Shop vacuum cleaners don’t get enough love and attention they deserve with all the power and ability they can give to homeowners.
Shop vacuums are not just for garages, businesses and industrial uses, they’re quickly making their way to homes as people learn how great they can be. With the power, ability to suck up water, pick up glass and more, homeowners are finding they need a shop vacuum at the ready.
In this post, I want to go over the best shop vacuums and the best types of shop vacuum to help you find the one that best fits your needs.
Shop Vacuum Explained
A shop vacuum can be a new item to some, and many people don’t know what they are or what they do.
A shop vacuum is a vacuum cleaner that is a more robust, larger and more powerful vacuum cleaner compared to a regular vacuum cleaner. A shop vacuum can also suck up things a normal vacuum cleaner can't, for example nonflammable liquids.
You will find shop vacuums tend to be more powerful than a regular vacuum cleaner, and for good reason, so they’re perfect for cleaning large objects up like broken glass, bolts or even Lego’s. They’re so powerful that I use one for cleaning my gutters, so I don’t have to get on the roof.
A shop vacuum also goes by wet/dry vac, utility vac, or shop vac, but it’s all the same thing.
2 Main Types
There exist two main types of shop vacuums, corded and cordless.
- A corded shop vacuum plugs into a wall outlet like other vacuum cleaners and uses your home’s electricity to power it.
- A cordless shop vacuum uses a battery, so it’s easier to get out and start using. You do need to charge the battery, which is easy to do on some models as they often use the same battery as power tools.
The best overall type of shop vacuum I find and tend to use most often is my cordless shop vacuum. The convenience of having no cords, its smaller size, and ease of use has me using my cordless shop vacuum more often and for most messes.
The downside is that most cordless shop vacuums don’t have the power of a corded shop vacuums. For cleaning my gutters, I stick to my larger corded shop vacuum, plus it has a larger dust bin, so I can empty it less often.
What I Consider The Best Shop Vacuums
As covered in the last section, I find cordless shop vacuums to be the best type, but they do lack in power in comparison to cordless.
With this in mind, I’m going to rank what I find to be the best shop vacuums, cordless and corded options, and videos showing you why they rank the way they do.
1. Milwaukee 18-Volt Cordless Wet/Dry Vacuum
Milwaukee has been hitting it out of the park with their tools, and the 18 volt cordless shop vacuum they have is no different.
If you’re already in the Milwaukee line up and use their batteries, it just makes sense to go with this shop vacuum. If you’re not in any power tool line up or don’t own any drills, Milwaukee is a great option to go with and one of the best manufacturers on the market today.
You will need to have Milwaukee 18 volt batteries to use this shop vacuum, and a battery charger. This is normal for power tools, and mostly geared towards shops, but is too perfect to not have around the home.
Get the Milwaukee 18 Volt Cordless Wet/Dry Vacuum here (Amazon Link Ad).
2. Vacmaster Professional
The next best option, and my go-to when I need more power, is my Vacmaster 16 gallon Beast Series shop vacuum.
This large shop vacuum is what I use to clean my gutters, as it’s the only thing I could find that would give me the suction power needed.
It is a large shop vacuum, but it’s got plenty of power and plenty of room to suck things up. I’ve cleaned up broken glass, water, retrieved something stuck behind walls, used as a sawdust extractor and so much more, and it keeps going. I’ve even accidentally left it in the rain, and it comes out fine.
I beat the crap out of this shop vacuum, and it keeps on going.
For any wet messes, the Vacmaster is my go-to because it has the drain plug at the bottom, so I don’t have to lift it and dunk it like other shop vacuums.
Get the Vacmaster 16 Gallon Shop Vacuum here (Amazon Link Ad).
Vacmaster also makes a smaller version that can be more suitable for the average homeowner, a video below about it. I went with this larger one, once again, for my gutters, as you need a 2.5 inch hose connection for the gutter attachments you get online.
3. BAUER 20V Cordless
The Bauer 20V cordless shop vacuum is similar to the Milwaukee, in that it’s a tool brand that sells a great shop vacuum, but the Bauer is a little cheaper.
Since I already have plenty of Bauer batteries, it’s the one I went with and use more often.
I have tested the Milwaukee against the Bauer, and the Milwaukee is a little better and cleans up nicer with hiding the hoses, but the Bauer is just “good enough“.
The Bauer cordless shop vacuum is my go-to for quick cleaning and beats getting the larger 16-gallon shop vacuum I have out.
Just like the Milwaukee, you will need to buy the batteries separate and the battery charger too. It’s best you go with a 3AH or higher battery to get the most power out of these cordless shop vacuums. Sometimes you can get lucky and Harbor Freight, the people who sell Bauer tools, will have a deal on a battery or charger when you get this tool, so be on the lookout for that.
Get the Bauer Cordless Shop Vacuum Here.
4. DEWALT STEALTHSONIC
Shop vacuums are very powerful and often with that power makes them loud.
Dewalt has come out with a quieter shop vacuum with the name Stealth Sonic, and it’s better than I expected.
Having a quiet vacuum cleaner, let a lone a shop vacuum, is a must in some places and homes. Shop vacuum cleaner manufacturers haven’t really been spending much time making them less loud, but Dewalt took a turn, and they’ve hit it out of the park.
Get the DEWALT 9 Gallon STEALTHSONIC here (Amazon Link Ad).
5. Sun Joe
What is interesting about the Sun Joe 8-Gallon shop vacuum is that it comes with a HEPA Filter, which is not something we often see on shop vacuums.
You have all the standard options that come with a shop vacuum, from being used as a blower to being able to suck up water by putting in the foam filter.
For the features and price, the Sun Joe shop vacuum is a great option if you’re not sure what shop vacuum to start with or to use around your home.
Get the Sun Joe 8-Gallon 1200-Watt 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum here (Amazon Link Ad).
Horsepower (HP) Needed
A super common question I get from readers is how much HP do they need for a shop vacuum.
The answer to this question depends on what you intend to use your shop vacuum for and where. I owned several shop vacuums and I tend to use my cordless ones more even though they have less power, just because they’re more convenient.
There is also the problem that the HP ratings on most shop vacuums are BS marketing terms. It’s often PEAK horsepower and not what you get constantly.
If you want power, go off the diameter of the hose the shop vacuum uses. Most small shop vacuum has a 1.25 inch diameter hose, which is fine for most people. But the larger, and more powerful, shop vacuums will have a 2.5 inch diameter hose. To have a larger hose means you need to be able to suck up a larger amount of items.
Even a bad shop vacuum will still be more powerful than most regular household vacuum cleaners. Unless you’re buying more expensive vacuum cleaners, most shop vacuums are an improvement on the suction power of normal vacuum cleaners.