Best Vacuum Cleaner For Boats [What Actually Works]

Fun fact – I used to make a living cleaning boats! Not at a fancy detail shop, but at a boat dealership, tackling pontoons, jet boats, bowriders, wake-boats, and more.

Now, here’s the juicy part – there’s a vacuum cleaner that’s an absolute game-changer for boat cleaning. It’s not your everyday vacuum, but boy, does it work wonders!

In this chat, I’m spilling the beans on why this particular vacuum cleaner is the boat-cleaning champion and dishing out some valuable tips I’ve picked up along the way. So, whether you’re a fellow boat enthusiast or just curious about top-notch cleaning gear, you’re in for a treat!

The Best Vacuum For Boats

The best vacuum cleaner for a boat will be a shop vacuum or wet/dry vac as they’re also called. I’m going to list the reasons why I consider a shop vacuum the best option.

  1. They can suck up water: The biggest reason why a shop vacuum is the best option for cleaning a boat is that it can suck up water and wet messes. You’re on a boat, and water will be sitting in many places. From the boat sitting over the winter and now a pool of water is on the cover or in the corners under the seats, you’ll be sucking up water at some point. The water that gets trapped is what makes the boat the most dirty, so being able to clean up the water is a must, and only a shop vacuum can do that.
  2. Overly powerful: A shop vacuum is made for commercial settings and sucking up large things like bolts and screws. So, the leaves and other debris that gets stuck on the floor and crevices of your boat are no match for a shop vacuum.
  3. Large capacity: Most shop vacuums have a larger dustbin than the Dyson or other household vacuum cleaners. This means less getting in and out of the boat to dump the contents. Even the smaller cordless shop vacuums have larger dustbins than most household vacuum cleaners.
  4. Durable: As covered, shop vacuums are made for commercial and work settings, so that also means they can take abuse a lot more than your normal household vacuum cleaner. Dropping a shop vacuum out of a boat is less worrying than dropping your Dyson.
  5. Affordable: Even though shop vacuums are more powerful, more durable and larger, you’ll be surprised to find they’re not more expensive. You can buy several shop vacuums for the price of one fancy, top of the line Dyson vacuum cleaner. Even the cordless shop vacuums are reasonable in comparison to some of the fancy vacuum cleaners that, so many websites, like to push.
  6. Cordless options: Cordless or battery-powered shop vacuums have really taken off lately and are quite good. I have one I use on the daily for my boat and other items around the home. The best part is that you don’t need to worry about a cord, and you still get all the benefits of a shop vacuum, like sucking up watery messes. There is no second thought about cleaning up a mess, a cordless shop is a grab-and-go easy solution.

Above is my monster of a shop vacuum that I use for all the tough messes, but it does have its drawbacks, and I cover what I use instead to clean most boats.

Shop Vacuums

Now that we know a shop vacuum is the best vacuum cleaner for any boat, it now brings up the question of which shop vacuum should you get?

There are two types of shop vacuums, a corded and cordless version.

The best overall shop vacuum will be from the cordless options, but if you need a lot of power, then the corded is the way to go. I, personally, use a cordless shop vacuum for cleaning the boat, as it’s easier to get in and out of the boat with it and I can still suck up watery messes.

I have a guide here on the best shop vacuums that will work very well for cleaning a boat. You may come to find out that a shop vacuum can do more than clean your boats, I have one I use for cleaning my gutters.

Top Picks

To make it easy, I’m going to list off the best cordless shop vacuums I found for cleaning boats.

  1. Milwaukee 18V Cordless Lithium-Ion 2 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum (Amazon Link Ad).
  2. DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Wet-Dry Vacuum (Amazon Link Ad).
  3. BAUER 20V Cordless 3-1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum.
  4. CRAFTSMAN V20* Cordless, 2 Gallon, Wet/Dry (Amazon Link Ad).

Note: Most cordless shop vacuum don’t come with a battery or charger, so you’ll need to get one. This is normal as most people often already have these tools that use a similar battery, but if you don’t, it would be a good idea to pick one out, as it’s always a good idea to have a drill and similar tools for your boat.

Of all the options, I own the Bauer cordless shop vacuum because I already have the batteries, but when I got to use the Milwaukee it was slightly nicer, but not enough for me to swap brands. Any of the listed shop vacuums will be more than fine and way better than most household vacuum cleaners.

Larger Boats / Yachts

Having a shop vacuum is a must for any boat owner, but if you have a larger boat, like a cruiser or yacht, you’ll need something else.

Larger boats are similar to homes, they have carpets and large floor plans that need to be cleaned like you would for a home. While many larger boats will have a plug for a vacuum cleaner, I suggest you get a cordless option.

Boats have a tight floor plan, even for larger ones, and having a cordless vacuum cleaner is the best way to handle cleaning the floors. It’s far quicker to get out and clean the mess then getting the cord out and finding a plug.

Top Picks

For the best cordless vacuum cleaner for larger boats, I’ve listed the ones I would use.

  1. Shark SV1106 Navigator Freestyle (Amazon Link Ad).
  2. SAMSUNG Jet 75 (Amazon Link Ad).
  3. Hoover ONEPWR (Amazon Link Ad).


You can use a Roomba or other robot vacuums for cleaning the floors and carpets of a large boat.

Most robot vacuums can’t go up and down stairs, even the ones that are trying won’t be able to handle the tight stairs of most large boats. You will need to get a robot vacuum for every floor of your boat that you want it to clean, or manually move it.

A robot vacuum is not always ideal for cleaning every floor of your boat, you need to watch it and don’t put it on deck as the cliff sensors may not work on the white fiberglass of a boat, and the bright sun can confuse its IR sensors.

Since space is tight on a boat, even larger ones, you may want to avoid self-emptying options unless you can make a custom hide-a-way home for it.

The best robot vacuum for a large boat will be the iRobot Roomba j7+ (Amazon Link Ad), but other robot vacuums will work if space and different features are needed.

12-Volt Vacuums Suck

You can find and buy vacuum cleaners that run off the 12-volt plug in your boat, and honestly, they’re not that great.

Maybe if you need to clean a few spilled bits of Cheerios, but for any real mess like the slime and gunk that builds up on boats, or even broken glass and leaves, you need a shop vacuum.

The 12-volt plug of your boat doesn’t output enough power to do any real cleaning, and moreover, it’s draining your boat’s battery. I can’t recommend these silly car or 12-volt vacuum cleaners, they’re more of a joke than anything useful for the messes most boats come across.


Dyson makes some great vacuum cleaners, they even have one made for your cars and boats (Amazon Link Ad).

If all you’re cleaning is carpets, that don’t have any gunk or a real mess, a Dyson will be fine. Even other cheaper cordless vacuum cleaners made for homes will work too.

But from my experiences, when it comes to cleaning a boat, actually cleaning a boat, a shop vacuum is a must. You deal with wet messes, leaves, gunk and so many other nasty stuff that using a high-end vacuum cleaner is silly. There is no point in tearing up your nice vacuum cleaner when a shop vacuum will work better and be more affordable.

Simply put, a Dyson and most other regular vacuum cleaners will get destroyed cleaning a boat because of all the water and wet messes they’ll come in to contact with.

Ideally, every home should have a regular vacuum cleaner for the normal house messes, and a shop vacuum for everything else, you’ll be amazed at what all you can use a shop vacuum for.



Hello, I'm Lee from ""! Launched in 2016, my site addresses the online information gap about "robot vacuums" and "vacuum cleaners," areas where I have hands-on experience. Got questions about a post or topic? Feel free to comment or contact me (contact)!

Leave a Comment