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A wet dry Shop Vac is definitely one of the most useful things to have around the house. It can be used to vacuum many different types of fluids and even nails, screws, and rough debris like sawdust and metal shavings, which, as everyone’s already well aware, definitely isn’t something most vacuums can do.

Shop-Vac Wet Dry Vacuum

If this is your first time trying to purchase a wet dry vac you undoubtedly have some questions about doing so, which you should.

One of the most asked questions we’ve seen is Can you use a shop vac without a filter? Which is all in all a very valid question to ask since these machines are meant to vacuum almost anything and it’s hard to find something they’re incapable of doing.

It’s always great to have one around in case a pipe in your house breaks or the toilet’s been clogged. They will allow you to take care of the mess with ease and make sure the water doesn’t cause any further damage.

Keep reading to find out all you need to know about these magnificent machines and how to operate them and to check out some Frequently asked questions and our answers about Shop Vacs and how to properly use one.


Shortly put, yes, but it depends on your shop vac. It’s most likely possible to use it without one, but we truly recommend that you do not.  A filter will save you tons and tons of trouble and is there for a reason. If you clean dry surfaces and debris without it you will end up blowing huge amounts of what you suctioned straight back into your air and depending on your model and how it’s built this might damage or even break your machine.

If your model runs debris straight into the canister and has a filter located right before the exhaust, so only what travels out goes through a filter, then the answer is yes, you should theoretically be able to use your shop vac without a filter and not have to deal with anything other than having the fine dust particles you’ve suctioned shoot right back into the atmosphere of your home, which does in the end kind of beat the point – unless it’s wet work you’ve set to do – in which case you’ll most likely be completely fine.

Here’s some affordable, high quality, multi-fit filters to keep your air fresh:


The reason we can be quite sure of this is because if the filter isn’t located at the input, then that means that debris can safely enter the canister unfiltered and will NOT damage the internal electronic components of your device. However, if the model you own has a filter that’s located right at the hose, filtering everything then you can not be sure whether it is safe to remove or not, because it might be built in a way that if the filter is removed, it could potentially cause damage to the unit.

In this case you should either look through your devices manual or give the distributor a call and ask them personally. If vacuuming dry surfaces, it’s definitely recommended that you use a filter for optimal performance and maximum air cleanliness quality. If you’re vacuuming wet messes like water or something of the sort then obviously the debris will be mostly stuck in the water and mostly should not get into your homes air.


A wet dry vac works not much different than a normal vacuum. The key differences are that a shop vac is built to last and withstand much more than a regular vacuum, along with usually being much larger in size. This is very logical on its own, but once you add in the factor that wet dry vacuums were originally invented to be used on construction sites and industrial grounds, it makes double the sense. Still, these days you can get a shop vacuum in almost any shape and size you can dream up!

After putting it like that, it almost seems odd why people use regular vacuums anymore doesn’t it? Well that’s because it is kind of odd. Perhaps the most popular argument i’ve heard in response to this is that regular vacuums filter better, but this is simply not the case! Just like regular vacuums come with different types of filters, so do shop vacs! You can get a HEPA type on both!

The very first thing you should take care of is emptying the collection tank, some Vacs have a dry dust bag plus a wet tank, but others can come with one simple container meant for both. Either way, be sure to empty it/them.

If it’s water you’re going to vacuum you need to remove the filter.
There are models that do allow to use one made specifically made for wet vacuuming, but that’s only for small amount. If that’s the case be sure to clean it after and let it dry.Shop-Vac 5989300 Wet Dry Vacuum

For this type of cleaning, you need to attach the appropriate accessory. The tools vary between the many models available on the market, but it should make it easy to vacuum water, no matter which model you may have.

Power on your vacuum and keep an ear open to the sound of the motor as you’re working, in case anything goes wrong. You can never be too safe! Most models should have a floating ball mechanism which stops the motor as soon as the tank reaches full capacity. If this happens the Vac should produce a high pitched sound, which signals that you power the unit off, empty the tank and only then resume where you left off.


If you’re vacuuming mud/dirt from wet surfaces like a swimming pool area you should use the foam sleeve filter. It makes sure debris like mud and dust don’t enter the motor and damage it.

In addition to the filter, we recommend you get yourself a tear-resistant collection bag, which is almost mandatory if you’re suctioning super dirty fluids that may have pieces and shards of pebbles, stones or other hard, potentially sharp types of debris.

The bag will catch all solids inside and the water will be pushed right into the chamber. When you are finished, go ahead an empty the bag and put all the water out. It’s recommended to take care of this as soon as you’re done.

Always make sure the Wet/Dry Vac you have is compatible with the accessory you’re about to purchase, because not every model is.


When doing dry cleaning the filter is much more important than when doing wet cleaning in almost all cases. The reason being is fine particles flying through the air, depending on the particles can damage not only the important internal parts of your unit, but also your lungs. You should never vacuum, for example, metal shavings without a filter in place. Breathing in metal shavings at any quantity is already very bad, but doing so in large quantities, caused by for example – vacuuming without a filter – can cause great damage to your lungs and breathing organs! PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS, TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH!

Even though not all Shop Vacs are capable of wet work,though most are, all will perform wonderfully on dry surfaces, though there are three types of filters each made for different kinds of debris.

Firstly, there is the most basic one, meant to be used domestically. It should be able to pick up most larger pieces of debris you may encounter like smaller stones and wood chips.

Secondly, we have a more advanced option, made for larger types of debris than the first. This will collect gravel and sawdust and pretty much anything comparable.

Lastly there’s the finer system that filters out powders, fine dust and ashes.


Yes, you can do this, but honestly, it’s too much of a hassle. If, for example, you’re vacuuming something caused by a pierced pipe this should be fine, since the amount of water most likely wouldn’t be overwhelming, but we would stay away from cleaning pools or other big bodies of water.Shop Vac Wet Dry Vacuum

Vacuuming that much water isn’t worth the work, and most shop vacs are designed to be able to take one wet messes not whole bodies of water, but if it’s absolutely necessary, make sure you’ve got an output hose attached – this will allow the liquid to shoot right out after getting sucked in, which will make the whole thing quite a bit faster, plus you won’t have to empty the tank afterwards.

Remember to be careful though, because it’s possible a hose could not be able to keep up with the large quantities of liquid you’re sending in.


This question has a very short and sweet answer – yes! In fact, if you’re gonna be using your shop vac without a filter it’s actually better if you’re suctioning water, since all the debris that’s in the water is just that – in the water, and most of it if not all will not be getting into the precious air of your beloved home.

In some cases, for models that have the filter located at the entry of the hose and instantly filters everything that passes through it can recommended or even mandatory to remove the filter, since passing through liquid like water could potentially damage it, though this shouldn’t be the case for most wet dry vacs on the market, especially these days when the standard for comfort and ease of use is quickly rising due to the quickly deteriorating attention spans of modern society.


Even though we don’t recommend vacuuming your whole pool, it’s still completely fine to extract fluids, for example, from a carpet. Remember: Small amounts of liquids are fine and most Wet Dry Vac models should be more than capable of dealing with it.

If this is something you’re planning on doing, make sure you use the right accessory. The carpet extraction tool attaches to the hose with ease and will make the extraction process a lot simpler and more pleasurable.



You can use a shop vac pretty much anywhere you can imagine. In my workshop? Yes! In my home? Yes! In my garage! Yes, yes, yes, and so much more! This is, in my opinion, the beauty of the wet dry vac. It brings strength and utility through its simplistic yet so efficient design!

The only place you shouldn’t bring one is an apartment building, since they can get quite loud, but these days even this is a non-factor since there’s plenty of models out there that you can purchase that will be only slightly louder or even the same loudness than a regular vacuum of the same size while packing way more power!

Shop vac has a whole series of specialized units meant for this. Pump Vacuums meant for moving large amounts of water from one place to another, so, if your basement’s been flooded for whatever reason, this is one of the options for taking care of it.

Attach an end of your trusty hose to the pump and place the other end in your garden/yard – somewhere where you don’t mind the water being. As long as it’s powered on liquid will be pumped through the hose and tank.


Almost always this is because of filter being installed incorrectly or because there’s a hole somewhere in it. This might also happen if the dust you’re vacuuming is too fine.

If you think this is the case, you should acquire an appropriate filter for the type of cleaning you’re doing. Any high efficiency type like HEPA should do the trick. A cartridge filter along with a high efficiency disposable bag or a HEPA collection bag is a solid choice as well.

They aren’t compatible with every single vacuum, so always check beforehand.


The truth is most shop vacuums don’t even have a filter at the input and only have one somewhere right before the exhaust to filter the air going out, so in reality you’re most likely already not using any type of filter for wet vacuuming! If your shop vac has a filter at the entrance though, then you should use the one that’s already there, unless you’ve got a model which recommends you to remove the filter before doing any wet work, in which case, again it’s recommended to just vacuum wet messes without a filter

If your filter is meant to filter water as well though, then you should look at the manual of your device and see what filter it has there, noone knows what’s best for the device better than the manufacturer!

Wet Dry Vac Guide Conclusion

In a nutshell, the answer to the question ”Can i use a shop vac without a filter?” is – It depends! If your vacuum has a filter that’s located somewhere by the exhaust and not at the input of your vac then you can feel quite safe that the only repercussion of vacuuming without one will be a percentage of the dust and dirt particles you vacuum shooting right back into your air.

If your vacuums filter is at the input, passing through everything that enters then you should be more cautious about whether suctioning without one will damage the inner electronics of your device. Take care of your vacuum and it will loyally serve you for a long time. Abusing it by powering it without at least some kind of filter will shorten its life without a doubt!


Other Wet Dry Vac related articles you might be interested in:

Best Wet Dry Vac Under $100

Best Portable Wet Dry Vac

Best Commercial Wet Dry Vac

How Does A Wet Dry Vac Work?

How To Suction Water With A Wet Dry Vac

Best Cordless Wet Dry Vac

Can You Use A Shop Vac Without A Filter?