Wet/Dry Vacuum Buying Guide
Consumer Reports no longer updates this product category and maintains it for archival purposes only.
Homeowners and contractors alike depend on the take-no-prisoners, heavy-duty suction power of a wet/dry vacuum. From sawdust in the workshop to an overflowing bathtub, a wet/dry vacuum can make easy work of a tough mess.
Although Consumer Reports does not currently test wet/dry vacuums, we have put them through their paces in the past. We sucked up screws, wood pieces, and heavier debris in a demanding test of suction. A one-gallon spill tested their wet-cleaning ability.
We compared how well they picked up simulated wood flour, and then measured how much of that dust leaked into the air. Finally, we judged the ease of use of each vacuum’s features and accessories. Use this guide for determining the right model for your needs and budget.
What You Need to Know
Major brands are pushing stackable and cordless wet/dry vacuums and other new designs as they try to get wet/dry vacuums out of the basement and into the kitchen and living room. But cleaning ability should be your primary concern.
The largest models generally delivered the quickest, most thorough cleaning and the most capacity, and they tended to be the best equipped. But you may need a smaller, lighter vacuum—perhaps even a mini-sized model—if your home is shy on storage space or has more than one level.
Don’t Believe Capacity-Claim Hype
Most of the manufacturers overstated the fluid capacity of the vacuums we tested, some by as much as eight gallons. While those claims may correlate with the size of the vacuum’s collection area, our measurements are based on actual vacuuming until each vacuum’s internal float rose high enough to block further suction.
Do Protect Your Hearing
All of the wet/dry vacuums we tested were loud. Some reach 85 decibels, the level at which we recommend wearing ear protection to prevent hearing damage.
Wet/Dry Vacuum Types
Wet/dry vacuums are relatively basic. So choose one based on your cleaning needs, your storage—and how far you’ll need to move it. Here are the types of wet/dry vacuums to consider.
Mini-Sized Wet/Dry Vacuums
These sacrifice the most performance and capacity for the least weight and easiest storage.
Small Wet/Dry Vacuums
Consider these if you’re willing to sacrifice performance and capacity for easier portability.
Medium-Sized Wet/Dry Vacuums
These offer a good balance of performance and compactness.
Large Wet/Dry Vacuums
Powerful and best equipped for challenging cleanups. They hold the most debris, but can be heavy and bulky—especially when full of water.
Vacuum Features That Count
Small details may help make wet/dry vacuums more versatile. Here are the features to consider: