Wet/dry vacuums are useful in the home and indispensable for cleaning up in the workplace. This appliance uses powerful suction to remove dry messes much like a vacuum cleaner. The added benefit is that it cleans up routine liquids like coffee or toilet water and harsh spills like oil.
The best shop vacs for use on a factory floor may be too powerful for occasional weekend work in the garage. This guide will explain the different types of wet/dry vacuums on the market and the best uses for them.
What to Consider Before Buying a Wet/Dry Vacuum
The best wet/dry vac is equipped to help you clean a kitchen spill and the sawdust from a DIY project in your basement. There are many different types of wet/dry vacs on the market. One size does not fit all when it comes to the choice of a wet/dry vac.
When shopping for a wet/dry vac, take into consideration how you will use it before you decide upon one.
- Size and weight: Wet/dry vacs are available in a range of sizes and weights. The smallest models are lightweight and compact, but a larger model may be what you need for the workshop or basement.
- Noise level: The noise level of an operating wet/dry vac can be as loud as a working dishwasher. That may not be much of a concern if you need one for the warehouse, but the noise level can affect your decision if it is for the kitchen. It helps to know that the best shop vacs for home use operate at less than 70 decibels.
- Corded vs cordless: Rechargeable battery-powered cordless wet-dry vacs are an option if portability is important for indoor and outdoor cleanups. The capacity of these types of wet/dry vacs is low, usually 3 to 5 gallons,
- Attachments and extra features: Wet/dry vacs commonly have space for storage of shop vacuum attachments and useable features. On-board or built-in tool storage holds the nozzles and cleaning accessories along the side of the vacuum. Hoses and nozzles with large, wide passageways greatly reduces the potential for clogs and blockages.
- Safety features: There are wet/dry vacs with safety features to ensure safe operation around children and pets. Many models of the best wet/dry vacs have retractable safety cords to lessen the risk of tripping or stepping on it. Emergency shutoff options can cut the power supply to the wet/dry vac. Others are equipped with wheel locks to keep the shop vac in place during use.
- Wall mounted: A wall-mounted shop vac is the best cordless shop vac option for limited space, such as a garage workshop.
What to Look for in Wet/Dry Vac Performance
Look for certain performance specs the best wet/dry vac for cleaning, such as the motor, sealed pressure, cubic feet per minute and peak horsepower.
- Motor: Wet/dry vacs operate on either a single-state or two-stage motor. A single-stage motor uses a single fan, or impeller, that creates suction at a high air flow volume. Single-stage motors work well in wet/dry vacs designed for workshops, home and light industrial use. A two-stage motor uses two impellers to create more suction pressure. This makes the wet/dry vac suitable for commercial work.
- Sealed pressure (SP): This measures the suction pressure in inches of water if you were to use the wet/dry vac to pick up water. The best shop vacs have SP ratings of 75 or better.
- Cubic feet per minute (CFM): This is the measured air flow of a wet/dry vac. An air flow of 125 CFM is strong enough for your wet/dry vac to pick up fine dust, dirt and almost anything you may work with.
- Peak horsepower (HP): This is the maximum output of the motor. Small shop vacuums with a high horsepower engine and low tank capacity work well in environments with restrictive space requirements. Higher horsepower translates to a more powerful motor but not necessarily a more robust wet/dry vac, as factors such as the length and diameter of the hose can affect the suction.
Size, Capacity and Power of Wet/Dry Vacs
Maintenance Shop Wet/Dry Vacs
The best shop vacs for maintenance shops can pick up the worst kinds of waste – dirt, sewage, metal shavings, shards of glass and so forth. Commercial shop vacs have large capacity canisters that can be washed out completely. They also use wide hose attachments suitable for picking up scraps of debris.
Vacuum mops can perform dual tasks – suction dirt and debris and clean up spills. The light weight and small canister make vacuum mops easy to maneuver and control. Vacuum mops are most effective on hardwood, linoleum, tile and laminate floors.
Portable Wet/Dry Vacs
A hand-held model with a small storage capacity may be more suitable for home cleanup than one with a 100-gallon capacity for industrial use. The best small shop vac with wheels and handles may be the size you need for a garage, car or patio. Larger wet/dry vacs that can be mounted on walls are space-saving options that work well for indoor and outdoor cleaning tasks.
Dust Collection Wet/Dry Vacs
Workshops generate a substantial amount of fine dust and particulates that can be harmful to workers not wearing respirator masks. The best shop vacs designed for dust extraction are equipped with pre-separators attached to hoses that collect dust and debris generated by electric tools. Many wet/dry vacs can be modified with attachments designed for dust collection.
HEPA-Rated Wet/Dry Vacs
HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters trap dirt, allergens and other particles and prevents them from recirculation. The best shop vacs with HEPA-rated filters harness 99.97 percent of dust mites, pollens and other potentially harmful airborne substances.
Many filters also include antimicrobial treatments that help prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew and other harmful substances. The more stages in the filtration system, the more control for maximizing cleaning performance. Most HEPA-rated wet/dry vacs are for professional or commercial use.
Garage Shop Vacs
Garages and car detailing shops can get messy from all the dirt, lubricant products, cleaning liquids and metal debris. The best wet/dry vac for this environment can operate on different floor surfaces. Long power cords and cleaning nozzles and tubes extend the range of these shop vacs. Many are portable or have wheels or casters that let you reach all four corners of the garage or shop.
Wet/dry vacs vary in storage capacity, power, filtration and essential features. The best wet/dry vac for your home has the versatility to perform a range of cleaning tasks. When it is time to buy one, download The Home Depot Mobile App and look over the inventory of products to find the wet/dry vac that is best for you.