Last Updated on April 7, 2019 by HVAC
Do You Need a Wet Dry Vac?
Vacuum cleaners are great for sweeping up dirt from your carpet and even hardwood and tile floors. However, if you spill liquid or have to deal with a bit of flooding, they aren’t a good choice.
In fact, if you want to clean up other debris that might quickly clog up your traditional vacuum cleaner or ruin the filters, you’ll need to turn to something else.
Luckily a wet dry/vac can generally handle any job you throw at them.
They can clean up standing/puddled water, other liquids, sawdust, pet fur, lawn debris, wood chips, metal shavings, and more. They can even pick up snow and have been known to unclog drains (using the blower function). Some shop vacs can even double as a leaf blower, a tool to clean out gutters, and so forth.
On this page, you can find a few tips for choosing a good one and see some of the models that we and other consumers seem to love.
Deciding which wet-dry vac is right for your situation requires you to consider a few things:
1. The Workload
Power and storage tank size matter. You need a motor that can handle the workload and volume as well as a storage tank that won’t require you to empty it in the middle of every job. If the vacuum will primarily be used for vacuuming furniture, cleaning up small spills, vacuuming your car, routine pick up of pet fur, and so forth, then a lighter weight model may be all that you need.
A motor with 2 to 4 horsepower and a tank of 2 to 6 gallon should be sufficient. If the vacuum will be used in the garage or workshop, to clean up after DIY projects, for heavier outdoor work, and so forth, a larger tank, say 8 to 14 gallons, and a more powerful motor, say 5 to 6 horsepower, would be indicated.
Of course the suction strength will depend on a number of factors, rather than just peak horsepower. It’s good to compare amperage as well.
2. The Work You Need It To Perform
Work volume is important but the type of work you will need the wet dry vac to do also matters. This is especially true in regards to the cleaning tools offered. For instance, if you will need to vacuum over head, you’ll need extension wands. If you are sweeping off your sofa, you will probably want an upholstery brush. If you’ll need to get under things, a long hose or wand is useful.
If it will be used to pick up larger debris, then a nozzle with a large enough opening and a larger diameter hose (2″ or larger) may be needed.
For indoor use, HEPA filters are great for catching more of the dust mites, pollen, and other allergens. But certainly wood dust and other debris also need to be filtered out for health reasons so multi-stage filtering can be a plus as well.
If you have debris you don’t really want to suck into the tank but merely want to blow it a way, you need a vacuum that also offers a blower function. This is often the case when you want to use the device for yard and outdoor work.
This isn’t about aesthetics. Rather, you’ll need to decide if you want a wall mount model or one that sits on casters. Most wall mount models are smaller but they aren’t always less powerful. They allow you to save on floor space and keep the vac at a level where it’s easy to access.
On the other hand, floor models have casters that can make them very maneuverable and easy to use everywhere. Metal casters are clearly more durable than plastic.
Of course some wet dry vac models are designed for portability and are handheld, in fact some of them are cordless models. If you opt for one of these, then weight will be more important.
Anything over 7 pounds can become burdensome quickly. While a cordless model will make using the vacuum quick and easy, it will also make it heavier.
4. Convenience and Safety Features
Having an air/noise diffuser can make any vacuum quieter, which is generally appreciated and certainly safer in regards to your hearing.
It’s also wise to determine how the storage tank will be emptied or any liquid drained. It should be a simple process that doesn’t require you to lift the entire vacuum or completely disassemble it to accomplish the task. It should also be an easy process to switch from vacuum to blower mode when this is an option.
The hoses should lock on so that they don’t come loose when tugged on while cleaning and certainly reusable filters can make it more cost effective. Secure on board storage of accessory cleaning tools helps to keep the things you need on hand where you need them.
A remote control can also add convenience for wet dry vacs that use longer hoses allowing the users to start and stop the device without walking back over to the main unit.
Care and Cleaning
Certainly, when you buy a new wet dry vac, one of the first orders of business should be to read the owners manual including any information on care and maintenance for that particular brand and model.
However, there are a few general things to remember.
1. Keep filters clean.
Many of these filters will be reusable. They need to be removed and have particles dumped or tapped out of them, washed, and thoroughly dried when appropriate. Filters should be checked for damage and replaced when needed. This is to assure your safety as well as proper operation.
2. Vents on the top of the device must be clear.
Check periodically to assure that nothing is blocking the openings. The vents allow air to circulate, keeping the motor cool and the vacuum operating for optimal performance.
3. In most instances, the wet dry vac tank (and filter) will need to be cleaned and dried after a wet clean up.
This will help prevent the formation of mold and mildew.
4. Care should be taken to keep the cord and plug in good condition.
The plug should be removed from an outlet by grasping it rather than pulling on the cord, this is to avoid bending the prongs or damaging the cord. The device should be stored with the cord coiled to prevent kinking or breakage. There is generally an integrated cord wrap to make this easy.
Cords should also be kept away from moisture to reduce the risk of electrical shock.
Best Wet Dry Vac Reviews
DirtTamer Ultima V2510
Over the last several years, vacuum companies have made it easier to have a compact, affordable, wet-dry vac that is the perfect size for your daily small needs around the house – hand held!
Most likely, for small jobs, all you will need will be a hand held cordless wet-dry vacuum.
These handy little things are generally between $30 and $80 USD and great for the little spills and messes of everyday life.
Whether it’s crumbs, cat litter, car seats and rugs, or spills, the little hand held wet dry vacuums are the best way to go for small, every day jobs around the home.
For small around the house jobs and general use, reviewers have praised these hand held wet-dry vacuums for their great suction, good battery life, and some reviewers rave about how well it cleans up after their toddlers (including sticky pastas or wet cereal spills!).
And the Dirt Tamer is the best model we’ve found.
But there is quite a bit more that is also demanded of portable wet-dry vacuums.
It should also carry its tools for easy storage.
Long cords are a must, and chances are that if you don’t want a hand held battery operated unit, you will be doing quite a bit with it and will want something larger.
A typical “Shop Vacuum”, in other words.
And then there’s a matter of storage. Most “portable” units will come with, or it is available separately, a wall mounting kit, to keep them up out of the way when you are not using them.
This makes it easier to use, empty, store, or to keep it up and out of the way during use on the garage wall while you’re cleaning out your car with it, so it doesn’t bang into your vehicle.
Brands like Shop-Vac, Ridgid and Shark have specifically portable models that have all of these great features and more. You can compare Shark vacuums against Shop-Vac and others here.
Reviewers of the Shop-Vac portable models love its light weight and ability to be carried around by hand, great suction, and easy storage.
Those who reviewed Ridgid models loved their vacuum’s ability to be stored, how heavy-duty they are, and how easy all of these models are to convert from dry to wet with the simple removing of the filter, and the different nozzles they come with.
There is not necessarily any single thing that makes these brands better for car detailing – it is more a combination of factors. If you look at the brands, they all seem like regular wet-dry vacuum brands.
But if you look at the reviews, these are the ones that people really bragged about as doing great when they used them in their cars. Most of them are of the portable variety, meaning that they are either hand-held but more powerful than a small daily use one, or they are all light weight enough to move around a car with ease.
These models generally run anywhere in typical wet-dry vac price range, from under $50 to over $150, depending on the make, model, and motor size. Usually, they will have extended sized hoses or attachments that make it easier for you to get into the crevices of your automobile.
They will also have to have great power to get everything out of your car.
The Armor All especially has raving reviews of how well it does for not only cars, but also extra hairy pets! So if you have pets, or take them around in your car, then you might want to look into an Armor All model. However, the other brands also do just as well for car care.
Shop-Vac 9609910 14-Gallon 6.5 HP Industrial Stainless Steel Pump Wet/Dry Vacuum There is a reason why these two brands keep showing up in different categories – they are THE names in wet-dry vacuums.
Shop-Vac 9609910 14-Gallon 6.5 HP Industrial Stainless Steel Pump Wet/Dry Vacuum
For decades, Hoover has been a vacuuming king, and Shop-Vac hasn’t been far behind at all, especially when it comes to vacuums that are used in more industrial settings.
These brands just happen to include models that either come with, or have available for an additional purpose, a water pump. This makes them perfect for larger wet jobs in areas of high flooding. Usually, these are more powerful, also usually have larger tanks for water storage, and their bigger motors will efficiently get the water out of where you don’t want it fairly quickly.
Typically the models with pumps will range anywhere from $100 to $250. Reviewers comment on how efficient and quick the larger ones are with the ability to suck up gallon after gallon with ease and little noise compared to most vacuums.
These ones have specific models or “lines” because they are specific products catered towards use on potentially fragile floors. The Floormate series by Hoover is actually an upright vacuum, but it also has the ability to do both wet and dry.
The Floormate series is specifically for hard floor surfaces so that it doesn’t damage the floors while you are cleaning them. It comes with a solid 4 stars out of 5, reviewers love what it can do to hardwood and tile alike, it comes with great accessories, and not just vacuums but washes and dries floors as well.
The Shop-Vac model listed above is an oddity that fits into many different categories here. It is also listed here because this one is designed to not need wheels – one customer bragged about how great it was for all of his floor cleaning needs because it has a slick, curved bottom and can be gently pulled along any surface and not do damage either to the floor or to the vacuum.
Features real shop-vac power, easy to use inside and outside the home, on any surface, and coupled with its multitude of available attachments, one of the best for all your wet-dry vac needs.
Best Small Wet Dry Vac
Vac Master VP205
It has an automatic shut off system that helps prevent an overflow from happening. Therefore, when it gets full it will shut down.
There is no assembly required when you purchase this item.
It has a top handle and an onboard accessory storage so you don’t have to look around for various attachments. You will get reusable cloth filter, reusable foam sleeve, two in one utility nozzle, and a crevice tool when you purchase this shop vac.
It is very inexpensive at around $35 on Amazon.
And there you have it, our list of the best wet dry vacs for you money for 2019. I hope this list helps in choosing the best one for your particular needs.
And if you do end up getting a wet/dry vac, why not let us know which one you chose in the comments below!