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Shop-Vac Buying Guide

A shop-vac can be a great tool for cleaning your home or workshop.

A shop-vac, also referred to as a wet/dry vac, serves the same purpose as a standard vacuum cleaner. However, a shop–vac lets you pick up clunky objects such as nails or small wood scraps. A shop-vac will also help you clean up wet messes and spills such as an overflowing clogged toilet. This multi-purpose vacuum is ideal for any home or shop. Before making your purchase, think about what you will be using the shop-vac for.

Shop-vac Buying Guide
Using a shop-vac will give you the advantage of more suction and power compared to a standard vacuum.

Tank Capacity & Size

The most important attribute you’ll want to think about is the tank capacity and size. If the main purpose of your shop–vac is to clean up small messes, such as pet hair or everyday debris in your vehicle, a smaller capacity tank will be more than enough. These lightweight, handheld shop-vacs are perfect for keeping in the car or an apartment. Small shop-vacs typically have a two- to six-gallon tank capacity.

If you plan on using your shop-vac for cleaning up around the home or workshop, you’ll want a shop-vac with an 8- to 14-gallon tank capacity. A shop-vac this size is great to have in the home if your basement is prone to flooding. The shop-vac’s powerful suction is great for cleaning up liquid messes.

The biggest shop vacs can be used for heavier duties, such as cleaning large commercial warehouses. They can also be used in large workshops for easy cleanup. Large shop-vacs come with a 14- to 18-gallon tank. Just beware of how heavy the tank will be when it is full. Make sure you don’t purchase one that’s too big to lift and dump when it gets full.

Tank Material

Most shop–vacs are made from durable plastic. This is the most popular and common choice. Plastic is a lighter weight material and makes it easy to carry from room to room in your home. Metal tanks are also available. Metal is great for heavy duty work areas, such as body shops and construction sites.


On average, shop–vacs are more powerful than standard vacuum cleaners. Basically, the more horse power a shop–vac has, the stronger its suction will be. Once again, think about the types of jobs you will be using your shop-vac for. If you want to ensure you have adequate suction for any job, choose the strongest horse power available for the size shop–vac you have decided to purchase.


Where will you be storing your shop–vac? If you have ample room in your garage or tool shed, this should not be an issue. However, if you will be storing your shop-vac in a small basement closet, or tucking it away in the corner of your laundry room, consider how much space you’ll actually have. Some shop-vacs come with mountable wall brackets, which are a great space-saving solution for centralized cleaning purposes.

Power Sources

Shop–vacs have different types of power sources. Some are corded, which is perfect for in home cleaning or time-consuming cleanup. Others are battery powered which is great for small jobs and hard to reach places. A large job will quickly drain your battery.

Accessories and Features

Shop-vacs come with a variety of different features and accessories. Some things you might find handy include a built in liquid pump, blower feature and different hose lengths and widths You can also buy allergy-friendly filters, car cleaning brushes, special filter bags, cartridge filters and extension wands. Again, think about the jobs you need your shop–vac to perform and select a model that comes with the accessories you need.


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