You can use a Shop Vacuum or a Wet/Dry Vacuum to suck up liquids. Those liquids can be water, soda, wine, urine, feces, or just about anything that is a liquid and not flammable.
Most shop vacuums will need to be adjusted for use with water. The reason for this is that sucking up dry objects is very different than sucking up wet objects. The dry stuff needs a filter and also to make your life easier you need to use a bag.
If you’re using your shop vacuum more like a regular vacuum cleaner for around the home, then it’s wise to use a bag along with a HEPA filter if your shop vacuum allows it.
How To Suck Up Water
Before sucking up water, you need to remove the bag and any paper filters from your shop vacuum. Some shop vacuums will have the option of a foam filter that can stay on. Make sure to read the directions either in the booklet or sometimes they say on the filter itself on whether you can use it for water pickup.
Note: If you’re sucking up water from carpets then get a tool like the S.O.S. Sub Surface Carpet Extraction Tool. It plugs up to the hose of the shop vacuum and helps to extract water out.
Here is an excellent video showing how to use a shop vacuum for water pick up…
Can You Use A Shop Vac Without A Filter?
Some shop vacuums can be run without a filter. If you plan to run without the filter, then it should only be used for water pick up only. A shop vacuum should only be run in 2 settings – with the filter on or water in the tank. Not having either one can result in the shop vacuum not working for much longer.
If you do choose to not use a filter of any kind, then it would be smart only to use the shop vacuum in open areas and not in the home. The filter stops dust from being blown back out, which would defeat the purpose of a vacuum cleaner if you used it in the home with no filter.
Does the water act like a filter? – Not completely. If you place a little bit of water in the bottom of the tank of the shop vacuum, it will trap some of the dust. But it will not trap all of it. Unless the hose goes up and then down below the water, then the water is not a filtration system. They don’t do this for a reason, and I advise you not to do this unless you want to short out your motor. There does exist vacuum cleaners like the Rainbow vacuum here that uses water as a filtration system, and it works quite well.
Here is a demo of the Rainbow Vacuum that does use water as a filter…
Can You Use A Shop Vacuum Without A Bag?
Just like with the filter its best to use a bag if you’re sucking up dry things. It’s a must to remove the bag if you’re sucking up water.
If you suck up dry things without a bag, then it will just make a mess in the canister. It can also clog the filter sooner and even leak back out of the vacuum cleaner.
Here is a great video that goes into more details about this here…
What Can You Suck Up?
The great thing about a shop vacuum is its ability to suck up just about anything. I’ve sucked up nails, dog poop, urine, wine, coins, socks, and so much more with a shop vacuum. These things don’t get stopped like a normal vacuum cleaner; even pet hair is no match for the power of a shop vacuum.
If your basement floods, you can use a shop vacuum to suck up the excess water from the floor. You can even get some shop vacuums with output hoses for draining off the water. A shop vacuum is not meant to be a long-term option as a water pump but does help in a pinch.
Most shop vacuums have a float that will shut off suction from the motor if the canister gets too full of water. Be on the look out for when the vacuum changes pitch and loose all its suction. When this happens, you need to empty the tank before continuing.