How to Use a Shop Vac for Water Spills and Puddles

Being one of the pioneer producers of wet and dry vacuum cleaners in the United States of America, Shop Vac has introduced innovative and premium quality products to their customers for the past fifty years. Although there are thousands of people who use Shop Vac, many still wonder if they can use the product to drain or clean up water and if yes, the question is, “How to use a Shop Vac for water?”

Can You Use a Shop Vac Cleaner for Water?

The answer is, yes, you can use Shop Vac Vacuum Cleaners to clean and drain water because the company offers a wide selection of excellent shop vacuum cleaners that can work on dry and wet surfaces. These units can pick up any nonhazardous liquids such as water, milk, and other types of fluids within minutes. What is better is that the lightweight plastic structure of the vacuum cleaner makes it easy to carry or move around.

These wet-dry models come with a cartridge filter for the dry dirt, and a foam filter for the liquid waste. If you are using one or planning to use one, it is strongly recommended to have the filter changed as per your need for the proper functioning of the equipment. If you are looking for a wet dry vac with low noise levels check out our guide for great options.

How to Use a Shop Vac for Water Clean Up?

Before using the vacuum on liquid spills or puddles, be sure to remove the filter paper that is meant for dry vacuuming and leave the foam filter.

  • Small Spills

For small spills in can be helpful to buy a smaller vac. Follow the procedure below:

  1. First, cover the filter cage with a foam sleeve if the liquid spill contains solid wastes such as shards.
  2. Carefully place the vacuum on a flat surface.
  3. Attach a floor nozzle.
  4. Clean any stagnant liquid or water.
  5. Once done, just switch of the product and drain the collected water.
  • Draining Puddles of Water

One of the common uses of Shop Vac Cleaners is draining high volume of water like those caused by broken pipes and collected rainwater. The process is also very simple.

  1. Attach the garden hose to the designated port in the vacuum cleaner.
  2. The other end of the garden hose should be in the area where you intend to drain the water collected. This way, the container remains empty, and you don’t have to worry about container getting full.
  3. Once ready, place the pipe to pick up the liquid; the water will drain in just a few minutes.

Note: Although the Shop Vac Cleaner can pump out high volumes of water, it should not be used for bodies of water like ponds since stones or any hard material can clog the machine.

  • Using It without a Filter

Some units can be used for water without the filter, and their instruction manuals will clearly state how to use a shop vac for water. However, it is something that we do not recommend since by doing so, you are just jeopardizing the product’s durability.


Although some Shop Vac units can be used for wet surfaces or liquid spills, there are certain exceptions. In addition, there are some practices that you should follow to keep you and your property safe, as well as extend the life of the vacuum cleaner. They are the following:

  • Do not use Shop Vac vacuums to pick up any hazardous liquid like oil, chemicals, alcohol-based liquids, and flammable liquids. Doing so will cause the motor to dysfunction. Likewise, a short circuit might also happen, which can be hazardous to life.
  • Never place the vacuum cleaner on an uneven floor.
  • Paper filters should never be used when using the vacuum cleaner to clean up liquid.
  • Do not remove the tank when the power is switched on.
  • When the container is full, switch off the product.
  • Do not pick up liquid with sharp debris.
  • Do not wear loose clothing when using appliances

How to Identify if the Container is Full?

For you to know if the container is already full of water, you must be mindful of the pitch sound that the product’s motor produces as well as its suctioning power. If the pitch changes or the volume is too loud, and the suction has slowed down, that means the container is full. The vacuum must be immediately switched off as failure to do so may result in a dysfunctional motor.

The good thing though is that most Shop Vac units automatically shut down when the container is full. Such is achieved since the container has an internal float which rises as the water level increases.

As the water nearly reaches the full level, the float touches the stopper that shuts down the machine. Once the container is full, unplug the vacuum and carefully remove the container and dispose of the contents in the appropriate drain.

How to Remove the Collected Water from the Container?

To drain the water inside the container, place the container upside down and remove the foam sleeve by sliding it up or towards the cover. Quickly shake the filter sleeve up and down to remove the dust.

Rinse the sleeve under running water then bloat with a clean towel and leave to dry. Once dry, the filter sleeve can be used again. Nevertheless, having an extra pair of foam filters is recommended since you will not be able to reuse the foam filter until it has dried.

Carefully remove all junk from the container and do not use any flammable or household cleaning products when cleaning the container. A warm soap and water mix can be used to clean any sticky residues.

Final Words

Overall, the Shop Vac wet-dry vacuum is beneficial for commercial and residential use since cleaning up a spill, or a flooded area is not that difficult. All you have to do is to follow the few simple steps described in this article.

Although some vacuums by Shop Vac have the capacity of 20 gallons, the 12 and 14-gallon models are the best choice for homeowners. As a piece of advice, to ensure the durability of the product, always take proper care and follow the given instructions to avoid damages.

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