The Best Wet/Dry Vacs and Shop Vacuums of 2019 - News Coverage

The Best Wet/Dry Vacs and Shop Vacuums of 2019

Overall WinnerBest Overall

Credit: Reviewed.com / Jonathan Chan

How We Tested

The Tests

In Testing

Credit: Reviewed.com / Jonathan Chan

We test water pickup on our top-rated Craftsman.

All the vacuums we chose ranged in size from 6 to 12 gallons, and from 3 to 5 horsepower. We tested them on three major criteria: power, usability, and versatility.

To test power, we first started by measuring how much water each unit could suction up in 10 seconds. It’s a quintessential task considering that’s the “wet” in wet/dry vac. We also took note of how much each model bucked when cleaning up a liquid mess. The strain of suctioning up water also speaks to the build quality of a unit.

The water pickup test was the most important and we performed it multiple times. Peak horsepower and amperage are not reliable ways of determining suction ability.

After the water pickup test, we moved onto more solid matter. We chose wet sand and metal bolts. We chose these two materials but they represent a wide range of densities and malleability.

We tested usability by switching out filters, putting on attachments, and lugging the unit around our offices and labs. Finally, our versatility tests looked at how easy it was to store, how long the cord was, and whether it worked as a blower.

The Tester

Hey, I’m Jon Chan, the Senior Lab Technician at Reviewed. In our testing labs, I’m the garage guru, testing everything from work gloves to pressure washers. I’m also the resident expert on vacuums in general. Having lab-tested more than 100 vacuums, I know superior cleaning performance when I see it.

When it came to testing wet/dry vacuums, I was most interested in finding the best model for the average homeowner. To claim that top spot, a vacuum needed to be reasonably priced, consistently powerful, and easy to use.

What You Should Know About Wet/Dry Vacs

Most people should only require a 3.5 to 5 peak horsepower motor for their wet/dry vac. If it can suction up water and sawdust, you’re probably good to go. Besides, the horsepower number on most wet/dry vacuums is peak horsepower, which is a more generous estimation than a defined power rating. Peak horsepower, also known as developed horsepower, is a number based on ideal laboratory conditions, not real-world work.

Manufacturers also like to tout the amperage, or amps for short, of their models. Amps represent the total amount of electricity drawn by a device. The idea is that the more amps a motor uses, the more energy it can put out.

Again, the amount of energy used does not represent the total amount of suction. A dirty filter or a clogged hose can turn all those amps useless. Because of the limitation of how much a circuit breaker can take—typically between 15 and 20 amps—most vacuums do not exceed 12 amps.

Since amps and peak horsepower don’t translate to how well a wet/dry works, we also relied on real-world tests, including water pick-up tests to calculate suction power because water has a consistent density at room temperature.

You should also know that a wet/dry vacuum is a very versatile tool. They can unclog drains, retrieve hard-to-get cables, and help you tie a perfect ponytail. But don’t take our word for it, check this out:

How Does a Wet/Dry Vac Differ From a Regular Vacuum?

While a wet/dry vacuum is a versatile tool, we don’t recommend having it replace your regular floor cleaner. First, most wet/dry vacuums do not come with HEPA filters. Typically, if a HEPA is offered at all, it has to be purchased separately. Second, because a wet/dry vacuum has to be able to deal with water, there’s no such thing as a motorized brush head for this type of vacuum. This lack of spinning brushes means a wet/dry vacuum can’t clean carpet or upholstery as effectively as a moderately priced regular vacuum. Finally, a wet/dry vacuum is designed to live in the garage, not inside your home. They are bulky and awkward to store indoors, and many can’t even fit inside a normal closet.

Do Wet/Dry Vac Materials Matter?

We like plastic tubs over metal ones. Plastic won’t rust or corrode as metal does. Remember, stainless steel means it stains less—not that it won’t stain at all. We also like plastic models because they tend to be lighter, which aides in how easy they are to move.

Who Benefits from Owning a Wet/Dry Vacuum?

In short, any homeowner would benefit from owning a wet/dry vacuum. It’s not just for people who are planning on doing construction projects. Although the ability to pick up sawdust as well as the odd nail is a huge time saver. There are also situations in which a floor may be too delicate—and can be scratched from using a broom and dustpan—when a wet/dry vac would be a safer choice to clean up a mess.

Anyone with small children will appreciate the wet pick-up power. A wet/dry vacuum can easily solve spills and bathroom mishaps that require half a roll of paper towels.

If you find yourself constantly dealing with clogged drains, try using a wet/dry vacuum on them. Plumber’s snakes and plungers can be very laborious and chemical methods can damage your pipes. Even when a wet/dry vacuum can’t remove a clog, we have found that removing the excess water makes the situation so much better.

Is a Blower Feature Just a Gimmick?

Many wet/dry vacuums allow you to hook the hose onto the exhaust end, in effect, creating a blower. The force generated is not as powerful as a dedicated leaf blower, but we found it more than adequate to deal with dust on workbenches and light walkway clearing duty in the fall.


Other Wet/Dry Vacuums We Tested

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