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Simply put – the way a shop vac works doesn’t differ greatly from how a regular vacuum might. It still suctions air through the hose, using the power of the motor, and sends the excess out through the filter while storing whatever it is you’ve sent in. The shop vac gets its genius from its simplicity. While the functions remain fundamentally the same, through simple yet super efficient design it boosts functionality and versatility through the roof. So, this article is exactly for those of you who’ve gotten curious and asked themselves the question – how does a shop vac work?

Shop vac is the leading brand in the wet dry vac industry – so much so that it’s become quite commonplace to refer to wet dry vacuums as shop vacs. That being said, not only in the vacuum industry, people use devices that they simply don’t understand, though they might be interested.

How Does A Shop Vac Work? – The Build

A Shop Vac Consists Of 5 Main Parts

To truly describe how a shop vac works in terms of the build and how it functions we’ll split it into main parts and their core functions. Depending on your plans and needs the importance of each category can fluctuate greatly, so we’ll go over them in no particular order.

The Canister

The canister, as most know, holds no other function than to collect and store whatever it is that you’re vacuuming, no matter if it’s water, soda, sawdust, metal shavings, small rock bits or basic dust particles. Some canisters depending on the shop vac model you’ve purchased orHow Does A Shop Vac Work? - Canister already own may have a split type canister where water goes through a filter and leaves the dry debris in a separate canister, letting the clean water fall into its separate section.

Some canisters will have special emptying features like a cork you can unscrew from the bottom of the tank meant for easy disposal of the garbage you’ve suctioned, especially liquid messes where depending on your strength and body type you might not be able to lift the vacuum due to a lac of strength, in which case a emptying function at the bottom of the tank can come in very handy.

The Hose

Though it might not seem that there’s much to say about the hose at first glance, when wondering how does a shop vac work, but it is an essential irremovable part of the device and there’s something people often forget to consider, the accessories meant for the hose also fall into the hose category as they are always interchanging and part of one another.

Think of the many different types of nozzles that you can attach to the hose and their functions, along with the length of the hose. Depending on what you’re planning to use your shop vac for this might be as important as the motor and strength of the vacuum itself. The hose is where everything you’ll ever suction will pass through and decide how far you’ll be able to reach, along with how efficient it is at whatever it is you’re doing

The Filter

If you’re a person with allergies or easily irritable by dust particles then most likely you already know the importance of a solid filter being in place. The filter in almost all cases is located somewhere right before the exhaust, filtering the air before it sends it out. There are a couple different types of filters to choose from, mostly varying in how clean of an airflow they create, with the price rising along with the percentage – in most cases at least.

Most shop vacs come with a standard wet dry filter, but HEPA filter variations are available for certain models for those of you who need them.

The Motor

The motor is what most would consider the core of the shop vac. The motor generates suction using a fan and passes it through the hose into the tank, letting the debris fall to the bottom, then passing the excess air through the filter and out the exhaust. In most cases, the more powerful a motor is, the larger and louder it gets. It lies hidden in its own compartment where no dust particles or liquids can enter, disabling these factors from potentially damaging or destroying it altogether.

When getting a shop vac it’s very important to not under or overstep when considering the motor power. Overstepping can cause you and your neighbors to be constantly annoyed at the screeching roars of your over-powered machine. Under-performance of a motor can be just as if not even more annoying though, as i am sure at least some of you have had the experience of having bits and pieces of debris that your vacuum just doesn’t have the power to lift, forcing you to bring out the broom.

The Body

14-Gallon Wet Dry VacThe body is what holds the whole vacuum together and lets all the components play into each other so to say. Without the body to keep it all intact you’d have a bunch of parts that work individually but don’t really have a function. The body depending on the model you’re purchasing or already have in your possession can potentially be responsible for the majority of the devices weight. Whether or not there’s any handy compartments in place is also dependent on what the manufacturers choose to do with the body.

The body is also where all the design goes into. It doesn’t matter what the inside looks like, since it’s always going to be dirty anyway. The rollers/casters are often also either built in or part of the body, so there’s a lot that goes into this. The handle will in most cases be part of the body as well, and it’s very important for it to have ergonomic design. The importance of this statement rises as the strength and physical capabilities of the user decrease.


Should i get a shop vac or a regular vacuum?

This all depends on what you’re looking to do. If you don’t feel like the wet messes in your house are enough to justify the purchase of a shop vac and you’ve not got much use for the function of suctioning larger debris like rock bits or metal shavings, that might otherwise damage your regular vacuum, then there’s obviously not much point in getting one.

However if you feel like any of these functions are worth the investment, taking into consideration that a decent shop vac doesn’t cost much different than a solid regular vacuum. If you’re the owner of a workshop we’re sure you’ve already realized while reading this that this is a sound investment, if you’ve not got one already and aren’t reading this article out of pure curiosity.

Why does my shop vac keep blowing dust back in the air?Shop Vac Wet Dry Vacuum

There’s only two reasons as to why exactly this could be happening. The first one is the most obvious – you’ve forgotten to insert the filter after cleaning it or left it out for some reason. The second one is that your filter’s been damaged and it’s time to replace it. This is completely normal and not out of the ordinary whatsoever, though most of the time people replace their filters, as they should, somewhere around once every half year or so.

Why are shop vacs capable of cleaning both wet and dry messes?

This is due to the simple fact that unlike regular vacuum cleaners wet dry vacuums don’t use a bag or pouch type container for their debris – rather relying on the tank A.K.A canister of the device to capture all you suction, no matter what it is. The motor is located at a isolated compartment where no dust particles or water are capable of reaching it to damage it.

How does a shop vac work? – Conclusion

A shop vac works quite similarly to a regular vacuum in the sense that it suctions debris, stores it and filters the air on its way out. The main differences lie in the fact that the shop vac is meant for more versatile use, as the name wet dry vac indicates ,and has simpler design in efforts to maximize efficiency. Shop vacs tend to be louder but this is mostly due to the fact that they tend to be larger and designed for more heavy duty tasks, but commercial options are large in volume and widely available to the masses.

In a nutshell – The motor is important because it is what makes it all function. The body is the glue that holds it all together. The hose is what allows the vacuum to serve its function, the canister a.k.a tank is what holds the debris that you suction. The filter is what stops all the smaller particles from shooting right back into your air.

Here’s some other articles you’ll likely find enjoyable on similar subjects:

Can You Use A Shop Vac Without A Filter?

How To Suction Water With A Wet Dry Vac

The Best Commercial Wet Dry Vac

The Best Wet Dry Vac Under $100