Wet Dry Vacs: A Buying Guide

For some types of cleaning, you need more than a regular vacuum cleaner.

In shops, garages and workshops, messes can be both wet and dry in nature. There also tend to be heavier spillages.

This is where a wet dry vac, also known as a shop vac, comes into its own.

wet dry vacuum

Whether you need to clean up some sawdust or deal with a leak in your basement, wet dry vacs are rugged appliances worth their weight in gold.

They are much sturdier than a standard vacuum so they are better suited for dealing with this kind of mess. You will also save overloading and potentially damaging your home cleaning equipment.

Some people use wet dry vacs in the home. In general, though, the noise they kick out coupled with their bulk mean that they are not so popular inside the house.

They can be useful to keep stashed away in the garage, though. Whether it’s broken glass in the kitchen, an overflowing bathroom or a kitchen appliance that malfunctions, a solid wet dry vac is a very worthwhile investment.

Wet Dry Vacs: A Brief History

The very first iteration of a wet dry vac came onto the market in the latter half of the 1950s. This had a removable canister that you filled up with water and a cleaner before getting to work.

This had a removable canister that you filled up with water and a cleaner before getting to work. The appliance would lay down a layer of water and cleaner. You’d simply flick a button and the machine would suck this back up while steam drying the floor simultaneously. You could deal with liquid messes as well.

Many other companies started to roll out wet dry vacs over the coming years. Most major manufacturers offer one in their range of vacuum cleaners.

Wet dry vacs today do not lay down that layer of water but they are still perfectly capable of handling wet spills.

How To Choose The Best Wet Dry Vac


As with any purchase, doing your research properly and taking your time are crucial if you want to get the best product.

Analyze your cleaning requirements honestly. Think about this in tandem with reading some honest reviews. work out your budget and draw up a shortlist. This should avoid impulse buying a vacuum which does not best fit your needs.

Ask yourself some basic questions to kick proceedings off…

  • What sort of cleaning will you do?
  • How often will you use your wet dry¬†vacuum?
  • What size and capacity are you looking for? Think also about the future
  • Where will you store your cleaner when it’s not in use? How much space do you have?
  • Do you need any special features or attachments? If so, factor this into your research

Starting off with this information, you can immediately narrow down your search. Make things easy on yourself.


There are a wide variety of sizes available. These are normally standardized as Mini, Small, Medium and Large.

As you climb the scale, you will enjoy increased capacity and performance.

Think about how you will use your wet vac and buy accordingly…

If you will only very rarely press it into action, it’s senseless buying a hulking unit that will be awkward to move about. On the other hand, if you plan to use it on a constant basis in a commerical setting, steer well clear of the smallest options. They will not be fit for purpose.

Power and Capacity

Buying the correct wet dry vacuum is a balancing act between getting one that’s powerful enough for your needs without that power going to waste by overbuying.

How would you categorize the cleaning you do? Will you be mainly tackling light, medium or heavy duties?

Light Cleaning

For small jobs and light work within the house, low capacity models are available. One that holds between 2 and 6 gallons is perfectly sufficient for these cleaning duties.

Look for 1-5 HP. Anything more is overkill.

The gain you make by sacrificing capacity and power is that the vacuum will be far lighter and easier to move around. Storage and maneuverability present no problem at all with a smaller cleaner.

Cordless models are excellent for taking out in the car.

If you live in an apartment or have a small work area, this kind of small wet dry vacuum is a step up from a household cleaner but not too bulky for the job at hand.

Medium Cleaning

Anything from the 8-14 gallon range with 5-6 HP works well for slightly more taxing duties.

Whether you want it for the house, garage or workshop, the more powerful variants take larger debris in their stride.

With highly developed suction, these cleaners also transfer well to the garden. Some have a blower function which will be a bonus after mowing. This is also a fuss-free way to inflate mattresses, air beds, balls and tires.

Heavy Cleaning

Clearly, heavy duty commercial and industrial messes need dedicated equipment.

6 HP should be your minimum power requirement and you can choose from 14 gallons and beyond in terms of capacity.

Busy garages, professional cleaning services or factories all demand a wet dry vac that will perform well and last a reasonable period of time.

These more substantial models have wheels or sometimes even come mounted on a cart.

For heavy, professional jobs, a large wet dry vac is a must.

Wet Dry Vacs: The Benefits


  • Without filters, the dirt, dust and debris would be expelled straight back out into the air, defeating the very purpose of vacuuming. Most wet dry vacs come with HEPA filter technology. If you suffer from asthma or any kind of allergy, pay attention and seek out a wet dry vac with this style of filtration

Quiet In Use

  • As motor technology has progressed, wey dry vacs no longer have you reaching for the ear protectors. You get powerful suction and great airflow without the deafening noise that plagued older models. For this reason, shop vacs are increasingly entering the home


  • If you opt for a smaller capacity unit boasting a potent motor, you can enjoy all the results without being encumbered by a hulking piece of kit. If you only plan to perform light cleaning duties, make this the core of your hunt for the best wet dry vac


  • Linked closely to portability is the issue of storage. Many wet dry vacs now come with handy wall mounts so you can place your cleaner out of sight without squandering too much precious space

Keep Tools Onboard

  • A compartment or holders helps you to keep all your accessories and attachments on the vacuum itself. Not only does this prevent you from losing them as easily, they are perfectly placed when you need them mid-cleaning


  • The purpose of your wet dry is to clean mess up so make sure you do not get a model that is too messy itself. Make sure it’s easy to empty the liquid and check out models which come with a handy pump

Hoses and Wands

  • Small hoses on your vac will lead to potential clogging. The wider the hose, the less likely this will blight you. Wands are attachments that will stop you from needing to bend down as often. They make cleaning awkward areas a lot less stressful and strain-free.

Safety With Your Wet Dry Vac

You should exercise caution with any electrical tools. A wet dry vac is no exception.

Do not allow children to use these appliances unsupervised.

What’s Safe To Pick Up?

  • Dust
  • Sawdust
  • Wet messes
  • Plaster

What’s Not Safe To Pick Up?

  • Hot ashes
  • Gasoline
  • Natural gas
  • Solvent
  • Lit matches

Small pieces of glass are fine. Avoid sucking up larger chunks of glass. You could easily damage the hose on your vacuum.


Abide by the conditions of the warranty and make sure you use an authorized repair service.

If you experience any problems, stop and check things out. Do not keep using your wet dry at the risk of more serious problems.

Do not use a wet dry with a frayed or exposed cord.

Store your cleaner where it is safe from damp or rodents nibbling at it.


Purchasing a wet dry vacuum need not be expensive. It is a definite addition to your cleaning arsenal and if you deal with wet spills on a regular basis, almost essential.

Think carefully about the above pointers.

Get in touch if you have any queries and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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