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Top 4 Best Shop Vacs of 2018

Best shop vac reviews 2018

Best-in-class
DeWALT DXV16PA

DeWALT DXV16PA 16-Gallon Poly Wet/Dry Vacuum

Best for professionals

Powerful shop vac ideal for professional cleaning and industrial-grade applications.

DeWALT DXV16PA Review

The DeWalt DXV16PA is the best shop vac on the market, perfect for professional applications in hotels and office buildings, but also suitable for high-volume residential demands.

It comes with a 6.5 peak horsepower motor which provides sufficient suction for dealing with all messes.

This 16-gallon (60 L) vacuum includes three disposable filter bags, a convenient hose adaptor, and a car nozzle. Easy to maneuver, the unit comes equipped with sturdy wheels and rubberized casters, while the 20-foot (6 meters) power cord ensures plenty of mobility.

A built-in accessories storage bag brings further convenience, while the built-in blower port comes in handy when you have to remove sawdust and debris from your workshop.

Powerful, easy to maneuver, and big enough to use for commercial or industrial purposes, the DeWalt DXV16PA packs all the features you could expect from a best-in-class pick.

Best value
Vacmaster VBV1210

Vacmaster VBV1210 Wet Dry Vacuum

Great value for money

Commercial-grade capabilities at a price appealing to the homeowners.

Vacmaster VBV1210 Review

Whether you’re a pro looking for an affordable vacuum cleaner or a homeowner searching the best value for money, the Vacmaster VBV1210 could be your best bet.

This powerful shop vac outputs 5 peak horsepower and is able to deal with all messes in a breeze.

The long cord and hose, together with the two extension wands make it possible to reach remote spaces with ease, while an assortment of attachments enhances the unit’s utility.

A quick-release detachable blower adds versatility and helps you sweep away workshop or garden debris at 210 miles per hour (338 km/h), while the extra-large drain port also enhances the value of this unit.

The vacuum boasts a balanced design, a large dust-sealed on/off switch, a standard cartridge filter and a reusable foam filter sleeve. Powerful and versatile, the Vacmaster VBV1210 is the best wet dry vac for the money.

Also great
Shop-Vac 5989300

Shop-Vac 5989300 5-Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum

Best for home use

Easily maneuverable wet dry vac ideal for the heavy-duty cleaning of your home, workshop, or car.

Shop-Vac 5989300 Review

The Shop-Vac 5989300 is a great wet dry vac for home use. Only slightly weaker than our best-value pick, it comes with a 5-gallon (19 L) stainless steel tank and outputs a peak power of 4.5 horsepower.

A range of accessories allow for versatile cleaning of all messes and includes three extension wands, a floor nozzle, a gulper nozzle, and a crevice tool. Besides the cleaning attachments, the vacuum also comes with a cartridge filter, filter bag, and foam sleeve.

Perfect for all domestic tasks and light-duty commercial demands, the Shop-Vac 598930 is also a great choice for pet groomers, landscapers and car detailers.

Best budget
Stanley SL18116P

Stanley SL18116P Wet/Dry Vacuum

A budget-friendly alternative

High tank capacity and multiple accessories make this wet dry vacuum great for home use.

Stanley SL18116P Review

Powered by a 4 peak horsepower motor and capable of handling high-volume pickup, the Stanley SL18116P is one of the best alternatives for the homeowner shopping on a budget.

This dependable vacuum cleaner comes at an affordable price, but the manufacturer didn’t compromise on quality.

One of the best features is the 6-gallon (23 L) tank. The unit also comes with multiple accessories ideal for cleaning your floors or car, while the powerful rear blower port allows for alternative applications.

Easy to maneuver and transport, the vacuum also comes with a waterproof and quick-access on/off switch and a 10-foot (3 meters) power cord which offers plenty of mobility.

Ideal for homeowners but capable of withstanding light-duty commercial demands, the Stanley SL18116P is the best small shop vac.

2. Why invest in a shop vac?

Wet dry vacs, or shop vacs as they are commonly called, were primarily developed to clean up heavy messes in industrial environments including workshops, hence their name. But many of today’s manufacturers propose smaller shop vac models intended for residential or light-duty commercial use.

The main advantage of a wet dry vacuum is its capability of cleaning both wet and dry messes. Then, there are other reasons why you might need one.

Typically, a shop vac can:

  • Clean hard floors, carpets, and upholstery
  • Deal with all household spills and floods
  • Unblock sinks and baths when used on blower mode
  • Clean fireplaces
  • Clean DIY debris including nails, screws, and wood shavings
  • Blow garden debris and snow

3. Types of wet dry vacs

Shop vacs can be powered by either fossil fuel, typically gasoline or propane, or electricity.

  • Gas shop vac: Outputs the highest power and is typically constructed for industrial use in workshops or job sites. Gasoline wet dry vacs are typically designed for outdoor use, while many propane models are designed for the indoors. However, they still release noxious fumes, that’s why they are less popular than the electric models.
  • Corded shop vac: Draw energy from a standard wall outlet and are perhaps the most popular models. They still output industrial-grade power but are safer to use indoors. Mobility is determined by the length of the power cord, bust most corded shop vacs come with cords of at least 10 feet (3 meters).
  • Cordless shop vac: Most cordless models are mini or small wet dry vacs typically used for domestic purposes or for cleaning the car. They give you all the flexibility you need in terms of mobility, but the runtime depends on the characteristics of the battery. Many cordless wet dry vacuums, however, come with AC/DC adaptors which allow you to plug them in a suitable socket for extended runtime.

4. Shop vac size

The size of a wet dry vac determines its power and capacity, as well as its suitability to be used for commercial or industrial applications.

  • Mini shop vac: Is typically a portable handheld shop vacuum capable of dealing with both wet and dry messes but too small to use for heavy-duty applications. These appliances are suitable for domestic use and often employed for cleaning the interior of cars, curtains, and upholstery, as well as daily household messes. Many mini shop vacs are cordless.
  • Small shop vac: Bigger than the mini but still too small to use for professional purposes, the small wet dry vacs are also handheld, but their size can vary from compact units to full-size, broom-style vacuums. They are either corded or cordless and typically compact enough to transport, maneuver, and store with ease.
  • Mid-size shop vac: Perhaps the best compromise between a home use appliance and a commercial shop vac. These wet dry vacs have tanks of different sizes placed on wheels for easier transport. Almost all mid-size units are electric, and depending on the size of the tank and power, they may or may not be suitable for heavy-duty use. Nonetheless, almost all mid-size units are ideal for cleaning the home workshop, household floods, or for blowing leaves and debris in the garden.
  • Commercial shop vac: These are the true shop vacuums built for heavy-duty use. They are the most powerful but also the bulkiest and heaviest. Large shop vacs withstand industrial and heavy commercial applications and can be either corded or gas-powered. However, they are rarely used in domestic environments.

5. Shop vac power and capacity

Two features that determine the shop vacuum’s suitability for light or heavy-duty applications is the power, often expressed in peak horsepower, and the capacity of the tank expressed in gallons. Based on this, there are residential, semi-commercial, and commercial shop vacs.

Shop vac type

Power

Capacity

Residential

1- 4.5 peak horsepower

Up to 6 gallons (23 L)

Semi-commercial

5-6 peak horsepower

6-14 gallons (23-53 L)

Commercial

Over 6 peak horsepower

14-16 gallons (53-60 L)

Airflow and sealed suction

Most manufacturers only disclose the peak horsepower of their machines to attract customers. Referring to the maximum power the vacuum outputs, this number isn’t the best indicator for performance though.

If you want to have a clearer picture, check the air flow and the sealed suction.

  • The air flow is expressed in cubic feet per minute (CFM) and tells you how much air the motor draws in. Look for a wet dry vac with a CFM of at least 90 if you want it to pick up more than dust and light debris.
  • The sealed suction determines the motor’s performance with no air flow and is expressed in inches of water lift. Mid- and heavy-duty applications will require a sealed suction of at least 50 inches.

6. Shop vac hose length & diameter

Manufacturers typically match the diameter of the hose with the vacuum’s power and capacity, and you must check both the length and the diameter of the hose to make sure it meets your needs.

The length varies widely from unit to unit. A longer hose is versatile if you want to reach remote corners, but length reduces suction. Thus a long hose could be inconvenient if you aim for higher power.

Shop vac hose diameter

The diameter of the hose also offers a good indication of what type of debris the unit can handle.

  • If you mostly deal with fine or medium debris, a hose with a diameter between 25 and 2.5 inches will suffice.
  • For larger debris, such as wood chips, nails, and other workshop waste, a hose with a diameter of at least 5 inches is desired. Large debris can get stuck in a smaller hose, reducing performance.

7. Best shop vac filter

Unless you want dust and debris flying right out from your vacuum and into the air, you must also check the type of filter the vacuum comes with. Wet dry vacuums have two types of filters, one for wet debris and another for dry debris.

The best shop vacs have a foam sleeve designed to retain spills into the tank, while the dry filter can be a HEPA type filter with cartridge and collection bag or a different type of dry filter. Depending on the type of debris you want to clean, you should choose a filter with:

  • Fine filtration level for dust and fine debris
  • Medium filtration level for medium-size debris like breadcrumbs
  • General filtration level for large debris including nails, screws, and wood shavings

8. Shop vac accessories

The cleaning accessories can also make or break the deal when picking the best wet dry vac. A great unit must come with:

  • Extension wands: Let you add more length to the hose and clean the floors without kneeling or bending. They also allow you to reach more distant corners and spots.
  • Floor sweep: Can typically be used on both hard and carpeted floors and is ideal for both your home and your workshop.
  • Crevice tool: Is ideal if you want to clean the dust gathered in the corners or to reach restricted spots.
  • Upholstery tool: Is useful for cleaning upholstery, the interior of your car, curtains, and other fabrics.
  • Water blade: Essential for cleaning wet debris. A wider blade is recommended if you intend to use the vacuum for heavier duty applications.

9. Other important features

Besides all the above, there are other important features you might want to check before buying.

  • Auto shut-off: Switches off the vacuum when the tank is full, preventing motor damage.
  • Noise muffler: Can reduce the noise of the wet dry vac from around 85 decibels to around 60 decibels, for quieter operation.
  • Drain valve: Comes in handy if you mostly deal with wet debris, allowing you to drain the waste effortlessly.
  • Swivel wheels: Improve maneuverability, especially if you have a heavy industrial shop vac.
  • Dust collection port: Is important if you want to use the shop vac in your workshop. The port allows you to connect the vacuum to your woodworking tools, including cabinet table saws, miter saws, or orbital sanders, for more effective dust and debris removal.
  • Onboard storage: Onboard storage for attachments, hose, and power cord boosts convenience and help you keep all accessories in one place.
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