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Shop vacs are designed to handle industrial- and workshop-grade messes and spills. However, that doesn’t mean that all models are on the same level. The most powerful shop vacs are better equipped to hoover up more demanding debris; glass, metal shavings, wood chips, and liquids, for example.
Though definitely handy in workshops and on construction sites, shop vacs have gained popularity in other spheres; particularly in homes where a heavy-duty model can prove to be an invaluable asset. Think, hoovering up your garage or workshop after your latest DIY project, or dealing with an unexpected spill!
That said, which model and make you buy matters, particularly when shopping for the most powerful shop vac. One of the top features to look for is a higher CFM (cubic feet per meter), a measurement that denotes the airflow through the vacuum. The more airflow, the better, with around 125 CFM and up being standard. You can also look out for water lift ratings. Typically measured in inches, around 85” or more is a normal water lift rating for a wet/dry shop vac.
Our Top Picks
Below, we have listed the most powerful shop vacs made by reliable and well-known brands, arranged from strongest to weakest (in terms of CFM).
1. Craftsman 6.5 Peak HP Heavy-Duty Wet/Dry Vac
Model: CMXEVBE17595 | Power Source: Corded | Horsepower: 6.5 | Suction capacity: 191 CFM | Capacity: 16 Gallons | Bag type: Disposable bags | Warranty: 3 years
If you’re looking for a powerful, affordable, large-capacity shop vac, look no further than the Craftsman 6.5 Peak HP. This heavy-duty, wet/dry shop vac featuring a 16-gallon tank for under $200 is built to last. As such, it’s the perfect choice for large-scale cleaning tasks, like renovation projects and flooding.
With wet and dry suction capabilities and an above-average, 191 CFM rating, it’s no second-place contender, either. This competitively-priced cleaning machine comes with an assortment of accessories to get the job done, including car, wet, and utility nozzles and extension wands. It also has a kink-free, 7-ft, Dual-Flex hose, which you can easily stow away thanks to the onboard hose storage.
The additional power cord organizers are another handy touch, making it that much easier to store. Aside from the lack of a HEPA filter, there’s not much to complain about. This is especially true when it comes to power — a department in which many customers agree this vacuum cleaner blows the competition away.
2. Fein Turbo II AC HEPA Wet/Dry Vacuum
Model: 92030060990 | Power Source: Corded | Horsepower: / (1,100 W) | Suction capacity: 153 CFM | Capacity: 9.3 gallons | Bag type: Disposable bags | Warranty: 3 years
If you’re a neat freak, then the Fein Turbo II AC HEPA wet/dry vacuum may be just the model for you! This thoughtful shop vac has an added feature that not all do — a slotted tool case shelf, on which to place yours. It fits a variety of cases within the same or smaller dimensions as the slot.
However, the handy extras don’t stop there. The designers of this nifty shop vac thought of everything, including your other accessories. It features a convenient accessory-fastening attachment, so you can bring all the nozzles, hose attachments, and parts you need with you on-the-go. That means that you won’t have to make any trips back if you need to swap over.
This shop vac also has a built-in push handle, a 25 ft power cable, and a 13 ft hose, all of which makes cleaning with it a breeze. Being a wet/dry shop vac with a CFM of 153, and a 98 PSI water lift rating, it’s well-equipped to handle heavy-duty cleaning tasks. Other notable features are its HEPA filter and its lower-than-average sound operation level of 67 to 81 dB.
3. Hilti VC 150-10 XE Wet/Dry Construction Vacuum
Model: 3721394 | Power Source: Corded | Horsepower: 3.5 | Suction capacity: 150 CFM | Capacity: 8 gallons | Bag type: Disposable bags | Warranty: 20 years
As far as heavy-duty shop vacs go, you can’t do much better than the rugged Hilti VC 150-10 XE wet/dry construction vacuum. Though pricey, it’s certainly one of the top choices for construction companies and repairmen. Designed for use with Hilti construction tools, its main applications include dust extraction and slurry removal, with dry and wet coring tools.
Built not only to clean up demanding messes, it’s also well-adapted to challenging terrain. With robust wheels and housing, it can easily handle uneven and unfinished surfaces, like rubble, concrete, and gravel.
Low-tech features are not the only ones the designers thought of when conceptualizing this machine. Its unique, optional auto-start function allows you to switch it on or off using a Bluetooth remote. A variety of accessories, sold separately, also complement the set, including special-purpose tool adapters. More options include attachment carry-bags, cases, plastic and fleece dust bags, and different types of filters, including a HEPA option.
4. Ridgid 16-Gallon Stainless Steel Wet/Dry Vac with Cart
Model: 1610RV | Power Source: Corded | Horsepower: 6.5 | Suction capacity: 135 CFM | Capacity: 16 gallons | Bag type: Bagless | Warranty: Full lifetime warranty
Stainless-steel construction is one of the top things to look for in a shop vac. The 16-gallon Ridgid 50353RID 1610RV wet/dry shop vac ticks this box and more. With an ample-capacity stainless steel tank, a 6.5 horsepower motor, and a 135 CFM rating, it is equally as powerful as it is hard-wearing.
Some of the best features are its janitor cart-style push handle and a textile accessory pouch. Here, you can handily stow away all the nozzles and cleaning supplies you need for your tasks. The set even features slots in which to attach the ends of your hose, conveniently tucking them away to minimize drag.
Speaking of hoses, this model comes with an ultra-flexible version that’s 4x more durable than Ridgid’s standard hose. Its interior is smooth, unlike many traditional vacuum cleaners, reducing the likelihood of clogs. This shop vac is easy to operate, as well, with a top-located power button and pull handle, around which you can wrap the power cable.
5. Vacmaster 14-Gallon 6.5 HP Stainless Steel Wet/Dry Vacuum
Model: VJE1412SW 0201 | Power Source: Corded | Horsepower: 6.5 | Suction capacity: 123 CFM | Capacity: 14 gallons | Bag type: Disposable bags | Warranty: 5 years
The Vacmaster 14-gallon 6.5 HP is another stainless steel, wet/dry vacuum worth considering, particularly because it’s priced competitively compared to other heavy-duty stainless-steel brands and models. If you want to save money, you could opt for the smaller 8 or 6-gallon models. However, while the 8-gallon model features a stainless-steel hose wand, neither has a full stainless steel tank.
The 14-gallon VJE1412SW 0201 shop vac is undoubtedly the most durable in the range. Coming with more accessories and a handy push-handle accessory pouch, it’s also more versatile and convenient to use. In fact, this shop vac is great for homeowners, as well as professionals, as it can adapt to many indoor and outdoor cleaning tasks.
Think, cleaning the car, vacuuming crevices, skirtings, and cupboards, as well as cleaning up liquid spills. With a utility nozzle, floor brush, crevice tool, and extension included, this shop vac can get many jobs done. Otherwise, it’s very easy to store, featuring top-located brackets and clips to hold your hose and power cable in place.
6. DeWalt Wet/Dry Vacuum with Extra Accessories
Model: DXV16PA | Power Source: Corded | Horsepower: 6.5 | Suction capacity: 116 CFM | Capacity: 16 gallons | Bag type: Disposable bags | Warranty: 3-year limited
DeWalt is renowned for its tools and DIY appliances, the DeWalt 6.5 HP wet/dry vacuum with accessories being one of them. This powerful machine features an amply-sized 16-gallon tank, to ensure you can vacuum for longer without emptying it.
Speaking of which, the handy tank drain also makes emptying it of liquids quick and easy. As far as accessories go, the set comes with three disposable filter bags, a silencing muffler, hose adapter, tank drain, and car nozzle. Though this shop vac doesn’t feature an accessory shelf or pouch, there is space for one on the push handle.
One of its key features is its blower port, which you can adapt into a blower tool, making this not just a vacuum cleaner. Maneuverability is another bonus. Thanks to its tilting wheel frame and swiveling front wheels, you can easily move it around and over rougher terrain. It even features a top carry handle, which you can use to pick it up if need be.
7. Shop-Vac® 18-Gallon 6.5 Peak HP Contractor Series Wet/Dry Vacuum
Model: 9627306 | Power Source: Corded | Horsepower: 6.5 | Suction capacity: 110 CFM | Capacity: 18 gallons | Bag type: Disposable bags | Warranty: Limited Lifetime
Shop Vac are the creators of the original industrial vacuum cleaner, making their machines a solid investment. The powerful Shop-Vac® 6.5 Peak HP Contractor Series wet/dry vacuum is one of the best models for larger workshops and premises. With an extra-large 18-gallon tank and handy tool storage basket, you won’t need to worry.
You can easily carry all those extra accessories and cleaning products with you — of which there are ample. The set includes various nozzles, as well as the standard dust bag, filter, adapters, extension wands, and hose. The machine itself also has a drain tank and blower port, allowing you to drain it and adapt it.
Use it to blow sawdust, sand, leaves, and more away when tidying up construction sites, or after renovations or DIY. With four bi-directional wheels, it’s ideal for use on flat floors, such as treated concrete, wood, and tiles. Other features include an extra-long, 13-foot, lock-on hose and a 20-foot power cord.
8. Milwaukee M18 FUEL™ 9-Gallon Dual-Battery Wet/Dry Vacuum
Model: 0920-22HD | Power Source: Battery | Horsepower: 4.25 | Suction capacity: 109 CFM | Capacity: 9 gallons | Bag type: Bagless | Warranty: 3-year limited
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL™ 9 Gallon dual-battery wet/dry vacuum is the odd one out in this list, featuring a square-shaped tank. Interestingly, this model is part of the Most Versatile Wet/Dry Vacuum System range. As such, many of its parts are interchangeable, which can save you on replacement parts.
The tank clips off the wheelbase, allowing you to use it while stationary. At the same time, you can change up various other parts, including its motor head and cart, to suit your terrain and application. With a POWERSTATE brushless motor inside, expect superior durability compared to brushed motor models.
The motor isn’t the only part that’s long-wearing, however. Milwaukee also thought to safeguard others, such as the wheels and hose. By adding reinforced casters and tread, and making the hose crush- and twist-resistant, they’ve provided up to 2x wheel- and 8x hose lifespan. This particular set also features interchangeable M18 dual batteries. You can use it cord-free, change batteries without charging, and affordably replace them without needing to throw away your entire machine.
9. Ryobi 40V 10-Gal Wet/Dry Vacuum
Model: RY40WD01K | Power Source: Battery | Horsepower: / | Suction capacity: 80 CFM | Capacity: 10 gallons | Bag type: Bagless | Warranty: 3 years
Not everyone can afford to buy the most powerful, top-of-the-line shop vacs, including homeowners looking for a general-use model. This Ryobi 40V 10-gallon wet/dry vacuum fits the bill, along with lower-range budgets, being equally compact and easy to maneuver.
Just like the Milwaukee M18 FUEL™, this shop vac runs on battery power, making it that much more convenient to use. The battery itself is a higher voltage — 40V, to be exact — resulting in more suction power and a longer battery life. Plus, you can interchange it for another, to avoid waiting until it charges again between vacuuming sessions.
Another handy feature is its accessory holders, located on each leg, that are perfect for slotting in additional nozzles and wands. With an IPX4 rating, a low operating noise level of around 68 dB (A), and a 10-gallon tank, it’s as ideal for offices and homes as it is for workshops. Though not the strongest when it comes to CFM, it works well for most household and workshop cleaning tasks.
10. Kärcher WD 5 P Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner
Model: 1.628-311.0 | Power Source: Corded | Horsepower: / (1,100 W) | Suction capacity: 76 CFM | Capacity: 6.6 gallons | Bag type: Fleece bags | Warranty: 2 years
The Kärcher WD 5 P wet/dry vacuum cleaner — now available in a 2022 model — is another affordable, compact choice, weighing just 15.65 lbs. This powerful, bright yellow shop vac features a strong, 1,800-watt motor, a smaller 6.6-gallon tank, and various nozzles.
One attachment worth noting is its onboard power tool outlet, which allows you to vacuum during DIY and renovation tasks. For example, you can suck up dirt, shavings, sawdust, grit, and dust while sawing, sanding, planing, and more. Simply attach the hose to your onboard power tool outlet and adjust the vacuum power to suit your application.
The top-located filter drawer also makes filter changes and cleaning a breeze. Simply pop it out and replace the filter inside when needed. On top of vacuuming, the WD 5 P also acts as a blower, useful for cleaning up light debris like leaves and dust. Overall, it’s an excellent choice for indoor renovations and DIY, where its smaller frame makes it easier to carry and maneuver.
11. Stanley 5 Gal 4 Peak Horsepower Stainless Steel Wet/Dry Vacuum
Model: SL18130 | Power Source: Corded | Horsepower: 4 | Suction capacity: 70 CFM | Capacity: 5 gallons | Bag type: Reusable bag | Warranty: 1 year
As far as compact, durable shop vacs go, the Stanley 5 Gal 4 peak horsepower wet/dry vacuum wins out. This powerful shop vac features a full stainless-steel tank, yet is still lightweight and ultra-portable. Using its conveniently-placed top handle, you can quickly carry it up stairs or over rockier terrain.
With a simple construction and nozzle attachment, and hose slots on the wheels, it’s easy to use. Add to that that it’s very affordable and comes with various attachments and accessories. Overall, this powerful shop vac is the perfect choice for counters and desktops, be it for crafting, jewelry-making, DIY, manufacturing, or other jobs.
You can also use it for odd jobs and small clean-ups around the house, as it’s so portable. Plus, if you’re looking for a shorter shop vac, a lower profile model is available — the 5-gallon SL18115. Available in full plastic or stainless steel, it features the same motor and capabilities as the more upright SL18130.
12. Bissell PowerClean® Wet and Dry Vacuum
Model: 2035A | Power Source: Corded | Horsepower: 1.5 | Suction capacity: 52 CFM | Capacity: 6 gallons | Bag type: Bagless
One of the more stylish-looking powerful shop vacs, the Bissell PowerClean® wet and dry vacuum is especially well-suited to homes. Designed to contend with traditional vacuum cleaners, it features a similar hose, floor cleaning head, and low wheel profile.
Just like a regular vacuum cleaner, it can service both carpets and hard floors. More conveniently, though, you just need to flip the floor cleaning attachment switch to move from cleaning one surface to the other. However, this vacuum cleaner is more suited to cleaning area rugs and low-pile carpets than the long-pile or shag varieties. It can also handle liquid spills with the addition of the wet cleaning head. When its tank is full, it’ll let you know —just look at the tank indicator to see if you need to empty it.
Additional attachments include a dusting brush and crevice tool, ideal for all your other odd jobs. Another draw is the Bissell PowerClean® vacuums price tag — coming in at around half that of regular shop vacs, and around the same as a traditional branded vacuum cleaner, it’s a steal.
What to Know Before Buying a Wet/Dry Shop Vac
Wet/dry shop vacs come in a variety of styles, each with different features and capabilities. Read our standalone buying guide for wet/dry shop vacs to find out what you need to know before you buy.