Wet dry vacuum filters and suction
Reviewers give a lot of weight to how well a shop vacuum captures dust --
and whether it uses bags or filters to protect the motor and keep the dirt
in the tank. It's frustrating to vacuum dust only to see a lot of it exhausted
right back out, and experts at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
warn that lung damage can result from breathing in wood dust, sheetrock dust
or other very fine particles.
If you pick a wet dry vac that doesn't include a HEPA or Gore-Tex filter
to capture very small particles, you may be able to buy one as an accessory
(*Est. $30). It's also a good idea to make sure you pick a wet dry vac for
which fine-particle dust bags, often called sheetrock bags, are available.
To further minimize dust exposure, select a wet dry vac with a self-cleaning
filter; some wet dry vacs monitor the filter and clean it automatically when
Although the majority of wet dry vacuums have adequate suction, some have
more problems with emissions than others. In some cases, this can be corrected
by using an add-on filter, but on some models, the lids simply don't fit
While many modern shop vacuums use the same filter for both wet and dry
vacuuming tasks, some models' filters are for dry vacuuming only and need
to be removed before wet vacuuming. Such shop vacuums may also require a
foam filter sleeve or some other type of special filter for wet pickup. Be
sure to consult your wet dry vac's manual to ascertain its filtration needs
prior to use.
Features to consider:
Reviewers suggest keeping the following in mind when choosing a wet dry
- Look for a capacity that matches your
needs. For collecting wood chips or other big cleanups, look for a 16-
to 20-gallon tank. For most workshops and households, 10- to 14-gallon
models have plenty of capacity, are easier to store and move around, and
still offer adequate suction. For cleaning a house or car, smaller wet
dry vacs with tanks that hold 5 or 6 gallons are easier to transport. Portable
1- to 3-gallon vacuums offer the most convenience, but they provide a lot
less suction. Also consider storage space; different shop vacuums of equal
capacity vary in height and shape, so some fit better in a closet than
under a workbench or on a shelf.
- Consider your vacuuming needs before
deciding on a hose diameter. For general workshop pickup, such as vacuuming
wood chips and shavings, experts recommend a 2.25- to 2.5-inch hose.
Smaller hoses tend to clog. However, if you're using power tools in a workshop,
you'll need a smaller, flexible hose that adapts to the dust ports on
your tools. Many reviewers recommend that workshops include a tool-triggered
shop vacuum for collecting dust, plus a larger consumer-grade model for
cleaning up big wood chips and other debris. Extra-long hoses are available
for most models, but in most cases this reduces suction.
- Choose a model with a two-stage
bypass motor; they last longer. This can make a difference if you plan
to use the shop vacuum for extended periods as a dust collector. If you
only plan to use a shop vacuum for short periods, it's not as important.
how much cleaning the filter requires. Some filters are easier to clean.
Bosch, Porter-Cable and Festool wet dry vacuums offer the most convenience
with their built-in filter shakers, which can be engaged without opening
the units. Bosch and Porter-Cable wet dry vacuums also have separate
filter doors, allowing you to remove the filter to rinse it off without
opening the larger canister.
- Think about noise level. The best
shop vacuums are so quiet that you can carry on a conversation while
using them, and no ear protection is needed. Most newer wet dry vacs have
built-in mufflers, but they still vary greatly in sound level. Some experts
say sound doubles with every six decibels. Most experts recommend wearing
ear protection at 85 decibels, but it's wise to err on the side of caution.
With tool-triggered wet dry vacs, remember that the noise level is increased
by the sound of the attached tool.
- Make emptying liquids easy with a
drain valve or spout. Without one of these, you'll have to take the
lid off and tip the tank to empty it, Remember, a big shop vacuum with
a full tank of liquid can be heavy; if you plan to suck up liquids regularly,
a drain plug is a must-have.
- Opt for a shop vacuum with a pump? If
you plan to vacuum liquids frequently. You can also invest in a pump
as an accessory.
- Ease transport with wide-set wheels
and a low profile. Both prevent tipping. If you have to haul your vacuum
up and down stairs, models with large back wheels and a handle are
easier to use.
- Make storage convenient with features
like cord wraps and onboard attachment storage. Users note that these
features don't always work as well as advertised. It's a good idea to read
owner reviews of models you're considering.
- Proceed with caution when it comes
to models with a blower. Wet dry vacs that double as blowers are noisy
and tend to exhaust more dust. Reviewers warn that when you use them
to clean a very dusty room, they blow around the dust you're trying to
vacuum. Some models feature removable lids that double as blowers, though
these get mixed reviews for convenience.
- Factor in the cost of accessories. Many of the tool attachments, filters and dust bags designed for consumer-grade
shop vacuums can be used on more than one brand, but higher-end wet
dry vacs often require more expensive supplies. You may also want to budget
for extra accessories -- not just dust bags or filters, but a longer, bigger
or more flexible hose, or more extension wands for reaching high ceilings.