Best Shop Vac | Reviews of Top Wet/Dry Models

Last Updated: by Peter Lynn

I was 10-years-old when I was first introduced to a Shop Vac. My stepfather had become upset about roadwork up by our property because a bunch of pea gravel had been deposited along our yard.

He bought a Shop Vac and sent me out there to suck up all that gravel. And, much to my skeptical amazement, it worked.

Woodworking is as much about staying clean as it is producing clean cuts. The best Shop Vacs will help you bring in the tool that you need to keep your space clean and tidy every day.

Our top pick for the best shop vac is the Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum. This shop vac features a compact and lightweight design that makes it very easy to use. It has multi-use cleaning capabilities and it comes with several great features.

The Best Shop Vacs Are:

ProductDetails
1. Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum

  • Tank Size: 2.5 Gallons
  • Motor: 2 Peak HP
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: 10-feet
  • Weight: 7 pounds
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2. Shop-Vac 2030100 1.5-Gallon 2 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vacuum

  • Tank Size: 1.5-Gallon
  • Motor: 2 Peak HP
  • Hose Length: 4-feet
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: 6-feet
  • Weight: 7 pounds
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3. Vacmaster VBV1210, 12-Gallon 5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum

  • Tank Size: 12 Gallons
  • Motor: 5 Peak HP
  • Hose Length: 7-feet
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: 12-feet
  • Weight: 24.9 pounds
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4. Karcher WD5/P Multi-Purpose Wet Dry Vacuum Cleaner

  • Tank Size: 6.6 Gallons
  • Motor: 2.4 Peak HP
  • Hose Length: 7.2-feet
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: N/A
  • Weight: 18.75 pounds
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5. RIDGID VAC1200 Heavy-Duty Wet Dry Vacuum Cleaner

  • Tank Size: 12 Gallons
  • Motor: 5 Peak HP
  • Hose Length: 8-feet
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: 20-feet
  • Weight: 22 pounds
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6. Shop-Vac 5951400 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry 14-Gallon Vacuum

  • Tank Size: 14 Gallons
  • Motor: 6.5 Peak HP
  • Hose Length: 8-feet
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: 12-feet
  • Weight: 29.9 pounds
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7. Vacmaster VF408 4-Gallon, 2-Stage Industrial Wet/Dry Floor Vacuum

  • Tank Size: 4 Gallons
  • Motor: 5 Peak HP
  • Hose Length: 7-feet
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: 18-feet
  • Weight: 17.2 pounds
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1. Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum — Best Wet/Dry Vac

We were highly satisfied with the performance of this small unit. It is powerful, but still lightweight at under 8 pounds, and gives you a consistent performance.

It does particularly well with the fine dust and debris that you may need to pick up, but you may benefit from a filter upgrade if you need to pick up soot or sawdust on a regular basis.

For homes with hardwood floors or shops with concrete surfaces, this vacuum will over-perform. The accessories give you the reach that you need to take care of an entire room, assuming you place the vacuum tank in the center of your working space.

This shop vac comes with a powerful 2 peak HP motor with a 2.5-gallon polypropylene tank. This electric-powered shop vac comes with a 10-feet long power cord, and this gives you some sort of freedom while cleaning.

It also comes with a cord wrap to help you organize the power cord when not in use. It is lightweight, portable, and very easy to use.

This shop vac has multi-use cleaning capabilities, as you can use it for dry and wet pick-ups. You can also convert it to a blower easily for drying car grills, wheels, and motorcycles.

It comes with a deluxe car nozzle that is designed to get into tight corners. The detail brush of this shop vac is ideal for vents, dashboards, electronic components, and more.

Specs

  • Tank Size: 2.5 Gallons
  • Motor: 2 Peak HP
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: 10-feet
  • Weight: 7 pounds

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Comes with an onboard hose and accessory storage
  • Multi-use cleaning capabilities
  • Converts to a blower

Cons

  • Not designed for heavy-duty jobs

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2. Shop-Vac 2030100 1.5-Gallon 2 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vacuum

The size of the tank on this vacuum limits its ability to function as a primary vacuum. It can do a good job in a small shop or for portable applications, like vacuuming the rugs in a vehicle.

If you were trying to clean a garage or a home with this vacuum, however, it would take a lot of time due to the lack of reach and the reduced size of the tank.

The exhaust on this model is also noticeably strong. You have to be careful about where you place the tank when working, especially if you are just starting to clean up a mess. We created a massive dust storm on our first attempt.

Besides those few drawbacks, this machine does a great job of keeping your workshop, vehicle, garage, or home clean. It comes with a 2 Peak HP motor and this unit also converts into a powerful blower.

The filters and accessories included in this package are a 4-free hose, gulper nozzle, crevice tool, tool holder, wall mount bracket for vac, foam sleeve, and reusable disc filter with a ring.

Specs

  • Tank Size: 1.5-Gallon
  • Motor: 2 Peak HP
  • Hose Length: 4-feet
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: 6-feet
  • Weight: 7 pounds

Pros

  • Comes with several accessories and filters
  • Wall mountable
  • Collapsible top carrying handle for mobility and portability
  • Turns into a powerful blower

Cons

  • Size of the tank is too small

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3. Vacmaster VBV1210, 12-Gallon 5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum

This model can take a licking and keep on sucking – so to speak. The 12-foot cord is a nice option, especially when combined with a 7-foot hose.

The cord wrap actually works on this vacuum, while the quick-release detachable blower is actually a useful feature instead of just a marketing gimmick.

The drain port is large but does require you to lift the tank of this vacuum when removing a liquid mess. If you want an affordable large shop vacuum, however, you cannot really deny the benefits this model provides.

The package of this product includes 2 extension wands, crevice tool, utility nozzle, concentrator nozzle, blower adapter, standards cartridge filter, air/noise diffuser, foam wet filter.

It is ideal for tough jobs, thanks to its tough polypropylene construction. It comes with a high-performance blower that provides multi-use capabilities, with a blowing speed of 210 MPH. It comes with an impressive 5 peak HP motor that makes cleaning much easier.

Specs

  • Tank Size: 12 Gallons
  • Motor: 5 Peak HP
  • Hose Length: 7-feet
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: 12-feet
  • Weight: 24.9 pounds

Pros

  • Ideal for tough jobs
  • Comes with high-performance blower
  • Detachable blower
  • Attachment tool for cleaning tight corners

Cons

  • A bit weighty

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4. Karcher WD5/P Multi-Purpose Wet Dry Vacuum Cleaner

This is the shop vacuum that can replace multiple tools. It allows you to work faster, achieve a better clean, and do so consistently. Included with the accessories is a standard floor nozzle that does a good job of picking up dust and fur without clogging, despite the presence of a pleated filter and fleece bag.

It offers auto-start and auto-stop features as well, giving you a hands-free user experience when you need it the most. The blower function is practical, but not the top feature of this model. It is a bit of an investment, but one that will pay you back over time.

The package of this unit includes a hose, crevice tool, extension wand, hand grip nozzle, pleated filter, standard floor nozzle, and fleece bag. It comes with a semi-auto filter cleaning system that provides an easy and quick way to clean the filter. This feature makes the filter cleaning process mess-free while extending the lifespan of the machine.

The inbuilt blower of this shop vac quickly moves debris and dirt from tight and awkward spaces. This shop vac comes with a powerful 1,800-watt motor that delivers superior airflow.

The length of the hose is 7.2 feet and it has a smooth interior to prevent clogs. The size of this tank is pretty large, at 6.6 gallons. It weighs 18.75 pounds and it comes with a two-year warranty.

Specs

  • Tank Size: 6.6 Gallons
  • Motor: 2.4 Peak HP
  • Hose Length: 7.2-feet
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: N/A
  • Weight: 18.75 pounds

Pros

  • Pretty powerful motor
  • Standard nozzle that picks fur and dust without clogging
  • Length of the hose gives you freedom while cleaning
  • Inbuilt blower comes in handy in several occasions

Cons

  • A bit expensive

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5. RIDGID VAC1200 Heavy-Duty Wet Dry Vacuum Cleaner

This was the design we came to prefer when it came to cleaning up a liquid mess. The drain on the bottom is the right size to encourage full fluid evacuation, leaving you to just clean up the tank with a dry rag afterward. The hose is appropriately flexible and does not clog easily.

As for the tank, it may be 12-gallons, but it is also wide and compact, taking up a small space footprint. This made it a lot easier to take it to various spots to clean up messes. A 15-pound mess could be removed in under 30 seconds. Give it a try and we think you will be pleased as well.

This shop vac also doubles as a high-performance detachable leaf blower. It is portable, and very easy to use and maneuver, thanks to its side carry handle and compact drum size. The filter of this unit is very easy to change, thanks to its patented Qwik-Lock filter. With this feature, you do not need additional tools to change the filter.

It comes with a highly durable professional-grade hose that measures 1-7/8 inches in diameter and 8 feet in length. It is a professional lock hose and it will not pull loose when in use. It handles large jobs, yet stores and transport conveniently.

The package includes an 8-foot locking pro hose, Qwik lock filter, utility nozzle, car/blower nozzle, and two extension wands. This whole unit is powered by a 5 peak horsepower motor, and it is highly durable and efficient.

Specs

  • Tank Size: 12 Gallons
  • Motor: 5 Peak HP
  • Hose Length: 8-feet
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: 20-feet
  • Weight: 22 pounds

Pros

  • Highly durable professional-grace locking hose
  • No tools needed to change the filter
  • Large capacity tank
  • Serves as a wet/dry shop vac and a blower

Cons

  • Some users said the size between the flex hose and the attachment piece is too much

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6. Shop-Vac 5951400 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry 14-Gallon Vacuum

As the largest unit we took a look at, we were impressed with the amount of power and portability this design offers. Not only does it have the typical casters of a Shop Vac, but it also has a back handle and wheelbarrow design that allows you to transport large amounts of debris, trash, or refuse to its intended destination.

There is also a filter minder to remind you when it is time to clean everything up. A tool basket is even included on the back of this vacuum… and it is cheaper than smaller models from other brands. Take a look and we think you will like it as much as we did.

This machine comes with an impressive 6.5 peak HP motor, with the SVx2 new motor technology for increased performance and longer life. The size of the tank is 14-gallon, which is pretty much the largest on our list. This means you can use it to vacuum for a very long time without going to empty it.

Despite its large tank size and high-performance motor, this shop vac weighs only 29.9 pounds. It comes with an 8-feet 2.5-inch lock-on hose, which is pretty long enough and it will not loosen when in use. The package also includes an 8-inch utility nozzle, hose holder, crevice nozzle, 14-inch floor nozzle, collection bag, and a cartridge filter.

Specs

  • Tank Size: 14 Gallons
  • Motor: 6.5 Peak HP
  • Hose Length: 8-feet
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: 12-feet
  • Weight: 29.9 pounds

Pros

  • Comes with a very large Tank Size
  • Very powerful motor that delivers great performance
  • New motor technology for increased performance and longer life
  • 2-in-1 shop vac

Cons

  • A longer power cord would have been better

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7. Vacmaster VF408 4-Gallon, 2-Stage Industrial Wet/Dry Floor Vacuum

If your cleanup needs are large, then you need a vacuum that can handle the toughest of jobs. That is what this 5-peak HP vacuum will be able to do for you. It cleans all floors, including carpets, with ease.

The design includes a HEPA-rated cartridge filter and the dust collection bag does not make a huge mess during cleanup. The hose fits securely, so with the 18-foot power cord, you have up to 25-feet of total reach. Do not miss out on this value purchase.

This unit features very quiet operation and a 2-stage motor for powerful suction. If you are looking for the best wet/dry vac that will give you enough freedom while cleaning, then this is a great option, as it comes with an 18-foot long power cord. It also features an automatic cord rewind system, and this helps to keep the power cord well-organized.

The package of this unit includes a 7-feet 1.25-inch hose, three extension wands, round dust brush, crevice tool, 2-in-1 utility nozzle/brush, foam wet filter, washable cartridge filter, and a tool caddy.

With the wet/dry pick-up feature of this machine, you can tackle any job in your woodworking workshop down to your home.

It features a lightweight construction and a top handle design that makes it very easy to transport. Rolling it around is also very easy, thanks to its durable and effective wheels. The size of the tank is 4-gallon. Although this is not the largest, it still comes in pretty handy.

Specs

  • Tank Size: 4 Gallons
  • Motor: 5 Peak HP
  • Hose Length: 7-feet
  • Power Source: Electric-Powered
  • Cord Length: 18-feet
  • Weight: 17.2 pounds

Pros

  • 2-stage motor for quiet operation and powerful suction
  • Onboard storage to keep your tools and accessories in one place
  • Lightweight construction and top handle design for easy transport
  • Easy cord retrieval with the touch of a button

Cons

  • The size of the tank is pretty small

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What Is A Shop Vac And Why Do I Need One?

If you need to take care of some heavy-duty cleanup work, then there is not a better tool to use. It is the go-to tool that will make quick work of virtually any mess.

Many are even designed to be wet/dry vacuums, so you can pick up those liquid spills just as easily as you can pick up that big sawdust mess that suddenly appeared as you were working.

Now any vacuum can pick-up some sawdust or other woodworking debris with relative ease. What makes the trusted models stand out, as a tool, is its ability to pick up heavy items with the same efficiency as it picks up dust.

In order for heavy items to be cleaned up quickly, there are some features that the best shop vacuums must-have.

Large Storage Tank

Although you can grab a unit in just about any size, the best vacuums tend to have a minimum tank size of 16 gallons. This larger size will allow you to quickly pick up heavy messes and liquids without worrying about clogging or overwhelming whatever filtering process may be included.

A High Horsepower Motor

It takes a lot of strength to be able to pick up a heavy mess. Look for models with a motor of 5 HP for the best results.

Locking Hoses

If the hose to your unit does not lock into place, there is a chance that a heavy cleanup could dislodge it from the tank. When that happens, especially if you have just cleaned up a whole mess of sawdust, then you are stuck with even more work to do.

Integrated Blower Port

This is another vital feature that comes in pretty handy. While it might not be useful to everyone, it is very useful for woodworkers. If you need to move debris from your workshop, then you should go for a shop vac that has an integrated blower port.

The majority of the best shop vacuums on our list come with this feature. It is very useful on different occasions, and you would not even mind paying extra for this feature.

Ease Of Use

The best shop vacs are very easy to use. The ease of use of this tool depends on several things such as portability, size, weight, and more. Hence, you should make sure the vac is highly portable, lightweight, and very easy to move around.

Another feature to look out for includes a drain port, as this makes the tool very easy to use. The vac should also have a handle for easy mobility.

The bottom line here: larger models tend to provide the fastest and most efficient cleanup. You can save money by purchasing a smaller model, but that means you will be spending more time cleaning and less time with your woodworking projects.

How To Use A Wet/Dry Shop Vac

How To Find The Your Shop Vac

There is no doubt about it: many shop vacuums are loud tools. So loud, in fact, that continued exposure to the sounds they produce could cause hearing damage.

The best shop vacs in this category should be able to run at full power without producing more than 85 decibels. Otherwise, you may wish to consider wearing your hearing protection from your woodworking personal protective equipment kit.

The best shop vacuums should also have a powerfully consistent level of air movement. One of the easiest ways to measure this feature is to test how fast the vacuum is able to pick up a 15-pound mess.

The best vacuums can get the job done in 25 seconds or less. Anything above 35 seconds means the vacuum is underpowered and you will run the risk of having the motor burn out on you one day.

Accessory storage is another important consideration. Many units have inadequate storage solutions on the vacuum, causing the extra items to fall off when you are working.

If you need a wide range of accessories for your woodworking cleanup needs, then look for a design that can safely store all of those accessories.

Shop Vacuums And Capacity Claims: Fact Or Hype?

In a lot of shop vac reviews, we have noticed that many manufacturers have overstated what the fluid capacity of their vacuum happens to be.

Manufacturers tend to claim that the liquid capacity of a wet/dry vac is reflective of the tank storage capacity. If the tank is 10-gallons, then the manufacturer tends to claim it can hold 10 gallons of liquid.

This is simply not the case. In the actual testing of almost every model, the internal float of the vacuum rises as more liquid is gathered by the tool. This float will eventually block suction, often several gallons short of the capacity claims that are made by the manufacturer.

Therefore, if you were to take the motor off the vacuum and only use the tank, then you could reach the full capacity. Your shop vacuum is not a bucket, however, so we encourage everyone to double-check the facts through each review if vacuuming liquids is going to be a top priority.

What Will It Cost Me to Buy the Best Shop Vacs?

Units are generally priced based on the size of the tank and the strength of the motor. Larger sizes and higher horsepower translates into a bigger price tag. This means you can find a unit for less than $50 right now, but there is a good chance that it will only have a 1.5-gallon tank and maybe a 2 HP motor.

Many hobbyists and small shops can get away with using a 6-gallon tank and 3 HP motor for their cleanup needs. Models in this category are typically priced between $75 and $125.

The best shop vacuums are usually priced between $150 and $200. Professional-grade vacuums in this category may be priced between $300 and $500, but are typically intended for full-time, large-scale operations.

Conclusion

Our shop vac reviews will help you find a vacuum from a number of different manufacturers that could meet your needs quite effectively. Consider your options and then buy the shop vacuum that makes the most sense for your space right now.

Without a decent vacuum, your workshop will be twice as difficult to clean, and we recommend the Armor All, AA255, 2.5-Gallon 2 Peak HP Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum for its lightweight construction and ease of use.