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What is a shop vac - mywetdryvacWhen it comes to answering the question what is a shop vac there’s actually two answers a person could give and both of them would be correct. One answer is to answer in a way that describes what is a wet dry shop vac as in the vacuuming device, the other is to inform the asker of the shop vac brand and its standing in the wet dry vac world. In this article we’ll go over both.

What is a shop vac?

A shop vac is the same thing as a wet dry vac. It’s a vacuum that operates without a bag and allows the user to vacuum much rougher debris than a regular household vacuum would, along with the capability to vacuum water and other types of wet messes you might run across in your workshop or day to day life.

Shop vac has become synonymous with the term wet dry vac due to its huge brand presence in the wet dry vac world. Many believe the term shop vac is more often used in the USA to describe a wet dry vac than the term wet dry vac itself. This fact is also why there’s two possible answers to the question what is shop vac, since if shop vac was just a small brand that only a select few had heard of then there’s no way people would refer to wet dry vacs as such. It just wouldn’t be practical.

What is shop vac – Brand

Shop vac is one of the pioneering brands in the wet dry vac industry. They were one of the first to start and are going strong as ever today. So strong in fact that they’re easily the most recognisable brand in the niche to this day. Though this will suffice as an answer to most we’ll go into more detail for those of you who want to know more.

Ever since the creation of the brand in 1953 shop vac has been on top of the wet dry vacuum game and stayed there quite efficiently, frequently coming out with new innovative designs and quality products paired with reasonable prices to stay in front of their competition.

67 years later they’re recognised as the undisputed leader in the niche and still provide very quality affordable technology, useful for people ranging from regular house owners to construction workers and workshop owners, DIY enthusiasts.

Shop-Vac 5989300 Wet Dry VacWhat is a shop vac used for?

Though the ”shop” part of the name comes from the term workshop, obviously they’ve got huge amounts of uses as just mentioned in the paragraph above.


We’ll start with the category where we believe the invention has done the most work along the years. Before wet dry vacs cleaning was arguably just as hard of a job as building when it came to construction sites. Imagine going from having to pick up debris manually to being able to easily suck it up and walk around freely. This has saved mankind probably millions of hours just in cleaning time.


Workshops is the most obvious answer considering we already explained that shop vac takes the ”shop” part of its name from workshops. It’s not hard to explain the massive benefits this device provides to anyone who earns their living or just spends their time in a workshop. Metal shavings, sawdust, wire bits, wood chips etc. – all things that you used to have to clean manually before the invention of the shop vac and cleaning up after working on a big project has never been this easy.


Most models come with a blower function along with being capable of suctioning. This vastly expands on the versatility of the device allowing the user to also take care of things like leaves on their backyard or any other type of job that would be easier with a blower.

Liquid suction

Another obvious one considering the official name of the device but nonetheless we’ll mention that the wet mess cleanup capability is what invites a lot of consumers to check out the product, and in cases of a pipe leak, larger than average spills and other wet messes the wet dry vac can be a life saver.

Car detailing

Those of you who’ve either worked in a carwash or been to one will probably know that the shop vac is a very popular tool when it comes to cleaning the interior of the car, since there’s so many different types of nozzles for accessing crevices, suctioning pet hairs and any bigger debris bits people often have hiding in the unseen pockets of their vehicles.

Home use

Other than all the other uses we’ve just mentioned they’re just great to have around the house, especially in recent times where shop vac manufacturing companies have made an effort to create more household optimised models for all of those who want the power to suction anything and everything. There’s plenty of models ranging from small cordless, to large cord ones – making it easy to find the perfect one for you.

Shop Vac Vs Household Vacuums

In many ways they might look similar to a regular vacuum but when it comes to the uses they can be extremely different. As mentioned before a shop vac can be used to vacuum much rougher types of debris than any regular household vacuum along with being perfectly capable and even designed to take on wet messes, even coming with specialised nozzles for the job. InShop Vac Wet Dry Vacuum this section of the article we’ll go over all of the key differences between the two and where each excels or falls short.


When it comes to the power it might just be the biggest factor of all. Since in most cases they’re a lot larger and meant for heavier jobs this doesn’t come as a surprise. Just keep in mind that the larger you go, so does the likelihood of the loudness being too high does as well.


These things are built to last. To truly destroy a shop vac is a task that’s only possible if you’re TRYING to do it. Even if there’s a malfunction it’s highly likely that it’s easily fixed since durability and efficiency are two of the main selling factors.


Obviously they tend to be a lot larger than home vacuums and their sizing goes by how many gallon capacity their tank can hold. But as mentioned before these days you can find vacs of many different shapes and sizes, so maby in this regard they’re not so different from their household counterparts. Except that their range definitely is a lot larger.


As mentioned in the name of the device and known by many, one of the main selling points is the wet work capability of the device and this is definitely not something any regular household vac would be capable of doing. Perhaps only highly specialised ones, which most likely are more similar to shop that house vacs.


When you’re looking at a shop vac there’s a few key features that should be sitting at the top of your list of priorities to consider, we’ll go ahead and explain them and their importance ahead:

Shop-Vac Commercial Wet Dry VacuumTank Size

Pretty self explanatory as long as you know the definition of tank when it comes to vacs (the tank is the canister that holds all the things you suction) It’s how much it’s gonna be able to store. 10 gallons and over are on the larger side of the spectrum, 6 is around the average and below five is mostly considered small.


The power is the power of the motor that powers the whole thing, of course. Almost always the strength is going to be measured in H.p, meaning horsepower, the same as vehicles. 5 h.p and up would mostly be considered on the very powerful end while 2 and below being a decent power for models on the average to smaller side.

Powering type

What we mean by this is wether the model is corded or cordless. Cordless models will run on batteries while corded ones, obviously, will need to be plugged into an electricity outlet. Though corded models tend to have higher power, though this isn’t always a given. Even so, batteries these days are more than powerful enough to run a vacuum and for many people the portability is highly important.


By this we mean wether there’s an option to reverse the direction the motor’s sending air making it blow instead of suction. This feature is only important if it’s important to you. Most models will have it, but if it’s important to you always make sure to double check before you buy because most does not mean all. It’s worth considering that if your vac has this feature and has a long enough cord or is cordless it can function as a very good blower.


Most people don’t even look at this but people with allergies will definitely understand the importance of a good filter. For most people a cartridge or reusable dry filter will do the job good enough but if you’re looking to make your air extra clean, wether it’s because of allergies or preference, a HEPA filter is what you’re looking for. Check if you can get this filter with the model you’re purchasing if you find it necessary.

What model vac should i buy?

Though we won’t dwell deep on this as we’ve answered this question in many different ways in many different articles, you can check out one of the articles we’ve got below or the best wet/dry vac section above.


Check out some of these other shop vac related articles below:

Best Wet Dry Vac For Pets

Best Commercial Wet Dry Vac

Best Wet Dry Vac For Car Cleaning And Detailing

Best Cordless Wet Dry Vac

Can You Use A Shop Vac Without A Filter?

How Does A Wet Dry Vac Work?