A wet-dry vac tackles the toughest messes
heavy-duty cleanup tasks, standard vacuum cleaners sometimes don't cut it. While upright vacuum cleaners and canister vacuums can handle standard
household cleaning tasks such as vacuuming rugs, hard flooring and carpeting,
bigger jobs – like sucking up water, large piles of sawdust or heavier
objects like wood chips or nails – require a wet-dry vacuum. From house
to workshop to job site, these tough vacuums can handle whatever you throw at
vacs come in a range of sizes, from mini wet-dry vacuums that hold around 2
gallons to large shop vacuums with a capacity of 20 gallons or more. Larger
models typically provide stronger suction, but smaller ones are easier to tote
up and down stairs or out to job sites.
Types of Wet / Dry Vacuums
General purpose wet-dry vacuums
For most home users, a consumer-grade general-purpose wet-dry vac offers the best balance of power and portability. These vacuums provide plenty of suction power for home and light workshop duty, and most come with a decent assortment of accessories. Their biggest drawbacks are high noise and a bit of dust in the exhaust. Consumer-grade wet-dry vacs vary in price based mainly on size. The smallest wet-dry vacuums, with a stated capacity of 5 to 10 gallons, cost between $40 and $100. Medium-sized models of 12 to 14 gallons range from $70 to $120. The highest capacity wet-dry vacs can hold 15 to 20 gallons and typically cost $100 to $175. Along with size, factors that affect the price include performance, features, and included accessories.
Tool-triggered shop vacuums
For use in a workshop, professionals and hardcore DIYers often favor tool-triggered shop vacuums. To use these professional-grade vacuums, you plug a power tool into the unit's electrical outlet and hook up the tool's dust port to the shop vacuum's hose. When you switch on the tool, the vac automatically starts up at the same time and sucks dust directly into its canister. This extra feature comes with a hefty price tag, though; tool-triggered wet-dry vacs typically cost at least $500.
Portable wet-dry vacs
The wet-dry vacuums described above are all fairly bulky and can only be used within range of an AC outlet. That makes moving them around a challenge. If you need to carry your vacuum from room to room or out to a job site, portable wet-dry vacs – especially cordless models – are a more convenient option. These little vacs are smaller than a general-purpose wet-dry vacuum, typically two to four gallons, and have weaker suction. Portable, corded wet-dry vacs range in price from around $30 to $100. Cordless models cost around $100, but that doesn't include the battery pack and/or charger. If you don't own a compatible battery already, these extras can add another $100 or more to the total price.
Finding The Best Wet / Dry Vacuums
"The Best Shop Vacuums"
"The Best Wet/Dry Vacuums of 2018"
"We Test the 6 Best Shop Vacs"
find the best wet-dry vacs for general-purpose and workshop use, we turned to
professional, hands-on comparison tests from sources like Fine Homebuilding,
Popular Mechanics, and Consumer Reports. Experts evaluate wet-dry vacs on their
ability to suction water, sawdust, nails, and other materials, often timing
their performance to see which models can get the job done most efficiently.
also consulted owner-written reviews from retail sites like Amazon and Home Depot
to see how wet-dry vacs perform under real-world conditions. User reviews also
provide information about long-term durability and the quality of customer
service from various manufacturers. Together, the feedback from experts and
owners guided us to the best wet-dry vacs for any user, use and budget.
best wet-dry vacs for home owners and do-it-yourselfers
reviews of consumer-grade wet-dry vacs, the Ridgid WD1450 (Est. $100) comes up over
and over again as a top performer. Its 14-gallon size is just right for most
home users – big enough to clean up a mess in one shot, but not too big
to move around or empty comfortably. It comes with a 7-foot-long, 2.5-inch
diameter hose, two extension wands, three nozzles for different jobs and a fine
dust filter. An optional HEPA filter allows it to capture even finer particles
– as small as 0.3 microns. Finally, it's backed by Ridgid's lifetime
warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. (That's the tool's
lifetime, not yours, so it expires when the vacuum "becomes unusable for
reasons other than defects in workmanship or material.")
Ridgid WD1450 scores at or near the top in several professional comparison
tests. It's the top pick at Top Ten Reviews, with high marks for capacity and
power, design, filters, and attachments. At Consumer Reports, it beats out four
other medium-sized wet-dry vacuums, with top scores for both wet and dry
cleaning and low emissions. In a review at Fine Homebuilding magazine, the
Ridgid cleans up both concrete and dust faster than seven other shop vacuums,
including some more than four times its price, and only the 12-gallon Makita
VC4710 (discussed below) bests it at sucking up nails. And in a
comparison test at Truck Trend, the Ridgid vacuum places second among four
wet-dry vacuums under $100, impressing editors with its "powerful
suction both for fine dust and water, best-in-class 88 dB operating noise
level, and lifetime warranty."
The Ridgid has its flaws, however. Paul Johnson at Fine
Homebuilding says the 7-foot hose limits the vac's range, so it has to be moved
around a lot – which isn't easy, since it doesn't roll smoothly. He also
complains of getting static shocks from the hose. The editors at Truck Trend
knock points off the Ridgid for its oddly designed crevice tool, which is hard
to get into tight
and low spots. And Top Ten Reviews notes that while it has a blower function,
it's tricky to use because the motor isn't detachable.
feedback is excellent. More than 1,500 user reviews at HomeDepot.com give the
Ridgid WD1450 an overall rating of 4.7 stars out of 5, and 96 percent say
they'd recommend it. Overall, owners praise the Ridgid WD1450 for its powerful
suction and surprisingly quiet operation. They also appreciate its onboard
storage for the attachments and the hose, although some quibble that the
accessory bag is too small to hold any extra attachments. Their main complaints
are that there's no storage for the hose and the extension wands tend to come
loose. Also, while most users say this wet-dry vac is reliable, the few who had
problems report that Ridgid's customer service leaves much to be desired.
you want a wet-dry vacuum mainly for smaller cleanup jobs, the 14-gallon Ridgid
is probably overkill. The Craftsman 12004 (Est. $50) is a smaller and cheaper alternative with also excellent reviews. Its capacity
is only 6 gallons, and its 3-peak-horsepower motor is only half as powerful as
the Ridgid's. It also has a narrower hose (1.9 inches in diameter). However, it
offers similar features to the larger Ridgid vac, including a blower function, a 7-foot
hose, two extension wands, two nozzles, and two filters – a cartridge
filter for dry materials and a foam one for liquids. There's also onboard
storage for the hose, accessories, and power cord.
names the Craftsman 12004 as its top pick, saying it has "the most
well-balanced combination of power, usability, and versatility." Although
some other wet-dry vacs in its test have more power, the Craftsman is easily
the strongest for its size, sucking up 1.43 gallons of water in just 10 seconds.
It's also easy to use, with a securely fitting hose and an easy-to-remove
Ten Reviews names the Craftsman as its third-place pick, noting that it "left
a bit behind" in the suction test but was better than most competitors,
and very easy to move around. Its biggest drawback is that it's one of the
loudest vacuums in the test, at 96 dB. Also, its one-year warranty pales in
comparison to the limited lifetime warranty on the Ridgid.
reviews for the Craftsman 12004 are highly positive, including a 4.5 star
rating at Sears based on nearly 200 reviews. Owners say this 12.8-pound vacuum
is very easy to handle and has great suction. They also appreciate the onboard
tool storage. Some users wish it came with more attachments, such as a brush
and crevice tool, and there are a few complaints about durability.
are easy to store but have a small capacity
If you don't have space in your workshop for a full-sized shop vacuum, a
small wall-mounted wet-dry vacuum could be the solution. These vacuums have
extra-long hoses, often 20 feet or more, allowing you to vacuum a car or a
whole room without moving the vacuum from its spot on the wall. This
convenience has a downside, however: wall-mounted vacuums usually have a
smaller capacity of 5 gallons at most, and their extra-long hoses clog more
The only wall-mounted wet-dry vac to earn a recommendation in
professional sources is the Ridgid Stor-N-Go WD5500 (Est. $100).
In tests at Consumer Reports, this 5-gallon unit comes in second among seven
small-sized wet-dry vacuums. Its overall performance can't match larger units
like the Ridgid WD1450, but editors rate it very good for dry cleaning tasks
and pretty good for wet cleanup. It also gets acceptable scores for dust emissions
and ease of use.
This wet-dry vac's 20-foot cord gives you plenty of choices about where
to mount the vacuum so that it can reach both the outlet and everything else in
the room. In addition, it has both a 14-foot hose and a 7-foot collapsible hose
that can be joined together, giving you 21 feet of overall range. Built-in
accessory storage keeps all its tools – two extension wands, a utility
nozzle, a car nozzle, a crevice tool, and a brush – within easy reach.
And, like other Ridgid tools, it's backed by a lifetime warranty.
The Ridgid Stor-N-Go receives roughly 300 reviews from owners at HomeDepot.com,
with an overall rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. Owners praise its suction power,
lifetime warranty, and space-saving design. They also say it's fairly easy to
mount the vacuum to the wall, and they like being able to switch it from a
vacuum to a blower for dispersing dirt and leaves. Their main complaint is that
there's no easy way to convert this shop vacuum to fit over a power tool's dust
port – not even with other Ridgid tools. Also, some owners find the long
hose too stiff. Finally, users who like to move the vacuum around rather than
leaving it mounted to the wall wish it came with wheels – though some say
it's not too hard to add casters. But despite these minor problems, 94 percent of owners say they would recommend
this shop vacuum.
tool-triggered wet-dry vacs for workshops
pros typically want a tool-triggered shop vacuum for capturing sawdust. You can
sometimes add an accessory to make an ordinary wet-dry vac work with power
tools, but the extra noise can be punishing – particularly during, for
example, a long sanding session.
Dust control is not merely a convenience but also a health precaution, as the US Department of Health and Human Services deems wood dust a known carcinogen.
Most tool-triggered wet-dry vacuums can use a HEPA filter to capture even the
tiniest particles. However, these extra-fine filters can clog easily, impeding
the vacuum's performance. Thus, many tool-triggered vacs can also use a filter
bag that helps keep the main filter clean while also containing debris. In
addition, some models have self-cleaning features that periodically shake dust
from the filter to keep the machine running smoothly.
a review of tool-triggered wet-dry vacuums for Fine Homebuilding, Paul Johnson
names the 12-gallon (Est. $550) his top pick. He says its
self-cleaning function (which activates every 15 to 20 seconds) kept the
filters clean and the suction strong as the shop vacuum greedily sucked up
concrete, drywall mix, sawdust, and other debris. He also says it's stable,
lightweight and easy to empty. Reviewers
on other professional sites, including Fine Woodworking and Pro Tool Reviews, second
Johnson's opinion. They're impressed with its quietness, as well. Though the
VC4710 is rated at just 59 decibels (dB), Bill Peck at Fine Woodworking
measures it at 72 dB – but that still makes it one of the quietest units
he's ever tested.
have a few complaints, however. Johnson says the Makita's self-cleaning
function produces an "unnerving" noise that he describes as "like a tennis ball being sucked up and
whacked into the vacuum." Clint deBoer of Pro Tool Reviews says the lack
of an elevated handle makes the shop vacuum difficult to maneuver, especially
over rough terrain. And Peck points out that while it can take a HEPA filter,
it doesn't come with one. Adding the filter set, the Makita P-79859 (Est.
$135), adds quite
a bit to the overall price of the unit.
experts give the Makita strong praise, users aren't quite as sure – though,
to be fair, there isn't a great deal of owner feedback for this shop vacuum. In
addition, as a class,, tool-triggered wet-dry vacs come in for a bit of owner
criticism. Be that as it may, we found just under 50 reviews at Amazon.com,
with an unimpressive overall rating of 3.4 stars out of 5. Owners say the
machine is powerful and quiet, with excellent filtration, and they appreciate
the self-cleaning system. However, many users wish they could turn the system
off when it's not needed, as it's not only annoying but also interrupts the
flow of air. They also complain that the filters are pricey and the narrow hose
(just under 1.5 inches in diameter) isn't great for picking up large debris. We
also saw more complaints about durability than you'd expect for a unit this
pricey. Makita backs the VC4710 with a one-year warranty and a 30-day
10-gallon (Est. $520) isn't included in the Fine Homebuilding test, but it earns a Best
Value rating at Fine
Woodworking and an enthusiastic review from Pro Tool Reviews. This wet-dry vacuum
has most of the features found on the Makita, including adjustable suction and
a self-cleaning filter -- and unlike the Makita, it comes with not one but two
standard HEPA filters. At 33.5 pounds, it's heftier than the 27-pound Makita,
but reviewers say its large wheels and telescoping handle make it easy to
measures the airflow of this wet-dry vacuum at an impressive 65 cubic feet per
minute (cfm), just behind the Makita's 70 cfm. He also says its filter-cleaning
feature, which works by sending a reverse puff of air through one of the
filters every 30 seconds, works quite well. DeBoer concurs, saying the filter
present a hiccup for the collection of dust." And both Peck and DeBoer are
impressed with how easy the DeWalt is to wheel around, despite its weight.
The DeWalt DWV012 earns a so-sol rating of 3.7 stars out of
5 from about 45 owners at Amazon. They love its powerful suction,
maneuverability and self-cleaning filter, and they say it's not too loud when
running. Their biggest complaint is that, unlike the Makita, this wet-dry
vacuum doesn't come with any adapters for hooking its 15-foot hose up to power
tools. DeWalt customer service can help you find the right adapters to use if
you have DeWalt power tools, but if you own any other brand, you're on your
own. Since the whole point of owning a tool-triggered shop vacuum is to hook it
up to tools, this is a big enough problem to throw our Best Reviewed pick to
the Makita, rather than the otherwise exemplary DeWalt.