Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Shop Vac

Whether you need to clean large messes or just incidental spills, a shop vac can keep your workspace neat and clean.

A compact, powerful vacuum cleaner is one of the most undervalued tools in any home or garage workshop. But for those who spend a lot of time working with wood or tackling a honey-do list that involves carpentry tasks, there’s only one way to keep the shop tidy and dust-free. More importantly, because wood dust is a known carcinogen, good housekeeping is an essential part of any shop routine. A small, powerful vacuum will keep floors and benchtops dust free while also handling a variety of other duties around the workspace.

Wet-dry Capability

Most shop vacuums are able to suck up both dry and wet (liquid) messes. Vacmaster

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While wood chips and dust are the main culprits of shop debris, it’s important that your shop vac also be capable of handling the occasional liquid spill or water leak. Most shop vacs are wet/dry and come with a variety of head attachments, such as brushes for dry vacuuming and squeegee heads for wet vacuuming.

Blower Port

If you need to blow dirt away rather than suck it up, a vacuum with a blower setting will serve you well. DEWALT

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Although the vacuum function is the most-used feature of a shop vac, sometimes the only way to clean a surface or hard-to reach corner is to blow it off. A shop vac featuring a blower port allows you to switch the hose from intake to output in seconds and force dust and debris out of hiding for a perfectly clean shop environment.

Size and Weight

The larger the vacuum, the more you’ll need wheels or some way to move it from job to job. Craftsman

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A portable shop vac needs to be small enough to hand carry anywhere on the job site. While large-volume vacs generally are more powerful and versatile, the trade-off is in mobility. Any model over about five gallons of capacity should have sturdy, 360-degree wheels.