Nearly 3 years ago, I bought a new Shop Vac, a “5.6 Peak HP” model, advertised as an Ultra Pro Series wet/dry vac with leaf blower.
This has been a recurring Black Friday/holiday lighting deal model, and I figured I’d need a good shop vacuum for the new house, for the kinds of stuff I wouldn’t want to use my Festool dust extractor for.
And I shouldn’t rely on review samples. Despite holding onto a good Fein vac test sample, I needed to buy something for personal use.
Sunday morning, I discovered puddles in the basement. Huge puddles, in lots of places.
We have a sump pump in the utility room, and the water seemed to have been everywhere else. I need to make calls this week to talk about a new drainage solution. There were signs that I should have handled this sooner, but that was about the back lawn being too soggy last year and too dry this year with less watering. So… I should have talked to a drainage expert earlier in the season, but I also didn’t anticipate water somehow finding its way in, and from non-obvious locations.
Great, this is the kind of thing I bought my Shop Vac for. I’ve used it a few times for light stuff, since there are always other vacs available or in need of testing.
Umm… where’s the foam sleeve? It didn’t come with one!!!
Good thing I had my Cleanstream filter, which can be used for wet or dry pickup.
This vac has a drain – great! Too bad I didn’t use it at all.
No matter which nozzle I tried, the vac was slow and inefficient when it came to pickup up water. It just didn’t do a great job with it. I typically advocate for vacs with 2-1/2″ hoses, since they allow for easier pickup of the kinds of stuff that can clog smaller hoses. Plus, on a shop vacuum, a smaller hose typically indicates a lower powered motor and less suction.
The nozzles just… it was slow and frustrating. This vac just wasn’t making the stressful situation any easier.
I mentioned it before, but I HATE how unfriendly the top motor component is. It can separate to be used as a blower? Great! It even has attachments for reaching over and inside of gutters.
But how do you pick up the whole vac? You need to use two hands and pick it up right under the two lid locks. Uch. I tried to use the top handles before, and the motor simply pulled up and off.
It was time to dump the water out of the drum. As mentioned, there’s a built-in drain – great! But I ended up removing the top and dumping the collection container. This worked well.
A mitigation guy was on the way with fans, and I remembered my Fein Turbo II vacuum sample. It has a smaller diameter hose, metal wands, a long cord, and a quick check of the Amazon listing confirmed that it can serve as a wet or dry vac.
I believe I have the 8.4 gallon version. There’s no drain port, but I also didn’t miss it. It shut off a few times, and each time I assumed that a “fill sensor” detected that it was time to dump the collected contents.
The Fein vac was far more effective at sucking up water than the Shop Vac. It worked beautifully well. Dumping it out? Eh, I took the lid off, detached the hose, and dumped out the water.
The faster water pick-up was so much more convenient than the time a bottom drain would have saved me.
The Shop Vac did come in handy, though. I didn’t catch a piece of wet cardboard or foam wrap, and it clogged the utility sink. Knowing I can rinse the Shop Vac tub a little easier, I powered it up and sucked out the gunk from the sink.
I don’t doubt that the Shop Vac might have fared better with a smaller diameter hose and/or a different selection of nozzles. But when I needed it, and for what I needed it to do, it disappointed me.
The little things are important when it comes to different types of tools. With this vac, its detachable handle, the huge nozzles perfectly suited for clearing up a messy workshop, and the absence of a foam sleeve for wet pick-up worked against it.
Now, I’m curious. Once everything is calm again (a car accident this morning – everyone is okay – has busied my life further), I’ll have to examine how the two vacuums compare when picking up water in different contexts.
In my situation, the Shop Vac’s nozzles were too big, and they weren’t flat enough.
The Fein actually also comes with special rubber strips for wet pickup, but I couldn’t find them easily, and so I used it with the already-attached brush strips. I probably should have taken them off, but it worked so well I kept at it.
I don’t mean to suggest that the Shop Vac isn’t good, because it does have its “pros.” But despite my feelings a few years ago, it’s not a fantastic general purpose vac. I would go so far to say it’s somewhat of a specialty vac. If you don’t use the detachable motor for its blower function, it means settling for the vac’s compromised design without any benefits for it.
The folks that make the new Dewalt wet/dry vacs and other new Dewalt wet/dry vacs have emailed me a few times. I keep forgetting to respond, but this experience made me wish I had accepted the offer for a test sample a lot sooner. The water pipe drain connector of the 16 gallon hand cart model might have saved me a few trips to the slop sink and sump pit.
That all said, I now find myself wondering about which wet/dry shop vacuum I’d recommend to someone like myself, who might need it for general purpose cleanup tasks, as well as unforeseen needs.