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A shop vac is an essential tool for quickly and efficiently cleaning up messes in your home, garage, workshop, or car. These specialized vacuum canisters are equipped to suction up dry and wet debris, giving you double-duty cleaning power.
Available as a portable, cordless canister for small messes or in a larger, heavy-duty size, shop vacs are sized according to their capacity in gallons. Other factors to consider when shopping for a wet/dry vac include the airpower or CFM, included attachments, and tank material. All of these factors affect the usability and durability of a model. Keep in mind that shop vac often refers to a specific brand of wet/dry vacuum or to this category of vacuums in general.
Suck up dirt, dust, debris, muddy messes, and more with the help of these top shop vacs on the market.
Best Overall: Vacmaster VBV1210 12 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum with Detachable Blower
Vacuum Capacity: 12 gallons | Air Volume: 133 CFM | Cord Length: 12 feet | Hose Length: 7 feet | Filter Type: Cartridge and foam wet
71 decibel noise rating
2.5 inch hose diameter
Liquid capacity limited to 8.5 gallons
An all-purpose shop vac is an indispensable tool for a wide variety of household tasks and light-duty garage clean-up. This 12-gallon model with a 5HP motor offers enough capacity and suction to handle dry or wet messes but is easy to maneuver, thanks to the lightweight polypropylene tank and casters. For liquid clean-up, keep in mind that capacity will be more limited. An internal float will shut off suction once the canister reaches full capacity at 8.5 gallons.
Some shop vacs can be rather noisy, but this Vacmaster includes an exhaust cover that keeps noise levels to 71 decibels. It has a CFM rating of 133, which comes in handy if you use the detachable blower to clear leaves and small debris from your space quickly. The blower outputs air at speeds up to 210 MPH.
Best Budget: Armor All Portable Utility Vacuum
Vacuum Capacity: 2.5 gallons | Air Volume: 65 CFM | Cord Length: 10 feet | Hose Length: 4 feet | Filter Type: Reusable cloth, foam sleeve
Weighs less than 10 pounds
Can be wall-mounted
Includes blower port
Limited hose length
No extension wands
The Armor All Portable Utility vacuum combines a 2.5-gallon canister with a 2 HP motor for a compact solution to cleaning up wet or dry messes. This affordable shop vac may lack some of the features and accessories found on larger, more expensive models, but it doesn’t skimp on essential items. For instance, a wet foam filter and reusable cloth filter can be swapped out for different types of cleaning jobs. A blower port lets you use the 4-foot hose for blasting away leaves or light debris using 65 CFM of air. And the entire unit can be wall-mounted for convenience, just keep in mind the hose length and remember that there are no wand attachments included with this budget wet/dry vacuum.
Best Large Capacity: Ridgid 16 Gal. 6.5-Peak HP NXT Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
Vacuum Capacity: 16 gallons | Air Volume: 161 CFM | Cord Length: 20 feet | Hose Length: 7 feet | Filter Type: Standard paper
Large, 2.5-inch diameter hose
Locking hose and attachments
Drain port for quick cleaning
Limited blower capacity
Most average-sized shop vacs give you 5 to 8 gallons of debris capacity, but choose a large capacity shop vac if you have heavy messes to clean up or don’t want to empty the canister as often. Ridgid has equipped this shop vac with a 16-gallon canister, the largest in their wet/dry vacuum line-up. It’s powered by a 6.5 peak horsepower motor for serious suction of wet or dry debris.
The 7-foot hose locks onto the canister and has a diameter of 2.5 inches for unhindered suction of larger objects. Attachments like a wet nozzle, car nozzle, or extension wands add to the Ridgid wet/dry vac’s adaptability. In addition, this heavy-duty shop vac has a detachable blower. While it’s useful for removing sawdust or light debris from your workbench or garage, don’t expect it to do major yard duty.
Best Portable: Craftsman CMXEVBE17250 2.5 Gallon Wet/Dry Vac
Vacuum Capacity: 2.5 gallons | Air Volume: 49 CFM | Cord Length: 10 feet | Hose Length: 5 feet | Filter Type: Bag
Total reach of 15 feet
Onboard storage for accessories
Limited attachments included
Filter bags require replacement
A portable shop vac should be easy to carry but powerful enough to lift both dry and wet debris from your home, car, yard, or workshop. The Craftsman 2.5 Gallon Wet/Dry Vac fits the bill, with an ergonomic handle and a total weight of just 7.3 pounds. As a result, it’s easy to carry up and downstairs, unlike some wet/dry vacs with wheels. It’s also small enough to store in a closet or under the sink.
Another big advantage of this portable shop vac is the onboard attachment storage. Instead of trying to corral the tools, hose, and vac separately, lock the hose into place on the canister and snap the crevice tool and utility nozzle onto the vacuum. While the included attachments are minimal, you can use other shop vac accessories with a 1.25 diameter to expand your cleaning kit.
Best Cordless: Milwaukee M18 2 Gallon Cordless Wet/Dry Vac
Vacuum Capacity: 2 gallons | Air Volume: 45 CFM | Cord Length: Not applicable | Hose Length: 6 feet | Filter Type: HEPA
6 foot hose for greater reach
30+ minutes of runtime
32 inches of water lift
Hose diameter of only 1.25 inches
Not compatible with other brand vacuum attachments
Put the power of a shop vac to work anywhere with the help of a cordless model, like this compact but powerful version from Milwaukee. The M18 2 Gallon Cordless Wet/Dry Vac runs for at least 30 minutes on the power of a lithium-ion battery. It can pick up dry or wet messes—just be sure to remove the HEPA filter before sucking up liquids.
This cordless wet/dry vac stands out for its 45 CFM, which is more suction power than many other models for the type and size. The 6-foot hose also gives you plenty of reach for tasks around the garage, underneath seats in the car, or quick clean-up at the job site.
Best Wet/Dry: Vacmaster Beast 14 Gal. 6.5 HP Wet/Dry Vac
Vacuum Capacity: 14 gallons | Air Volume: 123 CFM | Cord Length: 20 feet | Hose Length: 7 feet | Filter Type: Dirt, fine dust, and foam
83 inches of water lift
2.5 inch diameter hose
Stainless steel tank for easy cleaning
Wand attachments are short
Can be heavy to maneuver, especially up or down stairs
The Vacmaster Beast is a good pick if you’re specifically looking for a reliable, easy-to-clean wet/dry shop vac. This large capacity model has a 14-gallon tank, equipped with a drain port for quick emptying of liquid contents. Like polypropylene tanks, this stainless steel one is rust-proof, but keep in mind that it’s not dent-proof. When you put this wet/dry shop vac to the test, use the included foam filter to suction up water.
Not all shop vacs include a foam filter, but using it helps to preserve the life of your machine. If that puddle you’re cleaning up has gravel, glass, or other debris, the foam filter can help capture these particles before they reach the motor of your vacuum.
Best for Dust: Fein Turbo I Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner
Vacuum Capacity: 5.8 gallons | Air Volume: 151 CFM | Cord Length: 19 feet | Hose Length: 13 feet | Filter Type: Cartridge
66 decibel sound rating
No need to replace cellulose filter for wet clean-up
Bypass motor system ensures dirty air doesn’t clog motor
Not compatible with other shop vac attachments
Hose is stiff
Most shop vacs capture debris and suction up liquids with ease, but not all models are as proficient at collecting fine dust particles. A wet/dry vac for dust is especially important in woodworking shops and other environments where dust is abundant. Keep things clean with the Fein Turbo I. This model has frequently been named a top dust extractor; it’s a Class L dust device.
An outstanding feature of the Fein Turbo I is the bypass motor system. This prevents dust exposure to the motor, which can cause premature motor burnout. In addition, several filters are available for the vacuum. It ships with a pleated filter cartridge, which catches particles as fine as 1 micron. When connected to power tools for dust capture, this shop vac will start automatically.
Best for Garage: Bissell 18P03 Garage Pro Wet/Dry Vac
Vacuum Capacity: 4 gallons | Air Volume: Not listed | Cord Length: 5 feet | Hose Length: 32 feet | Filter Type: General dirt
Long reach with 32 foot hose
Variety of attachments
Limited filter options
For a workhorse in the garage, consider this wall-mounted wet/dry vac from Bissell. The Garage Pro securely mounts to the wall in your garage, workshop, or shed but this doesn’t limit its cleaning ability or reach. The hose of this wet/dry vac is an impressive 32 feet long and comes equipped with 7 attachments to reach every corner of your space. These attachments are especially useful when using this wet/dry vac for car cleaning and detailing. The bagless canister holds 4 gallons of debris and is semi-translucent so you know when it’s time to empty it. A general dirt filter needs occasional replacement from Bissell.
The Vacmaster VBV1210 12 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum with Detachable Blower (view at Amazon) is our top choice for shop vacs because it offers plenty of suction with 133 CFM but keeps things quiet with 71-decibel operation. It also features a detachable blower for quick clean-up. If you’re looking for a cordless shop vac that is portable and compact, then consider the Milwaukee M18 2 Gallon Cordless Wet/Dry Vac (view at Home Depot). It’s powered by a lithium-ion battery but is rated for 45 CFM and holds up to 2 gallons of debris. It also features a HEPA filter for superior dirt and dust filtration.
What to Look for in a Shop Vac
Shop vacs come in small (2-6 gallons), medium (6-14 gallons), and high capacity (14-18 gallons). The medium capacity will suit most needs—it’s sufficient for most indoor and outdoor cleaning tasks homeowners face.
Air power, or air watts, refers to the suction power of your shop vac. Higher air power is important if you plan to vacuum heavier objects like nuts and bolts.
In addition to size, you’ll be faced with another choice: plastic or stainless steel tank. Plastic tanks are lighter and less prone to dents, but stainless steel tanks are easier to clean and more durable in the long run.
Expand cleaning capabilities by shopping for a wet/dry vac with attachments. The type and number of attachments may vary, but some of the most frequently used are a utility nozzle, wet nozzle, and crevice tool. Extension wand attachments might also be important to you if you want to extend the reach of your shop vac into tight spaces or overhead areas to clear cobwebs, dust, and more.
You should also consider whether or not a shop vac has onboard attachment storage. Some models feature a toolbox-like top that stores attachments. Other models have snap-on storage for wands, nozzles, and more. Many models, however, lack attachment storage. Consider whether you want or need attachments within reach at all times when using your shop vac.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Erica Puisis, a freelance writer who has contributed to The Spruce since 2017. Her areas of expertise include small home appliances and vacuums. To find the best options for the list, she considered capacity, CFM, filter type, and attachments of the most popular shop vacs on the market.