The Best Shop Vac: Efficiently Clean Up Messy Dirt and Debris | Autance

You may or may not already know, but a Shop-Vac® is an original brand of wet and dry vacuum cleaners…

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The Best Shop Vac: Efficiently Clean Up Messy Dirt and Debris | Autance © The Best Shop Vac: Efficiently Clean Up Messy Dirt and Debris | Autance
Best Overall Armor All Utility Wet/Dry Vacuum Armor All Utility Wet/Dry Vacuum

A versatile and efficient shop vac that includes everything you need to clean and clear out your car or motorcycle.

  • 10-foot cord and 6-foot hose offer a lot of reach
  • Powerful motor offers great results 
  • Can pick up wet and dry messes as well as blow away debris


  • Suction may not be powerful enough for some users
Best Value Vacmaster Wet/Dry Vacuum Vacmaster Wet/Dry Vacuum

This powerful shop vac offers a ton of value, from its large tank to its powerful motor to its many different cleaning accessories.

  • Offers great cleaning reach for spaces big and small
  • 12-gallon tank can hold a lot of debris and dirt
  • Especially powerful as a blower
  • Not great at picking up sawdust and woodworking debris
Honorable Mention Craftsman 16 Gallon Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum with Attachments Craftsman 16 Gallon Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum with Attachments

A bigger, better shop vac for extra-large messes or spaces but with all the versatility you need to clean your car too.

  • 8 attachments offer great versatility
  • Powerful 6.5 hp motor
  • Power cord, hose, and wands allow plenty of reach
  • Included dust filter and collection bag aren’t great

You may or may not already know, but a Shop-Vac® is an original brand of wet and dry vacuum cleaners that are heavy duty and often used specifically to clean up shops or particularly challenging areas. Nowadays, though, you’ll notice the name describes any type of wet/dry vacuum cleaner with a bucket-shaped body, high-powered suction, and generally a bulkier appearance. Shop Vacs are used in different situations but are the ideal solution for woodworking areas, construction sites, and shop floors. These beasts are capable of sucking up debris such as nails, wood chippings, and screws. The best shop vac will be able to deal with wet messes too. However, finding the best shop vac available can be a daunting task as there are literally hundreds claiming to be the best. We’ve done the hard work – here, you’ll find the best shop vacs we think are worth your investment.

The Best Shop Vac

The Armor All Utility Wet/Dry Vacuum is especially good for using inside a car as it’s been designed to pick up both wet and dry debris. This model even comes with the right type of accessories needed for cars and motorcycles. One of the top features is the vacuum can be converted so it can blow, which is fantastic for removing dust and debris from your vehicle as well as drying your car grills and wheels. Designed for cleaning both wet and dry spillages, this handy shop vac can really do it all. As a bonus, this powerful vacuum is quiet too, thanks to the built-in air and noise diffuser. It’s a powerful little machine with a 2 horsepower motor that automatically shuts off when it detects that the tank is full.
Additionally, the vac features a 10-foot cord, 6-foot hose and vehicle-specific tools, including a deluxe car nozzle, blower nozzle and detail brush. However, for some, the suction may not be strong enough to pick up ground-in, stubborn dirt and debris.

  • Tank Size 2.5 gallons
  • Motor 2 horsepower
  • Accessories Deluxe car nozzle, blower nozzle, and detail brush

Operates quietly with a built-in air and noise diffuser

Offers convenient built-in storage for accessories

Automatic shut-off when tank is full

Lengthy cord and hose give you plenty of reach


Suction may be too light or weak for some messes and cleaning needs

The Vacmaster Wet/Dry Vacuum is a great option whether you’re looking for a shop vac, car vac or just maybe a good value wet and dry vac. While it isn’t the cheapest product, it has a whole lot of value to offer. For one thing, this product is versatile. The Vacmaster comes with two extension wands, a specific car nozzle for those hard-to-reach places and a utility nozzle too. If that wasn’t enough, the vacuum also has a fully detachable blower with a blowing speed of 240 mph. Not just a small shop vac, this product has a 12-foot cord and extensions, so it’s ideal for larger spaces too. Perfect for both wet and dry clean-ups, this vacuum can help you clean up your car, your garage, or even areas of your home if you’re dealing with tough spots or serious messes.
The 12-gallon tank and list of 11 handy accessories offer both plenty of reach and a lot of value in one shop vac. However, it does have one drawback. It isn’t very great at picking up sawdust, so it isn’t the best choice for woodworking cleanup.

  • Tank Size 12 gallons
  • Motor 5 horsepower
  • Accessories 11 items, including 7-foot hose, car nozzle, utility nozzle, crevice tool, concentrator nozzle, and blower adapter

19 feet of total cleaning reach

Sizable tank holds a lot of dirt, debris, and wet messes

Can blow up to 240 miles per hour on blower setting

Includes car-specific cleaning accessories for interior vehicle cleanup


Not great at picking up sawdust or fine debris

When it comes to power and serious cleaning tasks, the Craftsman 16 Gallon Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum with Attachments is hard to beat. This shop vac runs on a 6.5 peak horsepower motor, and it can hold up to 16 gallons of dirt, debris, and wet messes. It’s designed to be a heavy-duty vacuum, giving you extra power for large projects in your garage, shop, or even inside your car. With a built-in rear blowing port, you’ll be able to blow away leaves and clipping in seconds. An oversized built-in drain lets you get rid of liquids easily. And thanks to Craftsman’s Dual-Flex technology, you’ll get 180 degrees of hose mobility at either end for fewer kinks and hose issues. Plus, with eight attachments and a three-year limited warranty, you’ll be covered for almost anything.

The only real downside to this shop vac is the included dust bag. It doesn’t hold much dust, and it isn’t really great at filtering out dust overall.

  • Tank Size 16 gallons
  • Motor 6.5 horsepower
  • Accessories 8 attachments, including a Dual-Flex hose, two extension wands, utility nozzle, car nozzle, and wet nozzle.

20-foot power cord gives you plenty of flexibility

Versatile attachments can cover all types of jobs, big and small

Dual-Flex hose design prevents kinks

Extra-large tank holds a lot


Included dust filter and collection bag aren’t as great as the rest of the vacuum’s equipment

Here’s a shop vac that looks as good as it functions. The Shop-Vac Stainless Steel Wet/Dry Vacuum boasts a sleek and shiny stainless steel exterior, which makes it stand out visually and enhances its durability for the long term. Forget about a plastic housing that can crack or wear; this machine is built to last. This shop vac provides great horsepower (4.5 peak horsepower) and a nice range of features. It’s made with heavy-duty cleaning in mind, and it’s as great for the garage as it is for the car as it features a handy range of accessories that can be neatly stored on the vacuum body.
One of the main selling points of this product is the fact that it has a full circumference dolly, which makes the vacuum easier to maneuver. However, there are a few disadvantages you might experience. Setting up the shop vac can be a challenge; it requires some assembly, and all of the components may not fit together perfectly. Additionally, the top of the vacuum doesn’t seal, which can be messy for cleanup.

  • Tank Size 5 gallon
  • Motor 4.5 horsepower
  • Accessories 7-foot hose, 3 extension wands, crevice tool, gulper nozzle, and floor nozzle

Sleek, durable stainless steel tank

Includes accessories for enhanced reach

Suitable for the garage and the interior of your car

Solid horsepower for suction


Some assembly required

Components may not fit together perfectly

Lid of the vacuum’s tank doesn’t seal

It’s common for shop vacs to be round, bulky, and not-so-slim in design – but the Stanley Wet/Dry Vacuum is different. This easy-to-maneuver vacuum has a lightweight and compact design, which makes it easy to carry and even easier to store. The body of the vacuum has four swivel casters that provide nice maneuverability and make vacuuming smaller rooms a simple task. Plus, the collection tank is slim and narrow, meaning it won’t take up as much space (though it still offers plenty of room for dirt and debris). And this four-gallon shop vac doesn’t cut corners when it comes to power. With a 4 horsepower motor, you’re going to get good suction power. The shop vac comes with several handy accessories too, so you can get to those hard-to-reach areas.
Unfortunately, despite the perks of this shop vac, it does also have some drawbacks. Some components, including the accessories, are made out of cheap plastic and are prone to breaking or weakness. Additionally, the exterior of the vacuum’s tank can easily be dented, which kind of ruins its appearance.

  • Tank Size 4 gallons
  • Motor 4 horsepower
  • Accessories 5-foot flexible hose, 3 extension wands, crevice nozzle, utility nozzle, floor brush, dry and foam filters

Slim, narrow tank design saves space

Lightweight and easy to maneuver

Swivel casters are smooth rolling

Includes reach-extending accessories


Tank exterior can be damaged or dented easily

Plastic components are weak and prone to breaking

The Vacmaster Stainless Steel Wet/Dry Vacuum might look a little bulky with its 6-gallon holding tank, but it’s surprisingly lightweight and easy to lift. This versatile vacuum can handle both wet and dry cleaning and with a 6-gallon tank can hold a lot of debris. The addition of a 12-foot cord and 7-foot hose means this vacuum won’t shorten your reach, and it includes two extension wands for those difficult spots that are otherwise tricky to reach. Sometimes it’s the little things that count, and with this vacuum we really like the fact that the accessories can be stored onboard – so you’ll never have to look for those essential smaller pieces. You’ll have everything you need for hard floors, carpets, walls, car interiors, and tight crevices. As an added bonus, this shop vac is weather-resistant and backed by a two-year warranty.

However, because the collection tank on this shop vac is made out of metal, it rusts easily. If you’re cleaning up a lot of wet messes, it’ll rust through quickly – even if you empty it out after every use.

  • Tank Size 6 gallons
  • Motor 3 horsepower
  • Accessories 7-foot hose, contour handle, 2 extension wands, multi-surface floor nozzle, crevice tool, and round dust brush.


Built-in accessory storage

Works on all types of messes with varied attachments

12-foot cord offers good reach


Metal tank can easily rust through, even if you’re careful about emptying

Best for Small Jobs

If you’re looking for a professional wet dry vac that will be able to handle small to medium jobs then the DeWalt Poly Wet/Dry Vac might just be the one for you. It’s portable, but still sturdy enough, with a 6-gallon tank to soak up any workshop or car spillages. Built specifically for garage and vehicle use, this shop vac is easy to manage and work with, and it’ll offer enough suction for plenty of different jobs; it can even be used at job sites for daily cleanup. It also boasts a built-in blower port that can blow debris and sawdust from any workshop as well as leaves from a yard. Plus, with ultra-durable rubberized caster wheels, you’ll enjoy smooth swiveling and therefore a smooth vacuuming experience.
This shop vac doesn’t, however, come with any accessories or attachments. That can limit your ability to clean crevices and tight spots.

  • Tank Size 6 gallons
  • Motor 4 horsepower
  • Accessories None

Ultra-durable rubberized caster wheels are smooth

Built-in blower port offers versatility

Professional-level suction


Doesn’t include any accessories

While most traditional shop vacs are large and bulky, the Stanley Wet/Dry 3 Gallon Portable Car Vacuum shrinks the basic design and makes it portable. This smaller spin on a shop vac is designed specifically for small messes and vehicles, making it the perfect pick if you need to clean up wet or dry messes inside your car. It features a convenient handle for carrying, and its small 3-gallon tank makes it nicely maneuverable. A 3 horsepower motor gives you enough suction to tackle debris, dirt, and liquids, and the three-in-one crevice attachment is great for getting between seats and into your car’s tightest space.s Plus, you’ll get over 10 feet of cleaning reach with the hose and power cord.

However, though you should have decent cleaning reach, the power cord is on the short side. It’s just 6 feet long, so you’ll need to make sure you have outlets nearby while you’re cleaning out your car. You may also want an extension cord.

  • Tank Size 3 gallons
  • Motor 3 horsepower
  • Accessories 4-foot hose, gulper nozzle, crevice nozzle and foam and dry filters.

Compact, handheld design

Lightweight with a carrying handle

Includes attachments designed for car cleanups

Handles dry and wet messes


Power cord can be a bit short

May require an extension cord for more flexibility

Best Warranty-Backed

The Workshop Wet Dry Vac is a great option if you’re looking for serious reliability and speedy performance. This shop vac means business, and Workshop stands behind it with an impressive 5-year limited warranty that provides you with long-term peace of mind. Plus, this shop vac is quick to clean up messes. It has a high capacity for spillages and debris and boasts a 16-gallon tank with a 6.5 peak horsepower motor. This beast can pick up 1 gallon of water per second. The Qwik Lock Filtering System allows fast wet and dry vacuum filter changes, and there’s a large drain port at the base of the vacuum so you can easily empty it. Lastly, the Workshop vac also provides an integrated blowing port that allows the user to blow unwanted debris from the workspace, home or garage.

There is one potential drawback, though. The attachments fit onto the hose with a friction-style fit, which isn’t very secure. They can come loose very easily.

  • Tank Size 16 gallons
  • Motor 6.5 horsepower
  • Accessories Includes utility nozzle, wet nozzle, car nozzle, and two extension wands

Large tank to hold a lot of dirt, debris, and water

Backed by a 5-year warranty

Picks up 1 gallon of liquid per 1 minute

Easy draining from the bottom of the tank


Friction-fit attachments can easily pop out of place

While there are other compact shop vacs on our list, the Sun Joe Ultra-Portable Wheeled Wet/Dry Vacuum is extra small and perfect for cleaning up small messes or spaces that need a shop vac’s capability. Strong suction paired with a convenient 2.6-gallon tank that fits anywhere, you can literally bring this shop vac along with you. The 7-amp, 3.5-horsepower motor delivers great power, and there’s a reusable, washable filtration system that makes it convenient to use on messes of all kinds. Plus, this extra-small shop vac sits on smooth-rolling wheels so you can scoot it along anywhere. And the addition of three accessories means you can easily clean up your vehicle’s carpeting, crevices, and seats.

Just keep in mind that this shop vac is seriously small. It won’t clean up huge messes, and its tank size is limited, so you’ll need to empty it frequently.

  • Tank Size 2.6 gallons
  • Motor 3.5 horsepower
  • Accessories Includes floor brush, crevice brush, and dust brush.

Lightweight and highly portable

Sits on four smooth-rolling wheels

Works for wet or dry messes

Fits right inside your car


Tank capacity is very small

Tank will require frequent emptying

How We Selected the Products

There are so many different shop vacs available for purchase, so in order to make our top product picks, we took a close look at the variety sold online. We looked at shop vacs big and small with tanks of varying sizes, comparing their capacities and their motors to determine how efficient, powerful, and helpful each vacuum could be. We specifically sought out models that could work for garage messes and in-car messes for versatility. From there, we compared the shop vacs based on details like their emptying method, included accessories or attachments, suction power, and reliable performance over time. 

Best Shop Vac Buying Guide & FAQ

Our essential buying guide will look at the features you’ll need to look at when considering a new shop vac, the most commonly asked questions about shop vacs, and our verdict on what we believe was the best on our list.

Features to Consider When Buying a Wet Dry Vac

Before you go ahead and order a shop vac you’ll need to look at the features in order to determine your exact needs and if the product meets them.

These are some of the important features you should think about:

Size – If you are only looking for a small shop vac for your home and backyard then there’s not much point in buying an industrial-sized beast with a six horsepower motor. Firstly, look at your own specifics. If you need a sturdy shop vac for your workshop or store then considering a bigger, more powerful vac might be sensible.

Who will be using your shop vac?

Take a look at the weight of the vacuum and remember this will become heavier when full! If this vac is for your 80-year-old grandma, perhaps the 16-gallon tank isn’t the best choice?

Integrated Blower Port – is this something you really need? Could you sacrifice this for a cheaper option? If you are planning to use this for your garden or need debris moved from your workspace, then an integrated blower port will definitely come in handy.

Accessories  –  what are you going to be using the shop vac for? If the main purpose of the vacuum cleaner is to use it for your car then look for a shop vac with extensive car accessories. If you want it for your garage at home and the garden then opt for the integrated blower port. Take a look at the accessories and apply them to your demands. Some shop vacs don’t have great accessories for carpets, so take this into consideration before you buy.

Ease of Use – again, look at the weight and size of the vacuum in relation to who is using it and what it’s going to be used for. Is it easy to empty? Some shop vacs have features such as drain ports for easy emptying. Does it have handles? Can it be easily stored?

Warranty – we would always prefer to choose a vacuum that includes a decent warranty. Better to be safe than sorry.

Benefits of Using a Wet and Dry Vacuum


There’s no denying the biggest (and most obvious) benefit of a shop vac: the versatility it offers. Unlike your household vacuum, which is really only designed for cleaning up dust and light debris, a shop vac is more powerful and more capable. It’s able to pick up messes both wet and dry, messy and not-so-messy. These vacuums can clean up spills, mud, dust, and so much more. Plus, their versatility extends to different spaces. You can use a shop vac in your garage, in your yard, in your woodworking space, or even inside your car.

Powerful Suction

Shop vacs across the board are generally pretty powerful when it comes to suction. That’s what makes them so beneficial for your garage, outdoor spaces, or the interior of your vehicle. One of these vacuums can pick up everything from sawdust to screws and shavings to traditional dirt and dust with its suction. Plus, when you’re working with stubborn wet messes, it’s the easiest way to suck up unpleasant liquids.

Many Attachments

Sure, a traditional vacuum comes with attachments. But shop vacs can offer you even more, going above and beyond with specialized accessories designed to make cleaning up all types of messes (and even all types of surfaces) a breeze. From extension wands and lengthy hoses that can give you 10 feet of reach or more to dust nozzles to crevice tools that get into slim spaces, a shop vac has a whole lot to offer.

Wet Vac Uses

Leaking washing machine? Not a problem with a wet and dry vacuum. Spillages on the floor? Easy peasy. A wet vac will sort these problems out in no time at all. Some of the vacuums on this list are that powerful they can drink up to 1 gallon of water per second. Think how useful that can be in an industrial capacity.

How to Clean a Shop Vac Filter

The only type of filter that you can clean is a reusable dry filter. These can be rinsed and reused. To clean your Shop Vac filter you will first need to remove the filter, rinse with water until it runs clear and leaves to dry, completely, before inserting it back into the machine.

Best Shop Vac FAQ:

Q:  Why does my Shop-Vac® wet dry vac blow dust back into my room?

  There are several reasons why dust could be blowing back into the room. Normally this is due to a hole in the filter, a problem with the installation of the filter or the dust being too fine for the filter to capture.

Q:  Which filter should I use for wet pickup?

You should use a foam sleeve for a wet pick up and with some models, you can add an additional tear-resistant wet-dry collection bag, as often when a shop vac picks up water, it’s also picking up sharp debris like stone and glass.

Q:  Why is my vacuum losing suction power?

  There are many reasons why a vacuum may lose its suction power, but the most common culprit is an obstruction in the airflow. Take a look at the hose, stretch it out and you can insert a broom handle to free any blockages. Is anything stuck inside the vacuum head? Take a look and remove anything creating a block. If that doesn’t help then remove the filters, clean and dry before replacing.

Q:  How can I use a shop vac as a blower?

  Shop vacs vary from model to model and not everyone works in exactly the same way. But generally speaking, if you want to use your shop vac as a blower, then you’ll first need to pull the latches back on the side and lift off the top of the machine. The next stage is to remove the bag and filter, shut the lid and snap the latches back in place. Finally, remove the hose from the front suction port and locate the exhaust port (normally found at the top). Secure the hose into the port and you’re good to go!

Our Top Pick

Our favorite shop vac was easily the Armor Utility Wet & Dry Vacuum AA255. We liked this particular vacuum because we felt it offered really good value for money and provided enough horsepower for small to medium jobs. The shop vac came with a good selection of accessories (particularly good for car cleaning) and could easily be converted to blow. Which as we all now know, is a super useful tool for debris removal.

Powerful and relatively small, this shop vac would make a great choice for households looking for a vacuum which is stronger than your average Henry! You won’t have to worry about debris clogging up the filters, this machine has been built to last.

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