Shop Vac vs. Vacuum Cleaner

You might have heard of a shop vac before, but what is it, and do you need one? Let’s have a look at everything you need to know about what a shop vac is and who needs one.

What is a shop vac?
A shop vac is a really powerful vacuum cleaner used for heavy duty jobs like construction and carpentry. It can suck up everything from dirt and dust to chunks of building material and wood. A shop vac consists of a big, sturdy hose, a powerful motor and a large canister that can hold lots of dust and debris.

Shop vacs are sometimes called bucket vacuums because canisters are shaped like big buckets. They also usually have wheels to make them easy to move around.

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What are shop vacs used for?
Shop vacs are often used in woodworking shops, hence their name. They also get used a lot on construction sites, because they can clean up nails, screws, chunks of metal and wood, and lots of other debris you find on these messy sites.

Can I vacuum up water with a shop vac?
Some shop vacs can only handle dry materials, but you can get wet/dry shop vacs which, as the name suggests, can suck up water and other wet messes. These are more versatile, but are usually more expensive, however they’re useful for outdoor construction sites that can get really wet sometimes.

How does a shop vac compare to a home vacuum?
While it might be tempting to get a shop vac for your home vacuum cleaner, most homes really don’t need something that powerful. So how exactly do shop vacs and home vacuum cleaners differ?

To start with, shop vacs are a lot more powerful. As we mentioned above, shop vacs can handle everything from dust and dirt through to screws, nails, and chunks of rock and wood. Most home vacuums can only handle dust, dirt and small bits of debris.

Shop vacs also have bigger, sturdier hoses to handle all of this debris, and much bigger motors and canisters. All of this means that they’re a lot bulkier and more difficult to move around.

Another drawback of shop vacs is that they’re a lot more difficult to empty than your home vacuum. With a home vacuum all you need to do is remove a bag our tip out the filter canister, whereas with a shop vac you often need to lift the whole canister up and flip it over. With a big shop vac this can be quite hard work.

Shop vacs also don’t filter the air like home vacuum cleaners. Most home vacuum cleaners have filters that help stop small particles of dust from entering the air, and improve the air quality in your home. Shop vacs usually don’t have any filter at all, as their main purpose is sucking up dirt and debris, not improving air quality.

Another advantage of a lot of home vacuum cleaners is the range of accessories you can get for them. Home vacuum cleaners often come with a wide range of accessories to make it easier for you to clean carpets, fabric, drapes and get into tight spaces. In contrast, shop vacs usually just come with a standard big hose with a wide opening, and that’s it.

Pros and cons of shop vacs
Perfect for woodworking shops and construction sites
They’re a lot more powerful than home vacuum cleaners
They can suck up big pieces of debris
Because of they’re big, sturdy hoses, you don’t usually have to worry about a shop vac getting clogged
You can get shop vacs specially designed to clean up water and other wet messes

A lot bigger and bulkier than home vacuum cleaners
More difficult to maneuver
Harder to empty than a home vacuum cleaner
They don’t have filters to improve the air quality
The usually don’t come with any accessories like home vacuums do

Should I buy a shop vac?
For most people, a shop vac is way more powerful than they need. They can also be difficult to store and use in a home setting, because they are so big and bulky. However, if you work in woodworking or construction, you might decide to use a shop vac at work and home. Or, if you have a big driveway and/or garage, you might find a shop vac useful for cleaning up the big debris that can accumulate in these places.

While shop vacs might be too big and overpowered for the general homeowner, in the right setting they can be a really useful tool. With their powerful motors, sturdy hoses and big canisters, they’re perfect for cleaning up big messes. If you work in woodworking or construction, or you have a big driveway or garage, you might find a shop vac a great addition to your life.

If you’ve read all of this and think a shop vac might be for you, read our reviews to find out the right model for your needs.

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