The Best Shop Vacs For 2020 (Wet/Dry Vacuum Reviews)

Handle the Toughest Cleanup with a Powerful Shop Vacuum!

If you’ve ever experienced the misery of trying to sweep saw dust off the shop floor or get rid of the cracker crumbs wedged in the back seat of your car, you probably agree that everybody deserves the best shop vac.

Sometimes called wet/dry vacuums or simply shop vacs, these powerful cleaning tools take on all cleaning jobs and make short work of them. From drying a flooded basement to detailing your car, a good shop vac can do it all. And while shop vacs may seem like simple tools, there are some significant differences you need to consider in relation to the type of cleaning tasks you will be tackling most often.

8 Best Shop Vac - Comparison

8 Best Shop Vacuums - Reviews

We have looked at some of the most popular shop vacs from the best brand names—important considerations in our review included size, power, air flow, suction, and features. We tried and sorted through them all to save you time and leg work.

Take a look at our list of best shop vacs.

1. Hoover CH84000 Ground Command 

Hoover CH84000 Ground Command

The Hoover Ground Command is an example of a high-end wet/dry vacuum in terms of both price and power.

It is a commercial-grade vacuum with dual, separately-switched 1.33 HP 1000-watt motors. The chromed steel tank can hold 20 gallons, and the machine has enough suction to lift water 78 inches. The machine sits on a heavy-duty cart and has a 10-foot hose and a 50-foot cord to give you plenty of working range. The Ground Command also comes with a metal wand, a dust brush, a scalloped bristle floor brush, a crevice tool, and a squeegee tool.

We wanted to look at a professional wet/dry vacuum, and the Hoover Ground Command fits that bill. With both motors switched on, the power on this vacuum is amazing—if you have a situation where you have water down in recesses or holes, this machine will pull it out, and its built-in drain will make it easy to empty the tank.

This vacuum has the power to easily pick up most debris, but for wood shop and demolition-type work, it is limited by the 1.5 inch hose diameter. However, the Ground Command would certainly make a good shop dust control unit—if you are looking for commercial-grade durability and high capacity, this vacuum gets top marks.

What we liked

  • A lifetime machine under home use conditions
  • Very powerful
  • High capacity

What we didn't like

  • Heavy at 65 pounds
  • Narrow-diameter hose
  • High price point

2. WORKSHOP WS1600VA 16-Gallon Vacuum

WORKSHOP WS1600VA 16-Gallon Vacuum

The Workshop WS1600VA is a large, powerful vacuum that is suited to heavy home shop use or even light industrial applications.

With a 12-amp 6.5 HP motor that can generate 169 CFM of airflow and 45 inches of wet suction, this is the most powerful homeowner-grade machine in our test and, at 265 air watts, one of the top in its class. The industrial-grade features of this vacuum like a locking 2.5-inch dual-flex hose, a 20-foot cord, and a threaded drainage port make it a very capable unit.

The Workshop was our favorite big vacuum. It has a lot of power but is surprisingly light at only 24 pounds—mind you, it is not a compact machine as it stands 34 inches high and is 20 inches in diameter, but it is very stable and well-balanced. This vacuum will suck up everything in sight through its 7-foot hose—wet debris, mud, cut board ends, and tile scraps were all pulled up with no problem. The only improvement we would suggest is a smooth inner hose surface.

The details on this machine are solid—it has strong and secure tank locks, a robust top carry handle, and the best accessory storage of any vacuum. If you are looking for a high-capacity best shop vac, this is probably the option for you.

What we liked

  • Robust and tough build
  • Powerful suction
  • Very stable

What we didn't like

  • Large form factor
  • High price point

3. Shop-Vac 9633400 12-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum

Shop-Vac 9633400 12-Gallon WetDry Vacuum

The Shop-Vac 9633400 is a high-power 12-gallon vacuum made to pick up large debris or handle water removal.

The 8-foot lock-on hose and wide casters make it easy to pull around over rough surfaces. A drain is mounted at the low point of the tank. A unique feature of this vacuum is the removable motor unit that doubles as a blower and comes with a curved wand attachment for clearing roof gutters.

We liked the innovative features on this large Shop-Vac model. It has the power to handle chunky debris well, whether wet or dry, and the 2.5-inch diameter hose was very difficult to clog. The removable blower is useful, although you can do many of the same jobs by using the regular wand on the hose. We like the locking hose attachment, but found that the tank locks do not work as well—picking the vacuum up by the top handle may result in the tank coming loose and spilling. The accessories do not stay attached well either, and will soon end up stored elsewhere.

This is a powerful basic vacuum that works well around the garage and yard, but Shop-Vac seems to have slipped up on some of the details, so it disappointed us considering the high price point for this machine.

What we liked

  • High-powered
  • Detachable blower
  • Large hose with sturdy connection

What we didn't like

  • Poorly designed
  • Heavy at almost 30 pounds

4. RIDGID WD1270 12-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum

RIDGID WD1270 12-Gallon WetDry Vacuum

The Ridgid 12-Gallon wet/dry vacuum hits the right balance between power, capacity, usability, and price point.

This machine turns out 5 HP to move air at 145 CFM, plenty of power for DIY or professional job sites. It weighs 16.5 pounds, and at about 24 inches high by 20 inches in diameter, its size is comparable to other 12-gallon vacuums. It has a built-in drain makes it easy to empty water, and you can use the exhaust air stream to convert the vacuum to a blower. The Ridgid WD1270 comes with a 2.5-inch diameter hose along with all the accessories and a filter so you can get right to work.

If you are going to be vacuuming water on a regular basis, the Ridgid 1270 is a good choice—the wide-set castors make it very stable, and once you get a bit of weight in it, the machine is almost impossible to tip.

We found that a 12-gallon capacity is about all we like to handle when it comes to water, especially if it needs to be carried up steps. For dry work, the Ridgid picked up heavy splinters and chips along with large nails with no effort. The 15-foot cord was handy, and accessory storage on the castor legs worked well to keep things out of the way.

We really liked the clip-on hose—it’s an excellent feature that sets this vac apart from many others. The WD1270 will give the home shop user the best value for the money.

What we liked

  • Capacity and power in a compact form factor
  • Very stable

What we didn't like

  • Light-duty cord
  • High price point

5. Stanley SL18017 8-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum

 RIDGID WD1270 12-Gallon WetDry Vacuum

The Stanley SL18017 is a drum-style steel tank vacuum that pushes about 90 CFM of air with a 4.5 HP motor.

This model has a rugged build and looks good, with details like the heavy carry handle, an over-sized power switch, and easy-swiveling casters to make jobs easier.

The SL18017 is also portable and compact at 17 pounds and 15 x 22 inches. It has an 8-gallon drum that features a drain at the lowest point, as well as an oversized top handle that makes tipping and carrying the vacuum easy. The vacuum has a 6-foot hose and a 10-foot cord that wraps around the top clamp handles for neat and secure storage. Accessories can be stored on the castor platform.

This vac picked up both water and dry material well, although its ability to handle debris is limited by the narrow 1.25-inch diameter hose. We also felt the 6-foot hose was a bit too short. Another issue we had with this vacuum was the narrow base, as the machine felt prone to toppling over when there was no weight in the tank.

Overall, this is a decent vacuum for light-duty use, but because it is well-sealed and contains fine dust almost completely, it would really excel as a shop dust control system if bench-mounted and fitted with a longer hose.

What we liked

  • Metal tank 
  • Seals well
  • Good power-to-weight ratio

What we didn't like

  • Hose is too narrow and short
  • Easy to tip over

6. Shop-Vac 5986000 5-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum

Shop-Vac 5986000 5-Gallon WetDry Vacuum

If you want to go with the original, the Shop-Vac 5986000 has the power and features that defined the wet/dry vacuum from the beginning.

This is a mid-power, mid-priced model that is suitable for most cleaning jobs around the house and garage. It has a 5-gallon capacity and comes with the original Shop-Vac style stainless steel tank and all accessories including a fine dust bag and foam filter sleeve for wet use. The vacuum rides on a dolly platform and can be removed and transported by the large top carry handle when needed.

We were attracted to the traditional steel tank and the original Shop-Vac brand, and this vacuum did not let us down in performance—this machine works well for general home and garage use, and can handle light-duty water removal. It does not have a drain, so it is not specialized for water pickup. The 5986000 has adequate power and sucked up most debris easily, but is limited when working with larger debris because of the narrow-diameter 1.25-inch hose.

This is a lightweight and very portable vacuum that is best at general inside cleaning, and as a car vacuum.

What we liked

  • Traditional steel tank
  • Highly portable

What we didn't like

  • Narrow-diameter hose
  • Short power cord
  • Overall build does not match the durability of the tank

7. Craftsman 12004 6-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum

Craftsman 12004 6-Gallon WetDry Vacuum

The Craftsman 12004 is a small homeowner-grade wet/dry vacuum that comes in at a budget price point and works well for what it is intended to handle.

For the price level, we were quite happy with the details on this vacuum—it comes with the standard set of tools, has a sturdy carry handle, a 7-foot long, 1-7/8 inch locking hose, a large- dust-sealed power switch, and a 10-foot cord. It also has the blower function common to most shop vacs. The casters and overall build are sturdy enough to handle work around the house and garage.

In the budget vacuum class, we liked the Craftsman. It is a very lightweight machine at 12.8 pounds, which makes it highly portable. However, a 21 x 16-inch form factor makes it a bit clumsy to get around inside the car, RV, or boat. It pulls enough suction from its 3 HP motor to handle light-duty cleanup with ease, and we were able to pull in wet sawdust mixed with small nails and screws with no problems. The long cord is also a nice feature to see in the budget price range.

The main reason we are attracted to Craftsman over other budget-priced machines is that Sears/Craftsman has always been good about backing their products with a no-questions-asked return policy. This machine gets our thumbs up in the light-duty, low-priced shop vac category.

What we liked

  • Very portable
  • Long cord
  • Great details for the price
  • Craftsman return policy

What we didn't like

  • Narrow diameter hose
  • Light-duty build

8. Ridgid 50348 1400RV 14-Gallon Vacuum

Craftsman 12004 6-Gallon WetDry Vacuum

If you’re a professional user, the Ridgid 1400RV will meet your needs with its 11.5-amp 2-stage motor that puts out 6 HP.

This 28.5-pound vacuum comes with a cart that makes for easy mobility even when the tank is filled with gallons of water. All accessories and the 1-7/8 inch hose on this machine are built heavier than standard to hold up for years of tough job site use. A 20-foot cord along with sturdy push handles and large rear wheels on the cart make it easy to get the vacuum over rough terrain, stairways, and thresholds.

We found the 1400RV to be a real beast when it comes to being dragged and banged around with a full tank. The vacuum pulled up water-soaked sheet rock and saw dust with no problem, but a larger-diameter hose and drain hole would help with this type of work. We also feel the airflow number at 143 CFM is restricted by the hose diameter. 

On the plus side, unlike the majority of shop vacuums, the hose on the 1400RV has a smooth inner surface that greatly reduces clogging, and it is made of very durable material. This shop vac comes with everything you need including a fine dust filter—for these reasons, the 1400RV is our pick for industrial and very heavy home use.

What we liked

  • Heavy-duty build 
  • Long cord
  • Can be used with or without cart

What we didn't like

  • Narrow-diameter hose
  • High price point

Final Thoughts

We found some really best shop vacuums at affordable price points, and while it would be fun to go pro with a Hoover Ground Command, the Ridgid or Workshop machines will not let the heavy user down either. They will also cause far less strain on the wallet.

Our advice is that you take any opportunity you can to try before you buy, and consider your use patterns. Any one of the wet/dry vacuums we have reviewed here will give great service within its intended use parameters.

Sean J. Stone

Sean has been a woodworking enthusiast for 8 years, and in that time has written huge resources on woodworking and tools.

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