If you are cleaning up at home, you’ll sometimes want more than just a standard vacuum cleaner.
When you need to deal with heavy spillages that can be either wet or dry, a shop vac or wet and dry vac comes fully to the fore.
If you want something more versatile than an upright or a cylinder capable of sucking up liquid spills rather than just dirt or dust, the wet-dry vacuum could be just what you’re looking for.
Before that, we’ll walk you through what you need to consider before making your purchase. As when buying any product, take your time at the research stage and you can avoid making a costly mistake and getting a wet & dry vac that’s inappropriate for your needs.
Our Pick: Henry HVR200A by Numatic. Its performance and overall quality raise it high above the competition, while the AutoSave low energy functionality makes it an excellent option for the heavy wet or dry spillages!
What Are Wet Dry Vacs Good For?
- Spilled drinks
- Sucking up dust and debris from power tools
- Clearing up work sites quickly
- Cleaning inside your vehicles
- Drying cleaned hard flooring
- Vacuuming garages or anywhere with larger debris
- Unblocking the sink
Usually, wet/dry vacs are used for commercial projects. They tend to be bulky and also make quite a lot of noise. Many people like having one in the home, though, even if it’s as an additional cleaner to stash in the garage.
There are often messes at home that might damage your conventional vacuum so if you can stretch to picking up a shop vac, it will be a worthwhile investment.
Wet and dry vacs have a reputation for making a racket but advances in motor technology mean they are now pretty quiet. You can enjoy powerful suction and the ability to deal with wet spills fuss-free without the noise previously associated with shop vacs.
Watch out for a shop vac with HEPA filtration. If you suffer from allergies or asthma, buying this type of vac without the proper filter system is asking for trouble.
What Are The Downsides of Wet-Dry Vacuums?
Like with any appliance, there are a few negative pointers to watch out for.
Most upright or canister vacuums will have a more efficient filtration system than wet & dry vacs. HEPA filters and other cutting edge filter systems will stop any allergens or small particles getting into the atmosphere via exhaust fumes. If you are allergic to dust or suffer from asthma, think twice before getting a wet/dry vacuum.
Some people confuse wet/dry vacuums with carpet cleaners. They will certainly clean up liquid but they will not clean the carpet at the same time unless you buy a specific model designed to perform both tasks.
How Did Wet-Dry Vacs Develop?
Wet-dry vacs have been around for more than half a century so they are nothing new. Technological advances mean the way in which they work has changed but the principle remains the same.
Early wet dry vacs had a canister that needed to be filled with a mixture of water and cleaning solution. This canister was removable. These early models would first put down water and a cleaning solution. With the flick of a switch, this water was sucked back up while the machine would steam dry the floor at the same time.
The main difference with modern versions is that they skip applying that initial layer of water.
Every major vacuum manufacturer has at least one decent wet dry model in their range today.
The Shopping Guide
If you are not sensitive to allergens and you think a wet dry vacuum would work well as part of your cleaning routine, taking your time before rushing in to buy is key.
Think about the type of cleaning you will do and how often you will be using your new vacuum. Consider the size and capacity and think about storage. How about attachments?
If you are honest about your cleaning requirements, you’re far more likely to get the most suitable appliance.
Check out some user reviews. Most people who have already paid for a product and taken the time to offer up their feedback tend to be truthful. They have no motivation to distort the truth having already made their purchase. Read a wide selection to get a balanced opinion on the models you have in mind.
Budget plays an important role in any buying decision. It should not, however, be the only factor.
Think not just of the bottom line but of overall value for money. Spend as much as you can afford without stretching yourself to get a high quality vacuum that should last for years.
If you want a heavier-duty vac for the construction site or shop, spend accordingly.
These vacuums are not particularly expensive so it’s worth investing in the best within your preferred price rage. With many things in life, you need to pay a great deal for quality. That’s not the case with shop vacs so a small outlay can yield a large return.
There’s no right or wrong size shop vac to buy, simply the right size for you.
Shop vacs tend to come in 4 main sizes from Mini through to Large.
The bigger the unit, the more capable and powerful it will be. If you only plan to roll it out from time to time when a drink gets knocked over, it’s pointless opting for the largest cleaner you can find. Equally, a small and lightweight shop vac will be pretty useless in a commercial backdrop.
Analyze your requirements and choose whatever size vac will be the best fit for you.
Power and Capacity
As with other aspects of purchasing a shop vac, when you are pondering power and capacity, think first about how you will use it.
You don’t want to sell yourself short with insufficient oomph to clean what you need. At the same time, it’s fruitless to get yourself a hulking professional-grade cleaner if it will only get an outing once a week at home.
Think about the type of cleaning you will do. Is it light household dust or liquid, medium-duty cleaning of larger debris or industrial mess that you have in mind?
Light Household Cleaning
If you just need to take care of small and light household cleaning, regular vacuuming and the odd wet spill, a lower capacity shop vac will be perfectly adequate.
Look for a motor in the 1-5HP range. In terms of capacity, 2-5 gallons is fine for light or occasional cleaning duties.
By cutting back on both the power and capacity, in return you get a vacuum that’s lightweight and a breeze to maneuver. It’s also possible to stash it away easily even if you’re limited for space.
You can get cordless shop vacs. Consider buying a cordless if you want to take your cleaner outside to blitz inside your car.
If you only want a wet dry vac for occasional light use, you really don’t need to spend a fortune.
Somewhere In The Middle
If you will press your wet dry vac into action on a regular basis for more vigorous cleaning duties, you’ll want to look for something bulkier and more powerful.
A 5 or 6HP motor and a capacity of 7-13 gallons should give you a cleaner capable of dealing with most household duties however taxing.
A mid-size shop vac is an extremely cleaning solution. Use it in the house or take it outside in the garden
Prioritize motors of 6HP and upwards and a capacity of more than 13 gallons if you need to deal with industrial spillages.
When it comes to commercial cleaning, you’ll need to think about durability as well as performance. You don’t want a shop vac too lightweight that will let you down under hard use.
Best Wet-Dry Vacuum Reviews
1. Henry HVR200A Wet-Dry Vacuum
The first wet dry vac that pops into most people’s minds is the legendary and ubiquitous Henry.
For the past 20 years, Numatic’s Henry shop vacs have dominated the market. Their popularity shows no signs of fading and with just cause.
Although the Henry is far from cheap, it represents superb value for money. When you consider it’s performance and overall quality, this shop vac is really built to last.
This bagged cylinder shop vac has a 580W motor capable of shifting even the most stubborn messes. Whether it’s your dog knocking over his bowl of food or a glass of water knocked off the table, the Henry takes everything in its stride.
The AutoSave low energy functionality means you can cut costly electricity bills without sacrificing cleaning power.
With a lengthy hose and power cable along with an easily retractable cord and folding handle, the Henry is designed with convenience uppermost.
You’ll get a full complement of accessories and attachments from a crevice tool and dusting brush through to a nifty upholstery nozzle.
Shop vacs are not normally advisable for anyone suffering from allergies. The HepaFlo bags and filtration system on the Henry mean that dust and allergens are no longer an issue.
If you want a smile as wide as Henry’s, invest in the HVR200A and kiss goodbye to the headache of cleaning.
- Adjustable suction control
- 5 stage height adjustable full size electric power brush
- Three 360 degree Swivel Wheels
- HEPA air clean filter
- Revolving Brush: 12.5 Inch Wide with Two Rows of Stiff Bristles
- Some customers had problems with the tubing between the floor attachment and the canister separating
2. Armor All AA255 Wet Dry Vacuum
Armor All offers one of the most popular wet dry vacuums on the market. Any list of the best shop vacs is incomplete without this classic.
You will get much more power from this cleaner than from a handheld unit. The 2HP motor will yield more than enough suction power for most household cleaning duties. From a carton of juice on the floor to blasting the inside of your car clean, the AA255 is robust enough to take care of business.
All of that rugged durability comes in a reasonably compact unit. The Armor All tips the scales at just over 8 pounds.
The 10-foot cord gives you ample room for maneuver. This is coupled with a 6-foot hose meaning you can clean whatever you want with more freedom of movement.
The auto-shutoff feature comes into its own if you are dealing with heavy liquid spills. The last thing you want is to create more mess when you are supposedly cleaning up! This is a nice feature for an inexpensive vacuum.
It’s also nice that you get the main attachments covered. A crevice tool is useful for hard-to-reach areas. You can make full use of the car nozzle to get the inside of your vehicle sparkling and an all-purpose utility nozzle deals with a range of cleaning applications.
For a solid, durable wet dry vac that won’t break the bank, the Armor All AA255 is hard to beat.
- Very cheap without sacrificing quality
- Quiet for a shop vac so suitable for home use
- Powerful 2HP motor
- Lightweight for such a powerful vac at 8 pounds
- Handy auto-shutoff to prevent overflow
- The attachments you need including utility nozzle, crevice tool and car nozzle
- No assembly required so get cleaning straight from the box
- Noisy so think about where you will use your vac
- Problems with filter if vacuum tips over
3. Craftsman 12004 Wet Dry Vacuum
Another cheap but top-notch wet dry vacuum is up next, the 12004 from the highly regarded Craftsman.
This brand has manufactured a wide range of tools and appliances for decades so you know you are in safe hands.
If you want to add a utility vacuum to your cleaning arsenal, a wet dry vac that switches into a powerful leaf blower is a very versatile solution.
The 3HP motor means you’ll get more than enough suction to pull up even heavy spillages.
The bagless design puts an end to buying expensive replacements on an ongoing basis. The Craftsman is cheap anyway but this added saving is a real bonus.
The large collection tank can hold up to 6 gallons. The durable polypropylene material is perfectly chosen.
If you want to head outside with your shop vac, you can easily convert this model into a highly capable leaf blower giving you two tools for the price of one.
When you are outside, you’ll have plenty of room to move around. If you take advantage of the extensions, you can reach up to 17 feet. This should be more than enough for most normal requirements.
For a reliable and long-lasting wet dry vacuum at an extremely reasonable price, you can’t go far wrong with the Craftsman.
- Great suction through powerful 3HP motor
- No bag needed so save money over time
- Converts into a blower so dual-purpose
- Easy to move around so clean without straining yourself
- Extremely cheap but no loss of quality
- Large collection tank for your convenience
- 17-foot reach using extensions provided
- Large on/off switch very user-friendly and protected from dust
- Wheels don’t lock onto body
- Cord and hose slightly short
4. Shop-Vac 5986000 Wet Dry Vacuum
The 5986000 from the industry-leading Shop-Vac is a consistently best-selling wet dry vac that will not let you down.
If you want a compact but powerful wet dry vac that will deal with most messes made in the home, the Shop-Vac will not disappoint.
The slick stainless steel tank looks great and is highly durable. However much you batter your vacuum, it is built to last.
The Shop-Vac is a cinch to use and it’s also pretty quiet for a shop vac. Some of these units kick out a terrible racket but the 5986000 won’t have you reaching for the ear defenders.
With the cord and tools stored onboard, you can stash your Shop-Vac easily without needing too much space.
Think carefully about how and where you will use your vacuum. The power cord on the Shop-Vac is not generous with the length. If you need to roam about at a distance from the outlet, you’ll need to consider an extension lead.
If you do go outside, the blower attachment makes light work of any leaves or light garden debris.
For a no-nonsense wet dry vacuum that looks good and fully delivers, pop the Shop-Vac 5986000 on your shortlist.
- Rugged stainless steel tank built to last
- Blower attachment included great for leaves
- 4.5HP motor copes with heavy messes easily
- Very compact for such a powerful vacuum
- 3-year limited warranty for peace of mind
- Extremely quiet for a shop vac
- Short power cord
- Accessory holder is poor
5. Vacmaster Wet Dry Vac
With this ultra-convenient tool, you can switch from a 5HP wet dry vac capable of sucking up the heaviest spills to a 210mph leaf blower by pressing a button.
The lengthy hose and cord give you plenty of room for maneuver.
If you suffer from allergies or asthma, the filtration system on this model might not be suitable for what you’ll need. Think carefully about this.
You’ll get all the accessories you need to cope with even heavy duty cleaning. You’ll enjoy extension wands, a crevice tool, a car nozzle, a utility nozzle and, of course, a blower nozzle. For this price tag, that represents great value for money.
Whether you want to use it in the house or shop, garden or car, the Vacmaster will take care of all spillages from upturned pet food through to spilled drinks and shattered glass.
Hit that switch and you can take control of a very capable leaf blower and head out to take care of your yard work.
If you want a durable and able wet dry vacuum that will not let you down, take a good look at the Vacmaster. It could be just what you were looking for!
- Highly capable 5HP motor
- First-rate suction deals with any messes, wet or dry
- Quick-release blower for yard duty
- 8 great accessories means superb value for money
- On-board storage for your convenience
- 2-year limited warranty for your peace of mind
- Highly adaptable 2-in-1 functionality
- Brand you can trust
- Bulky tank so awkward to store away
- A heavy unit
As you can see, buying a great shop vac doesn’t need to cost the earth and it’s not really a complicated product to research.
We hope our reviews along with a buying guide to help you, you can quickly and easily get the right cleaner for your needs.
Whether you want a wet dry vac to use in a commercial setting or at home, dealing with large messes or liquid spills need never be a headache again.