How Does A Shop Vac Work?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  March 20, 2022
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Having a clean workshop is critical to boosting productivity and morale in the workplace. If you work in a garage or any other workshop, a shop vac is a must-have tool. Whatever your profession of choice might be, your workshop requires some clean up from time to time; otherwise, it can get extremely messy.

A shop vac is a beefier version of a traditional vacuum that you use for cleanup around the house. Their working principle is quite similar, but the shop vac features a larger housing along with a few small design changes.

In this article, we will demystify some of the aspects of this tool and give you a brief yet thorough rundown of how a shop vac works.


What Exactly is a Shop Vacuum and How Does it Work?

A shop vacuum, as we said, shares many similarities with a traditional vacuum cleaner. But the main advantage of using a shop vac is that you can use a shop vac to pick up water and clean up liquid spills or larger form of debris like dried out dirt. This property makes it highly capable of cleanup duties around a workshop.

For this reason, a shop vacuum also goes by the name wet dry vacuum cleaner. In addition, it requires little maintenance compared to a household vacuum cleaner. As long as you clean out the filters of a shop vac from time to time, you should have nothing to worry about regarding its durability.

Instead of a vacuum bag that you traditionally get with house vacuums, a shop vac features two buckets. The two buckets can keep the solid and liquid wastes that you suck up with it separated to help make the disposal process less messy.

The intake port of the unit picks up dirt or any other waste along with liquid wastes through a tube. Due to the lower airflow over the buckets inside this machine, the liquid and solid elements get separated easily and drop into their individual buckets.

After that, the air that it sucked up gets exhausted from the system through a motorized fan. Since the vacuum melts down the waste in water inside the bucket, you get less dirt from the exhausted air.

Some wet dry vacuums can also serve as an efficient blower. This means if you are cleaning up autumn leaves from your lawn, a shop vac will be more than capable of handling it.

You can also use different attachments with a shop vac to help clean different surfaces easily. Using these attachments, you can clean even the toughest of grime or reach the narrowest of corners quite effortlessly.

Due to the higher power of this unit, along with the option to switch up attachments, this is an extremely handy workshop tool. It can keep your workplace clean and free of dirt without requiring too much time investment on your part.


Uses of a Wet Dry Vacuum

Here are a few tasks that are made extremely easy with a shop vac at your disposal.

  • Liquid Pickup

One of the best features of a shop vac is its ability to pick up water or other forms of liquid. This is a major advantage over traditional house vacuums that can only pick up dust or solid forms of waste. This ability opens up a lot of possibilities with this machine both in your workshop and your home.

For instance, if you have a flooded basement, you can use a shop vac to quickly drain the water. Later on, you can simply dump the extracted water down the drain. Furthermore, due to its efficiency in sucking up both liquid and solid wastes, it is the perfect tool for cleaning up the gutters.

  • As a Blower

A feature often overlooked of a shop vacuum is its ability to serve as a powerful blower. Almost all the shop vacs you find in the market these days come with this option. With the simple push of a button, your shop vac will start exhausting air instead of sucking it in through the intake port.

With this option, you can take on a wide range of projects. In the winter, for instance, snow can get clumped up on your front lawn. If you have a shop vac, you can use the blower function to blow out the snow, clearing out a walking and driving path for yourself quite easily.

  • Object Retrieval

If there are a lot of small items lying around the house or your workshop, picking them all up one by one can be difficult. For instance, a workshop floor is often cluttered with nails, nuts, and bolts. In fact, picking them up individually is not only annoying but can also hurt your fingers or your back.

A shop vac is a handy tool when you want to pick up these small items without having to bend down each time. However, before you use it for this purpose, make sure the vacuum is clean and does not contain any trash inside it. Then you can simply dump the collected items out to retrieve them.

  • Inflating Objects

Do you have an inflatable swimming pool for kids or other toys that require blowing air inside it? Well, this might not be the main purpose behind a shop vacuum, but it can definitely handle the job with no issues. This is another handy way to use the blower function of the device.

  • As a Home Vacuum

Finally, another major thing to think about is that you can use a shop vac as a home vacuum any time, any day. However, a lot of the features of a shop vacuum cannot be replicated by a traditional house vacuum. So, if you have the budget and do not mind the larger form factor, a shop vacuum might be the smarter choice.

Even if you are not into the whole handyman lifestyle, a shop vacuum offers a lot of utility to almost any household. The usages that we talked about above, as you can see, are mostly focused on normal homeowners.

  • Portability

As you already know, shop vacs are really powerful. Most modern shop vacs are easy to carry around because they come with wheels. Those large wheels allow you to carry these big units just about anywhere.

Now, a lot of users tend to pull it around the hose. You should never do that. It might look durable, but this can quickly damage the connectors.

Pulling a shop by the hose will tip it over and the top will fall off and all of the dirt, water or whatever that is in the reservoir is going to spill everywhere. These vacs come with a carrying handle so use that whenever you want to move your shop vac.

Final Thoughts

A shop vacuum is a wonderful machine that offers a lot of utility to just about anyone. If you have a workshop that you want to keep clean or just want a powerful device for your home that can handle any sort of waste cleanup, getting a high-quality wet dry vacuum or shop vac is a no-brainer.

We hope you found our article on how a shop vac works could help you understand why you need this tool in your arsenal.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.