Woodworking is wonderful: the whirr of power tools, satisfying precise cuts of wood, the sense of accomplishment after completing a project…
But as much as you might love woodworking, you’d have to admit that it’s a very messy activity. Not to mention, an unclean workshop can hamper the flow of one’s work greatly.
And if you’ve ever tried using a regular vacuum on a dirty workshop, you’ll know it’s just not effective enough.
The solution? A Shop Vac, a machine designed specifically for heavy-duty cleaning in construction and woodworking.
But what’s the best Shop Vac for woodworking for you? To help answer that question, today, we’ve rounded up 8 top picks, accompanied by a buying guide.
Let’s get started!
8 Best Shop Vacs for Woodworking
A Shop Vac is a considerable investment, and there is much to keep in mind before purchasing one. However, hopefully, our reviews below will make your choice much easier to make. Here are our top 8 picks.
1. WORKSHOP Wet/Dry Vacs WS1600SS
Our first pick is a wet/dry vac from WORKSHOP, and it’s for serious woodworkers who work on large-scale projects. The tank, crafted from high-quality, long-enduring stainless steel, has a capacity of 16 gallons. Combined with a motor that produces 6.5 HP at its peak, it’s easy to see how this Shop Vac manages to pick up 1 gallon of water each second.
And it does so with the help of a highly efficient hose, which measures 7 feet in length and 2.5 inches in diameter. What’s more, the hose can be used with the included utility nozzle, wet nozzle, car nozzle, crevice tool, or two extension wands. Everything you might need, all rolled into one package!
But this vacuum’s excellent performance owes itself to much more beyond what we’ve already discussed. To start with, it comes equipped with a storage compartment, where you will be able to store your hose pieces with ease.
Furthermore, the handle that comes with the machine has been built with an ergonomic design, which can make all the difference when it comes to using your Shop Vac comfortably. Additionally, the sizable rear wheels on this thing, together with the 20-foot power cord, account for superb portability.
All things considered, this is undoubtedly an extremely powerful Shop Vac. Accordingly, it’s perfect for industrial or heavy-duty usage; if you have a small workshop or minimal debris to clean up, though, you should opt for a smaller, cheaper vacuum.
- Large 16-gallon tank and 7-foot long hose
- Drum made of stainless steel for reliable durability
- The hose comes with dual-flex locking capability for higher maneuverability
- Outfitted with a powerful 6.5 HP motor
- Large rear wheels can be rolled over stairs or rough terrain
2. Shop-Vac 5979403 8-Gallon Stainless Wet Dry Vacuum
Credit where credit is due: we’re not going to write an article about the best Shop Vacs on the market without recommending one from the original pioneering manufacturers!
With an 8 gallon tank, the 5979403 from Shop-Vac is one of their most popular medium-sized vacuums, and it has both a wet and dry cleaning capacity. Yep, you read that right; this vacuum can clean up both your dry and wet messes. And it does that beautifully, thanks to an impressive 175 CFM airflow with 320 watts of peak air.
But you wouldn’t be able to tell how much power this thing is harnessing from how lightweight and portable it is, and that too despite its stainless steel body! Equipped with 4 caster wheels, carry handles both on the top and on the side, moving this thing around your workshop will be a breeze.
But one of the most important components of any vacuum is its hose, and the Shop-Vac 5979403 definitely delivers on that front. Measuring 7 feet in length and sporting a 1.25″ diameter, the hose can also be used with a crevice tool, gulper nozzle, floor nozzle, cartridge filter, foam sleeve, and of course, one of 3 extension wands.
All in all, given its impressive features, durable build, and powerful performance, this machine is the ideal choice for those looking to invest in a reliable Shop-Vac for many years to come.
- Can clean up both wet and dry dirt and debris
- Comes with convenient onboard accessory storage compartment
- Hose measures 7 feet and has a diameter of 1.25"
- Comes with a tank drain, allowing for effortless cleaning
- Outfitted with a blower port in the rear
- Produces 175 CFM of airflow at 320 peak air watts
3. Vacmaster VBV1210 12-Gallon Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
This beautiful and high-functioning Shop Vac from Vacmaster is next on our list, and it’s our top pick for those of you who are searching for a reliable shop vacuum at an affordable price.
Equipped with a 12-gallon tank, this vacuum is an ideal cleaning companion for sizable workshops that frequently house medium-level woodworking projects. The VBV1210 operates using a dependable 5HP motor, which allows it to effectively clean up both dry and wet messes.
You can tell that this Shop Vac was made by some very thoughtful manufacturers, as well. It comes with a detachable windblower, which is able to produce blowing speeds of up to 210 MPH. Plus, the power cord and hose length combined give you a reach of 19 feet while cleaning.
But convenience doesn’t end there. This nifty yet highly powerful Shop Vac comes with a number of highly useful accessories: a utility nozzle, crevice tool, car nozzle, concentrator nozzle, and of course, extension wands. And with the help of the noise diffuser, you’ll be much more relaxed while using this thing.
Overall, this is undoubtedly one of the best Shop Vacs out there at an affordable price, and we highly recommend it.
- The tank has a capacity of 12 gallons, optimal for most operations
- Integrates an onboard accessory storage compartment for your convenience
- Comes with an easily detachable blower
- Outfitted with a large drain port for easy cleaning
- Boasts a blowing speed of 210 MPH
4. CRAFTSMAN CMXEVBE17595 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac
Some brand names have come to be automatically associated with high-quality construction equipment, and Craftsman is one such brand. With nearly a century of experience, they’ve come a long way in perfecting their products, and this wet/dry vac is no different.
First off, you need to know that this is a very heavy-duty Shop Vac. It comes fitted with a powerful motor capable of producing 6.5 HP of peak power, which makes short work of your workshop debris and swallows it into a 16-gallon tank.
You’ll be able to do much more with this vacuum beyond just cleaning your dirty workshop, though. It comes with an in-built blower port, which allows you to quickly deal with leaves and grass clippings on your backyard.
Furthermore, the hose on this vacuum is integrated with Dual-Flex technology, which allows it to seamlessly rotate 180 degrees. In short, you can expect high maneuverability from this thing.
And don’t worry: portability will be no concern, thanks to not only the four medium-sized casters but also a large carry handle on its top. Plus, you’ll easily be able to store all your required accessories close at hand, onboard the vacuum itself.
- Capable of handling both wet and dry debris/dirt
- Also available with a tank capacity of 20 gallons
- 20-foot power cord and 7-foot hose allow for long cleaning reach
- Operated by an extremely powerful 6.5 HP motor
- Comes with a blower port, in-built drain, and required hose accessories
5. DeWALT DXV06P 6 gallon Poly Wet/Dry Vac
DeWALT is another brand that has been making waves in the construction and DIY industry since its inception. They’re renowned for their ability to produce dependable, high-quality machinery and tools at affordable prices, and this vacuum is no exception.
The first thing you need to know about this vacuum is its tank capacity, which stands at 6 gallons. Combined with a motor capable of producing 4HP of peak power, this Shop Vac is the perfect cleaning machine for small to medium workshops.
And did we mention that it can take care of both dry and wet cleaning? Yep. With ample suction capabilities and a lightweight body to boot, taking care of small messes and mishaps in the workshop will be a breeze.
And of course, this vacuum also comes with strong rubberized casters to allow you to effortlessly move it about your workspace. Plus, the power cord, which measures 10 inches, comes with all necessary attachments to allow you to reach most tight spaces.
Given the features discussed above, we think this vacuum is easily one of the best small shop vacs on the market. Especially given the affordable price, we think this is a vacuum to be looking out for, particularly if you’re looking for an easy cleaning solution for small woodworking projects.
- Produces 135.5 peak air watts with a 4 HP motor
- Power cord length measures 10 feet for easy small cleaning jobs
- 6-gallon tank makes this the ideal light-duty Shop Vac
- Powerful integrated blower port to help blow away debris and sawdust
6. Stanley 4 Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum
This next Shop Vac from Stanley is another top pick for those of you looking to buy a small, light-duty vacuum for your workshop. Outfitted with a 4-gallon tank and 4HP motor, this is the perfect fit for smaller clean-up jobs.
So how does it perform? Well, this little guy comes with the ability to perform both dry and wet vacuuming operations. Its power cord measures 10 feet in length, while the hose measures 5 feet. Together, these allow for a pretty decent cleaning reach.
The airflow of this vacuum is 70 CFM, which, of course, is not very high. But as this is a small Shop Vac, we wouldn’t really expect more from it. Besides, its assorted hose extension accessories definitely make up for it.
Oh, and it’s extremely portable as well. Despite being made from stainless steel, this thing only measures 8 pounds, which means you’re not limited to just using it in your workshop. Go ahead and use it for car washes, upholstery, or for cleaning messes in the attic/basement. And do it without burning a hole in your wallet!
- Comes with a 4 gallon tank and hose measuring 10 feet
- Outfitted with a motor capable of producing 4HP
- Features a blower port for easy and powerful blow-cleaning
- Allows for up to 15 feet of convenient cleaning reach
- Features a large drain port and transfer switch
7. BISSELL 18P03 Garage Pro Wall-Mounted Wet Dry Car Vacuum
This next pick from Bissell is one of the most budget-friendly options on our list, but you wouldn’t be able to guess that from how well it performs. This handly Shop Vac offers top-tier performance at a great price. Let’s see what it has to offer.
First off, like any self-respecting vacuum, this one is capable of helping you with both dry and wet dirt/debris. It achieves this beautifully with the help of its dependable 12-amp motor, which sucks up all your dirt and deposits it inside a roomy 4-gallon tank. And since that tank is semi-translucent, you’ll always know when emptying time is nigh.
Oh, and did we mention that this thing can be converted into a blower? That’s right. All you have to do is switch up the hose attachments, and you’re good to go. And speaking of the attachments, this vacuum comes with 7 different extensions. That’s what allows this to be such a versatile machine, capable of cleaning up all manner of messes in and beyond your workshop.
Finally, the feature that makes this product such a steal: its wall-mounting capability! You’ll have to worry no longer about where to store your vacuum; furthermore, the hose measures a staggering 32 feet, so your movement will never be restricted.
After reading about all of its features, we wouldn’t blame you if you decided to name the BISSELL 18P03, the best small shop vac!
- Semi-translucent tank and LED water tank indicator eliminate unpleasant surprises
- The hose measures 32 feet long for increased convenience in movement and maneuverability
- Comes with 7 different hose extension attachments
- Uses a 12 amp motor and a 4 gallon tank for both wet and dry cleaning
8. Karcher WD4 Multi-Purpose Wet Dry Vacuum Cleaner
The last Shop Vac we’ve selected for your consideration today is from the renowned German brand Karcher, and this machine is undoubtedly an important marker of the brand’s ability to produce top-quality products. Let’s find out more.
Equipped with an 1800 watt motor, this vacuum packs a surprising amount of power. The 5.3 gallon combines effortlessly with a 7.2-foot hose to clean up any dry or wet dirt or debris.
And by the way, when you’re switching between wet and dry operations, you won’t have to remove the top-mounted filter to do so! And speaking of the filter itself, thanks to a larger surface area, it allows for more efficient filtration as well.
You’re also going to appreciate the suction power on this thing; this vacuum has an airflow of 78 CFM, which is quite surprising given its compact and lightweight stature. It goes without saying that dealing with small- to medium-sized messes will take you no time at all with this thing.
- Outfitted with an 1800 watt motor and 5.3-gallon tank
- The compact and lightweight body makes for easy storage and portability
- The top-mounted filter can be removed without opening the tank
- Comes with a hose built for superior suction in both wet and dry operations
Buying Guide for Shop Vac for Woodworking
Whether it's your first time buying a Shop Vac or you're looking to replace an existing one, it's a good idea to educate yourself a little bit about them before proceeding with your purchase. So here are a few things to keep in mind.
Just how much sawdust are you producing when you're working on a project? The answer to that question will determine just how powerful you need your Shop Vac to be.
One of the functions of a Shop Vac is to clean up sawdust while it's being produced, i.e., when your tools are operational. The higher your machine's horsepower is, the more sawdust it will catch as you work.
If you're looking to buy a Shop Vac for general use, we would recommend that your chosen machine has a motor of at least 4 HP. Such a vacuum will allow you to clean up not only dust but also heavier debris like large pieces of wood.
If you choose to go with a 5HP motor, you'll have a very little cleanup to worry about; as such a machine is designed for construction-grade, industrial levels of cleaning. If you have a small workshop, though, this might be unnecessary, so choose wisely.
The tank of your Shop Vac is the next most important consideration as it will determine just how much dirt you'll be able to clean with it. There are two factors to keep in mind with regard to the tank: capacity and construction material.
How big your Shop Vac's tank should depend upon the machine's intended purpose. They come in three different sizes. Generally, you can get away with purchasing a Shop Vac with a medium-sized tank, as they are suitable for the majority of indoor and outdoor uses.
2 - 6
6 - 14
14 - 18
The vast majority of Shop Vacs come with tanks made from sturdy, durable plastic. These are far easier to carry around and are bound to last for many years. If you're searching for an industrial-grade Shop Vac, though, we'd suggest looking into those with tanks made from stainless steel, as they are extremely sturdy and durable. Plus, they’re easier to clean, as well.
Hose / Air Flow
The hose of your Shop Vac is, without a doubt, its most important component. Not only does it have to be able to suck up the debris of all sizes, but it must be durable and able to withstand years of collecting rough (and oftentimes sharp) debris.
One important detail to know about your Shop Vac is its rated airflow, which is expressed in cubic feet per minute (CFM). Shop Vacs with at least 90 CFM is recommended for general use; however, if you need industrial-strength, shoot for a higher CFM.
Furthermore, the hose must also be adequately lengthy to allow for easier maneuverability. Especially if you're going to be cleaning up hard-to-reach corners, you'll need a hose that will be able to snake its way in.
A wider hose is preferred by those who are dealing with large-scale messes, as they are able to capture larger amounts of debris and dirt.
Shop Vacs are available in both wet and dry configurations, and some have the ability to deal with both kinds of dirt. If that's the kind of Shop Vac you're going for, you must ensure that it comes with two filters: one for dry debris and one for wet debris.
The dry filter has a HEPA design with a cartridge and a collection bag. A wet filter, on the other hand, comes with a foam sleeve which allows the tank to hold onto spills within the tank.
When deciding which Shop Vac is right for you, it's important to consider what cleaning accessories come with it. These come in the form of hose attachments and can be hugely useful.
Some accessories you should look out for are crevice tools, extension wands, upholstery tools, and floor brush. Each one has a different function, so remember to look into them to figure out whether you'll be needing them.
One of the most important aspects of a good Shop Vac is its portability. It won't be of much help if you can't move your vacuum around your workshop to get at all the dirty spots; this is, of course, particularly true in the case of large workshops.
The good news is that the majority of Shop Vacs come with casters, which makes it a breeze to wheel them around a busy workshop.
However, some of the smallest ones might not come with wheels. Although these tend to be on the more lightweight side, things are definitely made easier with wheels.
Wet / Dry
One of the marvels of Shop Vacs is that many of them are able to suck up wet debris alongside dry debris and dust. This can be hugely useful, particularly in multi-use workshops. As you can imagine, however, a Shop Vac capable of dealing with both wet and dry debris will be considerably more expensive.
You want your woodworking Shop Vac to be able to stand up straight! It's no good if the machine is prone to falling over and spilling sawdust on your workshop floor; that would negate its whole existence.
That's why it's important to ensure that your chosen Shop Vac has a stable base. Models with wider bases and shorter bodies tend to be relatively stable in comparison to those with narrow, tall bodies.
As powerful and large machines, Shop Vacs does require a degree of maintenance and upkeep. However, if your chosen vacuum comes with one or more of the following features, you'll have a much easier time with them.
Auto Shut-Off: This prevents leakage and, in turn, motor damage.
Drain Valve: This will allow you to drain your Shop Vac’s tank more quickly and efficiently.
Storage: Some Shop Vac machines come with onboard storage compartments, which facilitates a smoother work flow.
Frequently Asked Questions for Shop Vac
Q: Do Shop Vacs make a lot of noise?
Ans: They certainly can; continued exposure to their noise can even be damaging. We'd suggest going for one that doesn't produce more than 85 decibels of sound.
Q: What size Shop Vac do I need?
Ans: The tank of a medium-sized Shop Vac has a capacity of 6-14 gallons, which is good enough for most operations. You can also choose between small (2-6 gallons) and large (14-18 gallons).
Q: Can Shop Vacs vacuum up water?
Ans: Yes. While some Shop Vacs can clean up only dry messes, others can deal with both dry and wet debris. They tend to be more expensive, though.
Q: What is CFM, and why is it important?
Ans: CFM stands for cubic feet per minute and is a measurement of the Shop Vac's airflow power. 90 CFM is ideal for most operations, while 120-150 CFM is ideal for heavy-duty uses.
Q: What type of fuel does Shop Vacs use?
Ans: They might use propane, gasoline, or electricity, depending on their performance level.
Q: Can a Shop Vac be used for household cleaning purposes?
Ans: Yes, but it’s kind of unnecessary as Shop Vacs are extremely powerful and heavy-duty machines. Plus, unlike household vacuum cleaners, they don't filter the air very well.
So as we’ve seen in our reviews, the best Shop Vac for woodworking comes in various shapes and sizes. The variety and number of features on offer, also, are multitudinous. So before you make your choice, we recommend thorough research—you can start with our buying guide. Good luck, and may your workshop always be in tip-top shape!