What is a Shop Vac? What Are They Used For?

By Jeneva Aaron Updated February 19, 2021

All you need to know about wet dry vacs

What is a Shop Vac? What Are They Used For?

Originally, shop vac was a special kind of industrial vacuum made by the company of the same name. With time, the term became synonymous with industrial vacuums, more commonly known as wet-dry vacuums.

These vacuum cleaners can pick up larger pieces of debris, such as those found on renovation and construction sites. Plus, they are specialized to suck liquid spills in work environments.

Today, the term shop vac is used to describe any vacuum that can take on heavy-duty cleaning work. Let’s discuss the different features and uses of shop vacs.

Table of Contents

Wet Dry Vacuums vs. Home Vacuums

You might consider a shop vacuum the same as a home vac, but there are a few significant differences between them.

Since these vacuums are high powered, as compared to regular vacuums, they do a better job of cleaning bigger spills and messes.

Debris Size

While your home vac can merely pick up pet hair and dirt, a shop vac can suck bigger pieces of debris too. These include glass, water, wood, nails, and chippings from the material you’re cutting.

Thus, a wet-dry vac is more suitable for cleaning your home workshop than a regular upright model.


Overall, wet-dry shop vacs are larger than regular vacs. The size range differs according to the tank capacity, i.e., the number of gallons a tank can hold.

Smaller shop vacs can hold up to one gallon while industrial models have a capacity of up to 20 gallons.

Powered Motor

One of the significant differences between the two types of vacuum cleaners is the motor size and power. Since shop vacs have bigger motors, they generate more power and are, as a result, noisier than regular vacs.


With wood and glass shavings going through a vac, the build has to be strong. Wet dry vacs have a durable build to ensure longevity and effectiveness for the task they’re performing.

Wet Messes

A regular vac is ideal for home cleaning limited to dry messes. For wet ones, you have to bring out the mop.

However, shop vacs can clean dry and wet messes both.

Uses of a Wet Dry Vac

With the vacuum industry booming, the new shop vacs are bigger and stronger. Thus, they can take on heavier tasks without worry. Wet dry vacs have plenty of uses in an industrial setting.

Liquid Spills

In domestic settings, liquid spills are usually smaller. Thus, you can use a mop and bucket to clean them. However, spills on construction sites are generally larger and messier.

Instead of going through the tedious task of mopping, professionals use shop vacs to suck up bigger spills.

Wood Work

Whether you’ve set up your workshop in the garage or are working in a professional setting, a shop vac can help clean up the day’s mess.

Carpentry involves a lot of wood chipping and dust as waste. A shop vac helps pick up this mess while cleaning any liquid spills you may have made during work.

Domestic Use

Some wet dry vacs are smaller in size – with less noisy motors – and are handy for domestic cleanups. From sucking large amounts of dust to removing wet messes, shop vacs do it all.

These wet dry vacs are available in different types, ranging from corded to cordless.

Construction Sites

Construction sites are a hotbed for debris, with different kinds of wastes scattered all around. Manual clean up is challenging and time-consuming. In contrast, shop vacs make cleanup a breeze.

Features of Wet Dry Vacs

When choosing a vacuum cleaner, a few features indicate the functionality and usability of the machine. Let’s discuss them below.


A vac’s power is determined by the motor, which has an HP (horsepower) rating. Smaller wet dry vacs have motors running on 2HP, while the peak HP for larger vacs may be over 5.


For home cleaning, a shop vac with a cartridge filter is just fine. However, if you want to use the wet-dry vac to clean larger debris and dust, opt for one with HEPA filters.


The tank capacity is indicated in gallons and refers to the amount of waste a shop vac can pick up before you need to empty it. Smaller models may have a waste storage capacity of up to a gallon.

On the contrary, larger wet dry vacs can store up to 10 gallons of dry and liquid waste.

Shop Vac Maintenance

Final Words

Finally, there’s no denying that shop vacs are a blessing to the industrial sector. Plus, they’re just as useful for cleaning larger messes around the house. However, it’s essential to be familiar with the vac’s uses and features before purchasing one.

Now, you have substantial knowledge about wet dry vacs. So, tell me:

Leave your feedback in the comments.

About the Author

Jeneva Aaron

Jeneva has over years of passion for home decorating and cleaning. She is the founder and CEO of thehousewire.com where she provides honest and objective reviews on home and cleaning products.

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