Should I buy a wet/dry vacuum? Experts explain

Wet dry vacuum
(Image credit: Alamy)

If you’ve ever found yourself soaking up and scrubbing out a coffee stain on your carpet or brushing up damp and dirty debris such as fallen leaves, a wet/dry vacuum could be the perfect appliance to help you cut the time for these household tasks. 

Wet/dry vacuums are designed to suck up large volumes of liquid or wet materials, as well as dry dust and debris. They're versatile tools that even the best vacuum cleaners can't match.

The best wet/dry vacuums will come with an army of extra accessories, such as extension wands for hard-to-reach places and drapery, car cleaning nozzles, and upholstery tools so that you can use your wet/dry vacuum for almost any cleaning job around the home or outside your property.

We’ll take you through some of the unique uses and benefits of having a wet/dry vacuum cleaner and the best brands to consider so you can decide if it’s worth swapping out your old dry vacuum cleaner for a multifunctional wet/dry alternative. 

Wet dry vacuum

(Image credit: Alamy)

Should I buy a wet/dry vacuum?

When tackling big spills and messes around the home, wet/dry vacuums are an invaluable tool to have on hand. Their rugged build, high suction, large tanks, and versatility for both wet and dry cleanups make them far more effective for specific jobs than regular vacuums.  

“Depending on the make, model, and size of the vacuum, it will have a separate bag or bucket for dry and liquid waste,” says Brian Johnson, appliance expert at MyJobQuote.co.uk. “They also have internal filters to protect the motors and mechanisms, which need to be removed and cleaned regularly to keep the vacuum working correctly and efficiently.”

Brian Johnson of MyJobQuote
Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson has worked as an appliance expert for MyJobQuote for four years and has worked in the industry for over 25 years. Brian continues to work for clients, providing appliance diagnostics and repairs while also providing expert advice to industry professionals and homeowners. His expert tips have been featured in a range of reputable publications over the years.  

Wet/dry vacs boast exceptionally powerful suction and high-capacity motors compared to standard vacuums. This allows them to remove gallons of liquids, piles of mud or sand, or chunks of debris quickly and with minimum mess. And unlike regular vacuums, their tanks are designed to contain all that moisture and mess safely. Tanks range from 2 to over 20 gallons to collect large volumes before they need emptying.

Another advantage of wet/dry vacuums over ordinary vacuums is their attachments and accessories for adapting to various household tasks. Hoses, wands, brushes, squeegees, and more mean you can use your wet/dry vac to deep clean carpets and upholstery, unclog roof gutters, vacuum and clean your car’s interiors with ease, and empty hot tubs for winterizing. “If you’ve ever cleaned out a filthy fish tank, you’ll understand how useful a wet/dry vacuum is!” says Johnson.

"Some wet/dry vacuums have a blow function, which you can use to clear leaves or light snow from footpaths or patios," says Johnson. "You can also use this function to blow up airbeds or other inflatable objects.”

Wet/dry vacuum

(Image credit: Alamy)

Wet/dry vacuums can even make cleaning up flooded basements or outdoor storm debris easier. Look for models with useful accessories like hoses, brushes, and nozzles to increase versatility.

Durability is another benefit over regular vacs. Many wet/dry vacuums are designed for worksites or heavy domestic use, so they’re robust enough to withstand plenty of hauling around. Of course, weight is a tradeoff for such powerful devices. Moving a 50-60 lb wet/dry vac can be difficult when that big tank fills with water and gunk. Luckily, some models have wheeled bases to aid transportation when empty.

Draining can also be messy as the weight makes tipping to pour contents out tricky, so look for a model with a built-in drain to void having to lift to empty. Storage can be another consideration, so it’s worth ensuring you have somewhere to store your wet/dry vac when it’s not in use.

If you regularly deal with flooding emergencies, major liquid spills, deep-cleaning carpets, or cleaning up after big outdoor jobs - a wet/dry vac can make these tasks far more achievable and less messy. The sheer suction power and large capacity help finish cleanup jobs much faster than regular vacuuming.

Good home wet/dry vacs run between $100-200 with mid-range models from Craftsman, DeWalt, and Shop-Vac offering the best bang for your buck. But expect to invest more for maximum durability and cleaning power from pro brands intended for worksites rather than domestic cleaning.

Cleaning car with wet/dry vacuum

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Which are the best brands?

Investing in a wet/dry vacuum can open up new cleaning possibilities, but it’s worth choosing your brand wisely and researching models that best match your home and cleaning needs. Consider brands such as Shop-Vac, Craftsman, and Ridgid.

When tackling big home cleaning jobs involving liquids or piles of debris, having a quality wet/dry vacuum can make all the difference compared to flimsier models. Here’s a look at which wet/dry vac brands stand out for power and reliability.

Shop-Vac is the number one selling vacuum cleaner in the U.S. and a recognized global brand for wet/dry vacuums. Their range of durable models comes with sturdy plastic or stainless-steel tank options, plenty of accessories, reinforced hose connections that withstand rough handling, and excellent suction power. Starting from 1 gallon and going up to 25 gallons, they also feature built-in drains, allowing for easy emptying. They come with a decent 1-year warranty. 

Ridgid models have outstanding reputations amongst contractors and renovators. Users love the extra-capacity tanks that minimize stopping to empty messes and handy accessories like powered floor nozzles and extended hoses that come as standard. Larger vacs come with rear wheels for transporting and a cart design, while dual-flex locking hose and accessories give flexibility and stability, whatever your cleaning job.

For affordably priced wet/dry vacuums, Craftsman is an excellent choice for domestic use. While they may not have the hardcore construction of pricier worksite brands, they can provide up to 20-gallon capacity and come with built-in drainage. They also provide many handy attachments, such as extension hoses and car nozzles, plus a great-value 3-year warranty.  

CRaftsman wet/dry vacuum filter

(Image credit: Crasftman)

Verdict

Wet/dry vacuums are incredibly versatile and hardworking additions to homes that regularly deal with large spills, flooding, deep cleaning needs, and other messy situations that a regular vacuum will struggle with. Their powerful suction and large-capacity tanks make short work of both wet and dry cleanups. 

“They’re a handy tool for any busy household, particularly those with children and pets,” explains Johnson. “If you live in a home with a lot of traffic in and out of the house in all seasons and weather conditions, a wet/dry vacuum can be a lifesaver in tackling wet, muddy foot and pawprints. If you have one that does spot cleaning, that’s a bonus for your carpets!”

Brands like Shop-Vac and Ridgid are worksite-tough and equipped to handle gallons of floodwater and piles of sawdust or sand. However, they can be too heavy and noisy for domestic use. Craftsman delivers very capable wet/dry vacuums more suited to the needs and budgets of households tackling regular spills and cleaning jobs. Their pricing, capacity, accessories, ease of use, and warranty coverage make them a great domestic choice.

Wet/dry vacuums offer more quick-cleanup possibilities after spills, flooding events, DIY projects, pet accidents, and other messes that require more suction and liquid-handling muscle than standard vacuums can provide. Ensure you choose the right tank capacity and accessories for your home-cleaning tasks. 

Joanne Lewsley
Customer Advisor, Vacuums, Cleaning and Air Quality

Joanne Lewsley is a UK-based freelance writer and editor, covering health and lifestyle news and features. She creates evidence-based health and parenting content and has worked with some of the world’s best-known brands and websites, including BabyCentre UK and Medical News Today. 


You can read more of Joanne's work and get in touch via her website: https://www.joannelewsley.co.uk/