Water vacuum cleaners or vacuums with water filtration are probably less popular than traditional dry-filter cleaners, but did you know that they offer plenty of serious benefits that could make a big difference for you?
Well, since you are here, I assume that you are looking precisely for a vacuum with water filtration. Below, we’ll have a look at 8 great options, as well as will talk about a few things that you should know about with water vacuums.
Water Vacuum Cleaner Quick Comparison
|Image||Brand and Model||Tank Capacity||Power||Cord Length||
|Shop-Vac 5989700||16 Gallons||6.5 HP||18 ft.||Check Price|
|Vacmaster VBV1210||12 Gallons||5 HP||12 ft.||Check Price|
|Vacmaster VJH1211PF0201||12 Gallons||5.5 HP||20 ft.||Check Price|
|CRAFTSMAN CMXEVBE17596||20 Gallons||6.5 HP||20 ft.||Check Price|
|BISSELL MultiClean 2035M||6 Gallons||11 Amps||19 ft.||Check Price|
|Vacmaster VF408||5 Gallons||5 HP||15 ft.||Check Price|
|Karcher WD5/P||6.6 Gallons||2.4 HP||Not specified||Check Price|
|Shop-Vac 5987300||12 Gallons||6.5 HP||12 ft.||Check Price|
Uses Of A Water Vacuum Cleaner
A water vacuum cleaner can be used for pretty much any job that a regular vacuum cleaner with a dry filter can do. It’s a solid pick both for home use and some workshop applications.
But what makes water vacuum cleaners much better than dry-filter vacuum cleaners is that they can clean water messes. Normal vacuums break from water, but since water vacuums use water as a filtration medium, they have no problems with fluids.
How Does A Water Vacuum Cleaner Work?
All vacuum cleaners employ some kind of a filtering device to filter out air and then propel it out of the back of the vacuum. Traditional vacuum cleaners use dry filters such as dirt bags, dirt bins, or HEPA filters.
These kinds of filters can be very effective, but there is only so much they can do.
If the filter is too fine, then it is going to catch a higher amount of fine particles, but it will be impeding airflow and reducing suction performance. If the filter is too coarse, then it will obstruct the airflow only a little, but it will leave a sizable amount of the contaminants in the air.
Here’s when water as a filtration medium comes into play. Water still isn’t capable of catching 100% of the debris, but it’s much more effective than regular dry filters. Water easily traps contaminants and pathogens in the air, and the air that comes out of the back of the vacuum is indeed very clean.
Vacuum cleaners with a water filtration system can work especially well for allergic individuals since they do a great job of catching fine allergens.
As effective as water is as a filter, some vacuum cleaners with sealed HEPA filtration systems can perform no worse without having the downsides of water vacuum cleaners which are as follows:
- Water makes vacuum cleaners fairly heavy.
- The water inside the vacuum gets dirty fairly quickly, and you’ll have to replace it quite often, albeit it’s not that difficult to do.
- Water vacuums tend to be more expensive than regular vacuum cleaners.
With that said, water is relatively highly accessible for many people, and water vacuum cleaners can also deal with wet messes, which HEPA-equipped units cannot really do.
8 Best Water Vacuum Cleaners to Buy
These vacuums with water filtration can help you clean those floors with water on it.
Shop-Vac 5989700 Wet/Dry Vacuum – Editor’s Pick
For higher-volume cleaning projects where powerful suction and high capacity are necessary, the Shop-Vac 5989700 vacuum cleaner is the right choice.
This water vacuum cleaner features a water lift of 72 inches, which is more than in many other vacuum cleaners on our list. Aside from that, this Shop-Vac vacuum cleaner comes with the SVX2 motor that delivers 370 peak air watts and is promised to work longer than typical motors in comparable vacuums.
With a 16-gallon tank, this Shop-Vac vacuum is high-capacity but also fairly heavy and bulky. To assist with transport, this vacuum cleaner features top and side carry handles along with large wheels. Besides, this thing allows you to drain the tank right after the job to make the vacuum lighter and easier to transport.
Shop-Vac includes accessories galore with this vacuum cleaner as well – you are getting an 8 feet hose, two extension wands, a 14-inch floor nozzle, a crevice tool, and a few dry filters that you may use optionally when not dealing with water.
- Durable motor.
- Powerful suction.
- Large 16-gallon tank.
- 18 feet long power cord.
- Fairly expensive.
- Bulky and heavy.
Being one of the most powerful and high-capacity water vacuum cleaners on our list, the Shop-Vac 5989700 vacuum cleaner is a great option for high-volume applications and especially for workshop use.
Vacmaster VBV1210 Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
The Vacmaster VBV1210 water vacuum cleaner seems like a decent choice for smaller home or perhaps even workshop projects.
The key benefit of the VBV1210 vacuum cleaner is its portability. Equipped with a large 12-gallon tank, it’s certainly not the lightest on our list, but the 4 integrated casters do a fairly good job of helping you move this thing around.
But more importantly, the VBV1210 water vacuum cleaner has a detachable blower unit that allows a little higher flexibility in leaf blowing or other similar applications. The detachable blower allows you to avoid moving the entire vacuum while you are working.
In terms of suction, we can’t really compare this unit directly to the Shop-Vac model that we’ve just talked about since Vacmaster only provides motor horsepower and amperage, and these aren’t always reliable in comparison.
The VBV1210 water vacuum definitely is noticeably flimsier though. It’s a much cheaper unit as well, so you can’t expect it to work as reliably as the Shop-Vac 5989700 vacuum cleaner.
Remarkably, Vacmaster includes 11 accessories with this vacuum, including a 7 feet hose, 2 extension wands, a car nozzle, a crevice tool, an 8-inch utility nozzle, a blower nozzle, a blower adapter, an air/noise diffuser, and a few dry filters.
- Quite inexpensive.
- Decent capacity and power.
- Detachable blower unit.
- 12 feet power cord.
- Flimsy build.
A fairly inexpensive and frankly not the most well-built unit, the Vacmaster VBV1210 will probably be the best option for light-duty applications. Plus, the detachable blower gives this vacuum a few bonus points in portability.
Vacmaster VJH1211PF0201 Professional Wet/Dry Vac – Affordable Choice
The Vacmaster VJH1211PF0201 is a high-power vacuum cleaner that’s not much weaker than the noticeably more expensive Shop-Vac 5989700 unit we’ve reviewed at the very beginning.
This Vacmaster vacuum cleaner has a little lower water lift – 60 inches vs Shop-Vac’s 72 inches – but it has the exact same air wattage of 370. In terms of suction power, the Vacmaster unit thus isn’t too far off of Shop-Vac’s model.
Not only that, with 4 fewer gallons of capacity in the tank, this vacuum cleaner will be lighter and easier to move around than the Shop-Vac vacuum cleaner!
What’s also remarkable about this vacuum cleaner is that it has a convenient flat top that you can place your tools onto. This is a little detail, but it allows you to keep items essential to your project close by.
In terms of accessories, this vacuum cleaner is very similar to the Vacmaster VBV1210 unit, but it additionally comes with a high-efficiency dust bag and 14-inch floor nozzle. It also has a considerably longer 20 feet power cord!
- Fairly inexpensive.
- Powerful suction.
- Convenient flat-top design.
- Long 20 feet power cord.
- Probably won’t be durable enough for heavy-duty applications.
At a much cheaper price than the Shop-Vac 5989700 vacuum cleaner, this unit offers fairly comparable performance. With that said, given it’s cheaper price, the Vacmaster vacuum cleaner probably won’t be as heavy-duty. This model will most likely be the best for more occasional home or workshop use.
CRAFTSMAN CMXEVBE17596 Wet/Dry Vac
The Craftsman CMXEVBE17596 vacuum cleaner seems like a worthy contender for the title of the most powerful water vacuum cleaner on our list. However, Craftsman sadly doesn’t provide specs on this thing’s suction, so we can’t compare it directly with the suction of the previous vacuum cleaners.
With that said, given the 6.5hp motor, the CMXEVBE17596 vacuum cleaner should deliver as much power as the Vacmaster VJH1211PF0201 or the Shop-Vac 5989700 vacuum cleaners.
What’s definitely better in this vacuum cleaner is tank capacity – 20 gallons is the most we’ve seen on our list so far. Not only that, but this vacuum cleaner has a 20 feet long power cord, which will certainly come in handy when cleaning messes in larger spaces.
In terms of accessories, the CMXEVBE17596 vacuum cleaner is decent – it comes with a few dry filters, a hose, 2 extensions wands, a car nozzle, a wet nozzle, a utility nozzle, a crevice tool, and a muffler/diffuser.
On the downside, the Craftsman vacuum cleaner is bulky and heavy, especially when filled with water. It has wheels, and you can easily drain its tank to reduce the weight, but the CMXEVBE17596 nonetheless is the least space-efficient vacuum cleaner on our list.
- Inexpensive for what it delivers.
- Powerful motor.
- Large 20-gallon tank.
- 20 feet power cord.
- Very bulky and heavy.
- No specs on suction.
For high-volume jobs, the Craftsman CMXEVBE17596 vacuum cleaner may be just right. At a not too steep price, this vacuum cleaner delivers high water capacity along with powerful suction.
It probably won’t be as dependable as the Shop-Vac 5989700 vacuum cleaner, but the cheaper price makes it quite an attractive buy.
Bissell 2035M MultiClean Wet/Dry Vacuum
The Bissell 2035M MultiClean vacuum cleaner is a great option for home use. It’s potent for garage and auto cleaning just as the previous vacuum cleaners, but it’s also much better for home cleaning applications.
Among the more remarkable features of the 2035M MultiClean vacuum cleaner is the multi-surface floor tool that may be used for both hard floors and carpets. With just a flip of a switch on top of the tool, you can adjust it from carpet to floor cleaning.
Aside from that, the 2035M MultiClean vacuum cleaner features an adjustable stainless steel wand that’s not only convenient but also durable.
Bissell also employs a two-stage filter system in this vacuum cleaner to extend the life of 2035M MultiClean’s filtration system. Besides, this vacuum cleaner has an airflow regulator to allow for a little more efficient cleaning.
In terms of capacity, the Bissell 2035M MultiClean certainly is far behind the vacuum cleaners listed so far. 6 gallons is not much, but the small capacity is exactly what makes this unit great for home use. Besides, it makes the 2035M vacuum cleaner much lighter and smaller than the already overviewed models.
When it comes to accessories, the 2035M MultiClean vacuum is great – Bissell includes a dusting brush, crevice tool, precision blower tool, upholstery brush, detailing/inflating nozzle, and wet/dry suction tool. This vacuum cleaner also boasts a long 19 feet power cord that should make maneuvering a little easier for you.
- Great for home use.
- Features a multi-surface floor tool & adjustable wand.
- Equipped with an airflow regulator.
- Compact and lightweight.
- 19 feet power cord.
- Not for high-volume applications.
The Bissell 2035M MultiClean vacuum cleaner is a great option if you want a vacuum cleaner for home use. The features we’ve talked about make it convenient for home cleaning, while the 6-gallon capacity should be just right for many home and perhaps even workshop jobs.
Vacmaster VF408 Wet/Dry Floor Vacuum
If even such a low-capacity vacuum cleaner as the Bissell 2035M MultiClean is overkill for you, then have a look at this 4-gallon unit by Vacmaster. The Vacmaster VF408 vacuum cleaner has many of the benefits of the Bissell model, but it’s cheaper, somewhat less durable, and not quite as capable.
With that said, depending on your needs, this little vacuum cleaner may be just right for you.
Like the Bissell vacuum cleaner, the VF408 vac comes with a multi-surface tool that can be switched from floor to carpet with a flip of a switch. Not only that, but in dry mode, the included HEPA filter should allow for a considerable increase of vacuuming performance.
Vacmaster includes quite many accessories with this little unit as well – among the items you get are a tool caddy, three extension wands, a 2-in-1 utility nozzle, a crevice tool, and a few other things. The VF408 vacuum cleaner also has an 18 feet long cord with cord rewind.
Vacmaster claims that this vacuum cleaner has a sealed water lift of 71 inches, which, if true, puts this unit on par with the Shop-Vac 5989700 vacuum cleaner. With that said, the two units clearly aren’t comparable due to the huge difference in tank capacity.
This vacuum cleaner’s 4 gallons of capacity indeed isn’t much, but the lightness and compactness implied by the small capacity may be significant benefits to some people.
- Very inexpensive.
- Strong suction.
- Multi-surface floor tool.
- 18 feet cord with cord rewind.
- HEPA filter included.
- Light and compact.
- Not the best quality build.
- Low capacity.
Like the Bissell 2035M MultiClean vacuum cleaner, this little guy is great for home jobs and perhaps some lighter workshop applications. The VF408 isn’t quite as durable, but it should be able to shine in occasional low-volume jobs.
Karcher WD5/P Wet or Dry Vacuum Cleaner
The Karcher WD5/P is perhaps the most remarkable vacuum cleaner on our list. Thanks to a number of features, it’s an excellent option for workshop use.
The key feature of the WD5/P vacuum cleaner is its onboard power tool outlet that essentially makes this vac a fancy extension cord. The onboard outlet allows you to avoid using a separate extension cord, which may be very beneficial if you have a limited number of power outlets.
The semi-automatic filter removal system is also remarkable. It allows you to clean the filter with just a push of a button. Besides, the WD5/P allows you to replace or remove the top mounting filter without opening the tank.
For increased efficiency, this vacuum cleaner also allows you to reduce power consumption by setting the suction to low.
Speaking of the tank, it’s one of the weaknesses of this vacuum cleaner. It’s sized at just 6.6 gallons, which makes this vacuum not very suitable for high-volume projects. On the other hand, the smaller tank makes this vacuum cleaner compact and lightweight.
In terms of accessories, this vacuum cleaner isn’t the most remarkable either – it includes the essentials like a crevice tool or an extension wand, but its accessory set isn’t as rich as in some other reviewed vacs.
- Great for low-volume jobs.
- Onboard power tool outlet.
- Has an airflow regulator.
- Light and compact.
- Allows for semi-automatic filter cleaning.
- Quite expensive.
- Just 6.6 gallons of capacity.
The Karcher WD5/P vacuum cleaner is great for more complex projects that involve many tools thanks to its onboard power outlet. The power outlet, in our opinion, makes this vacuum cleaner great for workshop use, though this feature may come in handy in some home jobs as well.
Shop-Vac 5987300 Wet/Dry Vacuum
Finally, we have the Shop-Vac 5987300 vacuum cleaner, which basically is the compact version of the Shop-Vac 5989700 unit we’ve reviewed at the very beginning.
At the basics, the two vacuum cleaners are very similar – both have the SVX2 dependable and powerful motor, and both have excellent suction. The sealed suction lift in this vacuum cleaner is 2 inches shorter than in the 5989700 – 70 inches – but the peak air wattage is at the same level – 370.
The capacity of the 5987300 is a little lower as well. The 12-gallon tank of this vacuum cleaner should be good enough for fairly high-volume jobs, but the 5989700 with its 16-gallon tank would be a better option for large projects.
The power cord is 6 feet shorter as well, so this vacuum cleaner will be less mobile and convenient in larger spaces. With that said, the decreased capacity and weight should make this vac easier to move around.
- Heavy-duty motor.
- Powerful suction.
- 12 gallons of capacity.
- 12 feet power cord.
- A little pricey.
The Shop-Vac 5987300 might be a great option if you feel that the 5989700 is going to be overkill for you. This unit is also noticeably cheaper than its bigger brother, and given that its capacity isn’t too much lower than in the 5989700, it may be a good option for buyers on a tighter budget.
Water Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide
Now, let’s talk about the important features to look for in a water vacuum cleaner. Hopefully, our buyer’s guide will be able to help you with choosing the right unit for your needs.
Water lift/sealed suction
The sealed suction/water lift is a spec that we’ve come across a few times throughout the reviews. This rating measures how many inches the motor will vertically lift a 1-inch column of water. In this test, the motor is kept sealed, as you could guess from the rating’s name.
Water lift gives you a pretty good idea of how capable a vacuum cleaner is in lifting debris from the floor. Generally, higher water lift means higher suction power.
Water lift also shows the ability of a vacuum cleaner to deal with resistance inside it. The ability of a vacuum to overcome resistance is especially important when you have clogged filters or a series of filters that air has to go through.
Water lift is a fairly good indicator of suction power, and you can and should use it as a comparison metric between the desired vacuum cleaners.
Airflow is the most important spec in vacuum cleaners. Airflow is measured in cubic feet per minute CFM) and is the force of the airflow that picks debris and dirt up and moves them to the dirt container. Therefore, the higher the airflow, the better the suction power of a vacuum cleaner is.
Airflow is a great comparison metric since it takes into account the power of the motor and the resistance of the hose/bag/filter system that the air has to pass through. Thus, airflow is as “clean” as a suction performance metric can get.
With that said, airflow is usually measured with the hose or attachments disconnected, so the actual airflow will differ from the listed specs. Airflow still is the most objective comparison metric that you have with vacuum cleaners.
Wattage refers to the input power of the vacuum cleaner’s motor. This spec doesn’t take into account important factors such as motor efficiency or motor design, but it still is a pretty decent comparison metric.
Ideally, if you are trying to compare two vacuum cleaners, you should have the motor wattage of both. Some product listings don’t have the wattage and instead have amperage.
You can convert amps to watts with the amps x volts (120V in the US) formula, but this formula isn’t always valid since a vacuum cleaner’s amperage is usually given for the entire vacuum, not its motor alone.
If the seller does provide the amperage of the motor, then you may convert the amps to watts and make a direct comparison. If you don’t have the motor amperage, then you will either have to compare the two vacuum cleaners based on total amperage, or you will have to use other specs for comparison.
The amperage of a vacuum cleaner is the maximum amount of current used by the vacuum’s all electrical components. Vacuum cleaners that are suitable for home use will have no higher than 12 amps since typical household outlets are rated at those 12 amps.
If a vacuum cleaner’s amperage exceeds 12 amps, then that particular unit either isn’t designed for home use, or the seller has listed a higher amperage to make you think that you are dealing with a more powerful vacuum.
Not all vacuums will have their amperage listed, but since you can convert watts to amps with the watts/volts formula, you can compare amperage of one vacuum with the wattage of another one. But again, such a comparison is only meaningful if you compare total amperage vs total amperage or motor amperage vs motor amperage.
Generally, higher amperage means higher power, but there are many other things that amperage alone doesn’t consider, including motor efficiency or internal resistance inside the vacuum cleaner. This is why specifications like airflow or water lift are much more useful since they do actually depend on such variables.
Horsepower is primarily listed for marketing purposes. And while it may seem that more horsepower equals more suction, in reality, it’s difficult to tell how strong the suction of a vacuum is based on horsepower alone.
Usually, manufacturers give peak horsepower ratings that are impractical for real-world applications. To measure the peak horsepower, the vacuum motors are tested under maximum load until they get burned out. Such operational modes aren’t realistic for the average user, and this is why the horsepower rating tells you little about the potential of a vacuum cleaner.
Water tank capacity
An important thing to consider with water vacuum cleaners is the capacity of the onboard water tank as well. It will determine how much water you will be able to use for filtration, as well as how much fluid you will be able to suck in during cleaning.
How many gallons of tank capacity you will need? It’s pretty difficult to say. For home use, up to 6-10 gallons would probably be fairly okay. For workshop use though, you may want to go for a vacuum that has 15 or even 20 gallons of tank capacity.
It would probably be better to have too much tank capacity than too little. Tank capacity doesn’t affect the price of vacuum cleaners that much – it’s more the kind of the motor and fancy features that make vacuums expensive.
With this in mind, if going for a bigger vacuum cleaner doesn’t make a hole in your pocket, you should probably do so. A water vacuum cleaner with insufficient capacity will slow you down and decrease your efficiency, while a vacuum with high capacity will be there when you need to do larger projects.
The main filtration medium in water vacuum cleaners is water. But some water vacuum cleaners may also allow you to use regular dry filters – dust bags, HEPA filters, dust bins, or whatnot. Usually, you can use either water or dry filtration, but not both.
It’s not a must for a water vacuum cleaner to support dry filters. But it certainly adds some versatility since you are able to choose a filtration medium based on what you are dealing with right now.
Power cord length
The power cord length is perhaps the most overlooked spec in vacuum cleaners. And yet, it’s one of the more important features to look out for.
Not everybody really needs to have a long power cord. But If you will be working in a larger space or maybe if there is a limited number of power outlets in the area, then look for a vacuum cleaner that has a longer power cord.
Also, with a longer cord, you would probably want to have auto cord rewind and onboard cord storage.
Water vacuum cleaners all come with the same base attachments – a floor tool, a crevice tool, a few extension wands, and a couple of other essential accessory pieces.
But since the needs of every homeowner or workshop owner are different, you should pay attention to exactly what kind of attachments the desired vacuum cleaner comes with. Consider what you will be using the vacuum for, and you should be able to determine which attachments are necessary for you.
As tank capacity increases, water vacuums can get pretty big. If you have very limited space, then be sure to check out the dimensions of the desired vacuum cleaner. Get a water vacuum cleaner that is space-efficient enough for the storage area that you have for it.
Dos And Don’ts With Water Vacuum Cleaners
Finally, let’s talk about a few dos and don’ts with water vacuum cleaners. We’ll cover the things that are more specific to water vacuum cleaners than vacuum cleaners in general.
- DO follow the instruction manual supplied with your vacuum cleaner model.
- DO always connect to a properly grounded power outlet.
- DO select the proper filter and attachment for the job at hand.
- DO often change the water inside the vacuum cleaner while cleaning.
- DO drain the vacuum cleaner after cleaning.
- DO clean and dry the vacuum cleaner after the job.
- DON’T leave the filters or the water tank uncleaned – this will decrease the purity of the exhausted air and may restrict airflow.
- DON’T immerse the vacuum cleaner.
- DON’T handle the vacuum cleaner with wet hands.
- DON’T use any kind of water other than what is recommended in the owner’s manual.
Do you really need a water vacuum cleaner?
Well, the more traditional dry-filter vacuums do a good enough job for most people. If you don’t need the benefits of water vacuum cleaners specifically, then you probably shouldn’t waste money.
But if a water vacuum cleaner is going to dramatically increase your efficiency or maybe if you just want cleaner air, then do consider buying a vacuum cleaner with water filtration!