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What Is A Wet-Dry Vacuum?

What Is A Wet-Dry Vacuum?

A wet-dry vacuum is a specially designed vacuum cleaner that allows you to safely clean up excess water and other types of liquids, excessive dust, and various types of debris. Instead of the water, dust, and debris collecting inside a HEPA filter bag that you change when it gets full, the wet-dry vacuum uses a collection canister that is easy to open up and empty out.

This specially designed machine is also sometimes called a shop vac. Regardless of what you call it, and despite the fact that it looks like nothing more than a trashcan or janitor bucket on wheels, it is ideal for cleaning up wet spills and also able to remove dry dust and debris that would damage a regular household vacuum cleaner.

Common Uses for a Wet-Dry Vac

The most common clean-ups that a wet-dry vacuum is used for include:

  • Help to clean up and restore water damage
  • Water cleanup from a broken pipe
  • Emptying excess water from water bed
  • Drying out flooded basements or garages
  • Factory spills
  • Construction debris cleanup

How A Wet-Dry Vacuum Works

Basically, a wet-dry vac is designed to vacuum up liquids safely.

The reason it can do this, while a traditional household vacuum cleaner cannot, is that the motor unit sits up and away from the collection chamber. When the water is sucked into the machine through the hose, it does not come into contact with any electrical parts.

While some designs or brands may offer additional accessories or features, a wet-dry vac is made of three major components:

  1. Bucket, or collection chamber
  2. Motor unit
  3. Hose

The motor drives a fan that is usually positioned underneath.

When air passes through the hose, the speed increases to create suction. As the air enters the collection chamber, it begins to slow down to release the particles or liquid it sucked up.

The air then vents out of the upper portion of the wet-dry vac as the bucket portion fills up with the mess. Once the collection chamber is full, open it up to dump out the accumulated waste and liquids.

Wet-Dry Vacuum Design and Features

They don’t have to look attractive to get the job done. Basically, wet-dry vacs don’t expend any extras on looks.

They are intended to be used for an industrial or messy style of clean-up, so there is no need to make them sleek like a household vacuum.

The main purpose of using a wet-dry vac is to clean up wet spills, flooded basements, garages, or construction messes. It also has suction that is powerful enough to pick up screws, nails, and other debris that would ruin a typical vacuum.

Wet-dry vacs are also able to suck up pet hair without damaging any of its working parts or becoming tangled in a brush head like hair tends to do in household vacuum cleaners.

Some wet-dry vacuum cleaners offer additional features to consider:

Size and Horsepower

These specially designed vacuum cleaners come in a variety of sizes.

Some users opt for a smaller one to have on hand to clean up kitchen spills with a 6-gallon, 3.0 h.p. unit, or a small 1-gallon, 1.0 h.p. one to keep in the car to clean up spills that happen while travelling.

However, the most popular size is one with at least a 10-gallon capacity.

The larger the capacity, the larger the mess you will be able to clean up before needing to empty the canister. If you’re wanting a lot of power with a large collection chamber, they even make them in 14-gallon capacity with a heavy-duty 5.5 or 6.5 h.p. motor.

Use the Vacuum as a Blower

Some wet-dry vacs have the added feature of serving a dual purpose.

The air vents out of the vacuum through a small opening toward the top and allows you to disconnect the hose from the side of the vacuum and plug it into the exhaust port to create a very strong blower.

Wet-Dry Vacuum Attachments and Accessories

All models of this kind of industrial vacuum come with a hose. But, some come with additional attachments or accessories. The main accessories that people want tend to be hose attachments or extenders to better get to hard-to-reach areas.

Otherwise, the hose is a wide-open suction tip that is awkward to manoeuvre for cleaning.

There are also brush-head attachments, mop cloth cleaning pads, and other cleaning tools. Some also have filters or dust bags for cleaning up construction debris.

Unique Ways to Use a Wet-Dry Vac

A wet-dry vac works great for cleaning up water damage. It’s a great first step to cleaning up the water and emptying out the chamber. But, these shop vacs have some other unique and clever uses as well.

Some unique ways to use a Wet-Dry vac that you may not have considered, include:

  • Cleaning out a BBQ pit or fireplace
  • Creating suction to pull string, wire, or cables through a pipe
  • Inflating pool toys
  • Unclogging drains
  • Cleaning Aquariums after the water has been drained
  • Retrieving items from a drain
  • Removing snowy or muddy messes tracked in
  • Cleaning floors and curtains
  • Cleaning hot tub clogs

Safety Considerations

Even though the special design of a wet-dry vac is intended to be used to vacuum up liquids, be very careful when working in flooded environments.

While the vacuum is designed with all electrical motor parts up and away from the liquid, the cords may still come into contact with water potentially causing an electrical shock.

Always make sure you are plugged into a GFCI outlet when using a wet-dry vac to be safe. A GFCI outlet is a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter designed to shut off the electricity running to the outlet when it detects a ground fault.

The GFCI may not always prevent an electric shock, but it tends to prevent a fatal shock.

Final Thoughts

A wet-dry vacuum is a very important cleaning machine that everyone needs to have on hand in addition to a traditional household vacuum cleaner.

While it is still considered to be in the category of vacuums, it is designed so that you can safely suck up liquids without the water running through any parts that operate on electricity. It is needed to clean up wet spills or for restoration after water damage.

It can also be used for cleaning up construction debris or other unique uses.