7 Best Shop Vacs for Woodworking in 2020
If you are into woodworking, then you know how messy it can get when sawdust, wood shavings, and other kinds of debris liter your workshop, especially after a long day’s work.
A shop vac is a special kind of vacuum machine that comes in handy when you want to clear all that mess and keep your workshop tidy.
The machine’s main components are a high-speed motor, and a suction unit that sucks up the wood debris, dirt, and even fluid materials which may be filling up your building site or workstation.
To get started on your purchase of this handy companion, dive into our shop vac reviews and buying guide for all the information on the ideal vac for your needs and budget.
7 Best Shop Vacs For Woodworking – Review
1. Workshop WS1600VA (Best Overall)
2. Shop-Vac 3940100 (Best Budget)
3. RIDGID 50348 (Premium Quality)
4. Stanley SL18017 (For Multipurpose Use)
5. Shop-Vac 9633400 (Wide-Reach)
6. Shop-Vac 5979403 (Light-Duty)
7. Shop-Vac 5989300 (High-Airflow)
1. Workshop WS1600VA
2. Shop-Vac 3940100
3. RIDGID 50348
4. Stanley SL18017
(For Multipurpose Use)
5. Shop-Vac 9633400
6. Shop-Vac 5979403
7. Shop-Vac 5989300
1. Workshop WS1600VA – Best Shop Vac for Woodworking
- Power: 6.5 horsepower
- Tank capacity: 16 gallons
- Airflow: 169 cubic feet per minute
Workshop WS1600VA is the best shop vac for woodworking because it packs a powerful motor, has the largest tank capacity, one of the highest airflow rates, and is reasonably priced.
This shop vac’s motor produces 6.5 horsepower, the highest of all the vacuum cleaners on our list. This much power combines with an airflow of 167 cubic feet per minute to make the vacuum cleaner ideal for heavy-duty cleaning, especially in large spaces. It can handle the workload quite easily.
Power output is complemented by a large, 16-gallon tank, which has the largest capacity of all the vacs we have reviewed. You don’t have to worry about the tank filling up fast and demanding to be emptied midway through a task.
You also don’t need to worry about the tank overflowing because it has an auto shut-off float mechanism to prevent such an outcome, especially during wet pickups.
The shop vac’s hose is one of a kind. It is a 2.5-inch x 7-foot hose with a dual-flex locking mechanism, which allows it to turn 180 degrees about its connection point. This feature combines flawlessly with locking tabs to keep the hose firmly locked during the wet/dry vacuum’s operation.
Because the powerful Workshop WS1600VA has a big motor and a large tank capacity, it weighs about 23 pounds, it is quite bulky even though it is equipped with wheels for mobility. If for instance, it is stuck somewhere or you simply need to lift it, it can prove quite heavy.
2. Shop-Vac 3940100 – Best Budget Shop Vac for Woodworking
- Power: 3 horsepower
- Tank capacity: 3.5 gallons
- Airflow: 50 cubic feet per minute
You will love the Shop-Vac 3940100 for being reasonably priced and affordable shop vac cleaner.
It may not be a high-performance vac like the Workshop WS1600VA, but this model still manages to produce 3 horsepower from its electric motor. This power produces an airflow of 50 cubic feet per minute.
You also get a low-capacity 5-gallon tank for wet/dry collection. Even though this tank is not as large as the high-capacity ones in other models, you can still rely on it to be enough for simple vacuuming tasks. You do, however, get a sturdy 18-foot lock-on hose with 1.25-inch diameter extension wands for maximum reach.
These factors, combined, make the Shop-Vac 3940100 ideal for light-duty vacuuming for simple woodworking projects that do not produce too much dirt or debris. If you’re just starting off in woodworking, this is an ideal companion to have.
Because of the scaled-down features of this shop vac, it weighs only 13 pounds. You can consider it lightweight compared to other heavier models. Thus, if you have multiple locations that need vacuuming, you will find this vac very easy to transport.
One of the issues we noted with this shop vac is that it produces considerably low power compared to some of the other vacs on our list.
The other issue is that is has a rather low tank capacity, which may not be ideal for extended usage as it fills up faster than other larger tanks.
3. RIDGID 50348 – Premium Shop Vac for Woodworking
- Power: 6 horsepower
- Tank capacity: 14 gallons
- Airflow: 143 cubic feet per minute
If you’re the kind of user who prefers high-quality premium tools, then RIDGID 50348 is the one for you. Not only is its pricing in the premium range, but it packs equally superior features.
The vac’s motor peaks at 6 horsepower, which is enough to meet the demands of highly active worksites and workshops. Its airflow is also very impressive and one of the highest in the pack, at 143 cubic feet per minute.
A large 14-gallon tank sits on this power. The three features combine to offer fast and heavy-duty vacuuming.
It also boasts of an ultra-flexible hose measuring 1-7/8 inches by 8 feet. It is a firm and durable hose, whose reliability you can count on. Also, this vac has a state-of-the-art Qwik lock filter fastening system that enables flawless filter installation.
If you’re not a fan of all the noise that vacuum cleaners produce during operation, this model takes care of that nuisance for you with its scroll noise reduction feature. You can be assured of quiet operation while vacuuming.
Although we can agree that RIDGID 50348 is a premium shop vac for woodworking, its price is rather steep compared to those of other high-quality vacuum cleaners.
Also, the model does not offer a single unit purchase. Thus, you will have to get the two units for the high price if you choose to buy it.
4. Stanley SL18017 – Multipurpose Shop Vac for Woodworking
- Power: 4.5 horsepower
- Tank capacity: 8 gallons
- Airflow: 85 cubic feet per minute
If you want a multi-purpose shop vac, which packs decent power and superior features, then Stanley SL18017 is the vacuum cleaner for you. It is both a vacuum cleaner and a blower.
You get a powerful 4.5 horsepower motor couple with 85 cubic feet per meter of suction. This power can also be applied to the blower function as this vac has another port for instant conversion from vacuum to power blower.
For ease of carrying, this vac comes with a strong handle. You can also count its 4 swivel casters to enhance the ease of movement in any direction.
Safety and ease of use are key considerations made by this vac because it has a large on/off waterproof switch, which is easy to spot and reach. The switch also boosts operation safety of the vac.
This vac is accessory-packed as well. You get a flexible hose, two extension wands, utility nozzle, crevice nozzle. Washable cartridge filter, and a multi-surface floor brush.
We did note that due to the design of this vac, it can only be carried by lifting. It lacks a push-handle, which some people would prefer for moving the vacuum cleaner from one point to another.
5. Shop-Vac 9633400 – Wide-Reach Shop Vac for Woodworking
- Power: 6.5 horsepower
- Tank capacity: 12 gallons
- Airflow: 105 cubic feet per minute
Shop-Vac 9633400 is a shop vac designed for wide reach as it packs an extra-long power cord.
Its power cord is an impressive 18 feet long. This length is unrivaled and works to your advantage. You can use the shop vac over a large floor space without having to keep shifting its position.
In fact, when you include the 8-foot vacuum hose as part of its length, you are getting a vacuum with extraordinary reach. The hose drains into a decent 12-gallon tank.
On top of this impressive reach, the vac has a powerful 6.5 horsepower motor coupled with an airflow of 105 cubic feet per minute. Combined, the two make this vac a power horse you can use for intensive and extensive vacuuming.
It also packs plenty of accessories to help you make the best out of your vac.
We did note, however, that despite the wide reach capabilities of the Shop-Vac 9633400, it lacks foam filters, which may users see as being necessary for wet collection tasks.
6. Shop-Vac 5979403 – Light-Duty Shop Vac for Woodworking
- Power: 6 horsepower
- Tank capacity: 8 gallons
- Airflow: 75 cubic feet per meter
If your woodworking tasks are not extensive and the dirt generated is minimal, then the Shop-Vac 5979403 is the ideal vac for you.
This shop vacuum cleaner has a moderate airflow of 75 cubic feet per meter, which is adequate for light-duty vacuuming especially if it involves dry dirt.
The vac drains into a modest 8-gallon tank. This tank may not be as large as that of the WS1600VA, but it is enough for basic vacuuming over a small area.
When you’re not vacuuming, you can use this vac as a blower. Because of the small gallon capacity, it is relatively lightweight and you can transport it and its dirt more easily than if you’re using a 16-gallon model.
Since the Shop-Vac 5979403 is designed for light-duty vacuuming, you may find the tank capacity to be lower than what you’d consider enough.
7. Shop-Vac 5989300 – High-Airflow Shop Vac for Woodworking
- Power: 4.5 horsepower
- Tank capacity: 5 gallons
- Airflow: 175 cubic feet per meter
If you’re looking for a shop vac with powerful airflow, the Shop-Vac 5989300 is it. It boasts of airflow of 175 cubic feet per minute.
This airflow is made possible by a 4.5 horsepower electric motor. The two features work flawlessly to give you one of the fastest and most efficient shop vacs.
At only 12 pounds, it is also quite light compared to heavier models. Its weight and well-distributed top and side carry handles make the vac highly portable and maneuverable.
You also get plenty of accessories with this shop vac.
Although Shop-Vac 5989300 is the shop vac with the highest airflow in our list, we did note that its tank capacity is rather low, at only 5 gallons. You may find it insufficient for intensive vacuuming.
How to Buy the Best Shop Vac for Woodworking
Your shop vac’s power is measured in horsepower (HP) and is produced by an electric motor. From the models we reviewed, most vacs have a power output in the range of 3 – 6.5 horsepower.
Vacs with low power output are suitable for light-duty vacuuming probably in small spaces. A low-horsepower vac will also likely cost less than a high-horsepower one.
If you’re dealing with heavy messes of debris, dirt, and other materials, then pick a vacuum cleaner with at least 4 horsepower. Such a vac could be ideal for busy workshops or worksites that require intensive cleaning.
2. Tank Capacity
Although you can get reliable service from a vac unit with a tank of just about any size, you are likely to benefit more from one that has a large-capacity tank.
The highest capacity we recorded from the models reviewed is 16 gallons. Such a tank is beneficial in that it does not fill up as fast as a lower-capacity one.
If you are cleaning large wet and dry messes, then a high-capacity tank is ideal. Such tanks also minimize the chances of clogging or damaging the vac’s filtering process.
Lower-capacity tanks such as the 5-gallon ones will also get the job done, but may not be ideal for large wet and dry dirt collection.
A shop vac works primarily by suctioning any dry or wet dirt and debris into its collection tanks. Thus, suctioning capacity and power are important considerations to make when buying your vac.
Your vac’s suction power is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). A high CFM vacuum cleaner has a lot of suction power, which means it can collect a lot of dirt within a very short time.
If you need a high-performance suction, aim for high horsepower and CFM vac. Some of the models that fit these specs have CFMs of over 100, and as high as 175.
For light-duty vacuuming, a low-CFM vac is adequate.
4. Noise Level
Vacuum cleaners can be very noisy appliances, especially if they have powerful motors. The noise comes from a combination of motor rotation, and the suctioning action of the vacuum cleaners.
Most models will produce a considerable amount of noise so there may be no workaround to that.
However, a few models have built-in mechanisms, such as muffler and diffusers, which are effective in noise reduction. We did review a model that has a patented scroll noise reduction system, which controls the vac’s airflow thus reducing noise.
Any feature that promises to reduce noise is always welcome, so if you find a shop vac with such, then grab it.
There are many accessories that are critical to the successful and efficient operation of your shop vacuum cleaner.
For instance, hoses, extension wands, floor brushes, crevice nozzles, cartridge filters, and disposable filter bags are all essential accessories that enable the vac to run as intended.
Not all shop vacs will offer a full range of accessories, but most of the models in the market have all the basic accessories required for full operation.
It's likely all accessories offered with the model you choose will add some sort of value, so look for one with as many as possible, and one with an onboard storage compartment.
How to Use Shop Vac
Once you’ve bought your shop vac, it’s time to get started, but how do you make the best out of this handy appliance? Read our step-by-step instructions to discover how.
1. For Wet Collection
Step 1: The inflect deflector needs to be facing the top of the tank, so if it isn’t, turn it.
Step 2: Check to ensure the filter retainer has been removing. This action allows the intake of water into the tank. If it is still intact, loosen the cartridge filter by counterclockwise action, and then pull out the filter retainer.
Step 3: Connect the vacuum hose to the tanks vacuum port. Some vacs may require it to push the hose further into the tank, or any other mechanism specified by the model’s user guide may be applicable.
Step 4: Attach the wet pick-up elbow into the vacuum hose by pushing it (hose) into the elbow until sinking is achieved
Step 5: Switch on the wet/dry vac power’s power to start suctioning the fluid.
2. For Dry Collection
Step 1: Open the vacuum by unlatching the lid latch using your hand. The lid should be on the vacuum’s top. Check to determine if the inlet deflector is facing the tank’s bottom. If it isn’t, turn it.
The inlet deflector is housed beneath the power unit assembly. For easy identification, it looks like a big black plastic faucet spout.
Step 2: Locate the cake-shaped cartridge filter and slide it over the lid cage, which is flat and is at the top of the vacuum cleaner. Install the filter retainer on top of the cartridge filter. The filter retainer should look like a black lid.
Step 3: Get hold of the vacuuming hose and then switch on the wet/dry vac’s power switch. Then beginning vacuuming.
It’s clear that a shop vac is a necessary appliance for woodworkers who desire to keep they worksites and workstations dirt-free.
When buying your vac, remember to check important features such as its power, tank capacity, suction power, and whether it comes with the necessary accessories for it to operate fully and efficiently.
While most vacuum cleaners do make uncomfortable noises during operation, there are models with systems and features that make a decent attempt to reduce noise levels.
Our 7 shop vac reviews and buying guide have got you covered as you proceed to make your purchase.
- 7 Best Shop Vacs For Woodworking – Review
- 1. Workshop WS1600VA – Best Shop Vac for Woodworking
- 2. Shop-Vac 3940100 – Best Budget Shop Vac for Woodworking
- 3. RIDGID 50348 – Premium Shop Vac for Woodworking
- 4. Stanley SL18017 – Multipurpose Shop Vac for Woodworking
- 5. Shop-Vac 9633400 – Wide-Reach Shop Vac for Woodworking
- 6. Shop-Vac 5979403 – Light-Duty Shop Vac for Woodworking
- 7. Shop-Vac 5989300 – High-Airflow Shop Vac for Woodworking
- How to Buy the Best Shop Vac for Woodworking
- How to Use Shop Vac