp debris like stone and glass.

Q:  Why is my vacuum losing suction power?

A:  There are many reasons why a vacuum may lose its suction power, but the most common culprit is an obstruction in the airflow. Take a look at the hose, stretch it out and you can insert a broom handle to free any blockages. Is anything stuck inside the vacuum head? Take a look and remove anything creating a block. If that doesn’t help then remove the filters, clean and dry before replacing.

Q:  How can I use a shop vac as a blower?

A:  Shop vacs vary from model to model and not everyone works in exactly the same way. But generally speaking, if you want to use your shop vac as a blower, then you’ll first need to pull the latches back on the side and lift off the top of the machine. The next stage is to remove the bag and filter, shut the lid and snap the latches back in place. Finally, remove the hose from the front suction port and locate the exhaust port (normally found at the top). Secure the hose into the port and you’re good to go!

vacuum cleaning a car

Our Top Pick

Our favorite shop vac was easily the Armor Utility Wet & Dry Vacuum AA255. We liked this particular vacuum because we felt it offered really good value for money and provided enough horsepower for small to medium jobs. The shop vac came with a good selection of accessories (particularly good for car cleaning) and could easily be converted to blow. Which as we all now know, is a super useful tool for debris removal.

Powerful and relatively small, this shop vac would make a great choice for households looking for a vacuum which is stronger than your average Henry! You won’t have to worry about debris clogging up the filters, this machine has been built to last.

Sources:

  1. How Often Should You Wash Your Car? – HowStuffWorks