Looking for a wet & dry vacuum? You’re in the right place! Here are our top seven picks for a tough vac that can handle both liquids and dry debris – while providing great value for money.
- Why Buy a Wet Vac?
- Which are the Best Wet and Dry Models?
- How to Choose a Wet and Dry Vacuum Cleaner
- Frequently Asked Questions
- A-Z of In-Depth Wet and Dry Vacuum Reviews
The best vacuums are great for dry debris, such as dust, dirt, cereal, hair and other types of everyday mess.
They can’t handle liquids though. For this, you’ll need a wet and dry vacuum.
As the name suggests, these models are able to handle liquids as well as dirt and dust. This means they can be used both outdoors and inside, which isn’t the case for most vacuums, while being suitable for clearing spills. They also tend to be highly durable and have powerful suction.
So, if you need a vac that’s more versatile than a traditional upright or cylinder, a wet and dry vacuum cleaner could be the best option – but which should you choose? And are there any vacs you should avoid? That’s what we’ll help you uncover in this article.
Why Buy a Wet Vac?
Wet and dry vacuums are more than just regular machines with the ability to deal with liquids. They also tend to be more durable and powerful, and will happily suck up everything from nails to snow.
Some also have a reverse mode which can be used for blowing. This is useful for moving debris into a smaller location for easier cleaning, or just to clear the hose.
Additionally, some models allow power tools to be connected via an outlet for sucking up wood chips or dust. These outlets allow the machine to turn on and off automatically as you use the tool. Not all vacuum models have this, but if you work with power tools it can be a very useful feature.
So, how do wet vacuums work? And when should they be used?
Thsee machines are built with a waterproof collector. This acts as a barrier between liquid and any electrical components, so you can use it to suck up water and other liquids (when in the correct mode). If you did this with a dry vacuum the model is likely to short circuit, as there is no protection for the sensitive circuits.
Some example uses for a wet and dry cleaner include:
- Sucking up spilled drinks.
- Keeping work sites clear.
- Getting rid of dust and wood chips from power tools.
- Thoroughly cleaning inside cars or vans.
- Vacuuming carpets that have just been cleaned.
- Drying a cleaned hard floor.
- Cleaning garages or other areas with larger debris.
- Unblocking sinks.
As an example, check out the Numatic Charles in action in this quick demonstration video:
There are some downsides to a wet dry vacuum though. Standard models, such as cylinder or upright, tend to have (but not always – as we’ll see later) more efficient filter systems. These filters stop allergens and other small particles escaping via exhaust fumes. While this is important for any vacuum user, it is of greater concern if you suffer from dust allergies or asthma.
It’s also important to point out that a wet vac is not the same as a carpet cleaner. Wet dry vacuums can pick up water, while a carpet cleaner actually cleans the carpet. There are, however, some models which can do both (we’ll give you an example later in the article). You also shouldn’t use a standard wet/dry model for ponds – instead use a pond vacuum.
In the first section, we’re going to list our top wet/dry cleaners along with why we think they are excellent models. The second section contains a complete guide to buying the best wet and dry vacuum for your home.
Note: wet/dry models are also known as shop vacs in some parts of the world.
Listed below are our top picks for a wet vacuum. Each model is durable, easy to use and powerful. They also provide great value for money. Keep in mind that the best option for you depends on your personal requirements, which is why we’ve included a range of budgets. To help you make the right decision, we also write in-depth wet and dry vacuum reviews.
Which are the Best Wet and Dry Models?
|Numatic CVC370-2BL/BK Charles||15 litres||7.1kg||1200W||View Price|
|Draper 20514||15 litres||4.5kg||1250W||View Price|
|Nilfisk Multi ll 30T||30 litres||9.6kg||1400W||View Price|
|Einhell TE-VC 1930 SA||30 litres||8kg||1500W||View Price|
|Karcher WD3 P Tough Vac||17 litres||5.8kg||1000W||View Price|
|Draper 13785||20 litres||4.5kg||1250W||View Price|
|Black + Decker Wet and Dry Dustbuster||0.175 litres||1.4kg||Cordless||View Price|
1. Numatic CVC370 Charles
You’ve almost certainly heard of the Henry vacuum – now meet his bigger brother Charles. The Numatic Charles vacuum is an excellent all-round model with powerful suction, 9 litre wet capacity, a cleaning range of nearly 27 metres (which is much larger than the Karcher WD3 P) and large filters.
The Charles is a bagged vacuum that’s designed for versatility, so it comes with a number of accessories and tools. It also comes with a Permatex filter to prevent allergens escaping via exhaust fumes.
One of the best things about the Charles is its suction. This is a powerful vacuum cleaner that’s great for both carpets and hard floors. The combination of power and easy to use design mean it can handle almost any vacuuming task with ease.
The Numatic Charles is an outstanding wet vacuum. It has strong suction and a large capacity for both liquids and dry material. If you need a water vacuum that can do it all, the Charles is a good place to start. Click here to read our full review.
- Price Range: ££
- Power: 1200W
- Weight: 7.1kg
- Dust Capacity: 15 litres
- Filter Type: Permatex
- Excellent suction power due to the powerful 1200W motor.
- Large capacity for liquids and dust.
- HEPA filter for better particle filtration.
- Safety valve for sucking up liquids.
- Large operating radius of 26.8 metres.
- Relatively lightweight for such a powerful vacuum at just 7.1kg.
2. Draper 20514
The Draper 20514 wet and dry vacuum cleaner is cheaper than the Numatic, but still provides powerful suction and weighs only 4.5kg. Other features of the model include a 15 litre tank (8 litre liquid capacity) and a durable design for tackling almost any job. Draper Tools is also a family run UK company with plenty of experience manufacturing heavy duty products.
With its combination of low price and versatile design, the Draper is a useful tool to have in the home. It can be used for everything from removing excess boat water to regular vacuuming, and it does a great job at tackling most tasks. As you would expect from Draper, the 20514 also feels well-built and is designed to last a long time.
Considering the low price, the only real downside of this vacuum is that it only comes with a single extra tool (a crevice tool), although the dual action floor brush is great for most tasks. You’ll also need to change the filters when moving between dry and wet modes, although this is a straightforward process.
It’s best suited for DIY tasks around the garden and home, rather than commercial applications. While the 15 litre tank is relatively large for DIY jobs, it can only hold 8 litres when in wet mode, which will be filled quickly if you’re tackling high volume tasks.
While the Draper 20514 wet and dry vacuum cleaner doesn’t have the extra accessories or advanced filtration system of more expensive models, it’s still an excellent machine. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s definitely an option to consider as a dry or water vacuum.
Note: The 20514 replaces the Draper 06489 on this list. If you’re still interested in the 06489 vacuum, click for our full review.
- Price Range: £
- Power: 1250W
- Weight: 4.5kg
- Dust Capacity: 15 litres
- Filter Type: Foam
- Strong suction power for a very reasonable price.
- 5 metre cable.
- Large 15 litre tank.
3. Nilfisk Multi ll 30T
The Nilfisk Multi ll 30T is one of the most powerful models on this list. It’s a no frills wet and dry vacuum cleaner with plenty of capacity and a great price, making it an attractive option to anyone who needs a workhorse vac.
With a 1400W motor, this hose and barrel vacuum generates ample suction power for almost any job. Whether you need to suck up wood chippings, non-hazardous DIY debris, sand, or liquid spills, the Nilfisk is capable of handling the task. A bonus is that the 30T has a plug for attaching electric tools, making it an excellent choice for home DIY projects.
It also has a large 30 litre capacity, although it’s worth mentioning that the actual maximum is lower than this (the exact capacity depends on whether you use a bag.) Swapping between wet and dry modes requires removing the bag, but this is standard for most vacuums in this category. There’s also a blow function, which can be useful when cleaning or blowing leaves.
An interesting feature of the Nilfisk is that it has a “Push & Clean” filter. This effectively creates a wave of air that partly cleans the filter, which is more convenient than cleaning it manually. The Nilfisk also has an indicator for when the filter needs cleaning, which helps keep the vac’s performance at a high level.
A downside of the Nilfisk is that it doesn’t come with many accessories and the included head isn’t great for carpets. Nilfisk sell a variety of extras, such as a car cleaning kit and multi carpet head, so you may want to purchase one to make the vacuum more versatile.
We think the Nilfisk Multi ll 30T is one of the best wet and dry vacuums on the market. Its ability to generate strong suction for both wet and dry materials, along with the blower function and semi-automatic filter cleaning, make it an excellent all-round vacuum. We also think it provides great value.
Note: The Nilfisk replaces the Vax 6131T which is no longer available. To learn more about the Vax, click here for our review.
- Price Range: ££
- Power: 1400W
- Weight: 9.6kg
- Capacity: 30 litres
- Filter Type: Standard
- Powerful vacuum with a strong motor
- Large capacity for both dry and wet materials
- Semi-automatic filter cleaning
4. Einhell TE-VC 1930 SA
The Einhell TE-VC 1930 SA is a powerful wet and dry vacuum that’s capable of sucking up almost anything – from glass to liquid spills. It can also be used as a dust extractor in combination with power tools, such as a sander or mitre saw.
One of the stand out features of the Einhell TE-VC 1930 SA is the stainless steel body, which is suitable for use in robust environments. This provides 30 litres of capacity and also has a drainage screw. Einhell are old-hands at producing wet & dry models, so you would expect this model to be reliable.
It’s also a powerful vacuum. This can sometimes be an issue on carpets, as the head doesn’t always glide easily, but the suction is great for most tasks. The dust extractor is also a handy feature for workshops.
If you need a wet and dry vacuum that’s suitable for work sites, then the Einhell TE-VC 1930 SA is an option to consider. It has a powerful 1500W motor, large 30 litre capacity and a durable design. While this probably isn’t the model if you just want to vacuum short-pile carpets, it’s perfect for heavy use. Click for our full review.
- Price Range: £
- Power: 1500W
- Weight: 8kg
- Dust Capacity: 30 litres
- Filter Type: Standard
- Powerful 1500W motor provides excellent suction.
- On-board power outlet and auto power-off system for use with power tools.
- Bracket for accessories.
- Large 30 litre capacity.
5. Karcher WD3 P Tough Vac
The Karcher WD3 P Tough Vac, as the name suggests, is a durable vacuum that’s built for serious jobs. It comes with a powerful motor (1400W), two extension tubes and a crevice nozzle – along with excellent cleaning performance.
A great thing about the WD3 is that it comes with a cartridge filter. This allows you to change between dry and wet modes without needing to change the filter. Other features include a blower mode, onboard storage for cables and accessories, and Karcher’s two year guarantee.
As you would expect from a vacuum called “Tough Vac,” the Karcher is a highly durable machine. This makes it great for building sites and other locations where a rugged vacuum is required. The leaf blowing feature is also very useful during the autumn, although true garden vacuums are better if you just need this function.
The Karcher WD3 P Tough Vac is another excellent wet and dry model that combines durability with a simple design. While it’s one of the more expensive models on this list, we think it provides great value for money.
- Price Range: ££
- Power: 1400W
- Weight: 6kg
- Filter Type: Standard
- Powerful suction from the 1400W motor
- Switch between dry and wet modes without changing filter
- Blower function
6. Draper 13785
The Draper 13785 is one of the best wet vacuum cleaners for home use. Whether you need to clean your garage, shed or workshop, the Draper is robust enough to handle almost anything you can throw at it.
Features of the Draper 13785 include a large 20 litre stainless steel tank, a 1.5 metre hose with air control system, powerful 1250W motor and three extension tubes. The model also comes with a floor brush, foam and cloth filters, carpet attachment and Draper’s standard guarantee.
Like most wet/dry vacs, it has excellent suction power. This means it’s great for cleaning cars or other difficult jobs. It’s also a durable vacuum that can handle everything from mortar to paint chips without getting damaged.
The Draper Draper 13785 is an excellent vacuum cleaner that’s available for a very reasonable price. It has a large 20 litre capacity – the second largest on this list – and has been positively received by users. If you don’t want to spend £100+ but need a model that can handle a variety of tough jobs, it’s a great option.
- Price Range: £
- Power: 1250W
- Weight: 4.5kg
- Dust Capacity: 20 litres
- Filter Type: Standard
- Large 20 litre capacity
- Draper’s standard guarantee
- Powerful suction
7. Black + Decker Wet and Dry Dustbuster
If you need a portable handheld wet and dry vacuum cleaner, the Black + Decker provides excellent value for money. With an RRP of just £39.99 (the actual price may vary) it’s the cheapest model on this list, and also one of our top-rated handheld vacuums.
The Dustbuster comes with a 4.8V battery that’s designed to provide enough power for quick clean-up jobs. As the name suggests, it’s capable of vacuuming both dry and wet spills. The vacuum also comes with filters, a washable dust container and an easy-to-empty design.
Of course, you should have the right expectations when buying a handheld model. It doesn’t come close to the power of some of the other vacuums on this list – and you wouldn’t expect it to at this price. So if you need a vacuum for serious clean-up jobs, the Black + Decker isn’t for you.
It’s also a very small wet vacuum cleaner, with a capacity of just 0.175 litres. There are also better handheld options with more power if you only need a vacuum for dry materials.
If, however, you need a cheap and lightweight vacuum that can handle small wet spills, it could be an excellent option. You can read our full review here.
- Price Range: £
- Weight: 1.4kg
- Dust Capacity: 0.175L
- Filter Type: Washable
- Inexpensive wet and dry model
- Great for quick clean-up jobs
- Weak suction so not suitable for more difficult tasks
How to Choose a Wet and Dry Vacuum Cleaner
While we don’t think you can go far wrong with any of the models listed above (as long as you research each model’s features compared to your requirements), we always recommend understanding what affects the performance of a vacuum before you buy. In this section, we’ll talk you through the primary considerations when choosing a wet and dry vacuum cleaner.
Your Requirements and Budget
Before you start looking for a wet vacuum cleaner, you need to think about your requirements. Do you just need a home appliance that can handle the occasional spilled drink? Or do you want an industrial strength machine with a large capacity? The best wet vacuum for you depends largely on what you need it to do.
Your budget is also a big factor. While most wet vacuums can be bought for less than £200, some are available for considerably less than this – although there are always trade-offs. Cheap wet and dry vacuums, for example, usually sacrifice either suction power or capacity in return for a lower price.
Handheld or Full Size Model
Most of the models we’ve talked about so far have been “full size,” but you can also buy handheld wet vacuum cleaners. These have much less suction power and capacity, but can be useful for cleaning up small spillages. Handheld machines are also relatively cheap.
There are also compact models, such as the Dewalt DCV582-GB, that aren’t quite handheld but don’t have a full-size floor tool. They are great for quick clean ups in workshops or on-site.
If there’s one area where wet and dry vacuums excel, its suction power. Unlike regular upright or cylinder models, the new EU regulations limiting vacuum power don’t appear to apply to wet/dry models (probably because these are often used for industrial purposes). That means if you want a powerful vacuum, a wet and dry model is probably the best option.
Even so, there’s a lot of variation in suction power between wet and dry machines. A higher power usage also doesn’t always equal better suction, although the two are closely linked.
The best way to judge the suction power of a model is to read buyer reviews. These give you an idea of how the vacuum performs compared with competing models.
Keep in mind that there can be such a thing as too much suction power. If you want to clean dirt from carpets, for example, the most powerful vacuums have a tendency to lift the carpet and are difficult to push forward.
Hose Length and Diameter
The hose diameter sets a hard upper limit to how much debris can be sucked up by the appliance. While most wet and dry vacuums have hoses with relatively large diameters, this is something you might want to check before you buy.
The length of the hose is also important. While the cord length is probably the biggest factor affecting cleaning radius, a longer hose makes it easier to reach difficult areas. The trade-off is that longer hoses tend to reduce suction.
Capacity (Wet and Dry)
Having a large capacity can make cleaning a lot more efficient. This is especially important if the vacuum is going to be used on a work site where small models can fill up quickly.
Unlike regular cleaners, a wet and dry vacuum can sometimes have two listed capacities: one for dry and one for wet. Make sure you check both capacities before deciding which model to buy.
Tip: Remember that liquid is much heavier than dust and dirt, so a larger capacity isn’t always better for liquids when it comes to emptying.
If possible, look for a vacuum with good filtration – especially if you have an allergy. If you’re looking for an industrial wet and dry vacuum for a site with potentially dangerous material, you’ll need a vacuum with filters specifically designed for this.
- Power Tool Outlet. These outlets can be used to connect the vacuum to power tools.
- Attachments and Accessories. The majority of vacuums come with basic accessories, such as a crevice tool. For more specific jobs, check which attachments are included. Also try to get a model with on-board storage.
- Cord Length. Longer cords are much more convenient when cleaning large areas and have few downsides.
- Weight. The weight of a vacuum is often overlooked. Don’t make this mistake though – a heavy vacuum can turn cleaning into a workout rather than saving you time.
- Noise. Some wet and dry models can be very loud due to their powerful motors. If this is a problem, look for vacuums with a lower decibel level.
- Hose Connection. The connection between the hose and tank can be a weak point for some models. If you need extra durability, look for a lock or screw-on connection.
- Drainage Valve. This feature can be useful for emptying large amounts of liquid.
- Warranty. Many wet and dry models come with warranties or guarantees. Make sure you check whether this includes parts and labour.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Wet and Dry Vacuums Clean Carpets?
Carpet cleaners heat a large reservoir of water before spraying it over a carpet. This, combined with a dissolved cleaning product, helps to loosen any dust and dirt. The machine then uses a vacuum to suck the dirt out, leaving a cleaner carpet in its wake. While different machines may have a variety of processes, this is generally how carpet cleaners work.
Wet & dry vacuums can’t do this. They don’t have a reservoir of water and they can’t spray water onto carpets or any other floors. They are great for vacuuming up wet spillages, but if you want to clean your carpet you’ll need to either spray on the water and cleaning product yourself, or hire a carpet cleaner.
What Makes Them Different?
As you might know, wet/dry vacuums are designed to handle more difficult jobs than a regular vacuum. That’s why they are often used for construction sites, gardens or car interiors. To achieve this, they need to be much more durable and powerful than other models.
The primary difference is how the electronics are housed. As you might imagine, it’s vital for a wet and dry vacuum to have properly insulated electronics. This prevents any risk to the user when vacuuming wet substances and also stops the machine becoming damaged.
Inside the vacuum, most wet and dry models have a system for separating liquids and solids. To access these different modes you may need to change filters, although this depends on the make and model. Some machines also come with a blower.
Wet and dry vacuum cleaners really are the “workhorses” of the cleaning world. They can handle objects that would break or short-circuit regular machines, and their ability to suck up liquid can be very useful.
When choosing a vacuum, start by thinking about your requirements. Where are you going to use the appliance? What types of jobs do you need it for? And what’s your budget?
After your requirements, the suction power is probably the most important consideration. Many wet/dry vacuums provide excellent suction, resulting in a more thorough clean.
We hope this article has helped you decide whether a wet and dry vacuum is the right choice. The next step is to read our reviews for wet and dry vacuums, which can also be found in this section. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to put them in the comments section below.
A-Z of In-Depth Wet and Dry Vacuum Reviews
- Dewalt DCV582 Wet & Dry Vacuum Cleaner Review
- Draper 06489 Wet and Dry Vacuum Cleaner Review
- Einhell TE-VC 1930 SA Wet and Dry Vacuum Review
- Karcher WD3 P Wet & Dry Vacuum Review
- Numatic CVC370 Charles Wet and Dry Vacuum Cleaner Review
- Numatic George GVE 370-2 Wet and Dry Vacuum Review
- Vax 6131T 3-in-1 Multivax Review