Best Shop Vacs and Dust Extractors for the Money
Article Last Updated: Friday, July 20th 2018
Whether you’re looking for the best shop vacs for yourself or for work use, there is one common factor between the two. You want something that is powerful enough to extract all dust, dirt, water and debris effectively. Not only will we examine the best shop vac for the money but we will also look at the best shop vac for dust collection.
The following article lists the top shop vacs and dust extractors. Their best features will be highlighted and it will provide insights as to why they’re beneficial. A pros and cons list for each product helps highlight the best features and also mentions the characteristics that don’t make the individual items reach their full potential.
1. Best Shop Vac for the Money: 5986000 5G Stainless Wet Dry Vac
This vacuum cleaner is practically a two-in-one unit. You can clean wet and dry messes easily with this vacuum cleaner. There is a foam sleeve to be used in wet cleanups and a reusable disc filter for dry use.
This vacuum cleaner is versatile and can be used to clean various areas such as:
- Retail center stores
- Woodworking Areas
The Shop Vac weighs 14.2 lbs. There is an easy to grip handle on top of the machine. This adds a lot of portability convenience. This little beauty could should be classified as the best small shop vac on the market.
The technical features of this product include:
- 120V power
- 4.5-HP motor
These two features allow you to clean up all jobs easily before the stain is set. The 5-gallon tank extends your cleaning sessions. You don’t need to clean out the tank regularly during cleaning.
Looking for a Quiet Shop Vac?
- We found that FEIN produces the #1 quiet shop vac on the market. If you need to cleanup without all the noise we have analyzed a few other options for you and recommend you check out our analysis.
The strength this shop vac model provides is powerful to clean up the soft types of dirt such as ashes.
You will get three 1.25’’ extension wands. These wands help you to clean up in hard to reach places.
This vacuum also has a blower feature. Attach the 7’ hose to the rear blower port. Now you can blow out the dirt or wood chippings in corners that the vacuum suction won’t reach.
- 10’’ wet/dry nozzle
- One crevice tool
- Gulper nozzle
Two filters are provided:
- One type U cartridge filter
- One disposable filter bag
The disposable filter bag will catch all the debris while you vacuum.
- Easy to assemble
- Ideal for dog hair
- The long nozzle helps to clean multiple rooms quicker and easier
- It’s highly reliable when cleaning up water
- The cord is short so you will need to use an extension
- It’s lightweight and has a flimsy feel to it
This product has the perfect balance between air flow and sealed suction. If you are looking for the best wet dry shop vacuum cleaner this is it.
- Airflow CFM: 169
- Sealed suction: 46
With the overall 265 air watts, you’re guaranteed a product that has a strong suction that cleans up your dry or wet jobs easily. The 6.5HP and the 116V motor also contribute to the strong suction power.
You’re not limited to home, workshop or similar places with this vacuum cleaner. You can clean your vehicles too. It’s easy enough to handle in more hard-to-reach places.
Through testing and development, it was concluded that the motor will last on average of 960 hours. The performance and reliability will be consistent throughout the years you have this product.
The 16-gallon tank provides a sufficient amount of holding capacity for the various clean ups. You can clean more spaces with a single tank.
One special feature this vacuum has is the “Qwik lock filter fastening system.” This system allows you to easily adjust the vacuum filter to accommodate wet or dry jobs. There is also an auto shut off float mechanism which prevents overflow during wet cleanups.
The drum of the vacuum is made with a tough copolymer material. This is a dent- and crack- resistant material and will not easily rust. The drum also has a port for easy water drainage.
The port is integrated. It can act as a blower. You can blow unwanted debris out of garages, job sites and driveways.
- One cartridge filter that is installed and secured with the Qwik lock system
- Roll-tight locking sleeve that secures the connection between accessories
- Two extensions which are both 20.5’’ long
- Dual-flex locking hose
- One car nozzle
- One squeegee for liquid cleanups
- One utility nozzle for larger debris
All of the additional accessories can be easily stored on the vacuum. Even the 20’ power cord can be wrapped around the vacuum’s head.
- You can easily swap between wet and dry
- The additional tools provided fulfil requirements of most cleaning jobs you have around the house
- Very powerful and will suck most items in its path
- The long cord gives you greater coverage
- It can be noisy
- Clogging can occur
- Without regular cleaning, it could overheat
We have a full page dedicated to Festool products on our site because of their pristine craftsmanship and attention to detail. The 583492 CT 26 E HEPA Dust Extractor is clearly the best dust extractor on the market but you will pay a premium for this machine.
Easy to Use
This dust extractor allows you to also clean up wet spills and you can easily change between the operations.
When you attach a power tool to the extractor it will turn on automatically, and you can use it immediately. There is also an automatic shutoff feature.
The hose is 11 ½’ long. You can easily clean larger or more areas without requiring a different power source. The hose is built to be:
- Kink resistant
- Shock hazards resistant
- Static cling resistant
The anti-static hose was also designed to help reduce or eliminate dust build up on the hose’s exterior. It also helps to prevent clogging.
The vacuum was ergonomically designed. The dust extractor is equipped with large wheels which don’t allow the machine to be easily tipped. The wheels and the low center of gravity help you easily move this machine around.
The features of this Festool dust extractor help ensure high performance in cleanups.
- Variable suction force—The suction power can be controlled by simply turning the dial
- Self-cleaning filter bag—This has a collapsible design. The bag reduces dust clogs between cycles. It also ensures a full and sustained suction power and a longer bag life.
- HEPA filtration—The filtration system is rated to remove most dust and particulates down to 0.3 microns
Capacity with Portabilty
The tank has a size of 6.9 gallons and a total weight of 28.7 lbs. The ergonomic carry handle is located 7-9’’ above the body; this is the most natural position for lifting. It helps with the maneuverability of the dust extractor.
The model with the “Sys Dock” feature converts the dust extractor into a portable cart for all your tools and accessories. Your tools will be laid flat and won’t jolt excessively when you move the cart.
- It has a quiet operation
- Replacement bags are inexpensive and easy to install
- Very reliable and durable
- All the attachments fit well
- High priced
- It’s heavy to lift
Available in a 9 or 14 gallon size, you have the option of choosing the one that suits your needs. There are also two styles to select from:
- Auto filter clean—This cleans the filter every 15 seconds to maintain the maximum suction power
- Semi-auto—This cleans the filter on demand through the remote activation button
These are the only differences between the two designs. Both versions of the dust extractor have power broker dials. This dial optimizes the power usage and helps prevent blown circuits.
The dust extractor is equipped with L-BOXX integration. This converts the dust extractor into a portable workstation to carry your tools or accessories.
There is also a power tool activation. When you attach or detach a power tool, it will automatically power on or off. This contributes to easy setup and requires fewer extension cords.
Wet Dry Vac Capability
Both sizes and styles allow you to clean up any water spills. The wet vacuuming operation has a water level sensor. This sensor automatically shuts the machine down as soon as the water capacity has reached a certain limit. This prevents water damage to the motor.
The high suction force, the polypropylene tanks—which are dust and rust resistant—make this practical to use on job sites. The frame, rubber wheels and the locking casters ensure this dust extractor is built to withstand a job site conditions.
- One 10’ hose
- One plastic bag
- One filter
- One power tool hose adapter
- One anti-static bend nozzle
- The accessories can be stored on the extractor
- Quiet operation
- Very powerful
- It collects most of the debris
- Sturdy and rolls easily
- There’s a 25-second delay when powering off
- The semi-auto filter cleaning is unreliable
This dust extractor is lightweight and fully assembled. The strong suction power makes it practical for contractors who want to keep the work station clean after every job.
The automatic filter cleaning system pulses every 30 seconds. This cleaning functionality allows you to have a continuous operation without needing to stop to clean out the filter.
The powerful 15-amp motor delivers 140 CFM of airflow for maximum suction. This suction is consistent for wet and dry applications. You can control the level of suction and power consumption; this ensures you’re getting the most out of the dust extractor without damaging the internal components.
With a simple switch, you can select between tool actuation or vacuum only. The power tool actuation controls the on/off operations of the dust extractor.
The telescoping handle on the dust extractor makes it portable. There are multiple tie-down points to secure the vacuum during transportation. The heavy-duty wheels and the locking mechanism help the dust collector move easily around your job site; the wheels and casters are built with heavy duty materials that make it durable for job sites.
The kink-resistant hose prevents dust from clogging up the extraction system. The hose connector is universal; it provides a strong connection between the extractor and the hose. It also provides swivel capability.
This dust extractor meets the criteria for HEPA and EPA. You protect yourself and those around you from the effects of being immersed in dust or debris for long periods.
Capacity and Accessories
The power cord is 15’ and the size of the tank is 10 gallons. Together they enable you to clean larger spaces and more messes without moving positions or changing the filters.
The kit includes:
- Two HEPA filters
- One fleece bag
- One anti-static hose
The dust extractor is fully assembled and ready to be used as soon as you receive it.
- Almost quiet operation
- The cleaning system doesn’t reduce the suction power
- The hose and cords store easily
- Works well for masonry projects
- Cleaning out a full tank can be messy
- Replacement hoses don’t always fit the port
- It doesn’t suck various debris well
- Heavy to lift
Best Shop Vacs and Dust Extractors: Summary
In our search for the best shop vacs we found the 5986000 5G to be at the top of list for affordability. Cleaning can be a tedious process, especially when you have both wet and dry areas to clean, but a wet/dry vacuum cleaner can help with this process. However, selecting the right one can be challenging due to the numerous choices available, and all the different features and capabilities of each of these products. You don’t want the machine to make cleaning even more difficult.
The WORKSHOP Wet Dry Vac WS1600VA dust extractor is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a good solution to your wet/dry cleanups. The powerful motor provides a suction power that will effectively clean up any mess. The additional accessories included in the kit are highly useful. We believe this is the best shop vac for dust collection and also wet cleanups. The squeegee you receive provides the ultimate cleaning power. It’s perfect for spacious areas, as well as small areas such as your car. With this machine you’re guaranteed a very clean home or work site.
Shop Vac Buyer’s Guide
Importance of Shop Vac Power
When choosing a shop vac, there are a couple of different measures that manufacturers use to identify and differentiate their power levels. That said, the use of the different ratings is far from definitive or truly standardized, so it can be a bit difficult figuring out which shop vac is actually more powerful than another model.
One thing to keep in mind is that the power rating of a shop vac is not really that great of a measure of figuring out how well it will perform in different types of vacuuming scenarios as the pump, hose build, and various other qualities will have as large or larger of an impact.
Still, the power of the shop vac will have a fairly big impact on the durability of the product as a more efficient and powerful motor will be able to run for extended periods of time longer than weaker motors.
Depending on the manufacturer, the motor of the shop vac will either be rated in horsepower or amperages--though amperages is a more appropriate rating considering that the quietest shop vacs are also electrically powered.
Granted, all shop vacs are electric powered, but there are some commercial and industrial shop vacs which will rely on pneumatics and even rare gas powered shop vacs. That said, it is important to note that one rating does not necessarily correlate directly with the other rating.
Due to the way that you convert different power ratings for an electric motor, it is quite possible that two shop vacs with the same horsepower rating actually have different amperage ratings and thus produce different amounts of power.
When it comes to the power rating, different grade of shop vac will generally fall within different power rating ranges--though it is worth noting that this is simply a general guideline as the primary qualities which identify the different grades of shop vacs.
For instance, the build materials and the different suction qualities of a shop vac will be a bit more indicative of the shop vac’s grade. Still, a shop vac that hovers between 7 to 8 amps will skirt the line of the different grades as the shop vacs that are 6 amps and below are generally relegated to the consumer grade market whereas all of the shop vacs that are 9 amps or more are generally considered a professional grade.
Suction Power is Critical
While the power that the shop vac uses is often a consumer shorthand for quality, anyone with experience using shop vacs knows that the suction power of a shop vac is far more important and will ultimately impact the experience of the shop vac’s performance in use.
That said, suction power will be rated differently depending on what type of matter you are trying to suck up. The ratings used for water suction differ than those used for dry suction, and dry suction even has a sub-rating meant to identify how effective the shop vac is at vacuuming heavier solids.
In this regard, while you might want to look for a shop vac that is simply the best at every type of suction, it might be a better idea to look for a shop vac that provides a superior performance with a specific type of vacuuming that you are more likely to do than otherwise.
Cubic feet per minute (CFM) - Essential for Dust Control
CFM is the measurement that shop vacs use to rate how well they are at vacuuming finer solids like dust or other particulate messes. On the flip side, this rating can also serve as an adequate way of determining how effective a shop vac is as a blower--if it has that function. In this regard, judging the CFM is fairly straightforward as a higher CFM directly correlates to a better particulate vacuuming function as well as a better blowing function.
However, for the blowing function, it is important to remember not to compare whatever ancillary blowing function a shop vac might include as a way to provide value and versatility to an actual blowing tool--like a leaf blower. Whatever CFM a shop vac provides as a vac blower does not have the same kind of airspeeds generated that a professional blower does.
To that end, if you do not get a shop vac that comes with a blower function, there is no necessary need to go all out of a shop vac with the highest CFM since most particulate matter is going to be light enough that a certain threshold is that is required to vacuum it up with more suction power simply making that a bit easier.
Sealed Pressure - Key for fluid suction
Sealed pressure, or SP, is the measurement that shop vac manufacturers use to rate how good a given product is at vacuuming fluids. Keep in mind, this will still be an important quality when determining how well a shop vac would be at picking up mixtures of solids and fluids too.
Essentially, the sealed pressure rating tells you how much suction power the shop vac maintains when vacuuming a steady supply of fluids. Unlike the other ratings related to suction power, the SP is the only one that in no way has any relation to the potential blowing power of the shop vac as is reserved exclusively for the vacuuming of liquids.
When it comes down to the value of a shop vac, the sealed pressure is generally considered the most important suction power rating and a good way to differentiate between seemingly similar shop vacs.
This is largely due to the fact that it is fairly easy to find a solid quality shop vac that has a relatively high CFM with a substandard sp, but it is exceedingly uncommon to find a shop vac with a great SP and a substandard CFM. As such, the SP is generally seen as the feature to beat when it comes to judging between different shop vacs.
Air Power - Important for Sucking Larger Debris
Air power, or AP, also known as Air Watts is far more similar to CFM than it is SP as it relates to the vacuuming power that the shop vac can generate for solid matter. That said, the AP distinguishes itself from the CFM in that it is explicitly designed to judge the vacuuming power of larger pieces of solid matter--like pieces of leftover wood that is not even suitable for scrap after making cuts.
This feature will also provide some insight into how well the shop vac will be able to vacuum a mixture of solids and liquids up. Beyond that, you can even get a shop vac that is designed to pick up loose pieces of hardware like nuts and bolts. That said, arguably the most important part of the shop vac that influences the AP is the size of the air port as that will ultimately determine the maximum size object that the shop vac can vacuum.
Regardless, the AP is actually the least relevant rating for suction power when it comes to shop vacs since it is less common than both fine particulate solids vacuuming and liquid vacuuming.
What Material is your Shop Vac made of?
While the material composition of any product is important, for shop vacs it all really matters how you intend to use your shop vac. In fact, this is actually one of the few instances where the material composition of the product is not one of the top 2 most important qualities--especially in regards to the durability of the product as there are far fewer situations in which the shop vac would otherwise be exposed to a risk of physical damage.
In fact, the only parts that matter in terms of their materials, as well as the ones most likely to fail, are the pump and the motor. Outside of that, so long as you do not put the shop vac in a circumstance where it could be physically damaged, the material will generally not matter for durability.
This is not to suggest there are no other factors that the materials heavily influence nor any degree to which the relative durability might be tested.
Still, there are not too terribly many different options when it comes to selecting the material and because vacuuming chemicals of various types might be one of the primary uses of your shop vac, it is important to make sure that the shop vac material is able to handle more substances than it is able to handle rough use.
This is by far the most common material used for the majority of a shop vac and especially for the body of the shop vac. The reason that plastic is used as much as it is has more to do with overhead costs and a lack of need for better materials than anything else--in fact, plastic is by far the least expensive material used in the manufacturing of shop vacs.
In terms of its function, plastic has a good mix of advantages and flaws which allow it to perform serviceably for the majority of general shop vac settings and needs.
For instance, plastic is one of the lightest materials used in the construction of shop vacs which is generally important regardless of the setting but is especially important if you need to take the shop vac out to different job sites.
On top of that, plastic is also a material that is incredibly resistant to a wide variety of different types of chemicals--especially those commonly found in workshops or garages. On the flip side, plastic is also one of the least durable materials used in the manufacturing of shop vacs, though this is not necessarily that much of an issue unless you use the shop in more controlled settings.
That said, small points of attachment and nearly any part of the pump or the motor should not be made of plastic as these points are not only more structurally important than others but also smaller and more prone to breaking in the first place.
If the thick plastic used in the manufacturing of a majority of shop vacs is not suitable to your needs, then you can always go a step up and get a shop vac made of stainless steel. This material is suitable for most commercial settings and even many industrial ones--depending on the task.
That said, stainless steel is a bit similar to plastic in that while it does present with some advantages, it does also have a few drawbacks to balance it out and force a self-analysis. For example, shop vacs made of stainless steel are going to be a bit heavier than those made of plastic.
While this may not necessarily present too much of an issue in a controlled environment like a workshop, it does potentially present more conflict if you happen to be on a job site--especially if that job site is on uneven terrain. Still, stainless steel presents as by far the most durable material commonly used for shop vacs and is significantly more durable than plastic from an external force.
On top of that, stainless steel also happens to be incredibly resistant to the same types of chemicals used in a workshop or other professional setting. Of course, the ability to actually perform a wider range of jobs is far more valuable than the convenience value of being lightweight, and as such, stainless steel is generally considered to be a better all-around material to be used in the manufacturing of shop vacs.
When it comes to shop vacs, the capacity may very well be one of the more important qualities, though it could just as easily be negligible depending on the setting. For instance, if all you have to worry about is a little bit of sawdust here and there, then there is no real reason to get a shop vac with a drum more than 10 gallons--which is an incredibly generous upper limit for that situation.
Instead, 10 gallons or more is most appropriate for a professional setting or one where you expect to vacuum liquids--though keep in mind the larger the capacity the heavier a full bucket will be. It is also important to keep in mind that if you ever intend to vacuum up larger, solid pieces, then you are going to want to make sure that the drum can both accommodate the larger pieces as well as finer particulate and potentially liquid contents.
Now, in regards to quieter shop vacs, larger capacity drums carry with it another potential concern: volume. Specifically, the larger capacity drums have a tendency to be attached to shop vacs with more powerful motors and better pumps, so shop vacs with larger capacity drums will also have a tendency to be louder than smaller shop vacs--and do not even think about getting a commercial shop vac for this purpose.
Shop Vac Filter
While the very act of vacuuming is designed to clean a given thing or area, the shop vac itself can get to a point where it creates as much mess as it picks up if you are not consistent with the maintenance.
Essentially, the filter is used to prevent any of the vacuumed contents from getting into the smaller, mechanical components like the pump or the motor--something which can completely ruin the shop vac if it occurs. On top of that, the filter also ensures that the air exhaust from the shop vac comes out clean which is especially important if you have any allergies to dust.
Of course, the type of filter used in the shop vac can also have a fairly big impact in terms of how well it responds to people with allergies to dust. If that is the situation with you, it might be a better idea to go ahead and pay for the more expensive models of shop vac that come with HEPA filters.
The standard filter is more geared towards catching particulates with little care as to exceedingly tiny allergens, whereas HEPA filters use a unique mesh construction to ensure that as many of the finest particles are trapped as possible.
One thing to keep in mind is that the filter choice for the shop vac will ultimately add to the overhead cost of the shop vac which can be a bigger expense for a commercial setting than the consumer one.
Hoses for your Shop Vacuum
The hose of the shop vac is often overlooked, but the shop vac is virtually worthless without a high-quality hose to accompany it. That said, making sure that the shop vac comes with a high-quality hose is necessarily the most important thing. This is primarily due to the fact that most manufacturers sell additional accessories--though this obviously increases the overall cost of the product.
That said, the quality of the hose can be judged in a couple of different ways and will heavily depend on the setting and type of vacuuming you intend to do with your shop vac. For instance, the size of the hose plays an important role in determining what the largest piece of debris your shop vac can pick up is.
Still, the quality of a shop vac hose is more commonly judged based on the materials it is constructed from and the quality of its seals with the vacuum as an air leak can lead to the suction power dropping dramatically--even for a relatively small leak. In this regard, one of the most important things to remember is to look for a hose that is made of non-biodegradable materials.
For example, a common material used for seals in shop vacs is rubber, which is fine initially as it does provide a good seal, but rubber is more biodegradable than some other synthetic materials and will need to eventually be replaced.
Shop Vac Blower
While it is not anywhere near the same level of importance as most of the other qualities of a shop vac, many manufacturers will design their shop vacs to also be used as small blowers.
When judging a shop vacs blower ability, the best rating you can come up with will be the CFM--though that is not an entirely accurate representation of the shop vac’s blower ability without knowing what the airspeed is as well, a rating not generally included with shop vacs.
This feature provides a great deal of versatility, but if you either do not have a need for a small blower or actually have a need for a larger blower, then you do not need to worry about the additional expense that a blower feature on your shop vac will incur.
Still, the blower function is not too terribly difficult to include as it simply involves allowing the vacuum mechanism to function in the opposite direction. As such, it will not necessarily increase the price unduly and is especially minor in comparison once you begin to consider some of the higher-end, more expensive shop vacs.
Regardless, it is important to understand that while the blower function may seem attractive, it is not going to be powerful enough for the situation to compare to a dedicated power blower.
As you can see there are many key factors to consider when choosing the best shop vac. Whether it be for dust extraction, blowing, or water cleanup the shop vac can be an extremely versatile tool. Determine which feature is critical for your specific needs and use our buyers guide to choose the right machine.
- 1 Best Shop Vacs and Dust Extractors for the Money
- 1.1 1. Best Shop Vac for the Money: 5986000 5G Stainless Wet Dry Vac
- 1.2 2. Best Shop Vac for Dust Collection: WORKSHOP WS1600VA
- 1.3 1. Best Dust Extractor - Festool 583492 CT 26
- 1.4 2. Bosch VAC140A 14-G Dust Extractor
- 1.5 3. DEWALT DWV012 10-G Dust Extractor
- 1.6 Best Shop Vacs and Dust Extractors: Summary
- 1.6.1 Shop Vac Buyer’s Guide
- 22.214.171.124 Importance of Shop Vac Power
- 126.96.36.199 Suction Power is Critical
- 188.8.131.52 Cubic feet per minute (CFM) - Essential for Dust Control
- 184.108.40.206 Sealed Pressure - Key for fluid suction
- 220.127.116.11 Air Power - Important for Sucking Larger Debris
- 18.104.22.168 What Material is your Shop Vac made of?
- 22.214.171.124 Storage Capacity
- 126.96.36.199 Shop Vac Filter
- 188.8.131.52 Hoses for your Shop Vacuum
- 184.108.40.206 Shop Vac Blower
- 1.6.2 Final Thoughts
- 1.6.1 Shop Vac Buyer’s Guide