Any of the best shop vacuums make it easy to suck up large messes such as dust, wood shavings, and even water (hence the alternative name of “wet-dry vacuum”). This makes them perfect for professional use in shops, or on building sites. These powerful vacuums can handle nails, mulch, and water, and we’ve rounded up our favorites in this handy guide to make it easy for you to find the best shop vacuum for your specific needs, be that large or small debris, or even light flooding.
Deals with everything thrown at it
The Vacmaster VBV1210 comes with a 12-gallon tank. With something this big, you can clean up plenty of messy materials and water. This versatile device can be easily converted to a handheld blower with 210 mph blowing power, so you can clear away leaves, dirt, and other messes from your driveway, garage, and other areas. The Vacmaster comes with a cartridge filter to clean dry debris and a foam filter for cleaning up wet messes. You also get a drain port on the bottom of the tank, so you can simply pull that to remove fluids you’ve collected.
Perfect for wet and dry use
The Craftsman CMXEVBE17590 is a medium-sized shop vacuum that packs an impressive amount of horsepower. It holds nine gallons of liquid and has an oversized drain for convenient emptying. You get two extension wands with this shop vacuum that can lengthen the 10-foot hose to a generous 17 feet, which gives you considerable reach while cleaning without needing to move the machine. The filters are easy to clean and replace, and you can also use this shop vacuum as a blower. It comes with a great selection of attachments to help you reach crevices and tackle a great range of tasks.
Tackles large and small messes
This Stanley wet/dry vacuum holds up to 6 gallons. It’s powerful enough to pick up large messes in the home, car, garage, or workshop. It’s great for picking up construction messes, too. The hose is 6 ft long and the power cord is 10 ft. Together that gives this shop vac 16 feet of reach. It comes with two extension wands and a crevice tool to give you more reach and make it easier to clean small areas. The Stanley SL18116P has two filters, a foam filter for wet messes and a reusable filter for dry messes. Both can be cleaned a reused a few times before needing to be replaced.
Good for cars and RVs
The DeWalt DXV04T is compact and quiet. It can help you tidy up without the clunky tanks and noise of the bigger models. Since it’s compact it is easy to take to different places and is a good choice for vacuuming out cars, trucks, and RVs. It handles both wet and dry messes and holds a lot of debris in its 4-gallon tank.
A massive tank and powerful motor
The Ridgid WD1450 is impressive when it came to cleaning up messes, whether fine materials, larger debris, or water. This unit comes with a 14-gallon tank and different filters for dry and wet messes. This shop vacuum provides 360-degree wheels so it is easy to maneuver. It offers a dual-flex hose, which is one that can move in any direction and not collapse. You also can simply flip a switch and turn the hose into a blower, which adds another dimension to your cleaning capabilities with this shop vacuum. The power cord reaches 20 feet, and it has a 7-foot hose that is average for the industry.
The best shop vacuums: Expert advice
We have been researching and testing shop vacuums since 2012 and have devoted hundreds of hours to reviewing and testing different products to find the very best shop vacuum. We looked for a range of cleaning capabilities in the products we examined and made a concerted effort to find shop vacuums that could handle the different kinds of messes you may encounter at home, ranging from drywall dust scattered around on a floor to a flooded basement.
Among other things, we studied manufacturer websites and sought out expert opinions for advice on finding the best product. Paul Mayer is a Minnesota-based woodworker and tool reviewer that you can see in action on the Tool Metrix channel on YouTube. He has owned a lot of shop vacs over the years and now uses a large dust collector more than any shop vac. He still uses a shop vac for anything left after he sweeps up the floors, though. He recommends doing specific research.
"Know what you need to use it for and read reviews, looking for exactly your use case. If someone is happy with it but is using it for a different task, then it won't necessarily work for what you want," said Mayer. "Example: It doesn't matter if it will pick up a bowling ball. If you are wanting it to extract dust from a cabinetmaker's table saw then you will be disappointed."
Mayer said his favorite shop vac is super quiet and has a built-in filter cleaning mechanism that works well. Those were common themes in many of the articles and reviews we read – concerns about the filter getting clogged and the extreme volume of some machines.