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Looking for the best shop vac can be incredibly confusing, but a reliable vac will handle any mess, improving your workshop’s appearance.
Also known as wet/dry vacs, the sheer amount of shop vac options seems overwhelming once you start looking.
Choosing the wrong option will only waste your time and money, and your workspace will remain filthy.
We separated the wheat from the chaff here at Tools First to make your life easier.
We’ve assembled a collection of 8 shop vacs in assorted sizes and varying power excluding micro models.
Once we’re done, we’ll then give you some handy advice, so you can get the best shop vac fuss-free.
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In a Rush?
Here's 3 products we picked out that thought you would be interested in depending on your budget...
The Best Shop Vac Cleaner with Reviews
Here's a list of the best shop vac cleaners we found on the market:
1. Ridgid 50353RID Wet/Dry Shop Vac
- Superb attachment bundle.
- The handle and optimized rolling movement make this shop vac more maneuverable than most.
- Powerful air pushing gives you incredible value for the money.
Not so Good
No effective hose wrap provided which is a shocking oversight
When reviewing the best shop vacs, we could easily have chosen an entire batch from the impressive Ridgid brand. Instead, we choose the best in their line-up and found this bulky 16-gallon beast.
While no shop vac will run without creating some noise, dampening technology means the 50353RID won’t deafen you.
This shop vac is one of those rare products when all the main strengths required of a given tool come together in harmony. You’ve got class-leading airflow, robust power delivery and a rock-solid chassis built to go the distance. The only thing that’s surprising is that all these features don’t increase the price tag.
The hose is generous enough to give you ample freedom of movement while it’s flexible enough to resist pulling out when in use.
If you want to invest in the best, we can’t recommend the Ridgid 50353RID highly enough for home woodworkers and contractors alike.
2. Shop Vac 5989400 Wet Dry Shop Vac
- Rear port to convert your vac instantly into a powerful blower.
- Dolly designed to resist the unit tipping over in use.
- Great pack of accessories with all the space you need to keep them onboard.
Not so Good
Shop Vac offers a broad choice of options for all needs and budgets. The 5989400 is a mid-level model with an agile 6 HP motor and a voluminous 8-gallon tank to minimize emptying out.
While it’s a notch or two up from a dedicated portable unit, you’ll still get ample manoeuvrability from the 5989400. As with any smaller shop vac, you’ll get some limitations regarding capacity and power, but for its intended purpose in the garage or home workshop, you’re in safe hands.
As with all the very best shop vacs, converting this unit into a blower is quick and easy.
Along with all you’d expect from a rugged shop vac, there are several nice design elements keeping the 5989400 stable and upright even when you’re dragging it around behind you. Emptying out wet messes couldn’t be easier. Just take your vac outside, remove the cap, and let it pour out.
If you’ve got a busy home workshop that needs something stronger than a regular vacuum cleaner, the Shop Vac 5989400 bridges this gap wonderfully.
3. Stanley Wet Dry Shop Vac
- Available in a range of sizes and capacities.
- Robust accessory bundle which is a bonus at this price point.
- Swiveling casters simplify moving your shop vac around.
Not so Good
- A few complaints about underpowered suction, but for a shop vac in this class, we feel it’s more than adequate.
While we’ve avoided any micro models, there’s a vast demand for smaller shop vacs that still deliver. Stanley plugs this gap with this 4-gallon utilitarian unit capable of 70 CFM of airflow.
Along with the vac, you’ll also get hoses, three extension wands for above-floor cleaning, a crevice nozzle for those awkward spots, and an all-purpose utility nozzle. A floor brush helps you finish the job neatly while a foam filter and reusable dry filter complete the accessories. All these can be handily stashed onboard.
At 10-feet long, the power cord gives you inadequate freedom of movement, so think about the layout of the spaces you’ll be cleaning.
This minor inconvenience aside, we’d like to address the recurring grumbles about a lack of power. If you need more power, you should look at one of the larger Stanley models.
For a no-nonsense shop vac suitable for smaller spaces, you can’t beat this Stanley.
4. Vacmaster VF408 4 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum
- Backed by hundreds of happy users.
- Great value for money for the power you get.
- Very light making it easy to move around.
- Low noise level.
Not so Good
- Wand diameter seemed too narrow for some users cleaning larger debris.
While a 5 HP motor might not seem trailblazing, it’s quite powerful and augmented by the overall functionality of this incredible shop vac.
Suction is first-rate. Whether dry or wet, any spill will disappear with this fast machine.
Small factors like hose and power cable length are sensible, so you won’t be restricted if you need to move about the shop.
If you use your shop vac on-site on questionable terrain, the jumbo rear wheels give you great mobility even on unstable surfaces.
You’ll get more than enough accessories with all the onboard storage you need.
While it’s not the cheapest shop vac, if you’ve got heavy cleaning requirements, the Workshop delivers unbeatable value for money.
5. Dustless Technologies D1606 HEPA Wet Dry Vacuum
- Ideal for pro-grade clean-ups of asbestos, lead paint, drywall or concrete
- Blows no dust at all, so all the debris is completely contained
- Compliant with all EPA RRP regulations, so you can extract silica, dust or lead safely from the job site
Not so Good
- Filter can clog rather too quickly with very fine debris
Sometimes, a standard shop vac doesn’t offer all the functionality you need. If you have cause to deal with sensitive materials like lead or asbestos, you need machinery to clean it up quickly and safely. The D1606 delivers in fine style with all requisite certification for working with these materials.
While this unit is undeniably costly, you can’t put a price on safety as some substances require a more heavyweight approach.
The 3-stage, HEPA filter grabs smallest particles with incredible success. The sole drawback here is the way that filter is prone clogging up with finer materials. On the plus side, the filter has a semi-automated cleaning mechanism to make your life easier.
Another great benefit with this sterling shop vac is the way you can flit between wet and dry clean-up without needing to switch filters.
The best things in life are rarely cheap. If you’re looking to undertake more extensive and volatile cleaning projects on the job site, roll with Dustless, and you won’t look back.
6. Fein Turbo II Wet & Dry Shop Vac
- Auto-start system with bypass cooling, prolonging its lifespan
- Very quiet compared to others
- Very lengthy hose and power cable.
Not so Good
- Makes more sense as a business expense than a home shop vac unless you have a more fluid budget.
If you don’t mind paying the price, the Fein is a hard-hitting shop vac perfect for workshops where tons of dust is generated.
Aside from that price tag, this shop vac would have earned our top prize. As it is, it’s much more cut out for commercial use since the price doesn’t justify casual home use. Investing in this will save you so much time cleaning up, you’ll recoup that investment in no time.
This shop vac will last for years while delivering superior performance due to its dual fans.
Although you get outstanding power and suction, the Fein weighs just 20 pounds and has wheels enabling you to turn it a full 360 degrees. The long hose and power cord means you can move about with ease. This shop vac is proof you don’t need a hulking unit to get results.
Setting that price tag aside, this superb shop vac stomps all over most of the competition.
7. Craftsman XSP Wet/Dry Shop Vac
- Keep all attachments close with storage provided.
- 20-foot power cable & lengthy hose gives you an overall reach of 27ft
- Oversized on/off switch for quickly cutting the power
Not so Good
- Some cheaper plastic components spoil the overall build.
- The wheel assembly is a disappointment
If you want a substantial shop vac capable of returning the grimiest workshop to its former glory, Craftsman has the answer with this 12-gallon shop vac ideal for commercial applications as well as home use.
In our experience, power cords cut too short are one of the single most annoying things about buying any power tools or machinery. The 20-foot cable and 7-foot hose give you much more reach than you’ll get with many competing shop vacs, so if mobility counts for you, the Craftsman makes perfect sense.
The Craftsman also converts easily into a blower whether you need to clean up leaves from your driveway or blast away some filth from the floor of your workshop.
The only major gripe we have with the XSP is the number of plastic parts and the weakness of the wheel assembly. That aside, we’re hard-pressed to find fault.
For a winning combo of aesthetics, power, and multi-functionality, the Craftsman is seriously hard to beat. Whether you’re a home woodworker or a business owner, the XSP shows why Craftsman is so dominant in the shop vac space.
8. Shop Vac 5989300 Shop Vac
- Usual superb Shop Vac accessories give you everything you need to get going out the box
- Motor guaranteed for three years, showing the confidence the manufacturer has in this shop vac
- Ergonomic handle helps to you to shift your shop vac without straining yourself
Not so Good
- Not designed to withstand sustained or heavy punishment
Large enough not to be considered a micro-vac but small enough for workshops with limited space, this 5-gallon Shop Vac is a compact classic that punches above its weight.
Despite its relatively slimline footprint, performance and build quality are robust. The stainless-steel tank won’t rust, and you’re covered for three years if anything goes amiss with the motor.
As with all Shop Vacs, the Achilles heel is a power cable that’s far too short at just 6 feet. Think seriously about whether this, in combination with the hose length, will give you sufficient reach for your cleaning needs.
You’ll get all the hoses, nozzles and filters you need, and that’s welcome at this price point.
It goes unsaid a model of this size won’t cut the ice if you use it in a heavier commercial setting. For home woodworkers or anyone with a very small workshop, though, this nifty little shop vac will make your life easier and your working environment safer.
Is it WorthBuying a More Expensive Shop Vac?
Once you step up beyond smaller shop vacs intended strictly for home use, price becomes more of a factor.
You’d be better advised to start by frankly determining how you intend to use your shop vac and to consider overall value and lifespan rather than being driven by price only.
One thing’s certain: the very best shop vacs are not cheap.
You should set your budget and stick to it strictly. However much you can spend, you’ll have plenty of choice within that price band, so you can focus on getting the best match for your needs.
What to Consider When Buying a Shop Vac
The power of the motor is key when you’re looking for the best shop vac.
The peak horsepower ratings you’ll see quoted indicate overall performance including inertia.
It also pays to look at air flow which is expressed in terms of CFM (cubic feet per minute) and determines the suction of the unit.
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to power, just a case of what works best for your situation. Make sure you get a unit potent enough for your needs without going over the top and shooting for power you won’t require.
Size matters with shop vac tanks.
Obviously, the larger the tank, the less frequently you’ll need to deal with emptying it.
While anywhere from 4 to 10 gallons is more than enough for household use, you’ll need to look for 12 gallons and above if you want to use your shop vac on site or in a commercial workshop.
Bear in mind that the larger the tank, the less maneuverable the machine. As with all aspects of buying the best shop vac, you should take the time to plan what dimensions make the best fit instead of simply assessing the size.
A poor hose will always be a weak point on any shop vac.
If it’s too thin, the hose will keep twisting and severing suction. Thick hoses tend to be unwieldy. Look for somewhere between 1 ¼-inches and 2 ½ inches for that sweet spot.
You can always replace the hose if necessary at a reasonable cost.
Standard-issue shop vacs come with a single filter while superior models pack 2 or more.
If you’re working with very fine particles, you should hunt for a shop vac with HEPA filtration so that you can suck away dust as small as 0.1 microns.
When you’re considering which shop vac to buy, it’s also worth scoping out how often you’ll need to replace filters and how much they cost. You can then factor this into your budget and buy accordingly.
Almost every shop vac comes with an extension wand to give you added reach for your above-floor cleaning.
Nozzles can help you clean in awkward spots so think about which ones would be useful, and look for models equipped for your needs rather than obsessing about the number of attachments.
It’s worth paying close attention to build quality. While shop vacs are simple enough, it’s areas like the wheel assembly where you need to look closely.
The durability and materials of the drum are also crucial with stainless steel being the gold-standard.
We’ve flagged any build quality issues in the shop vacs we reviewed so you are forewarned and can do your due diligence.
What’s the core purpose of a shop vac?
They’re truly multi-purpose. Ideal for all wet or dry messes in the home, workshop and on-site, no clean-up is too challenging. You’ll also be able to suck up the dust created by power tools if you don’t have a dust collector in your shop.
Is it possible to clean the filter?
It depends from model to model. Any foam filters can be safely rinsed out then left to dry naturally. With cartridge filters, you can get more hands-on and physically beat them out. Keep on top of filter maintenance to optimize suction.
What’s a HEPA filter?
High energy particulate air (HEPA) filters get rid of the tiniest particles of dust down to 1 micron. For drywalling and other similar applications, this is the highest level of filtration.
Is it possible to use a shop vac as a blower?
Yes. The majority of shop vacs serve double duty. Be sure that models you’re looking at include this feature.
Wrapping it up
We hope you’re now well-placed to get the best shop vac for your home, workshop, or job site.
If you’re clear about how you’ll use your wet dry vacuum, there’s a wealth of choice and something for all budgets. Today, we’ve attempted to deliver a full cross-section of size, power, and price so you can easily compare like for like.
The Ridgid 50353RID was our well-deserved winner taking all factors into account from price and performance to build quality and lifespan. It’s great for home and commercial use alike.