The 8 Best Shop Vacs (aka Wet/Dry Vacuums), Tested and Reviewed

Our top pick is the Vacmaster 12-Gallon 5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum for its portability, efficiency, and overall value.

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Best Shop Vacs (aka Wet/Dry Vacuums)

Real Simple / Kristin Kempa

While you can tackle run-of-the-mill dust, dirt, and debris with a regular vacuum, serious messes are best left to a shop vac (also called a wet/dry vacuum—more on that below). These vacuums are extremely powerful tools, especially during home improvement projects, as they can clean up water, dirt, and large debris with voracity. 

To find the best shop vacs, we spent seven weeks testing 20 models in real-world conditions. We evaluated them on setup, effectiveness, maneuverability, portability, ease of emptying, and overall value. For expert tips on choosing a wet/dry vacuum, we spoke with Angela Brown, a cleaning professional and founder of Savvy Cleaner, a training program for house cleaners. 

“One of the things that matters most is how strong it can suck up dirt and debris”, says Brown. “A good motor and filter are important to make sure it can suck things up really well.” 

Our top pick is the Vacmaster 12-Gallon 5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum for its streamlined setup, impressive cleaning power, maneuverable design, and affordable price point. 

Best Overall Shop Vac

Vacmaster VBV1210 12-Gallon 5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vacuum

Vacmaster VBV1210 12 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum with Detachable Blower


Who it’s for: People who want a maneuverable, versatile, and efficient shop vac with compact attachment storage. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a cordless wet/dry vacuum. 

This wet/dry vacuum from Vacmaster earned perfect scores across nearly all of our tests, cementing its place as our best overall pick. We conducted three tests to evaluate the effectiveness of this vacuum, which included cleaning up slightly damp soil and water and blowing snow. This shop vac also has a removable top that seamlessly transforms it into a blower—making it uniquely versatile. 

The four included attachments allowed us to tailor the suction power and surface area depending on the task—and we found that the wide attachment had less power than the compact options. We also cleaned up a mess from repotting a plant with the help of the narrow attachment that hugged the floor. You can conveniently store the attachments inside the wheel component so you won’t lose any pieces or parts. 

This vacuum employs two filters, one for dry components and one sponge filter for wet messes. We found each filter exceedingly easy to change and replace. While this wet/dry vacuum can hold an impressive 12 gallons of debris, it's still easy to maneuver on hardwood floors and carpets. Plus, the 12-foot cord and 7-foot hose reached all areas without wrestling with the vacuum. The main drawback to this pick was its noise level, which we found to be slightly higher than a traditional vacuum. Even still, there is a noise-reducing attachment that makes even that slight downside negligible. 

Price at time of publish: $163

Product Details:

  • Capacity: 12 gallons
  • Type: Corded
  • Hose Length: 7 feet
  • Weight: 24.3 pounds

Best Budget Shop Vac

Armor All 2.5 Gallon 2 Peak HP Utility Wet/Dry Vacuum

Armor All AA255 2.5 Gallon Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum


Who it’s for: People who want a lightweight, affordable, and maneuverable shop vac. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a shop vac with a high capacity. 

Whether you're tackling home improvement projects or cleaning the crevices of your car, the Armor All model is a maneuverable, lightweight, and effective wet/dry vacuum that gets the job done at an affordable price. We like that this shop vac has a 6-foot hose, a 10-foot cord, and five attachments that range from blower nozzles to car detailing brushes. 

We used it to clean a car and found it effective at capturing both small and large debris. Though the attachments made it easier to reach small cracks, there were a few tight areas that the vacuum could not clean—we also noticed that it struggled to remove all of the pet hair, which seemed stuck to the carpet interior. To test the wet function, we cleaned out two cups of water from a bucket until it was dry. Keep in mind that this vacuum has a smaller capacity than some others on our list, so if you have large amounts of water to clean, this might not be the right pick for you. 

This vacuum also stands out for its maneuverability and portability, both categories it earned a perfect score in. The hose was long enough to extend to hard-to-reach places, and the vacuum body was compact for easy moving and lifting. Though this pick might not be large enough for heavy-duty projects, it is an affordable and convenient vacuum to keep on hand for household tasks and car cleaning. 

Price at time of publish: $72 

Product Details:

  • Capacity: 2.5 gallons
  • Type: Corded
  • Hose Length: 6 feet
  • Weight: 7 pounds

Best Large Capacity Shop Vac

Craftsman CMXEVBE17595 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac

Craftsman CMXEVBE17595 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum


Who it’s for: People who want a powerful shop vac to tackle large tasks. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a lightweight wet/dry vacuum. 

During our testing, this 16-gallon Craftsman vacuum swept the award for our favorite large-capacity model, with impressive ratings across a number of categories, including ease of setup, effectiveness, portability, and value. We used this vacuum to clear water, soggy leaves, dry leaves, sticks, and debris, making yard work take a fraction of the time. With the help of the 20-foot power cord and 7-foot dual flex hose, this vacuum was able to be plugged in indoors and used in the backyard without an additional extension cord. Plus, this pick also has a blower function for added versatility, which could be used as a leaf blower

The six attachments include the hose, two extension wands, a utility nozzle, a car nozzle, and a wet nozzle. While you can tailor the vacuum suction and surface area depending on the task, we mainly used the regular nozzle and didn’t need to swap out attachments frequently. It was also exceedingly easy to empty—we just unlatched the cover and lifted out the tank. 

The main drawback to this wet/dry vacuum is its shape, which makes it slightly less maneuverable than some other selections. Even so, considering its large size, it is still fairly portable with the handle, wheels, and long power cord. 

Price at time of publish: $167

Product Details:

  • Capacity: 16 gallons
  • Type: Corded
  • Hose Length: 7 feet
  • Weight: 26 pounds

Best Portable Shop Vac

Ryobi 18V ONE+ 3 Gal. Project Wet/Dry Vacuum

 Ryobi 18V ONE+ 3 Gal. Project Wet/Dry Vacuum


Who it’s for: People who don’t want to deal with pesky cords when using their wet/dry vacuum. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a wet/dry vacuum with many attachments. 

For those who want the power of a wet/dry vacuum without the hassle of setting up a clunky tool, opt for this model from Ryobi. It received a perfect score for its portability thanks to its cordless design that weighs in at just 15 pounds. We used this vacuum to clean dust, dirt, and spills from hardwood floors and bathroom tile—due to its mobility, it was easy to set up and tackle household tasks without hauling around a heavy vacuum. 

This vacuum has three parts, the body, a battery that works with various tools from the brand, and a charger, which makes assembly straightforward. Though the battery took a while to charge, it lasted throughout multiple tasks, so you don’t need to worry about recharging mid-clean. 

Unfortunately, this vacuum does not come with attachments, which presented some challenges during our testing. The circular shape of the hose cannot easily maneuver into crevices, and we found that this made it especially difficult when cleaning water. The vacuum left a thin layer of water on the tile's surface. If you want to clean nooks and crannies, you may prefer another vacuum that includes attachments. 

Price at time of publish: $125 

Product Details:

  • Capacity: 3 gallons
  • Type: Cordless
  • Hose Length: 6 feet
  • Weight: 15 pounds

Best Cordless Shop Vac

Ryobi 40V 10-Gallon Cordless Wet/Dry Vacuum

Ryobi 40V 10 Gal. Wet/Dry Vacuum Kit

The Home Depot

Who it’s for: People who want to clean far from an outlet.

Who it isn’t for: People who never remember to charge their tools and devices. 

Skip the hassle of wrestling with a cumbersome cord and opt for this cordless wet/dry vacuum from Ryobi instead. Whether you’re tackling household messes or cleaning your car, this 10-gallon vacuum captures plaster, dust, large debris, and spills, allowing you to clean anywhere—no outlet needed. 

Cordless vacuums generally have less suction compared to corded models, but we found this pick to have a surprising amount of power. The battery lasted through several tasks and didn’t take up too much space while charging. Unlike the other Ryobi vacuum on our list, this one includes two extension wands, a crevice tool, a floor nozzle, extension wand clips, and casters. During our tests, this vacuum also received a perfect score for its ease of emptying. There are no collection bags, just a large canister that you can wipe down, plus a bottom cap that twists off to drain any liquid from the tank. Though the price is above the median of those we tested, we think it is a worthwhile purchase if you want a high-capacity, portable, and cordless shop vac.  

Price at time of publish: $299 

Product Details:

  • Capacity: 10 gallons
  • Type: Cordless
  • Hose Length: 8 feet
  • Weight: 16.2 pounds

Best Shop Vac for Cars

DeWalt 20V Max 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac Kit

DeWalt 20-Volt MAX Cordless 1/2 Gal. Wet/Dry Portable Vacuum


Who it’s for: People who want a lightweight, handheld model for small tasks like cleaning a car. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want a large-capacity shop vac for heavy-duty cleaning. 

Whether you have messy kids and pets or are simply prone to spilling things, a handheld and cordless wet/dry vacuum is a must-have tool for cleaning your car. The DeWalt cordless vacuum is only seven pounds and has a capacity of 0.5 gallons, so your arms won’t become sore while maneuvering around the back seats or car doors. 

This vacuum earned perfect scores for its maneuverability, portability, and ease of emptying, further solidifying its place as the best wet/dry vacuum for cars. Although the low capacity, short hose length, and battery-powered design aren’t ideal for heavy-duty messes, it was powerful enough to manage household messes in addition to car detailing. 

During testing, this vacuum cleaned damp soil, salt, sand, leaves, crumbs, and water—however, the surface remained slightly damp from the spill, as if recently mopped. We charged the vacuum once overnight and got three uses from the battery without running out of power. This pick also features a HEPA filter, which traps 99.97 percent of fine particles. 

Price at time of publish: $204 

Product Details:

  • Capacity: 0.5 gallon 
  • Type: Cordless
  • Hose Length: Not listed
  • Weight: 7 pounds

Best Shop Vac for Water

DeWalt 12-Gallon DXV12P Poly Wet/Dry Vac

DeWALT 12 Gallon Poly Wet/Dry Vac


Who it’s for: People who want a powerful, high-capacity shop vac to suck up water. 

Who it isn’t for: People who need a compact, handheld model. 

We put the DeWalt 12 Gallon, 5.5 HP Wet/Dry Vacuum to the ultimate test—cleaning up the watery aftermath of a burst pipe. This shop vac efficiently collected the water with forceful suction and proved itself incredibly useful in the case of a flooding emergency. The 12-gallon capacity was large enough to capture mass amounts of water in one go, but not so large that it became difficult to move. The wheels glided over hardwood and carpet floors, and we could easily lift the vacuum into the crawl space, though it became noticeably heavier once filled with water. We appreciate that it’s incredibly easy to empty: When it comes time to drain the tank, turn the nozzle and the water immediately pours out. 

Though this product stood out for its ability to manage watery messes, it is well-equipped to handle dry debris and household projects, too. The vacuum comes with two extension wands, a floor nozzle, a utility nozzle, and a crevice nozzle that can reach into nooks and crannies. We wished the power cord was slightly longer, but at 20 feet in length, it was ample enough to handle the job without too much difficulty.

Price at time of publish: $180 

Product Details:

  • Capacity: 12 gallons
  • Type: Corded
  • Hose Length: 7 feet 2 inches
  • Weight: 24.9 pounds

Best Shop Vac for Dust Collection

Fein Turbo I Wet/Dry Dust Extractor

Fein Turbo I Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner

Home Depot

Who it’s for: People who want a wet/dry vacuum designed to capture fine particles. 

Who it isn’t for: People who need something more budget-friendly. 

The Fein Turbo I Wet/Dry Dust Extractor boasts an exceptional ability to capture fine dust and particles thanks to its two-step filtration system. First, the vacuum traps debris in a felt-like collection bag before the air goes through a HEPA filter, which captures over 99 percent of particles. Keep in mind that the collection bags fill up fairly quickly and must be replaced when filled, which adds an additional cost to the long-term utility of this vacuum. For those tackling home renovations or carpentry, this vacuum can collect potentially hazardous dust more effectively than any other vacuum on our list. 

In addition to its ultrafine filtration, this pick also has excellent suction, a 13-foot hose, a 19-foot power cord, a maneuverable and compact design, and a tool-triggered vacuum system. This system allows you to connect tools like sanders, routers, and saws to the vacuum—when you power on the tool, the vacuum will automatically kick into gear and capture dust at the source. 

While this vacuum is ideal for trapping fine dust and particles, it is not the best option for cleaning wet messes and large debris. It’s also worth noting that the hose nozzle has an interior diameter of one inch, which limits the size of debris it can capture. We wish this vacuum came with additional attachments and nozzles, though the addition of the tool-triggered system makes up for this downside, as this pick is primarily for dust collection, anyway. 

Price at time of publish: $330 

Product Details:

  • Capacity: 5.8 gallons
  • Type: Corded 
  • Hose Length: 13 feet
  • Weight: 17.9 pounds

Final Verdict

Our top pick is the Vacmaster 12-Gallon 5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum for its impressive cleaning power, maneuverable and portable design, and affordable price point. For those who hate the hassle of unwieldy cords, opt for the Ryobi 40V 10 Gal. Cordless Wet/Dry Vacuum, a cordless, medium-capacity shop vac with plenty of helpful attachments.  

Our Testing Process

To find the best shop vacs on the market, we tested 20 models in our homes. We began by unpacking and setting up the shop vacuum, assembling any attachments, using filters, and inserting collection bags depending on the model’s included components. Over the next seven weeks, we tested these vacuums on as many household areas as possible, including garages, car floors, basements, woodshops, sheds, and more. 

We used these wet/dry vacuums to clean up all types of dry debris, like leaves, dust, spider webs, wood chips, and sawdust. Once the cleaning was complete, we emptied the vacuum, removed the filter, and thoroughly cleaned it before replacing it. 

We also used the shop vacs on water and wet spills while following manufacturer precautions and recommendations regarding appropriate nozzles, removing collection bags or filters prior to cleaning, and avoiding vacuuming any non-water messes. Following the cleanup, we emptied the water and removed any objects or blocks if applicable. If the particular unit had a tank drain, we unscrewed the drain before pouring the water out. After emptying the vacuum, we rinsed the canister and all its attachments, cleaned them with soap, and allowed them to air dry to prevent mold. 

How to Shop for Wet/Dry Vacuums Like a Pro


Consider what type of messes you frequently tackle before assessing what attachments you need. If you want a versatile shop vac for various tasks, opt for one with multiple attachments you can swap out as needed. Brown outlines the functionality of each vacuum attachment below:

  • Crevice Tool: This is a narrow, elongated attachment that is ideal for cleaning tight spaces and hard-to-reach areas like sofa cushions, baseboards, and car seats.
  • Floor Nozzle: This wide attachment with a flat surface is perfect for cleaning hard floors and carpets.
  • Dusting Brush: This soft-bristled attachment is great for cleaning delicate surfaces like blinds, lampshades, and curtains.
  • Upholstery Tool: This smaller brush-like attachment is perfect for cleaning furniture, car interiors, and mattresses.
  • Extension Wands: These are long, narrow attachments that allow you to extend the reach of your hose, making it easier to clean high or out-of-reach areas like ceilings, rafters, and gutters.


The hose is a critical component of any wet/dry vacuum and can determine how efficiently you clean up a mess. According to Brown, these are the qualities to look for in an effective hose:

  • Length: A longer hose can give you more reach, making it easier to clean larger areas and hard-to-reach spaces.
  • Diameter: A wider hose diameter can increase suction power and make it easier to pick up larger debris.
  • Material: A durable, crush-proof material like plastic or rubber can make the hose more resistant to damage and extend its lifespan.
  • Flexibility: A hose that is flexible and easy to move can make it easier to clean tight spaces and hard-to-reach areas.
  • Compatibility: If your shop vac doesn’t come with a hose, ensure that the one you purchase separately is compatible with your model and any attachments you plan to use.


The capacity of your wet/dry vacuum determines how often you will need to empty the tank or filter. Large capacity models, like the Craftsman 16 Gallon 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vac, are better equipped for heavy-duty tasks, though they also take up more space and may be less portable. For those with limited space or who mainly employ their shop vac for routine household or car cleaning, a smaller model like the Ryobi 18V ONE+ 3 Gal. Project Wet/Dry Vacuum will do the job. 


“Portability and storage are important to think about as they can affect how easy it is to move the shop vac around and how much space it takes up when not in use,” says Brown. The portability of a wet/dry vacuum comes down to its weight, type (corded or cordless), and dimensions. If you plan to use your shop vac in hard-to-reach places like a car or kitchen nooks and crannies, we recommend opting for a lighter, cordless model like the DeWalt 20V MAX Cordless Vacuum. For those who plan to use their vacuum in only a few dedicated rooms—think: garages, storage sheds, and basements—portability is less of a concern. 

More Shop Vacs to Consider

Ridgid 12 Gallon 5.0 Peak HP NXT Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum: This vacuum is an affordable, effective, maneuverable, and portable option. During our tests, it easily cleared large debris, pebbles, water, and pet hair. The foam filter for water collection is not included, so if you need to clean spills you will need to make a separate purchase. We also wish this vacuum had a crevice tool for cleaning tight spaces. 

Hoover 6 Gallon Cordless Shop Vacuum, High-Capacity Wet/Dry: For those who want a lightweight, simple, and cordless shop vacuum for household tasks, this Hoover pick is a great choice. It worked well on most debris, including water, screws, and rocks, though it did not capture all the pet hair from a carpeted area. The hose was also slightly stiff, though it became less so with continued use. 

Questions You Might Ask 

What’s the difference between a shop vac and a wet/dry vacuum?

Wet/dry vacuums are known for their ability to clean up both large debris and liquid messes. Many people refer to these vacuums as “shop vacs,” so we use the terms interchangeably in this article. However, it’s important to note that Shop-Vac is also a brand that makes wet/dry vacuums (like Kleenex vs. tissues and Q-tips vs. cotton swabs). We tested a Shop-Vac, and while there were no major complaints with its performance, its average rating was slightly below the median rating of all the models we tested. 

What is considered a strong shop vac?

The strength of a shop vac is measured in horsepower. For personal household cleaning and tasks, a horsepower of one to three is adequate, but if you want to tackle heavy-duty debris or projects, look for a horsepower of up to six. 

Can a shop vac pick up dust?

“Fine dust particles like drywall dust or flour can clog the filter, reduce the vacuum’s suction power, and even damage the motor,” says Brown. Even so, some models, like the Fein Turbo I Wet/Dry Dust Extractor we tested, are specifically designed to capture and trap dust, ideally with a HEPA filter. 

Does higher wattage mean better suction?

It’s a common misconception that higher wattage is directly related to the suction power of a shop vac. The wattage indicates how much potential energy a vacuum could use but does not accurately represent the suction power or output. For example, a high-wattage wet/dry vacuum could have less suction than a lower-wattage vacuum. 

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Quinn Gawronski, an associate commerce editor for Real Simple, who has three years of experience writing and editing product reviews and roundups. To compile this list, we tested 20 wet/dry vacuums in real-world settings for seven weeks. We also consulted Angela Brown, a cleaning expert and founder of Savvy Cleaner, a training program for house cleaners. 

What Is Real Simple Selects?

Next to each product on this list, you may have noticed a Real Simple Selects seal of approval. Any product appearing alongside that seal has been vetted by our team—put through tests and graded on its performance to earn a spot on our list. Although we buy most of the products we test, sometimes we do get samples from companies if purchasing a product ourselves isn't an option. If that's the case, we test the product just like we test anything we buy, but we also disclose that we received it for free to be as transparent with you as possible. 

Love our recommendations? Check out more products that have earned the Real Simple Selects, from humidifiers to cordless vacuums. 

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