Homeowners and professionals can rely on the ultra-powerful suction produced by wet/dry vacs. These highly versatile tools can come in handy in workshops for picking up wood chips, shavings, and even fallen scraps of metal; and at home for picking up gallons of spilled liquids.
In this guide, you’ll learn all about our picks of the best wet/dry vacs and everything you need to consider when shopping for the ideal model for your home or place of business.
Buying Guide for the Best Wet/Dry Vacuums
In the following sections, we’ll focus on key factors you need to take into account when shopping for the best wet/dry vacuum.
How Does a Wet/Dry Vacuum Work?
There’s not a lot to it. Essentially, wet/dry vacuums have a simple two-bucket design in place of a traditional dirt collection bag or dust cup. The buckets are used to store liquid waste and solid waste separately.
Like the standard vacuum cleaner, a floorhead suctions up fallen debris off of the ground, sending it through a system of tubes where liquid and solid waste falls into their respective buckets. Residual air inside of the vacuum cleaner is then shot out of the exhaust port. The separation of fluids and solids makes it easier to remove empty out the tool when it reaches max capacity.
You can use different attachments for cleaning different surfaces. Some tools come with narrow ends to clean crevices and other tight spots with ease. Other tools can have brushes to help agitate the surface for a deeper clean.
Types of Wet/Dry Vacuums
Wet/dry vacuum cleaners are generally split into groups based on size. The four size groups to choose from are mini, small, and large. Please allow us to explain each type individually.
Mini Wet/Dry Vacuums
As the tiniest version of the wet/dry vacuum, miniature models sacrifice size and power for a lightweight build and easy storage. The vacuum heads are narrow and thus work best at spot-cleaning tiny spills and messes off of bare floors. Due to their smaller storage compartment size, roughly 2.5 gallons at max, they’ll need frequent emptying out. Consider these the handheld version of the traditional wet/dry vac.
Small Wet/Dry Vacuums
Small wet/dry vacuums aren’t too different from handheld or mini versions. Their storage capacity can go up to 3 gallons while retaining a lightweight build for easy maneuverability and storage. Starting from small models and up, the wet/dry vac sits atop a set of casters since their sheer size and weight does not make them as portable or easy to lift, especially when full.
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Medium Wet/Dry Vacuums
The storage capacity difference between small and medium wet/dry vacuums is enormous. Medium versions typically range between five and ten gallons, which can add a ton of weight to the unit. However, they come with beefier motors that make suctioning up clumps of wet concrete a breeze. Generally speaking, medium wet/dry vacs offer the greatest balance between power and weight, despite their humungous size.
Large Wet/Dry Vacuums
Finally, large wet/dry vacuums are made for the heaviest-duty jobs. Any wet/dry vacuum that can store more than ten gallons is considered large by any standard. Professionals and DIY-ers may rely on either medium or large wet/dry vacs to keep their workspace clean without the disturbance of frequently emptying the container.
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Caution: Obviously, larger wet/dry vacuums, when full, will weigh a lot more and be more difficult to empty out. If you don’t feel like lugging around more than 50 pounds of liquid and solid waste, you should opt for a small wet/dry vacuum instead.
What Size Wet/Dry Vacuum Should I Buy?
From the four types/sizes of wet/dry vacuums mentioned above, there’s not one universal type that will meet the needs of every user. You’ll have to determine which size fits best in your home or workshop.
However, in general, homeowners are more likely to favor mini and small-sized wet/dry vacuums for their lightweight designs and easy maneuverability. Emptying their contents out is also a lot easier since they don’t collect nearly as much liquid and solid waste.
Professionals working at construction sites, metal or woodworking shops, and auto shops will find more value in medium- and large-sized wet/dry vacs. Their beefier sizes allow them to come with beefier motors which provide enough suction to pick up large quantities of solid and liquid waste at a time. These are the more time-efficient types of wet/dry vacs that can enhance work productivity.
Different Wet/Dry Vacuum Attachments
Wet/dry vacuums can utilize a wide range of different attachments that are either available in the box or sold separately. The following is a list and brief description of what each cleaning attachment can do.
The utility nozzle, also known as a floorhead, is your go-to weapon for removing larger debris and liquid piles off of floors. Utility nozzles do not come with a surface-agitating component, so running this tool across floorboards and tiles will not leave unsightly gashes on your floors.
A crevice tool is a long, tapered tool that is used to pick up debris from tight, hard-to-reach spots. They’re typically used to get in between sofa cushions and car seats, though you can use them to spot-clean under furniture.
Dusting brushes have stiff bristles surrounding the opening which are used to agitate and loosen debris from soft surfaces such as carpets and upholstery. Their narrow opening makes them ideal for spot-cleaning rather than cleaning entire floors.
A squeegee is a specialized tool used mainly for spills. The soft, wide squeegee gathers the liquid into a smaller, more manageable pool for quicker and easier pickup.
What Are the Benefits of a Wet/Dry Vacuum?
To help you get a better understanding of why you might need a wet/dry vacuum, here are some of the most prominent advantages of owning one.
Homeowners and professionals alike will value the wet/dry vac’s versatile cleaning. Being able to pick up solid and liquid waste in a single sweep without switching between tools is a real time-saver. However, the stickiness of spilled juice or wine will not go away until you’ve gone over the area with a mop or moist cloth.
Did You Know: Wet/dry vacuums are nearly a direct substitute for traditional vacuum cleaners. They can even come with extension wands to spot-clean above-ground surfaces and HEPA-quality filters to remove every speck of dust from floors.
Wet/dry vacuum cleaners separate liquid waste from solids. The solids fall into a bucket which can be removed to toss away the contents relatively easy. Some wet/dry vac models have a drain port built into the liquid-catching bucket, which allow the contents to drip out in a steady stream. You may need to lift your wet/dry vac over a sink to do this without making a mess, or you can remove the liquid outdoors.
There’s hardly a wet/dry vacuum model that cannot remove large debris in a single pass of the utility nozzle. These tools, even the mini and small versions, have stronger motors compared to similar-sized vacuum cleaners that allow them to suction up huge quantities of liquid and debris off of smooth floors.
Versatility with Attachments
Finally, you can enhance the versatility of your wet/dry vacuum by using the different attachments that come or are compatible (sold separately) with your tool. Various attachments can be used for various tasks, such as cleaning in between upholstery cushions and car seats, on carpets, below furniture, and so on.
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Crucial Wet/Dry Vacuum Specs
When shopping for a wet/dry vacuum, you’ll want to pay attention to the following specs.
In most cases, the manufacturer will provide shoppers with a horsepower rating for their wet/dry vacuum’s motor. It’s generally a good idea to find the model with the highest HP rating relative to the type/size of the wet/dry vac since it gives a pretty good indication of how powerful it suctions.
Other factors can come into place that affect overall suction power, such as hose diameter and length and the use of extension cords.
Take a look at the diameter of the suction hose. Narrower hoses generally provide more suction power, but they can clog a lot easier. Wider hoses, on the other hand, can handle large pieces of debris, but their reliability is completely dependent on the motor’s power and performance.
This refers to the size of the liquid and solid-collecting buckets. For obvious reasons, medium and large wet/dry vacs can store more debris before reaching max capacity, thereby making it a lot more convenient to use when clearing huge messes off of floors. Storage capacity is typically measured in liters and buckets.
This can directly correlate with the wet/dry vacuum’s storage capacity and type. Larger types are heavier and can weigh a lot more when filled to the brim with liquid and solid waste. However, small, medium, and large wet/dry vacs usually come with a set of casters, which allow them to glide seamlessly across smooth floors. Handheld/mini models, on the other hand, need to weigh less for better portability.
Power Cable Length
Wet/dry vacuums should come with long power cords that reduce the frequency of switching between outlets. You can increase your range of movement from a single outlet by using an extension cord, but you should pay close attention to the wire gauge to ensure you’re still getting maximum performance ratings from hundreds of feet away (especially for professionals).
Features to Look for in a Wet/Dry Vacuum
Now, let’s see what kinds of features you should keep an eye out for while shopping for the best wet/dry vacuum.
Homeowners and professionals alike will appreciate a finer filter mesh. These filters trap minuscule dirt particles and prevent them from escaping through the tool’s exhaust port. Ideally, you’ll want a HEPA filter that’s designed to trap particles as small as 0.3 microns in size at 99.7% efficiency.
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To make life a whole lot easier, you should find a wet/dry vac model that comes with an extension wand or is compatible with one that’s sold separately. This will allow you to reach floors without bending over and saving your back from hours and pain afterward.
The suction hose should come with a lock that keeps the cleaning tool in place at all times. These locks work a lot more effectively than simple press or twist fittings, though they can make switching between tools more cumbersome.
If you don’t intend to move your wet/dry vacuum around, then finding a wall bracket for your tool can make life a heck of a lot easier. By mounting the tool onto a wall, you don’t need to worry about tripping over the power cord while moving about. However, dumping the contents can be a lot harder since you need to take the tool down beforehand. Some wet/dry vacs clip onto the brackets, whereas other slide into place.
For Your Safety: Before attempting to mount your wet/dry vac onto the wall bracket, make sure the bracket doesn’t wiggle beforehand. Having your wet/dry vacuum drop several feet onto the hard ground is a recipe for heartbreak.
Tool Storage Compartments
On onboard storage compartment for the various cleaning tools will make it easier to switch between attachments while moving around. You will not have to pocket all of the oversized tools, nor will you have to return to your shop to fetch the proper attachment.
Some of the best models come with onboard pumps that allow you to drain the liquid-catching bucket without tipping the wet/dry vacuum over. If your favorite model does not come with a pump, you might be able to purchase a pump separately that fits onto the drain port.
Leaf Blower Feature
It never hurts to have a blowing function on your wet/dry vac, especially if you need to remove leaves, twigs, and other large-sized debris without risking clogging the suction hose. A leaf blower feature can be found in medium and large wet/dry vacs.
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Wet/Dry Vacuum FAQs
Now, let’s take some time to address some of the most FAQs about wet/dry vacuums.
It certainly can. In fact, any liquid or liquid-type (e.g., wet concrete) can be suctioned into a wet/dry vacuum without worrying about destroying the internal electrical components. However, you should also exercise common sense when using a wet/dry vacuum; if your basement is flooded in several inches of water, a wet/dry vacuum is not the most efficient cleaning tool to deal with the problem.
Wet/dry vacuums can come in handy in nearly any situation. If you’re a homeowner with messy kids, spilled cereal and milk can be cleaned up almost immediately with a sweep of a wet/dry vac. Professional construction workers will also find value in this tool’s ability to pick up several gallon’s worth of wet concrete.
We favor wet/dry vacs with between six and eight HP, though you can go lower or higher as you see fit. A higher HP rating will allow you to clean bigger messes in less time, but for most household cleaning jobs, this can be overkill.
Replace vacuums, yes. Replace mops, not necessarily. Wet/dry vacs can be used on carpeted and smooth floors, and their heavy-duty suction allows them to deep-clean shaggy rugs even without a beater brush. When it comes to mopping, wet/dry vacs can’t do much against the stickiness of old spills.
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Wet/Dry Vacuums can be used to clean up wet parts or liquid skills. They work with the same principles of the traditional vacuum cleaners. The main difference is, they take in air better.
Wet/Dry Vacuums | Recommended
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Last Update: 2022-08-16 | Affiliate links/Images from Amazon Product Advertising API