A wet/dry shop vacuum is useful around the house. Despite the name, a shop vacuum’s utility extends far beyond the workshop since it tackles messes that ordinary household vacuums cannot handle. A shop vac, for example, may be used to remove water.

The capacity of a shop vacuum to suck up water saves you from using towels to soak up water on the floor or attempting to squeegee it away. A shop vacuum may also be used as a pump to remove bigger amounts of standing water in a tub, shower, pool, aquarium, or garden pond. Be sure your shop vac is capable of sucking up liquids before using it to remove water.

An Overview of Using a Wet/Dry Vacuum With Water

  • Estimate amount of water
  • Plug into a GFCI outlet
  • Remove bag
  • Remove dry filter (wet filters are fine)
  • Be aware of the quantity of water in the canister
  • Dispose of water properly
  • Clean and dry canister and accessories

Safety Considerations

Only use on a grounded GFCI outlet. Use a three-prong extension cord that is rated for the shop vacuum’s amperage.

  1. Remove Bag

    During wet operation, wet/dry vacuums never utilize collecting bags. Unlatch the vacuum’s top, blower-unit portion. Set away the collecting bag as well as any fasteners.

  2. Change or Remove Filters

    Dry filters are never utilized during wet operations since they are comprised of paper. In some cases, they are plastic units with attached pleated paper folds. These might also be filter cloths wrapped around the filter unit and fastened with a rubber band. Replace the dry filter with the wet filter if the wet/dry shop vacuum has one. You may not need to insert any type of filter in your shop vac when vacuuming liquids.

  3. Attach Wet Nozzle

    Wet/dry vacuums are available with a range of nozzles. One nozzle with a broad, flat head is designated a wet nozzle, though other nozzles usually will work for water, too. For flat surfaces, the wet nozzle is ideal.

  4. Plug Into GFCI Outlet

    Because vacuuming water mixes water with electricity, it is recommended that you plug the vacuum into a GFCI outlet. Since most wet/dry vacuums are double-insulated, you may use them in non-GFCI outlets if you like.

  5. Vacuum Water

    For Water Spread Across a Floor

    Start the vacuum. Place the nozzle on top of the water. Keep it in place until the water underneath and around it has run out. Move the nozzle to a new area gradually until all of the water has been removed.

    For Large Quantities of Standing Water

    Turn on the vacuum and position the nozzle above the water. Wet/dry vacuums can swiftly remove huge amounts of standing water. One way to know if the canister is full: the motor sound changes, indicating this its speed has changed.


    The more extensions you add to the hose, the more difficult it is to pick up water. If at all possible, avoid using the extension wand.

  6. Filter Out Debris

    Remove the vacuum cleaner canister. Before pouring out the water, remove any large pieces of debris.

  7. Safely Dispose of Water

    Pour the water into a suitable disposal container. Water with construction debris should not be poured into garden beds.

  8. Clean and Disinfect Canister and Accessories

    Since wet/dry vacuums combine water and microbes, mold and mildew may form within the canister after usage.

    Then, rinse the canister with clean water. Then pour 1 gallon of warm water with 1/4 cup of household chlorine bleach, thoroughly cleaning all areas of the canister. Fill the hose with water. Flip the canister upside down and let it to dry. Drain the hose by hanging it upright. Only store the vacuum and its components when they have thoroughly dried.

How a Shop Vacuum Removes Water

A vacuum is an apt term since it accurately portrays its inner workings. An electric motor spins a fan at the top of every shop vacuum. This fan sucks the air out of the shop vacuum’s large lower container or basin, creating that condition you learned about in physics class: a vacuum.

If this were a closed container, it would either suck inward or collapse. A shop vac, on the other hand, has two holes. One hole at the container’s top allows replacement air to enter. When a hose is attached to this hole, dirt and debris can be sucked into the container. Air circulates out another hole to equalize the constant airflow in the shop vac and keep the motor cooled as it’s being used.

With a number of exceptions, it operates similarly like water. For one, all dry-use filters on the shop vacuum must be removed. The paper bag and paper filter are included in most versions, but not the foam filter. Paper filters become water-logged, which impedes airflow.

For another—and most importantly—the water cannot be permitted to climb as high as the engine and fan. The vacuum will begin to clog up to the point where this will no longer be solely attributable to the vacuum. Nevertheless, this might be due to user mistake. Water may splash up into the motor and fan area if the vacuum is moved around too violently.

Shop vacs are intended to remove moisture, stains, and water from damp carpet. To remove the unclean water, use the carpet vac extractor attachment tool. This works on small patches of carpet but for larger flooded areas, you may need to take up the carpet to avoid mold growth or you might need to call in a water damage restoration professional.

What’s the Best Type of Wet/Dry Vacuum to Buy?

Wet/dry vacuums have capacities ranging from one gallon to twenty gallons, with the majority of vacuums falling between four and ten gallons.

Smaller vacuums may be rapidly filled with a few inches of water in a tub or water spread out over a large area. Since the water is not visible, estimating the volume of water in carpets is challenging. Carpeting may store up to 1 gallon per square foot of water when it soaks into the fibers and cushioning.

If you need to suck up a considerable amount of water, a larger capacity wet/dry vacuum will assist you avoid regularly emptying the canister. At the same time, huge water canisters are heavy and cumbersome. Full wet/dry vacuums on the upper end of the moderate capacity range may weigh up to 130 pounds, with water weighing close to 8 1/2 pounds per gallon. To avoid lifting big water tanks, search for a shop vac with a built-in pump that can convert the vacuum into a water pump by connecting it to a garden hose.

When to Call a Professional

Typical shop vacuums have a capacity of 10 to 20 gallons of water per basin. For flooded homes, this is usually not enough to clear the property fast enough to save building materials. Call a water damage repair firm instead.


  • Hooking up a garden hose to a shop vac can be a handy way to avoid heavy lifting when disposing of large quantities of liquids. But, a shop vac with a built-in water pump isn’t always necessary. You can hook up a garden hose if your shop vac has a lower-mounted drain port but not all models have this lower port. You’ll probably need a cheap adapter to connect the vac’s drain connection to the garden hose.
  • As the water level gets higher in the shop vac’s canister, there is an internal float that blocks the vacuum from sucking in any more water. A shop vac is not designed for continuous usage, and the motor might overheat if used for extended periods of time.
  • A wet filter is another name for a foam sleeve. You may use this to suck up moist things or liquids, such as when emptying a toilet. Though you may not necessarily need a foam sleeve when vacuuming water, it can also protect the motor. A shop vac without a filter may normally be used to remove water. Check your user’s manual to see if a foam sleeve is required for your model shop vac.
  • True, but only if the liquids are inert. You can even use a shop vac to soak up oil spills from an oil tank in the basement, for example, since home heating oil is not flammable.

Related Questions

  • Can you use a wet/dry vac to vacuum water?

    When a liquid mess occurs, such as a water main break, leak, or flood, there may be no more indispensable tool than a shop vac. A shop vac, especially a wet dry vacuum, may swiftly suck up the liquid and collect it in a canister for convenient disposal.

  • Can you use a vacuum for water?

    How to Vacuum Water Safely. A wet/dry vacuum is required to safely suction water. These vacuum cleaners resemble shop vacs in appearance and operation; however, they can suck both dirt and water. These wet/dry vacuums are designed to safely suck water without leaking, damaging the engine, or putting the user at danger of electrocution.

  • Can you wet vac a toilet?

    A wet/dry vacuum, such as a Shop-Vac, may often be used to unclog a toilet. DO NOT, however, try this procedure with a standard home vacuum. It is not designed to withstand water. Empty the water from the bowl with the wet vac so that it does not overflow or splash out.

  • Can I use my wet dry vac without a bag?

    If you’re collecting up big to medium-sized trash, you don’t need to use a collection bag. Instead, use a vacuum with a cartridge filter or reusable dry filter. If you are picking up fine debris, you need to add a high efficiency filter bag or HEPA collection bag to trap the fine dust.

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