As self-proclaimed DIY enthusiasts and clean freaks, we’re always on the lookout for the latest and greatest tools to make life easier; that’s why we couldn’t wait to dive into the world of shop vacs and find the best one for 2023. We’ve done our homework and tested these bad boys out so that you don’t have to! In this review guide, we’ll share our top picks, insider tips, and all the tricks for picking the perfect shop vac. So grab a cup of coffee, get comfy, and let’s get down to the dirt on shop vacs!
Whether you own a workshop in your backyard or work professionally, shop vacs are a must-have. With so many models available, you might get confused about which product will work best for you. Major brands manufacture cordless shop vacs and stackable wet-dry vacuums for various levels of heavy-duty cleanup. Keep reading to choose the shop vac that fits your needs.
Key Considerations for Heavy-Duty Shop Vacs
Large models deliver the quickest and most thorough cleanups, in part because they can hold greater dust, debris, and fluid. Consider the space available and choose the size accordingly.
Don’t believe capacity-claims
It is a common practice that manufacturers overstate the capacity of the shop vacuums, so don’t rely solely on these claims.
Wet/dry shop vacuums are notoriously loud and can affect your hearing. For example, the Dewalt DXV05P has a noise rating of 75 dBA, which compares to a loud restaurant or your home vacuum. We recommend wearing ear protection to prevent hearing damage and paying attention to noise ratings.
If you are looking for a shop vacuum for professional and personal use, you should look for models that include accessories. Useful attachments may include a crevice tool to reach tight spots or an extended hose for greater reach. The Vacmaster VBV1210 has the best options and accessories package on our list.
Features to Look For in a Shop Vac
Here are some of the basic specs to give you an idea of what you should look for in a wet-dry shop vac.
A typical shop vac defines power in terms of horsepower. If you are looking for a shop vac for personal use, it should be at least 1.5 to 3 HP. For a powerful, professional vac, aim for 6+ horsepower.
Suction capability is measured by the amount of liquid that a wet/dry vac can pull in against certain water pressure. The hose takes a toll on motor performance when submerged in water. We recommend a water lift suction power of around 50 inches.
Shop vacuums will only add to the noise of your workshop. However, there is a misconception that loud or noisy shop vacs are more efficient and powerful. You can find a lot of shop vacs that are powerful and quiet, and low noise levels are a convenient perk of smaller models.
Unless you go cordless, you’ll need to plug your shop vac into a power outlet. Therefore, you’ll want a long cord for a hassle-free cleaning experience. Some options on this list include extension cords with your order.
Shop-vac motors are built to demonstrate performance in terms of CFM or cubic feet per minute. This measures how much air the vacuum cleaner can suck in over a period of time. A non-commercial shop vac should have an airflow rating of around 90 CFM.
Just like with every machine, a shop vac also needs regular maintenance. You can increase the life of your shop vac with simple modifications that make your machine quieter and save you money on filters. Check the video from House Doctor Ray on some easy DIY upgrade hacks.
How We Chose the Shop Vacs on this List
The best way to choose a shop vac is to do in-depth research, read reviews from customers, and check our guide. We strive to provide you with recent and updated information on the products. Here is what we considered while choosing the best shop vacuum.
Regardless of brand loyalty, I’ve always gone with RIDGID for my shop vac, and their NXT series only confirms my decision.
Offering dual functionality as both a shop vac and a blower, this product, with its large capacity drum and RIDGID’s most powerful motor, promises efficient cleaning performance, which it undoubtedly delivers. The vacuum also boasts a detachable blower, adding to the convenience of its use.
The combination of raw power, versatility, and convenience in one robust package, backed by a lifetime warranty for ensured reliability puts this number one in my garage and on this list!
Delivers outstanding suction and blowing capabilities
16-gallon drum allows for extensive cleaning without the need for frequent emptying
Included accessories make cleaning tasks more convenient and efficient
Given its large capacity and powerful motor, this vacuum can be bulky and heavy, potentially making it difficult to maneuver in tight spaces
Like most high-powered vacuums, it can be quite noisy during operation
Stanley built a shop vac that works great indoors, outdoors, and in the car. This portable vacuum has a peak 3-horsepower motor to fulfill your hardcore cleaning needs in cars, on sofas, in the shop, or wherever else your cleaning instinct takes you. The availability of the 3-in-1 crevice nozzles and a double filtration system make it a breeze to use in tight corners and hard-to-reach places behind furniture or tool racks.
It comes stock with a 10-foot cleaning reach and a 4-foot-long hose that allows you to clean dust or liquid from out-of-sight areas. It even has an impressive 3 gallon container; so you can knock out your cleaning in one fell swoop.
Suction is remarkable
Lightweight and easy to carry
The power cord is short compared to larger options
An extremely affordable option on our list, this excellent portable wet/dry vac weighs just 7.48 lbs. It has 2.5 gallons of capacity with a 2200-watt output. With this type of raw power, you won’t miss anything while cleaning (including pet hairs). If you’re outdoors and simply need to disperse dust or shavings, you can utilize this option’s ability to blow air.
With onboard storage for nozzles and hoses that make transporting and storing easy, the four-foot hose and the ten-foot power cord make it easy to reach every nook.
For under 80 bucks, this vac is packed with a lot of good features that will make your life easy. Dewalt dxvo5p is ideal for small cleaning jobs. Powering this beast is a 4-peak HP motor that provides good suction (up to 5 gallons worth) and blowing pressure.
It has a 360-degree rotation rubberized caster that allows it to move easily. This versatile vac has a 7-foot hose and a 10-foot power cord. It even comes with washable and reusable cartridge filters.
The Vacmaster VBV1210 is an excellent 2-in-1 dry and wet vacuum. This 12-gallon vacuum, having 5 peak HP motors paired with 210MPH of blowing speed, is perfect for heavy-duty cleaning jobs.
With great sucking power, it picks up absolutely everything, including pet hairs. Furthermore, it comes with two extension wands, a utility nozzle, a blower adapter, and many more useful accessories. It has a 19-foot reach thanks to the hose and power cord, which means no need for an extension cord.
If you are looking for a heavy-duty vacuum, Craftsman is the way to go. It has 6.5 peak HP to perform indoor and outdoor tasks flawlessly and offers more than enough sucking and blowing pressure for any clean-up job. The oversized drain port allows for a speedy drain.
It comes with several nozzles such as car, wet, and utility nozzles for easy and deep cleaning. It has dual flex technology for 180-degree mobility to keep the hose from kinking. The length of the power cord is 20 feet, while the hose itself is 7 feet.
Produces very little noise
Cleaning reach is impressive
Large body size
Weak manufacturing material
Common Shop Vac FAQs
Q: Is there a difference between a dry and wet shop vac?
Yes, there is a significant difference between a dry and wet shop vac.
A dry vacuum cleaner is primarily used for picking up dry materials like dust, dirt, and small debris. They are often used in residential settings and in areas where there isn't a lot of liquid mess to clean up. Dry vacuums also tend to have enhanced particle filtration systems, making them suitable for dealing with allergens and microscopic particles.
On the other hand, a wet vacuum cleaner is designed to pick up wet messes, such as spilled liquids or water from a leak or flood. These types of vacuums can suck up water or other liquids without damaging the vacuum itself. Wet vacuums are also more powerful and provide a larger storage capacity. They can be particularly useful in more industrial settings or for specific jobs that involve a lot of liquid waste.
There are also wet/dry vacuum cleaners, which combine the features of both types. These versatile machines can handle both dry debris and liquid messes, making them a great tool for a variety of cleaning tasks. For example, they can efficiently suck up water, sawdust, nails, and screws.
Q: Can a shop vac clean up water?
Yes, a wet/dry shop vac will clean almost any type of liquid, be it water, soda, feces, urine, or anything. However, you must ensure that you have switched it to dry vacuuming. Also, your vacuum should have the necessary filters and other accessories to do the job. A HEPA filter is the best one for this purpose as HEPA filtration offers a special design to filter out harmful allergens.
Q: Are shop vacs and regular vacuums the same?
No, shop vacs are designed for heavy-duty suctioning containing larger pieces of debris, while normal vacs are primarily designed to clean carpets or floors. The regular vacuum will collapse if you try to suction up wooden or metal objects with it, but a shop vac is designed for this type of job.
Q: What horsepower is good horsepower for a shop vac?
It is wiser to look for higher horsepower as it translates to the shop vacs’ overall performance. Cheaper models can also boast a higher horsepower, but they will come with low-quality bearings and windings. A horsepower of 2 is the minimum requirement for a shop vac.
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