Updated March 2012
If your canister vacuum isn't cutting it, you're probably ready to graduate to a wet dry vacuum. The simplest of these are great for simple cleanup in the garage and workshop, while more sophisticated wet dry vacuums can be attached directly to woodworking tools to suck up dust as you work. Woodworking magazines are great at testing lots of models together, so you can really get a sense of which wet dry vacs are best for which tasks. We compared the results of those expert tests to user reviews of reliability and ease of use -- and for noise level, a particular concern.
Ads related to Wet Dry Vacs
Ridgid WD1450
Ridgid WD1450

Best wet dry vac for home and garage

For general cleanup of dry debris and liquids, this is the most frequently recommended wet dry vac. Reviews say the 14-gallon size hits the sweet spot -- it's large enough for big jobs, yet small enough to store easily. The hose locks on, making it easy to tug around, and the filter is washable. Ridgid sells dust bags too, and a drain makes emptying liquids easy. Although there are several well reviewed, and cheaper, Shop-Vac and Craftsman wet dry vacs in this size class, only Ridgid offers a lifetime warranty.
See our full review

Bosch Airsweep 3931A
Bosch Airsweep 3931A

Best workshop vacuum

The Bosch Airsweep 3931A is a pro-level tool-triggered shop vacuum, so it's ideal for woodworkers who need to control dust. Features include a soft-start motor with bypass protection and auto shut-off when vacuuming liquids; the twin filters automatically clean themselves, and HEPA filters are also available. Dust bags make emptying the Bosch Airsweep wet dry vac easier and cleaner. As with other pro-grade shop vacuums, the Airsweep's attachment wands and nozzles cost extra (*Est. $40). The Bosch Airsweep 3931A offers more convenience features than basic models, but it's probably overkill for those who have no intention of using it with power tools.
See our full review

Ridgid Pro Pack WD4522
Ridgid Pro Pack WD4522

Portable wet dry vac

Experts and consumers say they appreciate the 4.5-gallon Ridgid Pro Pack WD4522. The wet dry vac's toolbox design allows for easy transport and under-bench storage, and its lid opens to reveal onboard housing for the hose, cord and three cleaning tools. Two extension wands also come with the Pro Pack for cleaning high and hard-to-reach spots. The Pro Pack does not accommodate dust bags, but most reviewers overlook this inconvenience in light of the Ridgid wet dry vac's suction power and lifetime warranty.
See our full review

See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Wet Dry Vacs Runners Up:

Milwaukee 0880-20 *Est. $95

4 picks including: Amazon.com, ConsumerGuide.com…

Fein Turbo III 9-20-26 (9-77-25 old model) *Est. $485

3 picks including: Amazon.com, Fine Homebuilding…

Craftsman 17066 *Est. $120

2 picks including: American Woodworker, PopularMechanics.com…

Craftsman 17762 *Est. $110

2 picks including: Sears.com, ConsumerReports.org…

Craftsman 17761 *Est. $90

2 picks including: Sears.com, ToolCrib.com…

Fein Turbo II 9-20-25 (9-55-13 old model) *Est. $300

2 picks including: Amazon.com, Fine Homebuilding…

DeWalt DC515K *Est. $140

2 picks including: Amazon.com, HomeDepot.com…

Comparing reviews of shop vacuums

Wet dry vacuums handle a wider range of cleanup tasks than regular vacuum cleaners; they are used to vacuum liquids and collect dust and debris in workshops and garages and on jobsites. Note that the term "Shop-Vac" is a brand name; in the same way that "Kleenex" and "Xerox" have morphed into generic terms, "Shop-Vac" has also become an umbrella term for wet dry vacuums. Basic wet dry vacs are useful for general cleanup around the house, but woodworkers and contractors often prefer more expensive pro-grade shop vacuums. This type of vacuum is tool-triggered, meaning there's an onboard outlet you can plug power tools into, and vacuum and tool(s) are activated simultaneously.

For tests of general-use wet dry vacs, we found the best review at ConsumerReports.org, where editors test 23 models ranging in size from 2 to 20 gallons; ratings are based on rigorous objective tests. A review at Popular Mechanics provides more details on some of the same shop vacuums, but it tests just six models, only one of which is a tool-triggered vac.

We found the most recent comparison tests of tool-triggered wet dry vacs at Fine Woodworking and This Old House Magazine. The results of vacuum comparison tests are also discussed in older reviews in Wood magazine, Fine Homebuilding, the Journal of Light Construction and Tools of the Trade magazine.

In addition to these comparisons, we found in-depth single-product reviews of wet dry vacs in woodworking publications and at the websites of individual woodworkers. We also studied owner reviews published at Amazon.com, HomeDepot.com, Sears.com and several other sites. Owner reviews often include details missing from the big comparison tests, along with a longer-term perspective on durability.

Ads related to Wet Dry Vacs

Back to top