While there is a sheer amount of options out there, finding the best shop vac for woodworking will be less overwhelming with my ultimate buying guide. Start off with these 6 highly-recommended picks from my experience. Take a look!
- Shop-Vac 5979403 – Best overall
- Vacmaster VBV1210 – User-friendliest
- Stanley Wet/Dry Vacuum – Best portable
- Bissell 18P03 – Best wall-mounted
- CRAFTSMAN CMXEVBE17595 – Most powerful
- WORKSHOP Wet/Dry Vacs WS1600SS – Most maneuverable
|Best overall Shop-Vac 5979403||View on Amazon|
|User-friendliest Vacmaster VBV1210||View on Amazon|
|Best portable Stanley Wet/Dry Vacuum||View on Amazon|
|Best wall-mounted Bissell 18P03||View on Amazon|
|Most powerful CRAFTSMAN CMXEVBE17595||View on Amazon|
|Most maneuverable WORKSHOP Wet/Dry Vacs WS1600SS||View on Amazon|
Shop-Vac 5979403 – Best overall
- Durable large storage tank to avoid emptying every minute
- Can work as a vacuum or a blower
- Powerful motor suitable for various general cleanup jobs
- Quite heavy to move or tip it over when vacuuming.
- A fairly short cord
|Hose Length||8′ x 2-1/2″|
|Power Cord Length||12 feet|
|Accessory Diameter||1-1/4 inch|
|Included Filtration||Cartridge filter.|
|Accessories Included||– 8′ x 2-1/2″ hose.|
– (2) extension wands.
– 14″ floor nozzle.
– Crevice tool.
– Foam sleeve.
– Cartridge filter.
– Filter bag.
|Highlight Features||Secure latch system|
Can be converted into a blower
Top and side handle
What I really appreciated with the Shop-Vac 5979403 was its rear blower port. They work decently with light debris and especially, sawdust – something that other vacs can’t do because their blower is either on the front or the side.
The unit additionally features 03 extension wands to meet all kinds of versatilities of your cleanup jobs.
Combined with a powerful 6.0 peak HP motor, it’s also perfect for a powerful water pump or other general purposes. And, if as needed, you can convert this model into a blower with a push of a button.
If your concern is more about the storage tank then don’t. The 5979403 highlights a sufficiently big 8-gallon tank capacity made from long-lasting stainless-steel to ably take a beating.
Since it’s a wet-dry vacuum, there are cleanable disc filters for dry substances and foam sleeve filters for wet ones.
They are secured by a latch system and unlike other customers’ feedback, I don’t find any problems with it because there are handles under those latches.
Overall, if you have a busy woodworking shop and need a shop vac stronger than regular models, this mid-level will perfectly bridge this gap.
Vacmaster VBV1210 – User-friendliest
- The blower is quickly attached and simple to use when in need
- Deliver versatile functions thanks to 8 different accessories
- Can drain a huge amount of water
- Provide long reaches
- Storage design for unused accessories and tools isn’t convenient
|Hose Length||7′ x 2-1/2″|
|Power Cord Length||12 feet|
|Included Filtration||Cartridge Filter & Foam Wet Filter|
|Accessories Included||7 Ft. x 2-1/2 In. Hose|
2 Extension Wands
Reusable Foam Sleeve Filter
8 In. Utility Nozzle
|Highlight Features||Quickly and easily transition from vacuum to blower|
Extra-large drain port
Comes with eight accessories
Featuring a 5 peak HP motor and a 12-gallon polypropylene tank, the Vacmaster VBV1210 is able to take a licking and keeps on sucking like a breeze.
It stands out with a 3mm diameter drain hose, which is arguably extra-large for fast emptying huge quantities of water drain. But take note that you still need to lift the tank up when vacuuming a liquid mess.
If your home workshop is a bit huge, don’t worry, this model is constructed with a 7-foot hose and a 12-foot cord to provide long reaches.
Not only vacuuming, but the unit also highlights its quick-release detachable blower.
No trigger. To operate this function, you just need to switch on the button. The blower works at 210 MPH with a single speed to deliver lots of air flow. In fact, it is no different than my gas-powered blower to blow out leaves or pool lines for winterizing a pool.
Last up, with 8 different accessories, it is arguably one of the most versatile shop vacs in the market.
If you’re a beginner and looking for a user-friendly, powerful shop vac, this is the best bet.
Stanley Wet/Dry Vacuum – Best portable
- Long 10-feet power cord for freedom in movement
- The built-in cord wrap design is well-organized when not in use
- Multiple swivel casters for easier movement in all directions
- Portable, small, and lightweight
- Easy to get clogged if vacuumed too much small debris or sawdust
|Hose Length||6.8 Feet|
|Power Cord Length||10 feet|
|Included Filtration||Washable cartridge filter|
|Accessories Included||1-1/4-Inch x 6.8-Feet flexible hose|
Two extension wands
Multi-surface floor brush
Washable cartridge filter
|Highlight Features||4 swivel casters, strong handle, lightweight and compact design, cord wrap design|
What makes this Stanley Vacuum so well-loved is its superior portability. Not only crafted with a strong and grippy handle, but the product is also lightweight (17 pounds) to easily carry around.
Its compact silhouette (22” H x 15” W x 15” D) allows you to lift it up with less effort. And, unlike other tall vacs, the unit isn’t prone to tip over when pulled around.
Another outstanding feature is its 4 swivel casters for easier movement in any direction. If your workroom has so many obstacles that a general shop vac will require lots of moving and unplugging or re-plugging, this doesn’t be the one.
For a no-nonsense shop vac designed with portability in mind, this Stanley is unbeatable.
Bissell 18P03 – Best wall-mounted
- Simple, easy, and quick to convert from a vacuum to a blower for multiple uses
- Can work perfectly on different surfaces and situations
- Long hose to reach farther areas in your room
- Wall-mounted design to do clean-up tasks with less effort
- Can vacuum wet and dry without changing the filter
- Easily get clogged up when you vacuum fine dust
|Hose Length||32 feet|
|Power Cord Length||5 feet|
|Included Filtration||2-stage filtration|
|Accessories Included||Crevice Tool|
|Highlight Features||Converts to the blower, Helix System, includes 7 Versatile attachments and accessory bag, an extra long hose|
The Bissell 18P03 is designed as a wall-mounted vac, meaning that you don’t have to maneuver it around as frequently as other regular models.
Accordingly, there’re no wheels attached and the hose now is super long – up to 32 feet as maximum – to ensure it can reach to most areas if needed.
Combined with a 4-gallon dirt storage tank and a 12-amp wet/dry motor, it just takes minutes to finish any cleanup tasks without every minute emptying.
You’ve got 7 versatile attachments and 1 accessory bag to clean anything, from the bare floor, carpets, upholstery, or small crevices of a workbench to detailing a car.
If it’s a liquid mess, the LED full water tank indicator will notify when it needs to be emptied, which is quite convenient.
Like other good shop vacs, the Bissell 18P03 can reverse the airflow to turn it into a powerful blower.
All-in-all, this is a wonderful wall-mounted option for garage or detailing a vehicle.
CRAFTSMAN CMXEVBE17595 – Most powerful
- Large hose and drain to suck up huge items as well as huge quantities of liquids
- Easy and quick to change the filters
- Huge tank capacity and a powerful motor to avoid emptying the tank too frequently
- Long cord for freedom in movement
- Quite heavy
|Hose Length||7 feet|
|Power Cord Length||20 feet|
|Included Filtration||Cartridge Filter & Dust Bag|
|Accessories Included||2-1/2-in x 7-ft POS-I-LOCK dual-flex hose|
2 extension wands
Qwik Lock filter
Dust collection bag
|Highlight Features||Large 2-1/2-inch diameter hose with added dual-flex|
Qwik Lock filter fastening system
Equipped with an extra-large drain
Cleaning sawdust, big debris, or liquid messes is never such worry-free thanks to the extra-large 2-1/2-in diameter 7-foot hose and an oversized drain of Craftsman CMXEVBE17595.
The hose particularly features a dual-flex technology with emphasis on 180-degree mobility to avoid kinking when cleaning around small crevices or tight areas.
But what’s worth mentioning the most here is its 6.5 Peak HP motor. It’s powerful enough to tackle any large cleanup projects on the job site or in the garage.
When you want to blast away some filth from your workshop’s floor or clean up leaves from your driveway, just mode on the blower button. It will direct high-speed exhaust air through the hose to have your jobs done.
Filter changing afterward is also effortless. The Qwik Lock filter fastening system makes it fast and super-easy.
Seriously, for a winning combo of power, aesthetics, and multi-functionality, the Craftsman CMXEVBE17595 is worth a try.
WORKSHOP Wet/Dry Vacs WS1600SS – Most maneuverable
|Hose Length||7 feet|
|Power Cord Length||20 feet|
|Included Filtration||High-quality Cartridge Filters and Dust Collection Bags|
Fine dust Qwik Lock filter
2 ext. wands
|Highlight Features||Ergonomic handle and large rear wheels|
Integrated blowing port
- Easy to maneuver
- Powerful and versatile to blow leaves or dirt
- Locking adapters are helpful to connect to a miter saw
- Superior mobility and an included storage bag to keep all accessories in reach
Highlight a 6.5 peak horsepower motor and 266 max air watts, it can pick up a gallon of water a second.
Quite competitive to the Craftsman, this comes with a 7-foot hose with dual-flex technology that resists collapsing and adds 180-degree flexibility of both hose’s ends. Plus, the hose has a 2.5-inch diameter to make it 350% larger.
What makes it distinctive is the ease of locking into place when back again as well as attaching it to the blowing port and transitioning from a vacuum to a powerful blower.
In my opinion, the extended handle with the bag gives great help to keep accessories within reach. It also works with the large rear wheels to maneuver over thresholds and stairs easily.
The Workshop WS1600SS is one of the most maneuverable shop vacs for easy transport on any kinds of terrains.
How to choose the best shop vac for woodworking (buying guide)
For quick heavy-duty cleanup work, there are some must-have features in the best shop vacuums:
To pick up heavy items, it takes a lot of strength so, shop vac featuring a powerful motor is worth considering. At least, it should be 5 HP.
Air movement level
Aside from powerful horsepower motor, a good shop vacuum also should provide consistent air movement level.
My tips to measure this feature is testing how quick that unit can collect a mess of 15 lbs. A shop vac that’s considered good at air movement level should finish the job in 25 seconds or less.
In case it’s longer than 35 seconds, the motor is arguably underpowered – which takes risks that the motor might burn you out one day.
Though you can choose a model in any size, I highly recommend a minimum storage tank of 16 gallons for 02 major reasons:
- Prevents unwanted clogging or confusing whatever filtering process might be included
- Help the cleanup process be quicker (including liquids and heavy messes)
Considering locking hoses is essential, especially when you clean up sawdust.
I guess nobody would like to get stuck with even more work to do just because of a have-just-finished heavy cleanup dislodging it from the storage tank.
Can’t deny that a shop vac is a loud tool that you have to wear hearing protection to avoid eardrum damage if the cleanup process tends to be prolonged.
However, at least, you can lower its noise level. The best shop vac should come with a perfect compromise of full power running and acceptable sound level (no more than 85 decibels).
This feature is important if you’d like a variety of accessories for your heavy cleanup demands. Choose a safe accessory storage that can prevent the extra items falling off when you clean the woodworking up.
Larger shop vacs usually offer larger storage tank and a re powerful motor, which results in costlier price.
If you’re in a tight budget, a small unit is your go-to.
They are usually priced under $50 but at the same time, you need to accept the truth of a smaller tank and less powerful motor. It leads to less time for your woodworking projects whereas more time for cleaning.
In case you have a small shop or a hobbyist, my suggestion is a shop vac with 3 HP motor and 6-gallon tank. It’s priced between $75-$125.
A more professional-grade model will be a bit more expensive, between $300 – $500. Models in this category are usually used for large-scale, full-time operations.
In my opinion, the best shop vac should be between $150 – $200.
Who makes the best shop vac for woodworking?
Not only provide a wide range of shop vacs in different motor powers and tank capacities, but Shop-Vac also tries their best to deliver the most competitive price. It’s a perfect choice for those who are in a tight budget.
Vacmaster is a long-standing brand with its renowned shop vac lines. The most outstanding features are their powerful motor and user-friendly design. In fact, it’s preferred most by female users.
The biggest selling point of Stanley shop vac lines is their portability. 90% of their products are lightweight and compact with emphasis on swiveling casters.
An oldie but a goodie, this family-owned company has been around for over 100 years. They are well-known worldwide and their products are well-loved because of cost-effectiveness and a generous supply of attachments.
Craftsman is always my favorite address for a powerful shop vac that can clean up different messes and water of small projects or spaces. Something that higher-end models can’t do.
I love that every WORKSHOP product is created with customers in mind, which is clearly proved through maneuverable design as well as a variety of filters and versatile accessories. If your workshop requires different cleanup tasks, this brand is worth a try.
Why do I need a shop vac if I have a regular vacuum?
There are 3 major reasons that you should invest on a shop vac to take care of your heavy-duty cleanup work:
- Can pick up heavy items with the same efficiency as it does with sawdust or woodworking debris
- Some wet/dry vacs can suction liquid messes
- Work more powerfully to finish the jobs quick and easy
They are something that a regular vacuum can’t do.
Do you have to use a filter with a shop vac?
If you want to run a shop vac without filter, it should be used for liquids pickup only. Otherwise, dry cleaning without a filter will cause damage to some internal parts.
Besides, it is prone to blow dust back to your work space, which ends up with even bigger messes than the one you want to clean.
Can I use my shop vac for water?
Yes, you can use a wet/dry vacuum or shop vac to suck up water. But take note that some adjustments are needed on the tool to use with water because vacuuming dry objects is totally different from wet vacuuming.
It’s best to read carefully the directions.
Is it possible to clean the filter?
This will depend from unit to unit. In general, foam filters are safely constructed to be rinsed out and air dried while the cartridge type might require more hands-on to beat it out.
Usually, the proper maintenance process is included in the product’s manual. You should consult there.
Can I use Shop Vac without a bag?
Just like with the filter, using a shop vac without a bag for wet cleanup only. For dry vacuuming, it’s a must to avoid unwanted messes inside your canister. Even worse, this can cause leak back out of the machine or clog the filters.
Picking the wrong model is like drinking toxics because it remains your filthy workshop while wasting your time and money.
That’s why I tried my best to give you easy-to-understand, brief but full information to help you well-placed and choose the best shop vac for woodworking.
Thanks for reading!
I’m James J. Decker, a hobbyist and DIYs and also a big of home improvement and gardening tools. I immensely enjoy how these amazing products improve productivity and efficiency, and allow me to do jobs for which I would’ve otherwise needed professional help.