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Using and Choosing a Wet Dry Vac

Updated on August 19, 2014

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 wet dry 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 consumers seem to love.

Photo by Charles & Hudson.

Buying Tips

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.

3. Style/Design

This isn't about asthetics. 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. Certainly, cords should be kept away from moisture to reduce the risk of electrical shock.

Buy a Wet Dry Vac

Shop-Vac 1.25 inch Diameter Locking Hose Kit
Shop-Vac 1.25 inch Diameter Locking Hose Kit

This wet dry vac offers a powerful 3 horse power motor and durable plastic 6 gallon tank that keeps it light weight. It has a 6 ft power cord with cord wrap and 4 wheels on the bottom for great maneuverability, side and top carrying handles. It measures 16" L x 14" W x 21" H and weighs 18 lbs.

It comes with a variety of accessory cleaning tools including an 8ft 1 1/4" hose, three 1 1/4" extension wands, a 10" wet/dry nozzle, a 1 1/2" crevice tool, and a 1 1/4" Gulper Nozzle. A HEPA cartridge filter/retainer and disposalbe filter bag is also included. This device comes with a three year warranty.

Vacmaster 12 Gallon, 5 Peak HP, Wet/Dry Vacuum with Detachable Blower, VBV1210
Vacmaster 12 Gallon, 5 Peak HP, Wet/Dry Vacuum with Detachable Blower, VBV1210

This is a 5 horsepower wet dry vac with a 12 gallon tank. It includes a detachable blower as well. It includes on-board storage for cleaning tools, a 12 ft power cord and cord wrap, and heavy duty casters for easy maneuverability.

Accessories include a 7ft 2.5" hose, 2 extension wands, a car nozzle, crevice tool, 8" utility nozzle, a blower nozzle, and an adapter for the blower wand. It also comes with an air/noise diffuser for quieter operation, a cartridge filter and foam sleeve. This vacuum comes with a 2 year warranty.

DEWALT DC515B 18-Volt Cordless 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vacuum (Tool Only)
DEWALT DC515B 18-Volt Cordless 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vacuum (Tool Only)

This DeWalt wet dry vac is for small jobs. It's a handheld model that frees you from the bother of a cord. It features an easy grip handle and .5 gallon tank. It operates with an 18 Volt DeWalt battery (purchased separately) and includes a HEPA wet dry filter that can trap 99.97% of dust at .3 microns. The filter is washable and you can tap it to remove excess or rinse it in water.

It includes a utility nozzle and a 2.5ft, 1.25" heavy duty rubber hose. It weighs only 3.6lbs (without the battery) and comes with a 90 day money back guarantee, 1 year free service, and 3 year limited warranty.


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    • mariaamoroso profile image


      7 years ago from Sweden

      Oh my goodness so many choices for a smart product!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      7 years ago from Southampton, UK

      These can be really useful, especially for vacuuming basements and garages. They haven't caught on in the UK though and are still really expensive.

    • Bellezza-Decor profile image


      7 years ago from Canada

      We have a hot tub and my husband uses it to drain out that bottom little bit of dirty water. He loves it.

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      7 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      thanks for the info.


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