Especially large messes can be time consuming and complicated to clean. Instead of using a broom, mop or your regular household vacuum cleaner, you need to use a larger and more powerful machine to clean up even the most challenging of disasters.
To handle the largest messes, a shop vacuum can be the ideal piece of equipment to use. The portable shop vacs that are available today are a far cry from what they used to be in the past. No longer are they cumbersome and noisy to handle.
The models today are compact, streamlined and relatively noiseless, making them simple and convenient to use at home, the office or anywhere else for which the job calls for one of these specialized vacuums.
Before you buy one for yourself, however, you need to understand their benefits and how to use them correctly. You also need to identify the best portable shop vac for your lifestyle and budget.
Ours Quick Picks
Armor AA255 Wet/Dry
DEWALT DCV581H Wet/Dry
Vacmaster Professional Wet/Dry
Criteria for Selecting a Right Portable Shop Vac
When you shop for the right portable shop vac, you need to keep several criteria in mind. One of the primary factors to remember is the size of its canister. Smaller canisters require more frequent emptying. They also cannot hold as much water compared to dry debris that you plan on cleaning up.
Your ideal shop vac should also come with the attachments that you need for any cleanup job. You want a flat attachment to clean up smooth surfaces as well as brushes and crevice tools to clean in tight corners and upholstered surfaces like car seats.
Another top consideration is the length of the power cord. You want your shop vac to be easy to use throughout the building. You could find it easier to use it if it has a lengthy cord as well as a hose that is at least four to six feet long. A battery-powered shop vac can be especially appealing in some cleanup situations.
The Seven Best Portable Shop Vac Choices 2020
When you are on the lookout for the best portable shop vac, it can help to consider those six that are among the bestsellers.
1. DeWalt 18/20V Max Best Portable Wet Dry Vac
The DeWalt 18/20V Max Dry wet/dry vacuum is designed to operate corded or with its cordless 18-volt or 20-volt battery. Its canister has a two gallon holding capacity and can be easily washed out and reused.
The yellow and black shop vac also has a HEPA rated filter trap that offers 99.97 percent efficiency. Adding to its lightweight design is its five foot long flexible hose.
The entire shop vac's body is designed to be crush-resistant, allowing you to use and store it safely without worrying about it being damaged or needing to be repaired.
This particular DeWalt portable shop vac is priced affordably and comes with its own handle for easy carrying. It also has onboard storage for all of its included components.
Some of its best features include:
- Available extension wands for hoses
- Filter bag included with purchase of the shop vac
- Rechargeable battery that is designed to last for years
- Powerful suction for both dry and wet messes
- Snug fit for accessory storage on top of canister
Some of the less favorable features are:
- Short warranty on components
- Hose can crack easily
- Difficult-to-find replacement battery
2. Armor All AA255 2.5 Gallon Portable Shop Vac
Priced reasonably low, the Armor All AA255 2.5 gallon 2 peak HP wet/dry portable utility shop vac comes with an impressive 10 foot electrical cord. It has a 2.5 gallon cord that also comes with its own cord wrap for easy storage.
The shop vac weighs around seven pounds when it is empty. Its body is made out of industrial-grade plastic.
This shop vac comes with a variety of attachments including a reusable cloth filter, two-in-one utility nozzle with its own brush, crevice tool, car deluxe nozzle, blower nozzle and detail brush. It has a two year warranty that guards against manufacturer defects and damages. The shop vac has an automatic shut-off feature if it gets too hot.
It also has a reverse blower function for blowing out messes from inside or outside of your building. It also has a peak two horsepower motor and its own onboard accessory and tool storage.
Some of its best features are:
- Powerful suction for both wet and dry residue on the floor
- Especially made for cleaning upholstery
- Quiet motor that makes it good to use around children and pets
- Sturdy raised handle for easier carrying
Some of its cons include:
- No backup battery capability
- Short hose length
- The lid can come loose easily
- Debris can fall out of the hose
3. Vacmaster Professional Portable Wet/Dry Shop Vac
The Vacmaster professional portable wet/dry vac comes with a spacious five gallon canister. Its entire body is made out of polypropylene, making it crush-resistant and durable. It comes in a eye-catching black and yellow pattern.
The portable shop vac has an integrated hose storage and an impressive 18 foot cord that has its own cord storage. It also has a blower function so users can easily blow away residue and debris rather than suctioning it off of the floor.
This particular shop vac is a bit heavier than its other portable shop vac counterparts. When empty, it weighs a little over 13 pounds. The hose itself measures over seven foot long. The power cord combined with the hose length allows you to plug it in and use it extensively throughout the building.
It comes with attachments like an extension wand, fine dust cartridge filter, foam wet filter, crevice tool, car nozzle, utility nozzle and air and noise diffuser.
Some of its benefits include:
- On board tool, hose and power cord storage
- Large dust sealed on and off switch to control the shop vac's power
- Powerful suctioning of wet and dry messes on surfaces
- Flat attachment that is ideal for cleaning carpets and upholstered seats
Some of its drawbacks include:
- No wheels for easy pulling or pushing
- Not HEPA rated
- Does not run on backup battery power
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4. Shop-vac 1.5 Gallon 2.0 Peak HP Wet Dry Portable Vacuum
The Shop-vac 20301000 1.5 gallon 2.0 peak HP wet dry red and black dry vacuum is designed to clean up the toughest of messes at home or work or in your garage or workshop.
It has a reversible blower function that lets you blow away debris rather than pick it up if you prefer. It is designed for dealing with dry messes like sawdust and leaves as well as wet disasters like flooded basements.
Available in a stylish red and black pattern, the portable shop vac has a 1.5 gallon canister. It weighs around six pounds when the canister is empty. It also comes with a six foot power cord and four foot hose for easier use and portability.
This particular shop vac can also be mounted on the wall of your building, making it easy to access anytime. It comes with its own wall mount and brackets. It also has a collapsible handle on top for easier storage.
Its main advantages include:
- 120 volt power capability
- 48 PSI motor
- A manufacturer two year warranty on damages and defects
- Relative noiseless operation
- Easy-to-clean and reusable canister
- Removable filter that can be washed
Some of its primary drawbacks include:
- No wheels for pushing or pulling
- No backup battery power
- Not HEPA rated
5. Stanley Wet/dry Vacuum 6 Gallon 4 Horsepower
The Stanley wet/dry six gallon 4 horsepower portable shop vac is built for large messes in mind. It features a powerful suctioning capability for both wet and dry cleanup jobs. It also has a reversible blower function.
The large six gallon canister can be emptied and cleaned easily during cleanup projects. The shop vac also comes with wheels to make it easier to push or pull around the building to clean up messes regardless of their location.
It comes with a 10 foot power cord and built-in cord wrap. The shop vac also comes with a variety of attachments like several extension wands, a crevice nozzle, gulper nozzle, floor nozzle, reusable dry filter with a clamp ring, a foam filter and disposable filter bag.
The shop vac itself is heavier than other portable shop vacs. When it is empty, it weighs a little over 14 pounds. It measures a little higher than 13 inches tall and 13 inches wide. It has a diameter of 20.5 inches.
Some of its best features are:
- An air flow of 85 CFM
- A four horsepower motor
- Swiveling casters for pushing and pulling the shop vac around the building
- Bagless cleanup function
- Removable foam filter that can be washed and air dried
Some of its drawbacks include:
- No battery backup power
- No handle for easier carrying
- Not HEPA rated
6. Shop-vac Micro Wet/Dry Vac
The Shop-vac 2021000 micro wet/dry vac comes with its own wall bracket for easy wall mounting. It has a one gallon washable and reusable canister. It also comes with its own mounted tool holder and fold down top handle to make it easier and more convenient to handle.
This shop vac comes in a bright red and black color pattern and weighs around five pounds when it is empty. It features a one peak horsepower and a four foot hose length. The power cord itself is also six feet long.
It does not have a rear blower port. However, it does collapsible handle that makes it easier to store when you are not using it.
The Shop-vac 2021000 micro wet/dry vac comes with a two year warranty that protects against manufacturer defect and damages. It measures a little more than 10 inches tall and long and 11 inches in diameter. As its name implies, it can be used for both wet and dry cleanup jobs.
Some of its best features are:
- Removable foam filter
- Powerful suctioning of large and small items as well as water and wet messes
- Lightweight design that makes it ideal for cleaning out messes in vehicles
Some of its less attractive features are:
- Is not designed for battery backup power
- Debris can fall out of hose
- Vac can turn off if it overheats
7. WORKSHOP Wet Dry Vac WS0301VA Portable Wet Dry Vacuum
Gone are the days when stubborn stains would perturb us. With the innovation in technology to produce shop vacs, cleaning couldn't get any more relaxed and fun.
This Shop vac is much more effective compared to the standard household vacuum cleaner. Shop vacs are built with more volume to hold the water and dirt; it clean even the tiniest particles, including screws and nails and also, can be used to suck in large quantities of water. We especially love Workshop Wet Dry Vac WSO301VA portable wet dry vacuum cleaner.
This wet dry vac design is for shop also for cleaning cars. Its lightweight and long handle design makes it easier to carry around and clean inside vehicle. This models comes in different sizes, bigger gallons contains a bigger volume, consequently, giving you a variety of choice depending on your need for it.
It comes packaged with flexible tool accessories used for cleaning; the 1-7/8 dusting brush and 1-7/8 car nozzle. The LED nozzle makes it possible to clean inside my car, even the remote areas with ease for the tool's flexibility.
The hose is 7-foot and comes with a lock adapter that ensures the hose remains in one place during the cleaning. Below are some of the pros and cons of this shop vac.
Some of its best features are:
- The drum made of co-polymer makes it impossible to rust and crack.
- The drum provides ample room to suck in large volumes of liquids and drain them with ease.
- The cleaning accessories aid in cleaning effectively.
- The inbuilt storage compartment enables proper maintenance and security.
Drawbacks of the product:
- Not a standard carpet vac.
- Replacement accessories are quite pricey.
Benefits of Owning and Using a Good Portable Shop Vac
A portable shop vac offers numerous advantages that cannot be found with a regular household vacuum cleaner. To start, it is more powerful than a normal vacuum cleaner that you would use to clean carpeting and rugs in your home.
It can pick up far more than just dust and dirt. It can suction up larger items including nails, screws, wood shavings and wood chips.
When you have a large mess to clean up anywhere, you can take it anywhere in or around the premises and get the debris on the floor suctioned up and removed from sight easily.
Toady's portable shop vacs are also specially designed to use for cleaning up water. Home and business owners know how difficult it can be to clean up water from heavy precipitation or plumbing leaks.
The mess that is left behind is expensive and time consuming to deal with if you use conventional methods like mopping or using a sump pump.
A shop vac can suction up inches of water relatively easily. Because it is lightweight and portable, you can carry it to every nook and cranny of the place to remove water anywhere.
The shop vac's canister can hold gallons of water before you have to take it outside to empty it. It can make cleaning up a large water mess easier, faster, and more affordable for your budget.
You do not have to possess any special skills to use a portable shop vac even in the most challenging of situations. It is a good idea to read the safety instructions with your shop vac before you use it.
You also should avoid allowing the electrical cord to come into direct contact with water.
What Actually Is A Shop Vac?
A Shop Vac is a specialized vacuum that contains a high-powered motor that is able to suck up heavier pieces of debris. These types of heavy duty vacuums are most often used at construction and lumber working sites, as they have the ability to pick up heavier debris with ease.
They typically feature a very large bucket like center that usually has wheels attached to it to allow it to move around easily. From the center is a large hose that is used for suctioning up wood pieces as well as heavier objects, including nails, small pieces of metal, wood chunks, and sawdust. Some Shop Vac systems are also constructed to be used to suck up water from flooded areas as well.
What Are the Difference between Shop Vacs and Normal Vacuum?
A typical household vacuum has an upright, tall stature with the suctioning mechanism on the bottom. These are often pushed using a handle and the debris is contained in a bag.
With a Shop Vac, the stature is a bit shorter, and more rounded looking. This canister-like shape is typically on wheels so that it can be moved around sites quickly and easily. The suctioning is coming from a long hose that has to be maneuvered by hand.
Shop Vacs have a significantly higher level of suction than that of a typical household vacuum. It is because of this power that Shop Vacs tend to be used for more industrial site debris where as typical vacuums are more for household debris.
Shop Vacs have a ton more suction power in order to pick up heavier items including wood chunks and nails. Normal household vacuums do not carry the same amount of power as they are usually only suctioning up small amounts of dirt, pet hair and smaller food particles.
Shop Vacs have also been known to be used to pick up water from the floor or ground as well. Although this feature is not available in every Shop Vac, those that do possess it have a leg up on typical vacuums that do not usually have this functionality. This feature can come in handy in a time where there is a small flood or leak.
A Shop Vac should be able to suck up the water in a very fast manner, and leave behind a clean and dry area. Other uses for a Shop Vac can include vacuuming out your car, cleaning out a barbeque pit or fireplace, and some times even inflate those pool floats or rafts.
How to clean Shop Vac Filter?
Like anything else that uses a filter, a Shop Vac filter can become clogged over time and should be cleaned regularly. You can tell that it is time if you feel that the suction power of your Shop Vac has diminished at all.
Some machines will smoke a bit as well, which is debris from the filter escaping into the air. As long as you pay attention to your machine, you should be able to tell when it will need to be cleaned.
Dry Shop Vac filters can often be cleaned fairly easily. More often than not, a few taps into the garbage can should suffice. Filters that are more rigid may require a bit more attention. Using a toothpick or compressed air can will be able to remove dust particles from those hard to reach spots.
A wet Shop Vac filter is not much harder to clean. You will want to start by loosening any debris by tapping it into a garbage can, just as you would do with a dry filter.
After this step, simply take the filter to your sink and rinse it with water. Be sure to consult your user manual if you intend to use any cleaning agents like dish detergent to assist with the cleaning. Once completely dry, return the filter back to its place in your Shop Vac and you should be ready to go.
Can you vacuum carpet with a shop vac?
Shop vacs work better than most vacuums on carpet. They extract more dirt and offer something that household vacuums do not: picking up larger items. Spilled food and even drinks are no match for the suction of a shop vac.
Can You Use Shop Vac without a Filter/Bag?
Never use a shop vac without the filter or bag. Without them whatever was suctioned up could start blowing out into the air. This could also damage the machine, and that is avoidable! Make sure to clean the filter regularly as well – do some research before as filter types differ.
Instead of sucking in air, can shop vacs blow out air?
Most shop vacs have a blower or reverse blower function. They can take the place of a leaf-blower for your garage or sidewalk. On most messes with large items such as leaves and twigs, it is better to blow it away than suck it up. Shop vacs can be universal.
Can You Use A Shop Vac For Ashes?
Ashes are a no-go for shop vacs. An ash vacuum is needed to pick up such messes. Shop vacs often are not built to handle the heat that some ashes hold, depending on their source. Doing so can also spread particles into the air, eventually to be inhaled.
Finally the winner is DeWalt 18/20V as a best portable shop vac and the unit works well in a variety of situations. A shop vac can be the ideal piece of equipment to have on hand when you have a large mess to clean up.
This specialized vacuum is designed to suction leaves, sawdust, wood chips, nails, screws and most other hard items of all sizes. It can also suction water that you would otherwise have to dry and remove with brooms, mops and other equipment.