Updated: November 2017

Wet-Dry Vacuum Reviews:

For all of you with workshops, garages, and basements that enjoy woodworking or fixing cars and machinery, owning a wet/dry vacuum can be a lifesaver. Any time cleanup is a hassle, which includes working with liquids, a heavy duty shop vacuum is an essential tool. I've used my Shop Vac (which is a brand name for one of the manufacturers) for draining out the bottom of the hot tub and cleaning up a partially flooded basement (the condensation tube from the humidifier froze and backed up into the basement!). Wet/Dry vacuum technology has dramatically improved and now they are great for jobs beyond the workshop area and they are less noisy than older models. Shop vacs, as wet/dry vacs are often referred to, come in sizes and horsepower ranging from 6-22 gallons and 1 1/2 to 10 1/2 HP.

Which one is best for you? The smaller wall-mount vacuums for workshops are about 1.5 HP and offer 1 gallon tanks perfect for quick and easy cleanup tasks. They hang on the wall so when not in use, they are out of the way of your "real projects". The 6-gallon (most common size) wet/dry vacuums are great for most cleanup jobs and the wheels on the unit let you maneuver it around your shop or home. The drawback to wet/dry vacs less than 10 gallons are that they are noisy and have a higher likelihood of tipping over. Also, the smaller tank will need to be emptied more often. If you have larger spills in your garage or workshop, go with the larger capacity models (10+ gallons and at least 6 HP). The larger tank capacity will let you cleanup bill spills and messes without having to empty the tank so often.
wet dry vacuum

Buying Guide - Wet-dry vacuums are great for picking up sawdust, water, nut & bolts, wood chips, and nails. You'll want to buy a model that is durable, versatile, and powerful enough to suck up gallons of water as needed. Additional features you should consider are an automatic shut-off mechanism when the unit is full of water, wider set wheels so the shop vacuum remains stable, built-in pump attachment so you can pump water from the vacuum through a garden hose outside, a reusable and rinseable cartride filter that is pleated, wide hoses and floor nozzles to help keep the wet/dry vac from clogging, drain spout or valve so emptying a full tank much easier, and the ability to convert from wet/dry vacuum to leaf blower (available in some models). Other helpful accessories are hose couplings, extension wand, combo wet/dry nozzle, gulper nozzle (perfect for sucking up water or liquid), round brush (scrubbing), crevice tool (great on tight corners), and a cleaning kit for upholstery.

Some of the best selling brands include Fein, Shop-Vac, Porter-Cable, Ridgid, Craftsman, Black & Decker, Festool, Milwaukee and Bosch. Many are about $200-$400, but you can find decent low-end models for $50-$100. We found many websites with reviews of wet/dry vacuums including Amazon.com, Onlinetoolreviews.com, Gardenweb.com (forums), American Woodworker, Taunton.com. Many of these woodworking sites put the shop vacuums through rigorous test to determine which ones performed the best on liquids, debris, and other shop/garage materials. We have tried to break down the results into various categories below that list the "best of the best" for shop vacuums (wet/dry vacs). You can browse the up-to-date list of best-selling wet dry vacuums here.

Best Wet/Dry Vacuum - Best Shop Vac:

RECOMMENDED: The Fein 9-77-25 Turbo III ($450) get the best ratings on several sites and has for years. Although not a common household name to most, the Fein Turbo III wet/dry vacuum has a 12-gallon wet capacity and 14 1/2 gallon dry capacity. The unit has a 10 foot rubber hose, a 16' power cord, a drain valve, and a 3-year warranty. It's both lightweight and quiet and works both as a shop cleanup tool and a dust collector with power tools. The auto-start feature for working with power tools is a "must have" say woodworkers. Others mention that the filters and bags do add up to an already expensive vacuum, but the overall performance makes up for any cost as the Fein is superb at what it does. For less than $120, our favorite is the Shop-Vac 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum (RECOMMENDED) -- it's got a powerful 6.25 HP sound-reduced motor, a good filter system, it can be turned into a 200 MPH blower, and top it off with a 4 year warranty. This is a great, affordable wet dry vac - and have it in your garage in just a few days.

High End Shop Vacuum:

The Milwaukee 8912 11 Gallon 1-1/3 Horsepower Blower Wet/Dry Vacuum ($1000) is one of the most powerful vacuum cleaners you will find in workshops. The heavy duty filters on this Milwaukee wet/dry vac can handle large pieces of debris as well as dust. The positive water shut-off protects the motor during wet pick-ups. The Milwuakee 8912 comes with hose connections, 3 hold down clamps, a 4-wheel caddie, 3 paper filter bags, cloth filter, swivel connector, and a tool bag. The 9.2 amp motor has a 3 stage bypass to suck up even the roughest stuff. You also get a 16 inch tank and heavy duty casters for ease of movement. The price is a shocker to many, but in almost all the reviews we found for Milwaukee shop vacuums, they hold up well over time and need few repairs. If $1000 is too much, then definitely consider the Fein wet dry vacuum listed above.

Budget/Value Wet-Dry Vacuum:

For a lower cost wet-dry vacuum, consider the Shop-Vac 10 gallon model for about $100. It comes with plenty of accessories and gets the job done, without breaking the bank. You can trust any Shop-Vac model -- we've used cheap ones and expensive ones, and they are all well-designed and well-built, and should last for years. The Craftsman 17066 ($100) is another good budget wet/dry vacuum for your garage/workshop or your backyard. The Craftsman is sold through Sears stores and is a large 16-gallon 6.5 peak HP wet/dry vac that doubles as a leaf blower. It's powerful and noisy but picks up debris without any problems. The 20' cord gives you plenty of mobility and owners say the 17066 is very stable and rolls effortlessly with no signs of tipping (like other models). The 2 1/2" diameter hose maximizes pick up performance and the 7' hose gives you plenty of reach. The one drawback to this Craftsman is that it doesn't connect to shop tools as a dust collection attachment. The 1 year warranty is ample for this price range and most users say the Craftsman is a better value than comparable Shop-Vac 925-42-10 16 Gallon 6-1/4 Horsepower Wet/Dry Vacuum. Both are considered good for general use, but not excellent/superior in any particular area like the others listed on this page.

Top Woodworking Vacuum:

The Festool CT22E ($450) ranked as the #1 woodworking workshop dust extractor or shop vacuum. The CT22E is a German made machine that many woodworkers say is absolutely necessary to have in your garage or work area. Although most of the reviews we read on the Festool were strictly based on it's ability to pick up dry materials (dust, wood shavings, etc), it does pick up liquid too and has an automatic shut-off mechanism when the tank has reached a certain level with fluid. There is a dial for turning the suction power either higher or lower. The feature that sold many woodworking enthusiasts on the Festool is its "integrated power tool socket". Just connect your power tool right to the Festool CT22E and the extraction of dust and debris can be automated. It's moves around the shop rather effortlessly and it's quiet compared to other power tools or shop vacuums.