The 11 Best Shop Vacuums to Effortlessly Clean Up Liquid Spills on Any Floor Surface

The Stanley SLI8II5P Five-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum is our overall choice for the best shop vac because it packs plenty of power in a compact size.

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Woman using a CRAFTSMAN wet/dry red vacuum
Courtesy of Amazon

Vacuuming often is necessary to keep dust, crumbs, and other dry debris at bay, but what should you do for wet spills, apart from grab a bunch of towels and panic? Also known as shop vacs, wet/dry vacuum cleaners are one of the best ways to deal with spilled liquids and can keep your carpets looking new for much longer.

No matter how hard we try, wet spills will inevitably happen. Having a shop vac at home can reduce the risk of your carpet staining and is particularly helpful for families with pets and children, who are often the culprits of all sorts of liquid messes. Nowadays, most newer shop vacs have improved suction technology and leave carpets much cleaner and drier than older wet/dry vacuum models.

"The problem with the shop vacs of old was that they didn't have enough sucking power and would leave carpets moist," says Yavor Gorolo, founder of Fine Carpet Cleaning Services with over a decade of experience in the carpet cleaning industry. "This would leave stains and odors and defeat the whole purpose of what you were trying to do."

Carpets aren't the only items that today's wet/dry vacs can clean. These handy appliances can also tackle other types of flooring and upholstered furniture, too, such as sofas, armchairs, and cars. Shop vacs are available in upright, canister, and drum options, in both corded and cordless varieties, and you can also get smaller, portable models. Plus, they come in a variety of tank capacities and hose lengths to suit your personal preference and needs.

To assemble this list of the best shop vacs, we looked at vacuum style, size, accessories, price, bin size, and performance. We also talked with Yavor Gorolo and Velko Havjiyski, founder of Perfect Carpet Cleaning Services who has been in the carpet cleaning business for over 17 years.

Our overall pick for the best shop vac is the Stanley SLI8II5P Five-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum. It delivers big performance in a compact size that makes it easy to clean in tight spaces, including your car. It also includes several accessories so you can dig into crevices and reach further to grab more of the mess.

Best Overall

Stanley SL18115P Wet/Dry Vacuum

Stanley SL18115P Wet/Dry Vacuum

Amazon

From top power tool company Stanley comes the SL18115P wet/dry vac that effortlessly sucks up liquid spills, dirt, and larger bits of rubble like sawdust and drywall debris. Available in four sizes ranging from five to 10 gallons, this shop vac is simple to operate thanks to its 10-foot power cord and swiveling wheels. Nearly 1,000 shoppers left the appliance a five-star rating on Amazon, with many raving that it's effective and powerful despite being smaller than other options. Its compact size makes it easy to maneuver, and it also comes with several convenient accessories—including extension wands, a crevice nozzle, and a floor brush—that make it even more versatile.

One shopper called it "the best purchase" they've ever made and wrote: "Not only can this thing clean out your car better than a dealership, [but also] I used it in the first week we had it when I dropped a large 3-wick candle on my patio. Glass was everywhere. This cleaned it up in no time. Great investment!" Another called it a "great all-purpose vac" that's "super for pet hair."

Price at time of publish: $60

Best Budget

Vacmaster VOM205P 1101 Portable Wet/Dry Shop 2.5 Gallon Vacuum

Vacmaster VOM205P 1101 Portable Wet/Dry Shop 2.5 Gallon Vacuum

Amazon

Starting at just $47 for the smallest size (2.5 gallons), the Vacmaster Red wet/dry vacuum gets you sparkling results for a low cost. Effortlessly clean floors, cars, and areas like radiators and baseboards, or switch to the blower mode to rid porches and decks of fallen leaves. Plus, it's easy to store—you can even mount it on a wall. It only weighs six pounds, but according to one customer, the wet/dry vac has "great suction power [and] does the job of much larger vacuums."

Price at time of publish: $54

Best for Cars

Ryobi 18-Volt Wet/Dry Vacuum with Accessory Storage

Ryobi 18-Volt Wet/Dry Vacuum with Accessory Storage

The Home Depot

If you want to keep the inside of your vehicle impeccably clean, this RYOBI 18-volt option—which comes in a nifty tool box-like case—is the best shop vac for cars. It's small enough to fit in your trunk for easy access and includes all the accessories you need for detailing floors, seats, and even those hard-to-reach car nooks and crannies. It's powerful, lightweight, and cordless, and shoppers call it "impressive for its size."

One user wrote: "I bought this unit a few months ago, and it has been one of the most surprisingly helpful purchases that I have ever made! I didn't realize until now how much extension cords and bulky vacs had made a 'cleaner' life difficult. This unit has the perfect 3-gallon waste bin capacity for the everyday messes that I run into. The motor is surprisingly strong with a lot of vacuum power. The fact that the battery power source is interchangeable with my other power tools was one of my purchasing factors. This unit may cost more than some cheap, corded wet/dry vacs, but I guarantee you, its versatility is worth it!"

Price at time of publish: $125

Best for Dust

Fein Turbo I Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner

Fein Turbo I Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner

Courtesy of Amazon

If dust elimination is your top priority—perhaps someone in the house suffers from allergies or asthma—then a powerful dust collector like the Fein Turbo wet/dry vac is just what you need. The corded shop vacuum has a 5.8-gallon capacity, a long 13-inch hose, and a 19-foot cord for added convenience. "This machine offers a powerful vacuum for near-total dust removal," said one satisfied owner, while another added that it is "wonderfully designed and 100% effective in removing dust and debris while filtering the return air."

Price at time of publish: $300

Best Handheld

Ridgid 18V Cordless Wet/Dry Vacuum

Ridgid 18V Cordless Wet/Dry Vacuum

The Home Depot

This pick-up-and-go handheld wet/dry vacuum from Rigid has a 9-gallon capacity with powerful suction to match its size. Battery-operated and easily transportable, it's a great machine for cleaning cars, garages, and anywhere that finding an electrical outlet might be challenging. Many five-star reviewers are thrilled with the handheld device, and one wrote: "Very pleased with both the suction performance and portability of the unit ... Accompanied attachments are solid quality and effective."

Best-Rated Wet Dry Vac

Armor All AA255 2.5 Gallon Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum

Armor All AA255 2.5 Gallon Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum

Amazon

With almost 6,000 Amazon reviews and a collective 4.5-star rating, this utility shop vac from Armor All is easy to use and extremely affordable to boot. The machine is lightweight and portable thanks to its 2.5-gallon tank, and since it weighs just seven pounds, it's very easy to maneuver. It can pick up anything wet or dry, convert to a blower, and has an array of cleaning accessories stored on the machine itself so you never lose them.

One reviewer calls it "an exceptionally great budget vacuum [that] performs like a champ" and says it comes with everything most will need for simple cleaning. "The vacuum does well with a mix of wet and dry vacuuming. I was able to vacuum up sand on a carpet, followed by standing water, then back to a sandy carpet. It also did a thick wet mixture quite well. The collection bucket holds quite a large amount while still being easy to handle."

Price at time of publish: $50

Best Cordless

Milwaukee M18 2 Gallon Cordless Wet/Dry Vac

Milwaukee M18 2 Gallon Cordless Wet/Dry Vac

Courtesy of Home Depot

In addition to its powerful 18-volt motor, the Milwaukee cordless wet/dry vac has an impressive run time of 30 minutes on a single charge. . It also comes with a HEPA filter and many cleaning accessories, including a crevice tool and utility nozzle that stack onto the machine for neat storage. "This Milwaukee vacuum is a powerhouse; it puts the usual large shop vac to shame," said one reviewer, while another wrote, "I can vacuum out all four of our cars and [there's] still plenty of battery left."

Price at time of publish: $200

Best Small

Craftsman CMXEVBE17250 2.5-gallon Wet/Dry Vac

Craftsman CMXEVBE17250 2.5 Gallon Wet/Dry Vac

Courtesy of Amazon

An Amazon's choice product for the best small shop vac, this 2.5-gallon Craftsman machine is lightweight and portable but still strong enough to clean up debris. The wet/dry vac, which also doubles as a blower, is great for picking up water spills and leaks, and it's easy to store thanks to its compact size.

While it's not ideal for larger cleanup tasks, one reviewer explained that it's the "perfect size for my apartment, car, DIY, window tracks, and so much more." Another user called it "small but mighty."

Price at time of publish: $53

Best Compact

Workshop WS0255VA 2.5-Gallon Compact Shop Wet/Dry Vacuum

Workshop WS0255VA 2.5-Gallon Compact Shop Wet/Dry Vacuum

Amazon

Small yet powerful, this compact shop vacuum has a 2.5 gallon capacity for tackling minimal messes and doubles as a blower when needed. It has a 10-foot power cord, and 4-foot hose, a utility nozzle attachment, and a car nozzle attachment. With an ergonomic handle and a light weight of just over 7 pounds, the wet/dry vac is easy to move around.

"It's small but has a powerful punch," one Amazon reviewer wrote. "You can vacuum up anything from fine powder, like baking soda, to larger particles."

Price at time of publish: $50

Best Portable

DeWalt 20-Volt MAX Cordless 1/2 Gal. Wet/Dry Portable Vacuum

DeWalt 20-Volt MAX Cordless 1/2 Gal. Wet/Dry Portable Vacuum

Amazon

From the trusted DeWalt name comes this portable shop vac that's sleek yet highly durable and effective. It's ideal for on-the-go cleanup jobs thanks to its battery-powered operation, large handle, dual cleaning modes (utility nozzle and rubber extendable hose), and half-gallon removable waste tank. This cordless wet/dry vac even comes with a washable HEPA filter system that traps 99.97% of dust particles, according to the brand.

Price at time of publish: $213

Best Wall-Mounted

Vacmaster 3.2 Gallon Wet/Dry Wall Mounted Shop Vacuum

Vacmaster 3.2 Gallon Wet/Dry Wall Mounted Shop Vacuum

Walmart

The Vacmaster wet/dry vacuum has everything you'd expect from a good shop vac, including various cleaning accessories with onboard storage, a large collection tank, convenient wheels, a blower port, a large hose, and a utility nozzle. But what sets this highly effective machine apart is that it's wall-mountable for easy storage, too. "It has great suction and picks up everything including pet hair on any surface, even carpet," said a customer. "It is lightweight and I have no trouble moving it around or lifting it."

Price at time of publish: $70

The Bottom Line

We chose the Stanley SLI8II5P Five-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum as the best shop vac because it's small enough to maneuver in tight spaces while delivering the performance and power to clean up a variety of messes. We also like that it comes with several tools to lengthen its reach and get into crevices.

What to Know About Shop Vacs Before Shopping

Style

Traditionally, shop vacs (named after the popular wet/dry Shop-Vac appliances invented in 1953) were heavy-duty machines made for industrial use with a drum-style design, which is basically a cylinder canister with an attached hose. Wet/dry vacuums nowadays come in various styles including canister, upright, handheld, portable, and even backpack options, although these are typically reserved for commercial purposes.

Our picks for the best shop vacs are available in both corded electric and cordless battery-powered options. For a cordless model, the more economical the product, the less likely it will be that the battery will provide a lot of runtime on one charge. That being said, even higher-end cordless vacuums only offer around 20 minutes of life on a single charge. Thankfully, these machines only take about an hour to fully charge up again, so you'll be ready to go again in no time.

Size

Professional shop vacuums are rather large machines that can be heavy, too. These tend to have wheels for easier maneuverability and often need quite a bit of storage space when not in use, especially if they have many accessories. Wet/dry vacs for home use, however, come in various sizes to suit your personal needs and are available in large and small sizes for both those with a lot of storage capacity and anyone with limited storage space. Some wet/dry shop vacs are even wall-mountable to free up floor space.

Capacity

In relation to how much water a wet/dry vacuum can hold, this often depends on the size of the machine. The best shop vacs can hold anywhere from half a gallon to a massive 10 gallons of water. The more water the vacuum can hold, the more area it can cover without you needing to stop and empty it. In any event, if you prefer to buy a smaller machine with less water capacity and the waste bin fills up, you can always stop to empty it, and then continue with the remaining carpet.

Hose Length

Shop vacs with hoses (not the upright kind) are available with a variety of different hose lengths. More expensive and professional-grade machines typically have longer hoses of around 13 to 15 feet whereas a smaller, portable machine may have a hose of around 4 to 7 feet in length.

Attachments

Many new shop vacs come with handy attachments for multiple different cleaning purposes, which can come in handy if you plan on using your machine for cleaning surfaces other than just carpet. Some of these attachments include extension wands and crevice tools for reaching corners, stairs, and sideboards.

There are utility nozzles for large areas, wet squeegee nozzles, and even smaller nozzles for tight areas, such as in cars. Round brush nozzles for upholstery and multi-purpose turbo nozzles are also available. Many wet/dry vacs come with their own accessories included, but most attachments are available to buy as add-ons if you decide you want them later on.

Your Questions, Answered

Is a wet/dry vacuum worth it?

It depends. According to Velko Havjiyski, if you're using a shop vacuum to clean up liquid spills and prevent carpet stains, then it's definitely worth it. If you're using one to replace your annual or bi-annual professional carpet cleaning, then the answer is no. "A wet/dry vac or a residential carpet cleaner can't provide as deep of a clean as a professional carpet cleaning service that uses machines that cost thousands of dollars," he says.

Yavor Gorolo agrees and says that as long as you have a good vacuum cleaner, a wet/dry vac is not a must but can still come in handy for cleaning up spills and even for use in emergency situations, like floods. "You should still be getting your carpets cleaned professionally at least once or twice a year," he says.

Is a wet/dry vacuum the same as a carpet cleaner?

No. A wet/dry vacuum is a vacuum cleaner that can suck up both dry and wet matter whereas a carpet cleaner sprays a soapy detergent on the carpet and then vacuums it up and cleans the carpet at the same time. Some wet/dry vacs allow for wet carpet cleaning whereby you apply a detergent to the carpet manually and then go over it with the wet/dry vacuum. However, you would have to make sure that your particular shop vac model can support this, as some older models can't.

Can I use a wet/dry vacuum to clean upholstery?

Yes, you can. In fact, many wet/dry vacuum cleaners come with specific upholstery accessories designed for this task.

Who We Are

This article was written by Kat de Naoum, who has over 10 years of commerce writing experience. Kat is also the commerce editor-at-large at Thomas-Xometry, the leading U.S. online platform for supplier discovery and product sourcing. For this best shop vacs article, Kat reviewed and researched multiple wet/dry vacuums and spoke to Yavor Gorolo, founder of Fine Carpet Cleaning Services with over a decade of experience in the carpet cleaning industry, and Velko Havjiyski, founder of Perfect Carpet Cleaning Services who has been in the carpet cleaning business for over 17 years. She also researched factors such as each wet/dry vacuum's power, style, size, capacity, hose length, attachments, and value for money.

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