The toughest phase of any do-it-yourself project always comes at the end: the clean-up. And no matter how much sweat and effort you put into it, you’re likely to miss a spot. Purchasing the best wet/dry vac can help you prevent exhausting do-overs. One way to streamline the work is to buy the best wet/dry vac your budget will allow.
Wet/dry vacuums restore order to the messiest situations, whether in the garage, basement, or living room. Also known as shop vacuums, wet/dry vacuums provide portable, easy-to-reach, high-powered suction for large clean-ups, and small ones too.
These vacuums are handy tools for reaching into corners or other hard-to-reach spaces where dust or dirt or other particles might migrate. The best wet/dry vac will be your friend, whether you’re just looking to keep a clean house or are someone whose to-do list seems endless.
What Is a Wet/Dry Vacuum?
There’s no mystery here. A wet/dry vacuum is a vacuum, but not any old vacuum. These are heavy-duty machines built to help you clear materials you can’t collect with a regular stand-up vacuum, such as nails and screws.
As the name suggests, the best wet/dry vac can also be used to pick up water and other liquids. Say, for example, some absent-minded professor in your home inadvertently breaks a water line heading into your house (guilty). The wet/dry vac helps you recover from the bone-headed move by sucking up the excess water.
The design of shop vacuums allows for the collection of moisture. They are typically built in a way that isolates the motor and other electrical components from the chamber that gathers the liquid. Wet/dry vacuums are standard tools for people who work in construction or woodworking, both professionally and as a hobby. However, they’re also useful for keeping your house clean every day.
Wet/dry vacuums are bucket-shaped and move around on wheels. They usually come with various hose attachments and other accessories to help with various challenges to your clean-up. Choose wisely, paying attention to these attributes, and you’re sure to find the best wet/dry vac.
Shopping for a Wet/Dry Vacuum
The task of finding the best wet/dry vac depends on understanding exactly how you want to use it. The bigger the jobs you’re involved in, the bigger the vacuum you need. Bigger isn’t always better, mind you. In exploring the best wet/dry vac for your home, you’ll want to consider several different features before making a choice.
That said, let’s start with size. Marketing for wet/dry vacs typically features the size of the container that collects debris and liquid. You’ll find them with capacities ranging from less than 2 gallons to more than 14. Important note: The amount of liquid you can pick up is almost always much less than the vacuum’s listed capacity.
As size increases, so does power. The bigger vacuums tend to have larger motors with higher horsepower, allowing you to tackle the dirtiest of jobs. What you will see on the machine, however, is peak horsepower. So the horsepower you realize may be less than listed.
However, you should know that other factors, such as hose size, can limit the vacuum’s suction abilities. Make sure you don’t get too swayed by the bigger numbers. You will typically see a range of between two and six horsepower.
Lastly, consider the accessory package as well as any unique options. If you have carpet to clean, you’re going to want a carpet attachment. Still, other tools will let you get into corners or other hard to reach spaces. Consider all those factors together before making a final decision on the best wet/dry vac for you.
How We Reviewed Wet/Dry Vacuums
It seems that just about everyone around us these days fashions himself or herself a handyman. That’s a good thing because it means there’s plenty of information in the marketplace to help you choose the best wet/dry vac. To compile our list, we consulted a range of sources both from general interest publications such as TheSpruce.com, Consumer Reports, First for Women and Popular Mechanics.
But we also checked specialty sites as well as leading bloggers. We looked at articles from BobVila.com, TheArchitectsGuide.com, and HealthyHandyman.com. After that, we supplemented our findings with the voice of real customers. We consulted reviews on manufacturer sites as well as on Amazon, to help us determine the pros and cons of each choice. From all that, we’re confident you’ll find plenty to consider as you explore the best wet/dry vac for you.
The Best Wet/Dry Vac
Big motors, big containers, long hoses, long cords. The process of selecting the best wet/dry vac involves many variables — none more important than knowing yourself and your house. Stay within the lines of the kinds of projects and clean-ups you expect to face. Match that knowledge against the specs of the wet/dry vacuums on the market, and you’ll be all set. Let the best wet/dry vac provide you with clean floors and clean carpets, and some peace of mind in case something unexpected happens.
1. Shop-Vac 1.5-Gallon 2.0 Peak HP Wet Dry Vacuum
We start our list of choices for the best wet/dry vac with a model from Shop-Vac, the most recognizable name in this industry. The best feature of the Shop-Vac 1.5 Gallon 2.0 Peak HP Hang on Wet Dry Vacuum may be the collapsible handle on top. The handle makes it easy to carry the 6-pound vacuum anywhere you have a clean-up job ahead of you.
The Shop-Vac model also offers a wall-mount bracket so you can move the vacuum off the floor, and put it in place for grab-and-go operation. The vacuum also includes a four-foot by 1.25-inch hose, a crevice tool, tool holder, foam sleeve, and reusable disc filter with a ring. Reviewers on Amazon give the Shop-Vac 2030100 model a rating of 4.2 stars out of 5.0, based on almost 500 different reviews.
- Lightweight and portable
- Strong suction
- Liquid capacity is less than listed
- Design encourages clogs
- Customers say dust escapes at the seal
2. WORKSHOP Wet Dry Vac WS1600VA
If you’re someone who subscribes to the “go big or go home” philosophy, then you may need something at the opposite end of the spectrum from the small fry from Shop-Vac. As you seek the best wet/dry vac, definitely consider the Wet Dry Vac WS1600VA from the Workshop brand. This model offers a 16-gallon vacuum cleaner with a massive 6.5 peak horsepower.
Everything about the Workshop model is super-sized. The vacuum comes with a 7-foot-long, 2.5-inch hose and a secure lock, so you don’t get disconnected when you least expect it. One of the most appealing features of the Workshop model is the rough and tumble plastic drum, built to avoid dents and cracks — and most important, rusting. The vacuum also comes with a drain plug to quickly empty liquids. Purchasers give the Workshop WS 1600VA a ranking of 4.1 stars out of 5.0 based on 200 plus reviews.
- Giant capacity
- High-power — picks up a gallon per second
- Easy accessory storage
- Cannot accommodate dust collection bags
- Challenging assembly
3. Ridgid WD1450 Wet/Dry Vacuum
While we’re on the subject of large capacities, another option for best wet/dry vac is the Ridgid WD1450. This model is just a little smaller than the Workshop brand at 14 gallons but just as powerful. It puts out a flat 6.0 peak horsepower to tackle the biggest piles you might face. One nice feature is the extra-long, 20-foot cord. (Many wet/dry vacuums we’ve used have frustratingly short cords.) We also like that this machine comes with a noise reduction feature to keep your hearing intact.
The Ridgid vacuum also offers a fine-dust filter. It will suction up the finest particles and most elusive dust bunnies. This vacuum also comes with a handy carry handle that will allow you to move it from place to place as well as in-and-out of a vehicle. Reviewers score the Ridgid WD1450 at 4.2 stars out of 5.0 on Amazon.
- Large capacity, high power
- Noise reduction technology
- Well-designed pull handle
- Inconsistent customer service
- Not for households
- Sharp edges at canister/motor latches
4. Vacmaster VQ607SFD
While size is an important factor, it’s not the only one to include on your criteria for best wet/dry vac. In fact, we think there’s room for buying on appearance. Meet the R2D2 of wet/dry vacs. The Vacmaster VQ607SFD is a model that bears a striking resemblance to the cute robot good guy from Star Wars. This model has a smaller capacity than the others at 6 gallons, with a 3.0 peak horsepower engine. This size is plenty big and strong enough to help clean the most messes.
We like that the Vacmaster offers accessory storage right on the vacuum (at wheel level). Because if there’s one thing we know about, it’s how to misplace the shop vacuum accessories. Vacmaster offers this model in different sizes, so if you like the look but need something bigger or smaller, you’re in luck. The line starts at about 2 gallons and tops out at 12 gallons with 5 horsepower.
This is one of Amazon’s most popular wet/dry vacs with more than 4,300 reviews. Reviewers rank the Vacmaster 6-gallon model at 4.3 stars out of 5.0.
- Several choices for size
- On-board accessory storage
- Disappointing suction
- Prone to tipping
5. Stanley Wet/Dry Vacuum
As we discussed earlier, size and power matter. But so do the little things in selecting the best wet/dry vacuum for your needs. That’s why the Stanley Wet/Dry Vacuum caught our eye. The stainless steel exterior gives this cleaner one of the more distinctive looks (not more distinctive than R2D2, but you have to admit this one still looks pretty cool).
The Stanley Wet/Dry vac offers 8-gallon capacity with a 4.5 peak horsepower motor. These are good, middle-of-the-pack numbers to tackle most jobs. We like the 10-foot cord, longer than many other models. At 10 feet, you can probably get from the outlet to most jobs without needing a long extension cord.
Stanley includes only a few accessories — among them, a flexible hose, two extension wands, a floor brush, and a filter. Reviewers give the Stanley Wet/Dry vac a ranking of 4.1 stars out of 5.0, based on more than 720 reviews.
- Space-age design
- Longer cord, but not too long
- Range of capacities
- Tips too easily
- Prone to clogging
- Inconsistent suction performance
6. Shop-Vac 3942300 Wet/Dry Vac
Some manufacturers leave little doubt why they think their model belongs on the list of the best wet/dry vacs. They put the most critical information right in the product name, as this Shop-Vac model does when offering a 5-gallon capacity and a peak horsepower of 4.
What we liked about this model was an extra-long hose at 18 feet. You’ll get additional 1.25-inch extension wands. The Shop-Vac also comes with a 12-inch nozzle with brush and squeegee, round brush, gulper nozzle, crevice tool, and other accessories. Reviewers on Amazon give this Shop-Vac a steady diet of positive reviews, resulting in a cumulative ranking of 4.3 stars out of 5.0.
- Wall-mount design saves space
- Generous accessory package
- Extra-long hose
- Only good for small jobs
- Inconsistent suction performance
7. Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum
While numbers alone don’t necessarily tell the whole story, they can offer a pretty clear signal. With more than 4,700 reviews on Amazon, we knew we had to include the Armor All AA255 utility shop vacuum for consideration for best wet/dry vac. This vacuum is good to keep around the house for smaller jobs, such as cleaning the car or picking up dirt from the kids.
The Armor All AA255 offers a smaller capacity of just over 2 gallons to go with a 2.0 peak horsepower. The 10-foot cord on this machine is a winning length. Accessories with the Armor All AA255 include a reusable cloth filter, a 2-in-1 utility nozzle with a brush, crevice tool, deluxe car nozzle, blower nozzle with an adaptor, and a detail brush. Amazon reviewers rate the Armor All AA255 at 4.2 stars out of 5.0.
- Easy-carry handle
- Generous accessory package
- Long power cord
- Inconsistent suction performance
- Loud orange color
Whether for everyday messes or cleaning up from the latest job by the handyman in the house, everyone needs a reliable, durable wet/dry vac. You’ll find plenty on the market to choose from when exploring the best wet/dry vac for your needs.
Don’t get carried away by the numbers. You might think you need the biggest capacity and the highest horsepower, but it’s possible that a mid-sized or smaller vacuum cleaner will fit your requirements perfectly. Know how you’ll use it, pay attention to a few features and benefits, and you’ll be heading home with the best wet/dry vac in no time.