The Best Shop Vac Guide: How to Find and What to Choose

What comes to mind when you hear the name Shop Vac? A machine that’s used for heavy-duty cleaning tasks, right? A Shop Vac is actually an original brand of wet and dry vacuum specifically used to clean shops or areas that are difficult to clean such as construction site and woodworking areas.

Like any other home tool, shopping for a Shop Vac can be quite tedious because there are various models of different sizes, prices, and capabilities in the market.

We have researched quite a number of Shop Vacs and have put together a list of some of the best Shop Vacs available in the market in addition to a helpful buying guide to save you a lot of time and stress when shopping.

The Best Shop Vacs – Overview

  • Vacmaster Wet/Dry Vacuum VBV1210 (Best Pick)
  • Ridgid WD 1450 Wet/Dry Shop Vac (Premium Pick)
  • Craftsman 12004 Wet/Dry Shop Vac (Best Budget)
  • DEWALT DCV581H Wet/Dry Shop Vac
  • Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Shop Vac
  • Shop-Vac 5989400 Wet/Dry Shop Vac

BEST SHOP VACS REVIEWS

1. Best Pick: Vacmaster 12 Gallon, Wet/Dry Vacuum VBV1210

The Vacmaster VBV1210 Wet/Dry Vac is a 12 Gallon a powerful, versatile vac that can handle the most challenging cleaning tasks; it can also be used as a detachable blower if there’s a need for it.

It is powered by a 5 HP peak motor with a blowing speed of 210 Mph, which is ideal for residential applications such as your garage and driveways, and also in commercial and industrial areas.

The VBV1210 is equipped with 2-½” diameter and a 7-foot hose which sucks up debris of different sizes and shapes and allow you to move the tool around without the fear of the hose coming during operation.

Although the Vacmaster moves on four 360-degree casters for easier movement, the 17-pound vac might be harder to move relative to smaller ones

It also has a drain port located at the bottom of the tank that helps you disseminate fluids without emptying the content of the tank.

The Vacmaster VBV1210 comes with an array of useful features such as two extension wands, a reusable foam filter sleeve to clean up wet waste, a standard cartridge filter to clean up dry debris, a car nozzle, an 8-inch utility nozzle, a crevice tool, and an air/noise diffuser.

Things we like

  • It’s very powerful
  • It has a big 12-gallon tank
  • Runs quieter than most shop vacs at 92dB
  • Can be converted to a blower easily

Things we don’t like

  • Cord is short for industry and professional use.
  • An extra filter is required for cleaning dust.
  • Wheels may not snap into place.

2. Premium Pick: Ridgid WD 1450 Wet/Dry Shop Vac

The Ridgid WD 1450 is a heavy-duty wet/dry vacuum powered by a 6HP engine and comes with a well-constructed 14-gallon tank. Its 7-foot hose dual flex, which means it can be moved in any direction without collapsing.

Separate filters are provided for dry and wet operation as in the Vacmaster VBV1210, a cartridge filter for dry debris and a foam sleeve for wet substances.

The Ridgid WD 1450 is equipped with a three-layer dust filter for extra protection to the motor when sucking up dangerous materials. Ridgid introduced what they called scroll noise reduction when designing the WD 1450; it helps to control the flow of air leaving this shop vac with a noise level of 90dB, one of the quietest in its category.

It also comes with a utility nozzle for general vacuuming applications and a car nozzle for cleaning up tight areas and surfaces such as rugs and curtains.

In general, the Ridgid WD 1450 strikes an excellent balance between price and performance. It fits into the category of best vacuums in the market because it operates fast and quietly, two qualities that are not often seen in the same tool. In addition to that, it has a compact design that enables easy movement despite the tank size.

Things we like

  • It has a large 14-gallon tank
  • It has a very powerful engine
  • Scroll Noise Reduction feature
  • With 20 feet of power cable, an extension might not be needed.

Things we don’t like

  • Weighing 22 pounds, it’s quite heavy.
  • A blower is not detachable.

3. Best Budget: Craftsman 12004 Wet/Dry Shop Vac3.

Not all shop vacs are suited for smaller areas or tasks; the Craftsman 12004 is a smaller vacuum than those discussed earlier. Inside it is a 3 HP motor, suitable for cleaning small apartments and rooms. It comes with a 7-foot hose and has a 10-foot power cable, making it a total of a 17-foot vacuum reach.

Its tank can only hold 6 gallons so it’ll probably need frequent emptying if you have large debris to clear. Since it has a smaller engine, it consequently weighs lesser at 12.81 pounds making it easier to maneuver, and move it around. It comes with standard features such as extension wands, a cartridge filter, and a foam sleeve filter.

The Craftsman 12004 comes in handy when your cleaning tasks don’t require an overly large vacuum, and you need to save some money. It doesn’t come with some features found in high-end shop vacs, but it offers a very good value for money.

Things we like

  • Good price-to-value ratio
  • Easier to move around
  • It’s relatively quiet.

Things we don’t like

  • It doesn’t have a drain port.
  • Not suitable for large cleaning tasks

4. DEWALT DCV581H Wet/Dry Shop Vac

The DEWALT DCV581H is also a compact shop vac that fits among the best Shop Vacs category. It uses an 18v or 20v MAX battery and can be connected to an electric power source. This Shop Vac can prove to be the most portable among the five when running on battery. However, plugging to a power outlet reduces its portability drastically.

The DEWALT DCV581H uses a HEPA filter which is said to trap up to 99.97 percent of allergens. It doubles as a blower and a vacuum and comes with two attachments, a wide nozzle tool, and a crevice tool. It is a 2 Gallon shop vac powered by a 1.85 peak HP motor and weighs 11.06 pounds.

It has a strong build and can withstand occasional falls. DEWALT offers a 3-year warranty to those that purchase the DCV581H. If you are looking for a less costly and more portable shop Vac, the DCV581H is a good fit.

Things we like

  • Compact and light build
  • Can be used as cordless and corded
  • reusable HEPA filters

Things we don’t like

  • Short power cord at 5 ft.
  • 2 Gallon tank capacity

5. Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Shop Vac:

The Armor All AA255 is small and compact but also does it work effectively. It weighs about 7 pounds and can be moved around easily. The Armor All AA255 can be converted into a blower if you need to clear debris off your patio or garage.

It has a 2.5 Gallon capacity and uses a 2 peak HP motor, so its performance can’t be compared to the likes of the Ridgid WD 1450 and the Vacmaster VBV1210.

It comes with a 6-foot hose and a 10-foot power cord. It is recommended for cleaning car interior and small garage and workshops. It also comes with a 2-year warranty.

Things we like

  • It converts quickly to a blower
  • It’s very light
  • Good for cleaning car interiors

Things we don’t like

  • Not suitable for heavy-duty cleaning tasks
  • Weak suction power.

6. Shop-Vac 5989400 Wet/Dry Shop Vac

Shop-vac is one of the leading manufacturers in the Shop vacuum industry.  The Shop-Vac 5989400 is an 8 Gallon tank capacity vacuum powered by a six peak HP motor which makes it suitable for heavy-duty cleaning tasks. It can be converted to a blower through the rear blower port.

It weighs a massive 18.85 pounds owing majorly to the engine’s power. It can be carried using the side and top handles without a problem. Attached to the Shop-Vac 5989400 is a 7-foot hose and a 12-foot power cord.

This Shop-Vac also features other useful accessories including three extension wands, a floor nozzle, a gulper nozzle, crevice tool, a foam sleeve filter, a cartridge filter, and a filter bag. Shop-vac offers a 3-year motor warranty to anyone who purchases this shop vac.

Things we like

  • It’s very powerful
  • It’s quite easy to drain
  • It comes with a lot of useful accessories.

Things we don’t like

  • The power cord is relatively short.

Buying Guide

How to Choose a Good Shop Vac (Features and Performance Criteria) 

Before you purchase a Shop Vac, there are several factors to consider to check and whether they suit your needs. Below are some of the factors that will assist you in selecting a good Shop Vac.

Engine Performance

This is where we might get a little technical. Engine performance specifically talks about airflow and suction. Peak horsepower is not the only criteria used to compare the performance of a vacuum engine. There are basically three measurements that explain engine performance.

  • Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM): CFM rating is the maximum airflow a vacuum can produce at its largest opening. If you want to clean up finer debris, you’ll need a higher CFM.
  • Sealed Pressure (SP): It can also be called suction pressure. This measurement is essential to all vacs especially if you’ll be using it to pick up fluids. It measures how the volume of water a vacuum can lift at a particular time. A vacuum cleaner with a sealed pressure rating greater than can be said to be a high-end vacuum cleaner.
  • Air-watts: This is important in knowing whether a vacuum cleaner can pick up heavy debris. It measures the amount of power that eventually becomes airflow at the inlet for the debris.

Size and Weight

The capacity tank majorly determines the size and weight of a vacuum cleaner. You should go for a vac that suits your needs. If you are using it for a small space such as your room or a limited area, then you can purchase a small portable vac. Small shop vac range from about 2-6 gallons, from 5-10 gallons capacity is enough for home use while 12 gallons and above is advised for industrial use.

On the other hand, if you have a large debris to pick up, you can go for larger vacs.

Also, you have to consider if you’ll be able to lift the vacuum size you’re purchasing.

Attachments

Attachments of vac can decide whether it’s right for you or not. The common ones are extension wands to be used for areas that are hard to reach, crevice tools for cleaning tight corners and cracks, wet debris foam sleeve filter, and medium and large debris filters.

Build Quality

Although Shop vacs are simple tools, it’s good to pay attention to a vacuum’s build quality before purchasing it.

For example, some shop vacs have plastic tanks while some have stainless steel tanks. The stainless-steel tanks are more durable and easier to wash while plastic tanks are lighter than the stainless-steel tanks.

Cordless vs Corded Shop Vacs?

Corded Shop Vacs are generally lighter and cheaper than cordless ones. They are environmentally friendly because they don’t emit gases and their electric motors make lesser noise.

However, they can only be used near an electrical outlet. The cord length has to be long enough to reach the location where the tool is needed.

Cordless Shop Vacs, on the other hand, make use of rechargeable batteries to provide energy to the machine. They offer great flexibility in terms of maneuverability and handling as compared to corded models.

The major setback of cordless Shop Vacs is that the batteries have to be recharged or replaced after some time. If you’re opting for a cordless shop Vac, go for one with the power to take care of your needs.

FAQ

Q: How does a shop vac work?

A: A shop vac works using the same principle as a normal vacuum cleaner, the shop vac extends its functionality with its ability to suck up larger particles than the traditional vacuum cleaner.

The electric motor lowers the air pressure and, in the process, creates a vacuum which sucks up all the air and particles into the hose.

Q: Does a Shop Vac Need a Filter?

A: It depends on what you use your shop vac for. If you use it for larger objects rather than fine particles, then you might not require a filter.

However, if you vacuum finer particles, you need a filter to trap those particles or else you could have them blown back into the air. There are various types of filter for different uses; some are in the form of cartridges while some are in the form of a foam or cloth filter.

Q: What’s a HEPA filter?

A: HEPA filters are High energy particulate air filter that traps very tiny particles up to 1 micron.  They are used for drywalling and similar applications.

Q: Can I use a Shop Vac as a Blower?

A: Yes. Although shop vacs vary from model to model, the majority of them can serve both functions. Make sure to check for this when purchasing a shop vac.

Final Thoughts

A good shop vac should be able to suck up the smallest and toughest particle. It should have powerful suction, a considerable amount of storage and useful attachments.

We have attempted to give you a cross-section of best shop vacs in the market based on price, size, power, and portability so can select based on your needs.

We hope the next you go shopping for a shop vac; you’ll be well-versed in what to look for and how to get the best.

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