The 6 Best Shop Vacs to Clean Up Messy Projects

By Corrie Pelc


If you're a hardcore DIYer that needs more than just an everyday vacuum to clean up project messes, then you need a shop vac in your home improvement arsenal.


A shop vac is basically a juiced-up vacuum cleaner — it's designed to suck up items you may normally find in woodworking shops, garages, or construction areas, such as wood, sawdust, and nails. Not only are shop vacs built sturdier and stronger than an average vacuum, but they can also clean up wet messes, which is why sometimes they’re referred to as wet/dry vacs.


Let’s take a further look at what to look for in a shop vac and the best shop vacs for home use on the market today.

best shop vacs
blue and orange shop vac next to a white car / Photo via Shutterstock

Top Picks

How to Buy a Home Shop Vac

Here are a few things to consider when purchasing a shop vac your home:


Tank Size: How much of a mess you think you'll need your shop vac to handle can give you an idea of how large of a tank you'll need your shop vac to have. Small shop vacs for lighter jobs usually run between two and six gallons, while medium-sized shop vacs for cleaning workshops and home garages run between eight to 14 gallons. And for really large jobs, you'll want to look at shop vacs with 14- to 18-gallon tank capacities.


Corded vs. Cordless: Shop vacs run on electricity. While the majority of medium and large-sized shop vacs will need to be plugged in to power up, smaller shop vacs can be found cordless allowing greater flexibility with how and where you use them.


Power: There are two things that determine a shop vac's power.

  • The motor, which is usually measured in horsepower (HP) is what gives the shop vac its basic power. Smaller shop vacs will have between 1 and 4 HP, a medium between 5 and 6 HP, and a large 6 HP and over. Sometimes shop vac motors are measured in amperage (amp) or wattage (watt).
  • Air volume determines how powerful the sucking action of the shop vac is. This is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). Shop vacs generally average about 125 CFM, with anything higher being a plus.


Filtration: Shop vacs will always come with a filtration system, and each one differs per model. Some vacs have a basic filter to keep the small particles it sucks up from escaping back out in the air. Other models have more advanced high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.


Test Factors We Considered When Picking the Best Shop Vac

Let’s break down the test factors we used when building our list of the best home shop vacs:

  • Tank Size: How large is the tank of this shop vac?
  • Weight: How much does the shop vac weigh? This helps determine how moveable it is around a home or property.
  • Power: How is this shop vac powered — is it corded or cordless?
  • Horsepower: How much horsepower (HP) does this shop vac’s motor have?
  • Air Volume: How much air volume (CFM) does this shop vac provide for inhaling messes?
  • Hose Length: Shop vac hose lengths run anywhere from six to 30 feet in length. A longer hose means it can reach more debris without needing to move the actual machine.
  • Filter: What type of filtration system does this shop vac use?
  • Attachments: Does this shop vac come with any added cleaning attachments, such as nozzles, crevice tools, or a blower?
  • Warranty: Does the manufacturer back this product’s performance?


Let’s take a look at our list of the best shop vacs you can buy right now.

Best Small-Capacity Shop Vac: DEWALT DXV06P 6-Gallon Poly Wet/Dry Vac

Tank Size: 6 gallons Weight: 14.77 pounds Power: 10-foot power cord Horsepower: 4 HP Air Volume: 80 CFM Hose Length: 7 feet Filter: Washable cartridge filter Attachments: Two extension wands, floor nozzle, utility nozzle, crevice nozzle Warranty: 3-year limited warranty

With over 3,300 ratings and 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon, there's no guessing why the DEWALT DXV06P Six-Gallon Poly Wet/Dry Vac is our top pick for the best small-capacity shop vac for home use. This shop vac features a six-gallon tank and easily cleans up dirt and debris through its seven-foot hose with its 4 HP motor and 80 CFM of air flow. Perfect for smaller jobs around the home, the shop vac weighs under 15 pounds and sits on four 360-degree rotational caster wheels for excellent maneuverability. It has a built-in blower port that can be used to blow sawdust and other light debris from work benches and other areas. And the DEWALT Wet/Dry Vac comes with a washable cartridge filter and plenty of attachments to help make short work of messy areas.

Pros

  • Shop vac weighs less than 15 pounds and sits on four caster wheels for easy maneuverability
  • Built-in blower port can be used to blow light debris from work areas
  • Comes with a variety of attachments

Cons

  • No HEPA filter

Best Medium-Capacity Shop Vac: Vacmaster VBV1210 12-Gallon Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum

Tank Size: 12 gallons Weight: ~24 pounds Power: 12-foot power cord Horsepower: 5 HP Air Volume: 133 CFM Hose Length: 19 feet Filter: Standard cartridge filter and foam wet filter Attachments: Two extension wands, utility nozzle, crevice tool, car nozzle, concentrator nozzle Warranty: 2-year limited warranty

The Vacmaster VBV1210 12-Gallon Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum easily changes from a wet/dry vacuum to a handheld blower, capable of producing air flow up to 210 mph. Thanks to its lengthy 19-foot hose, you can place this shop vac in one spot and reach lots of debris around it without needing to move the machine. This shop vac features a 12-gallon tank, 5-HP motor, and 133 CFM of air volume. It comes with a wide variety of accessories, from car nozzles to crevice tools, and both a standard cartridge filter and a foam wet filter (this protects the motor from any debris in water it is sucking up). And the Vacmaster VBV1210 12-Gallon Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum is backed by a two-year limited warranty.

Pros

  • Converts from wet/dry vac to a 210 mph blower with the push of a button
  • 19-foot hose allows you to reach debris without needing to move the shop vac around
  • Comes with a wide variety of attachments

Cons

  • No HEPA filter

Best Large-Capacity Shop Vac: Craftsman CMXEVBE17595 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac

Tank Size: 16 gallons Weight: 26 pounds Power: 20-foot power cord Horsepower: 6.5 HP Air Volume: 190.8 CFM Hose Length: 7 feet Filter: Qwik Lock filter Attachments: Two extension wands, utility nozzle, car nozzle, wet nozzle Warranty: 3-year limited warranty

Another Amazon best-seller on our list — with more than 6,600 ratings and 4.8 out of 5 stars — is the Craftsman CMXEVBE17595 16 Gallon Wet/Dry Vac. Our pick for the best large-capacity shop vac, this tool features a 16-gallon tank and 6.5 HP motor, making it a tough competitor for large clean-up projects. The wet/dry vacuum's included seven-foot-long hose has a 2.5-inch diameter and features the company's dual-flex technology, meaning it can move 180-degrees at each end without kinking. And the vac’s 20-foot power cord allows you to plug it in and move it almost anywhere. Finally, the Craftsman CMXEVBE17595 16 Gallon Wet/Dry Vac has built-in storage for the wide variety of attachments it comes with, and its patented Qwik Lock filter system allows for easy changes of the filter.

Pros

  • Hose has dual-flex technology to help it resist kinks
  • 20-foot electric cord allows you to plug it in and use almost anywhere
  • Qwik Lock filter system making filter changes a breeze

Cons

  • No HEPA filter

Best Portable Shop Vac: Makita XCV11Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 2 Gallon Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum

Tank Size: 2 gallons Weight: ~10 pounds Power: Cordless Horsepower: N/A Air Volume: 57 CFM Hose Length: 6.5 feet Filter: HEPA Filter Attachments: Crevice nozzle, wide nozzle Warranty: 3-year limited warranty

If you like the idea of a shop vac that's not tethered by an electric cord, then you'll love the Makita XCV11Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless Two-Gallon Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum. This battery-powered wet/dry vacuum uses an 18-volt lithium-ion rechargeable battery (sold separately) for up to 60 minutes of continuous runtime. Weighing only about 10 pounds, the cordless vacuum is easy to move wherever you need to clean up a mess, thanks in part to its top carrying handle. It also has a two-gallon tank, can work at two different cleaning speeds at the push of a button, and comes with a HEPA filter that captures 99.97 percent of particles.

Pros

  • Uses 18-volt rechargeable battery that provides up to 60 minutes of runtime
  • Offers two different cleaning speeds at the push of a button
  • Comes with a HEPA filter

Cons

  • Battery sold separately

Best Shop Vac Under $50: Armor All 2.5 Gallon Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum

Tank Size: 2.5 gallons Weight: 7.7 pounds Power: 10-foot power cord Horsepower: 2 HP Air Volume: 53 CFM Hose Length: 4 feet Filter: Foam sleeve filter Attachments: 2-in-1 utility nozzle, deluxe car nozzle, detail kit Warranty: 2-year warranty

Who says you can't find a hardworking shop vac for under $50? The Armor All 2.5 Gallon Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum will set you back less than $35 and features a 2.5-gallon tank and a two-HP motor, making it a great option for small cleaning jobs. It can also be used as a blower to disperse light debris like sawdust off a workbench and can even be used to inflate pool toys. This wet/dry vacuum comes with a variety of attachments, including a 2-in-1 utility nozzle and a deluxe car nozzle. And the Armor All 2.5 Gallon Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum can even be mounted to the wall for trouble-free storage.

Pros

  • Costs under $35
  • Can be a used as a blower for cleaning up light debris or inflating pool toys
  • Can be wall-mounted for trouble-free storage

Cons

  • No HEPA filter
  • Hose is very short

Best High End Shop Vac: BISSELL Garage Pro Wall-Mounted Wet Dry Car Vacuum/Blower

Tank Size: 4 gallons Weight: 33.2 pounds Power: 5-foot power cord Horsepower: 12 amp Air Volume: Not specified Hose Length: 2 feet Filter: 2-stage filtration system Attachments: Extension wand, 7 car detail attachments Warranty: 2-year limited warranty

If your home gadget budget allows for a more expensive shop vac, may we suggest the BISSELL Garage Pro Wall-Mounted Wet Dry Car Vacuum/Blower. This wet/dry vacuum is designed to be mounted on the wall of a garage or workshop, keeping it off the floor and out of the way. Its 32-foot hose means you won't have any trouble reaching messes, from workbench messes to cleaning your car. This shop vac comes with seven attachments designed specifically for vehicle cleaning, and it also converts to a blower. The four-gallon tank is semi-translucent so you can see when it's time to empty it. And the BISSELL Garage Pro Wall-Mounted Wet Dry Car Vacuum/Blower comes with a two-stage filtration system and is backed by a two-year limited warranty.

Pros

  • Wall-mounted option for garages and workshops with limited floor space
  • 32-foot hose allows you to easily reach messes
  • Comes with seven vehicle cleaning attachments

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Wall-mounted so can’t be moved around

Do you have a shop vac that helps to keep your garage or shop super clean? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
Comments
Join the conversation
Next