The Best Wet Dry Vac

Wet Dry Vac Reviews

Our Top Pick is the Shop Vac 5986000

Wet Dry Vacs are powerful machines with the ability to suck up almost anything. Traditional vacuums are great to use when pulling up dust or dirt from carpets and floors but they do not have the ability to suck up liquids or debris. Liquid spills are common along with the need for a machine that will suck up small objects like nails, metal shavings or other small objects from a workshop. Liquid and small object spills happen just as often, if not more than dry spills. For these jobs a wet dry vac is the perfect solution for cleaning up messes.

For example, if you were to drop a glass full of water and the glass broke, the wet dry vac would be able to vacuum up the water and glass together. If you basement flooded a wet vac can tackle the job of removing the water along with any objects that ended up in the water. Spill a jar of small metal nails and nuts the wet vac will pick up all the glass and contents of the jar. Wet dry vacs can soak up the biggest of messes.

Some specific jobs of the wet dry vac include, cleaning carpets, soaking up dry and liquid messes, blowing leaves from the yard, clearing the porch of snow or dirt, cleaning your vehicle, unclogging drains, clearing gutters or ashes from the fire place.

After reviewing and testing 26 wet dry vac models the Shop Vac 5986000 rose as the clear winner. With its 5-gallon stainless steel tank and 4.5 peak horsepower it will get the job done quickly and efficiently. Add convenient features like on board storage and a rear blower and this wet vac will become a go to tool for any quick pickups, car detailing or other jobs around the house that need either suction of blowing.

Who Should Buy This

The wet dry vac can literally be used by anyone. You don’t have to be a do it yourselfer, work in a shop or be a handyman. Everyone can benefit from a wet dry vac. If you have children or pets, you will use it frequently to clean up messes. If you drive a car you will find it very convenient to vacuum it out without having to worry about getting every last fragment up before vacuuming. These machines are easy to use and can provide a variety of uses on a regular basis.

What Makes a Good Wet Dry Vac?

The first thing you want to consider with a wet dry vac is the size of the canister or tank. A smaller canister will be easier to empty when it is full, but a larger canister can work longer between changes. 1 to 3 gallon canisters are lightweight and easy to move around but generally sacrifice suction power. 5 to 6 gallon tanks are the most common and adequate for most homes and small shops. They get the additional suction power of bigger models without the weight and bulkiness of a larger tank. 10 to 14 gallon tanks are generally used in shops where they are used daily. These will have a more powerful motor but are harder to move around. They also require more space to store. 16 to 20 gallon tanks are generally overkill for private use but are convenient for professional settings. The construction material of the tank will impact both the weight and the durability of the wet vac. Some tanks are made of plastic while others are metals such as stainless steel.

Wet Dry VacWheels are another important feature in a wet vac. Most come with canister wheels that make it easy to pull in any direction and it will roll with you as you work. These can be used indoors and outdoors so the canister wheels’ value will also depend on the terrain you are using it with. Typically floors, carpets, sidewalks and driveways will be easy to maneuver. Wet dry vacs can often be large in size and the motor ads to the weight making it so the wheels on the machine is a feature you’ll want to look for. Wheels make transporting easy.

The motor size will have a significant impact on the amount of suction you get from the wet vac. Given that you want to pick up larger objects and water or liquids you want enough horsepower to get the job done effectively. This also has a big impact on the price. Generally, less expensive models have smaller and less powerful motors. Smaller canister models will also generally have smaller motors.

Bags and filters are designed to protect the motor, reduce dust from escaping and increasing the life of the motor. Hepa or Gore-Tex filters will capture the smallest dust particles and minimize exposure. If you are using it in a shop to clean up sawdust or other fine particles the filter will be an important feature to consider. Some wet vacs also offer a foam filter insert when picking up wet liquids. This will also help protect the motor and the canister and increase their life.

One of the many conveniences of a wet dry vac is the ability to add on different hoses and extension wands so you can access hard to reach places. Additional attachments and hose lengths are generally available as accessories to meet your specific needs. Most wet dry vacs come with a set of attachments, each with a different purpose or job to do. These attachments can make cleaning carpets, floor mats in your car, or hard to reach places much easier. They can include straight lined hoses to flat wide hoses built specifically for hard to reach places or specific applications.

Additional features that can be useful include a drain valve that can be used to empty the canister. This will prevent you from having to lift the canister when it is full. Low profile models reduce tipping. The most common hose diameters are from 2.25 to 2.5 inches. Smaller diameters have a greater tendency to clog. Lastly you may want a wet dry vac with the option of a blower. A blower adds additional versatility and will enable you to blow leaves, unclogging drains and other uses. Models with a blower often do not capture dust as effectively as models without a blower.


How We Tested

We began with an extensive research of available wet dry vacs on the market and narrowed the list based on overall features, value, and performance. We took our final candidates and tested each model along with research on top blogs and tool sites that added to our evaluations. We consulted with professionals who use wet dry vacs on a daily basis for long term performance evaluations. Lastly we reviewed Amazon customer comments to finalize our selection.

Our Pick



Canister Material Stainless Steel
Horsepower 4.5 peak
Weight 14.8 Pounds
Product Dimensions 13.5 x 13.5 x 19.5 Inches
Air Flow Capacity 175 CFM
Maximum Capacity 5 Gallons
Hose Length 7 feet
Cord length 6 feet
Warranty 3 Years
Speeds Variable

The Shop Vac 5986000 is the best wet dry vac available when considering the most desired features, powerful motor and the value. This wet dry vac has a powerful motor that has a peak of 4.5 horsepower with a maximum air flow capacity of 175 CFMs. That is enough power to pick up the finest material and biggest messes. The 5-gallon tank is large enough for most homeowner and small shop needs with a drain valve that makes emptying the tank a breeze. The tank is 100% stainless steel and uses a foam insert for liquid clean ups.

This unit sits on a tank dolly with super easy and smooth roll coasters that make transporting it and maneuvering it while in use easier than ever. This wet dry vac also includes a 6-foot power cord and a 7-foot hose. This will enable you to maneuver around an entire room without having to continuously unplug and move your power source. You will also find an on board tool and cord storage which makes it easy to store and keep the attachments together. The Shop Vac 5986000 also features a blowing port so you will not only be able to suck up debris but also blow air at a powerful rate for additional versatility. It also comes with a 3 year warranty.

Who Else Like It

The guys at Shop Vac consider this the ideal vac because, “It performs above its class in both suction and blower…it packs features that often times more expensive vacuum cleaners have…small to medium messes in the garage, work shop, car & outside can easily be handled with this Shop-Vac vacuum cleaner.The biggest,hands down benefit you’ll receive, is the value for the performance.”

Amazon customers give the Shop Vac 5986000 a 4.3 out of 5 stars from 126 reviews. One five-star customer writes, “This thing’s a beast. Powerful suction. I used it to vacuum up wood and composite shavings with no issues. My car’s back window got shattered by hail during a nasty thunderstorm about a month ago. I put on the foam filter and sucked up about 2 gallons of water, glass, and dirt mixture from the car between the backseats and trunk. The attachments are nice and useful.”

A customer from Wayfair writes “Really great shop-vac! Very pleased with attachments included. Husband has used this many times already and is so happy with the quality. He especially liked the stainless steel canister!”

The Step Up

The next step up is the Shop Vac 9689400 this wet dry vac has a 14-gallon tank with a 5.5 HP ultra pro series built in water pump. This wet dry vac also comes with a versatile accessory assortment that includes an8 foot by 2-1/2-Inch Lock on Hose, 22-1/2-Inch Extension Wands, 14 Inch Floor Nozzle, Crevice Tool, 8-Inch Utility Nozzle, and an Ergonomic Elbow Grip.

This machine has an 18-foot power cord to make maneuvering while using your machine quick and easy as well as side tank handles and a top handle if and when you ever needed to move your device there is a comfortable way to do so, as well as a 4-year warranty to put your mind at ease.

Top Wet-Dry Vac Comparison

Size (Gallon)
Hose Length (Inches)
Cord Length (Inches)
Warranty (Years)
2Armor All2.00

Care Use and Maintenance

Wert dry vacs are tools that require a few safety measures and maintenance tips that will ensure safe use of the machine and a long lasting motor.

Safety Tips

  • Do not use your wet dry vac without filters or dust bag in place as air born particles can be hazardous to your health. If picking up fine particles a dust mask is advised.
  • Use extra care when using on stairs.
  • Do not let your power cord sit in any liquid.
  • Do not pull your machine around by pulling on the cords or hoses.
  • Do not leave unattended while plugged in.


  • Always clean your machine immediately after each use.
  • Never allow liquids to sit in the machine for long periods of time as it could damage the tank.
  • Store in a cool dry place.

Wrapping It Up

Wet dry vacs are capable of completing a wide variety of tasks and can be used by anyone. This extremely versatile tool is also durable and powerful. It can clean up both dry and wet spills and be used in both indoor and outdoor applications. They are very affordable and make life easier. Whether you live in a home or apartment, do handy work or outdoor projects you will benefit from owning a wet vac.