Guide to Wet-Dry Vacuums


    What Are Wet-Dry Vacuums?

    A wet-dry vacuum is a household essential for cleaning up messes that you would not use your regular vacuum for. This piece of equipment is designed to clean larger messes, such as broken glass, spilled liquids, etc.

    Wet-dry vacuums consist of a large intake fan that is powered electrical motor. The fan spins towards the exhaust port generating a wind flow that is strong enough to catch debris and dust. This simple mechanism is paired with various cleaning attachments and filters that allow you to clean up various messes, including dust and debris of different sizes and even spills. 

    cleaning carpets with a steam vacuum cleaner

    The ability of wet-dry vacuums to clean up dry and wet messes earns it its name. However, they are also called shop vacs. They come in a variety of different sizes, capacities, and powers, which can make shopping for a wet-dry vacuum a difficult task. Still, they are an excellent investment as, in the long run, they can save you from hiring professionals to clean your carpets and other surfaces. 

    Different Sizes of Wet-Dry Vacuums

    Different Sizes of Wet-Dry Vacuums

    Wet-Dry vacuums come in various sizes, and when you purchase one, you should keep the average size of the messes you will be cleaning up in mind. You may not need a large, powerful machine for regular household jobs, but investing in a more powerful model will be much more fruitful if you run a professional cleaning service. 

    A Mini Wet-Dry Vacuum

    A mini wet-dry vacuum is the smallest available size and can hold under 5 gallons. Therefore, they are generally lightweight and small in size, making them easy to store and carry. Such wet-dry vacuums are ideal for apartments, but they will not be able to clean up large items or large spills. 

    These vacuums are the least powerful and have the least amount of suction power and fan size. They also produce the least amount of cubic feet per minute of airflow.

    A Small Wet-Dry Vacuum

    A small wet-dry vacuum is slightly larger than a mini wet-dry vacuum and runs from 5 to 9 gallons. Due to its small capacity, it is not too heavy or large but can still hold twice as much as the mini version. Therefore, it is perfect if you need to clean up messes with small-sized debris.

    The cleaning power on these vacuums is average, but it is portable and mobile, making them the ideal wet-dry vacuum size for household use. They also come with a carry top handle and wheels to increase their mobility. 

    A Medium Wet-Dry Vacuum

    A medium wet-dry vacuum is a mid-sized piece of cleaning equipment with a 10 to 14 gallons capacity. Therefore, it is larger than the mini and the small wet-dry vacuum and outperforms them in storage capacity and suction. Furthermore, it is not too large and can still be stored easily in a closet. 

    These vacuums are powerful enough to clean most surfaces and quickly pick up most kinds of solid debris. Therefore, they are perfect for use in garages. Furthermore, medium-sized units offer the ideal balance between portability and power, meaning you can use them for larger spaces and business.  

    A Large Wet-Dry Vacuum

    A large wet-dry vacuum is the largest size you can get, and this size can hold anywhere between 15 to 20 gallons and is used mainly on job sites and garages. Due to their size and capacity, they are extremely powerful. However, they can be pretty loud and heavy depending on what you clean using them. 

    To make them easier to transport, these vacuums come in heavy-duty casters that allow you to wheel them around. Therefore, they are impractical for household use. Still, they are a worthwhile purchase for cleaning businesses as they are the most powerful wet-dry vacuums you can purchase. 

    Benefits of Buying a Wet-Dry Vacuum

    Benefits of Buying a Wet-Dry Vacuum

    One of the biggest benefits of owning a wet-dry vacuum is the versatility of this cleaning device. More and more homes have mixed flooring, and most vacuums are not designed to clean such flooring blends. However, with a wet-dry vacuum, you can easily clean any flooring. 

    Additionally, these vacuums come in various sizes, increasing their versatility. They can be used for professional jobs and everyday spills. The appropriate sizes for home usage are the mini, medium, and small wet-dry vacuums, because they are light and portable, making them easy to maneuver around your home and store in a small closet. 

    Furthermore, they can replace your regular vacuum cleaner and be used daily to clean up every day messes, including spills, dropped food, dirt, etc. 

    Things To Look For in a Wet-Dry Vacuum

    Things To Look For in a Wet-Dry Vacuum

    When shopping for a wet-dry vacuum, there are a few major factors that you should consider before making your purchase. 

    Horse Power 

    A wet-dry vacuum relies on its electric motor to produce a suction power that will allow the device to suck up debris and other spills. Therefore, it must have a high suction power. A general rule is that the higher the horsepower of a wet-dry vacuum, the higher the suction power. 

    Thus, if you need a wet-dry vacuum for everyday use, you will not need one with the highest horsepower. However, opting for a high suction level vacuum will be worthwhile if you plan to use your device professionally. 

    Suction Level  Horsepower Capabilities
    Low Suction Level 1 HP – 4.5 HP It is suitable for light tasks and can reach into small spaces
    Medium Suction Level 5 HP – 6 HP It is capable of indoor and outdoor tasks with medium-sized debris.
    High Suction Level 6+ HP It is suitable for outdoor and heavy-duty cleaning tasks.

    Power Usage

    The power drawn by a typical wet-dry vacuum is measured in amperes, and you should always pick a vacuum with more amperes. Ideally, you should choose one that has 12 Amps at a minimum. However, it should also be paired with a larger storage capacity tank so that you don’t need to empty it as often. 


    CFM of airflow, or cubic feet per minute of airflow, tells you how much air can be drawn into your vacuum without any restrictions. Therefore, you should choose one with more than 90 cfm because any machine with a lower CFM will not give you enough suction to pick up debris and spills efficiently. 

    Sealed Suction

    Sealed suction or water lift measures how much water your wet-dry vacuum can lift. You should aim for a unit with at least 50 inches of lift. The higher number you choose, the better. However, if your device use is limited to your home, you do not need to select a vacuum with the highest sealed suction. 


    Wet-dry vacuums usually come with a host of attachments, but not all of them will be useful. Therefore, you may need to purchase extra extensions to make the most of this cleaning equipment. 

    Some equipment that you should have includes nozzles that help clean up small spaces and tight spots. If you have the right extensions, then you can also use them as a car vacuum to deep clean the interior. These nozzles are also perfect for picking up larger debris. Wider hoses are also an excellent attachment to have because they help reduce clogging.

    Extension wands are a must-have with wet-dry vacuums because they are excellent when you want to clean a hard-to-reach place. Dust bags are another essential attachment as it helps keep the tank clean. If you want to use your wet-dry vacuum for cleaning your furniture, upholstery brushes are crucial.

    It is also essential to consider the reach of your cleaning device. A power cord, hose, and extension want are the three main components you can use to extend your vacuum’s reach. 

    If you use a power cord, you should select the longest one, at least 10 feet long. If you use a hose, you should opt for a 6 to 8 feet hose because this length helps extend the reach without sacrificing the suction. You can also opt for an extension wand that allows you to reach and clean ceilings, counters, and ledges without potentially hurting yourself. 

    Tank Capacity

    The tank capacity of your wet-dry vacuum is a significant factor that you should consider when purchasing a wet-dry vacuum cleaner because its portability depends on it. The larger your tank is, the less you would have to empty it. However, it increases the size of the machine and makes it less portable and difficult to store. There are generally three levels of tank capacities in wet-dry vacuum cleaners.

    Tank Size Capacity
    Low Tank 2 to 6 gallon 
    Medium Tank 8 to 14 gallon
    Large Tank 14 to 20 gallon

    Filter Types

    Usually, wet-dry vacuums come with filters, but they may have to be replaced after some time. Therefore, you should aim to choose a wet-dry vacuum that comes with reusable foam filter sleeves in addition to the standard cartridge filters. 

    If you purchase a smaller model, it may also have a reusable disc filter bag. If you want a HEPA-inbuilt filter, you will have to invest in an expensive vacuum, as vacuums with such filters are rare to find. 

    You should also check whether or not there are aftermarket filters of the same size before you purchase a wet-dry vacuum. That way, you will have a source of cartridge filters if you need to change the original ones. 

    The correct filter size is extremely important for your wet-dry vacuum, as the wrong filter can cause water and dust to blow back into the air. If you aim to use your wet-dry vacuum to pick up large debris, look for filters with a general household filtration level or better.

    Portability and Storage

    When purchasing a wet-dry vacuum, consider whether you need to carry your device around regularly. If you do, you may want a small, portable vacuum. Furthermore, you should also consider the weight of the vacuum when it is full. If the vacuum has a large capacity, it will automatically be heavy and not easy to move around. 

    Furthermore, the larger your wet-dry vacuum is, the harder it will be to store. Additionally, such devices also come with a lot of attachments. Thus, you should aim to pick one with space to keep all the extensions, so you do not need to find a separate storage space. 


    Wet-dry vacuums are generally loud when they are operating. The more powerful they are, the louder they will be. Therefore, if you intend to use your vacuum indoors, look for models designed to be quiet and for indoor use. It can also be helpful to find models with a shielded motor or an exhaust muffler. 

    Pros and Cons of Wet-Dry Vacuums 

    Dry cleaning

    Pros Cons
    Collects wet messes with ease It is too heavy and bulky for everyday use
    High suction power and removes stubborn debris easily They have poor levels of filtration
    Durable and long-lasting Expensive
    Comes with many attachments to increase abilities. Difficult to maintain

    How To Take Proper Care and Maintenance of Wet-Dry Vacuums?

    To maintain your wet-dry vacuum, you should set up a regular cleaning, maintenance, and inspection schedule so that your machine remains safe to use and is always in the best working condition. 

    Make sure that you regularly clean your filters or replace them if necessary. These ensure that your vacuum can use its suction power properly. You should also empty your bag or canister before it gets full to avoid any spillage or messes. 

    You must also regularly check your attachments and hose for any wear and tear or damage. If they are damaged, then you should replace them immediately. 


    1. Are filters necessary or wet-dry vacuums?

    Usually, wet-dry vacuums come with filters, which can be reusable or disposable. Thus, they are necessary for your vacuum.

    2. Are wet-dry vacuums worth it?

    Yes, wet-dry vacuums are worth it because regular vacuums can only handle a limited abrupt of dry materials. However, when it gets too messy or involves liquid, a regular wet-dry vacuum will not work, and you will have to use a wet-dry vacuum.

    3. Can wet-dry vacuums clean carpets?

    Yes. Wet-dry vacuums are excellent for cleaning carpets because their high suction power can remove dust and debris. It is also the best vacuum for removing pet hair.


    Wet-dry vacuums are a great convenience tool and a perfect fit for those looking for a thorough cleaning machine. They are easy to maintain, extremely powerful, and save you money long-term, which is why they are popular among homeowners. They also allow versatility in size and usage. You can pick from various different-sized vacuums and the various attachments that come with them. 

    However, when purchasing, you should keep tank capacity, size, and attachments, among other things, in mind so that the vacuum is suited to your needs.

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