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How to Use a Shop Vac for Water – Safety Tips for Both Wet & Dry Vacuuming

Shop Vacs are not your regular carpet dust vacuum cleaners that you use in your home every day. Instead, they are mighty cleaners designed to clean up heavy messes such as debris on construction sites and big chunks of scraps and nails in wood workshops. Can you use a Shop Vac for water? Yes, not only dry messes, it can pick up water and other liquid messes also. If you are looking for a vacuum that sucks up water along with dry materials, then Shop Vac is the perfect choice. Before knowing how to use Shop Vac for Water, let’s learn a bit more about this wet dry vac.

The wet/dry Shop Vacs are massive and heavy units that you wouldn’t normally need if you only deal with the dry mess that your regular home vac can easily take care of. In addition, they are less complicated than regular home vacuum cleaners as they come with relatively fewer attachments and functions.

How to Use Shop Vac for Water?

If you have a wet/dry Shop Vac and a large puddle staring in your face and making you wonder, how exactly do I use a Shop Vac for sucking up this water? Is it the same as cleaning the regular dry mess? Yes and no! It’s not very complicated as it may seem to use a wet/dry vacuum for water, but a few things must be considered before starting the water suction business.

We are breaking down the steps for you for using a Shop Vac for water cleaning task:

Step 1: Empty the Collection Tank

First of all, you need to make sure that your Shop Vac collection tank is empty and clean of any debris or liquids. If it has a dust bag, remove it before using it for water.

Step 2: Remove and Change the Filter

A Wet and Dry Shop Vac usually has a paper filter for dry dust and a foam filter for water. Before using the Shop Vac for water, make sure you remove the dry waste filter and replace it with a foam filter. A foam filter is necessary and will prevent water from reaching the motor, preventing damage to the Shop Vac motor.

Step 3: Attach the Right Nozzle

Shop Vac has various nozzles for different purposes and situations. For example, if you need to clean the water on flat surfaces, you can use the floor nozzle. A crevice nozzle is a good choice for removing the water caused by flooding. Ensure the head of the crevice nozzle is not fully submerged in the water, as it can disrupt the airflow in the hose.

Step 4: Plugin the Vacuum

Water gets mixed with electricity when using a wet-dry Shop Vac for water removal. Proper grounding is necessary to ensure a safe electric current flow. It is recommended that you plug the Shop Vac into a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlet. However, if your water tank is insulated, you can use a regular electric outlet.

Step 5: Remove the Water

Simply push the turn-on button after plugging in the wire. Next, place the floor/crevice nozzle on the surface and move it as required until all the water is removed or the tank is full.

Usually, the wet/dry Shop Vac turns off automatically once the tank becomes full, or its motor will make a screeching sound to hint that it’s almost full and needs to be emptied.

Step 6: Remove the Debris from Canister

After the Shop Vac tank is full, you need to open the collection tank and filter out the water by removing all the debris.

Step 7: Proper Water Disposal

The water collected needs to be disposed of safely. Don’t pour it out in the yard if you think water is chemically treated or from a construction site.

Step 8: Proper Cleaning and Disinfecting

The collection tank needs to be adequately cleaned from the inside out to prevent the chances of mold and fungus growth. You can easily clean it with warm detergent water and rinse it with clean water. You may disinfect it with bleach, too, if you desire. After washing, wipe it with a dry cloth and air dry. Let the hose hang vertically to drain out all the water.

Step 9: Storage

Properly storing a Shop Vac is an important part of using it cautiously. Never store a wet and dry Shop Vac while it’s still damp. It should be stored indoors, standing upright, not sideways or upside down.

Some Bonus Tips while using a Wet Dry Vac for Water

  • Wet/dry Shop Vacs come in different container sizes. You should estimate your water sucking requirements before making the purchase.
  • Never use paper filters to clean out the water, as they may clog the vacuum and damage the motor too.
  • As Shop Vacs are heavily built, they are fairly heavy. You should store them closer to the area where you need the most cleaning work done.
  • If a Shop Vac does not turn off immediately after its tank becomes full, you should turn it off manually as it may reduce its efficiency and may damage the motor too. You would know that the tank is full by its screeching sound.
  • You should always keep your Shop Vac in an upright position as water may flow to the motor in a sideways or upside-down position.
  • Never use Shop Vac to clean up flammable material.
Are all Shop Vacs wet and dry?

Many companies make wet-dry vacuums, but most the popular brand is Shop-Vac. They are well known for manufacturing wet-dry vacs. So, if you are having Shop Vac means you can use it for cleaning both wet and dry messes.


The Shop Vac is really a sturdy multifunctional unit that comes in handy for different purposes. They are indeed designed for workshops, not for home use. Nonetheless, they are great devices to clean up liquid messes, empty the pools, fix the water logging issue due to pipe breakage, and all other liquidly accidents that are too sophisticated for your regular vacuum cleaner.