6 Best Shop Vac for Dust Collection

Woodworking is associated with messes and time-consuming dust collection – to make your job a little easier, you should consider purchasing a tool that would assist you with dust elimination. One such tool is a shop vac.

If you happen to be looking for the best shop vac for dust collection, then our buyer’s guide is for you. Today, we want to introduce you to what we think are the best shop vacs for dust messes.  Additionally, we’ll provide you with a few tips on choosing the right vac for your dust needs!

6 Best Shop Vacs For Dust Collection Reviewed

First up, let’s have a look at our shop vac reviews. Below, you’ll find a brief overview of the key specs, features, and disadvantages of the selected shop vacs.

We based the reviews on our expertise and intuition in the field. Additionally, we’ve made sure to read through a good number of buyer reviews to know what we are truly dealing with. Well, you can find our findings below!

1. DEWALT DC581H Wet/Dry Vacuum

QUICK SUMMARY

  • Dimensions: 17.25 x 12.31 x 13.13 inches (L x W x H).
  • Weight. About 11 pounds.
  • Filter system: Wet/dry washable HEPA filter.
  • Capacity: 2 gallons.
  • CFM: 31.
  • Power source: AC or 18/20V MAX battery.
  • Power cord length: 5 feet.
  • Included attachments: 1-1/4-inch x 5 feet hose, crevice tool, wide nozzle tool attachment.
best shop vac for dust collection

Up first on our list is the DEWALT DC581H wet/dry small shop vac. This model is one of the more expensive options on this top, but it’s an excellent unit for heavy-duty use cases. It’s great at dust collection and filtration too!

At the heart of the DC581H wet/dry vacuum is a HEPA filter system. This system is capable of filtering out 99.97% of all dust particles, keeping most of the dust inside the shop vac. What’s also nice about the HEPA filter is that it is rated wet/dry and can be washed.

Of course, you’ll have to replace the filter sooner or later since washes can only do so much. But being able to use the filter a few times is certainly nice.

What we also like about this shop vac is that it may be operated either corded or cordless. However, out of the box, you are only getting a 5 feet power cord for corded use. For the cordless mode, you’ll have to get 18 or 20V MAX batteries.

The DEWALT DC581H shop vac is very durably made as well. In particular, it has a crush-resistant hose that can easily take abuse and will deliver years of service.

In terms of capacity, the DC581H shop vac is sized at 2 gallons. This is among the lowest capacities on the list, but it’s decent if you don’t need that much in the first place.

The DEWALT shop vac is very compact and light too. Thanks to the carrying handle, it’s also rather easy to carry, and its small footprint allows for very convenient storage. 

Our main dislike with this wet/dry shop vac is the weak suction. It’s fine for dust collection, but if you want to collect heavy debris like nails, screws, or wood chips, it might not be powerful enough. 

The power cord is also pretty short. 5 feet is on the lower range on our list, and for large spaces, it might be insufficient without extensions.

WHAT WE LIKED

  • Small and compact.
  • Extremely effective filtration.
  • Heavy-duty, crush-resistant hose.
  • Has all the basics for effective dust collection.

WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE

  • Expensive.
  • The suction is pretty weak.
  • Short power cord.

2. Stanley SL18116P Wet/Dry Vacuum

QUICK SUMMARY

  • Dimensions: 13.8 x 13.8 x 20.5 inches (L x W x H).
  • Weight. About 13.4 pounds.
  • Filter system: Reusable dry filter & foam filter.
  • Wattage: 1,200.
  • Capacity: 6 gallons.
  • CFM: 85.
  • Static pressure: 50 inches of water.
  • Power source: 110V AC.
  • Power cord length: 10 feet.
  • Included attachments: 1-1/4-inch x 6 feet hose, 3 extension wands, floor nozzle, crevice nozzle, gulper nozzle, dust bag.
dust collection system

Next on our top, we have the Stanley SL18116P wet/dry vacuum. Far less expensive than the DEWALT shop vac, this model isn’t the best pick for heavy-duty needs. However, it actually offers great value for the money!

The airflow in the SL18116P is pretty decent. This vac’s 85CFM airflow isn’t that high in shop vac terms, but it’s way better than in the DEWALT model. The static suction of 50 inches is pretty decent too.

The capacity in the Stanley SL18116P shop vac is at 6 gallons, which is the largest on this list. With that, this vac is a better suit for larger cleaning jobs.

Like the DEWALT model, this shop vac can tackle both wet and dry messes. For spills and liquids, it includes a foam filter, while dry messes are tackled with the reusable dry filter.

What we also liked about the Stanley SL18116P shop vac is the 10 feet long power cord. It’s certainly not the longest we’ve seen, but it’s way better than the short 5 feet cord of the DEWALT vac.

Stanley also includes attachments galore with this shop vac, including extension wands, a few nozzles, and a dust bag. The shop vac is also equipped with wheels and a top handle to assist with transport.

What we dislike about this shop vac is that it’s rather easy to tip, and its hose is pretty flimsy. We wouldn’t expect much else for the price, but downsides like these are still worth mentioning.

WHAT WE LIKED

  • Inexpensive.
  • Strong suction.
  • Includes plenty of attachments.
  • High capacity.
  • Wheels and handle for convenient transport.
  • Features a rear blower port.

WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE

  • Flimsy hose.
  • Tends to tip over.

3. Stanley SL18115 Wet/Dry Vacuum

QUICK SUMMARY

  • Dimensions: 15 x 15 x 18 inches (L x W x H).
  • Weight. About 14 pounds.
  • Filter system: Reusable dry filter & foam filter
  • Wattage: 1,200.
  • Capacity: 5 gallons.
  • CFM: 85.
  • Power source: 110V AC.
  • Power cord length: 10 feet.
  • Included attachments: 1-1/4-inch x 5 feet hose, 3 extension wands, floor nozzle, crevice nozzle, gulper nozzle, dust bag.
small shop vac

The SL18115 shop vac is more or less a 5-gallon version of the Stanley vac we’ve just reviewed. At the basics, the two shop vacs are very similar, but there are a few important details that set them apart.

First things first, the most notable difference is the stainless steel body. The 6-gallon Stanley vac’s body was made from polypropylene and isn’t as tough and durable.

The second important difference is the more tip-resistant design. We haven’t seen anyone complain about tipping in the SL18115 shop vac. This is perhaps thanks to the lower height, as well as the heavier stainless steel body.

The dimensions are a little different as well – apart from being 2.5 inches shorter, this shop vac is also 1.2 inches wider. It thus will occupy more floor space, which should be kept in mind.

The capacity is obviously lower too – 5 gallons versus 6 in the previous shop vac.

Other than these points, the two Stanley shop vacs aren’t too different. Both offer decent airflow for dust collection along with a wet/dry filter system. You are getting the same set of attachments too, but they are again a little flimsy.

In terms of price, SL18115 is a little more expensive than the 6-gallon shop vac. But overall, it’s still rather affordable and offers good value for the money.

WHAT WE LIKED

  • Affordable.
  • Tough stainless steel body.
  • Pretty nice airflow and suction.
  • Wheels and top handle.
  • Has a rear blower port.

WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE

  • Delicate hose.

4. Shop-Vac Micro Wet/Dry Vac

QUICK SUMMARY

  • Dimensions: 10.25 x 10.25 x 11 inches.
  • Weight. About 5 pounds.
  • Filter system: Filter bag & foam sleeve filter.
  • Wattage: 120.
  • Capacity: 1 gallon.
  • CFM: 50
  • Static pressure: 45 inches of water.
  • Power source: 120V AC 6A.
  • Power cord length: 6 feet.
  • Included attachments: 1-1/4-inch x 4 feet hose, crevice nozzle, gulper nozzle, filter bag, wall bracket.
shop vac reviews

If space is a big concern for you, then the Shop-Vac Micro vac might be an excellent choice for you. Sized at 1 gallon, this is the smallest shop vac on the list, and it’s also our lightest and most compact pick.

Despite its small size, the suction & airflow specs of this unit are pretty decent – the airflow is at 50 CFM, while static pressure is at 45 inches. At the same time, this unit’s 1hp motor only consumes 120 watts, so it’s rather energy-efficient.

What’s also remarkable about this small shop vacuum is that it can be attached to a wall via the included wall bracket. If your space is small enough to use this vac without moving, then the bracket is a handy feature that will allow you to save floor space.

The Micro vac is very light as well – just about 5 pounds – and it features a large handle for convenient carrying.

For filtration, the Micro shop vac employs a disposable filter bag (dry cleaning) and a foam sleeve (wet cleaning). Unfortunately, Shop-Vac doesn’t offer reusable filters compatible with this vac, so you’re just stuck with the filter bag. It does a decent job of capturing dust, but it won’t be as effective as the filter + bag combos in our larger picks.

WHAT WE LIKED

  • Very inexpensive.
  • Compact and light.
  • May be mounted to a wall.
  • Large handle for convenient carrying

WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE

  • No filters available – only a filtering dust bag.
  • The hose is just 4 feet long.

5. RIDGID 4000RV Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum

QUICK SUMMARY

  • Dimensions: 19 x 15 x 16.5 inches.
  • Weight. About 16 pounds.
  • Filter system: Cartridge.
  • Capacity: 4 gallons.
  • CFM: 92.
  • Power source: 120V AC 9A.
  • Power cord length: 20 feet.
  • Included attachments: 1-7/8-inch x 8 feet hose, car nozzle, noise muffler/diffuser.
portable dust collector

If you want something compact but heavy-duty, then the 4000RV shop vac from RIDGID may be an excellent option for you. This vac is a little pricey, but when it comes to heavy use cases, it doesn’t really have competitors on this top at its size.

Furthermore, the 4000RV wet/dry vacuum is not only tough but also rather convenient. This is mainly thanks to the 20 feet long power cord that should allow you to avoid rehooking the vac too frequently. The patented Qwik Lock cartridge filter system also allows you to quickly replace the vac’s filter.

The airflow and suction in the 4000RV shop vac are pretty good – in fact, they’re among the best on this top! Tackling dirt, small debris, or dust shouldn’t be a challenge for this unit. 

What we also like in this shop vac is that it comes with a wider and longer 8 feet by 1-7/8-inch hose. Thanks to its width, this hose is less likely to clog with debris and dust.

The filter system in the 4000RV shop vac out of the box is based on a high-performance cartridge filter. No wet filters are included, but you can buy them separately. RIDGID also offers HEPA filters for a dramatical increase in dust collection performance.

Notably, RIDGID also covers this unit by a lifetime warranty, which is a good testimony to its quality.

WHAT WE LIKED

  • Easy filter changing.
  • Tough build.
  • Extra-long power cord.
  • Carrying handle for transport.
  • Covered by lifetime a warranty.

WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE

  • Pricey.

6. TACKLIFE PVC01A Wet/Dry Vacuum

QUICK SUMMARY

  • Dimensions: 14 x 14 x 18.5 inches.
  • Weight. About 14.5 pounds.
  • Wattage: 1,000.
  • Filter system: Cartridge + optional dust bag.
  • Capacity: 5 gallons.
  • Power source: 120V AC.
  • Power cord length: 10 feet.
  • Included attachments: 1-7/8-inch x 5 feet hose, 2 extension wands, couch nozzle, flat nozzle, floor brush.
best shop vac for dust collection

Lastly on our top, we have the TACKLIFE PVC01A shop vac – a pretty nice option for the money. It’s similar to the Stanley SL18115 5-gallon vac we reviewed earlier, but there are some important differences.

The PVC01A shop vac features a 4-stage filtering system comprised of:

  • An air cyclone filter to separate dry and wet materials.

  • An intermediate dry filter. 

  • A silencer filter wrapped around the motor for noise level reduction and dust filtration.

  • An outlet cotton filter for final dust collection.

For wet pickup, you will need to purchase a foam filter separately. Out of the box, this vac is equipped for dry messes only. You may also purchase a dust bag for an additional level of filtration.

Remarkably, the PVC01A wet/dry vac also has a safety feature called Security Buoy. This fancy-named feature basically shuts the vac off when it gets filled to the brim.

One thing to note with this shop vac is that replacement filters are hard to find. The included cartridge filter is washable, but it still won’t live forever and will require replacement sooner or later. You should be able to get a new filter by contacting TACKLIFE, but you probably won’t find one in a store like Amazon.

WHAT WE LIKED

  • Shuts off when filled.
  • Casters for convenient transport.
  • Blower function.

WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE

  • Replacement filters are hard to find.

Shop Vac VS Dust Collector – Which Is Better?

In the context of dust collection, we think it’s worth talking about the differences between shop vacs and dust collectors. We’ll cover their differences, advantages, disadvantages, and also will help you determine which tool to pick.

Some people believe that shop vacs and dust collectors are the same things, which is not true.

A shop vac is basically an industrial-grade alternative to a regular household vacuum cleaner. A shop vac is intended for heavy use and the collection of more hazardous materials that may damage a regular vac. 

In contrast, dust collection systems are designed for dust cleaning, especially those fine small particles that can be difficult to suck in with a shop vac. A dust collector can quickly collect dust and dirt in large areas, but it is unsuitable for collecting water or tackling concentrated messes.

One important technical difference between shop vacs and dust collectors is that dust collectors have low suction and a wide nose, while shop vacs have high suction and a narrow nose. 

Also note that dust collectors have higher airflow, partly because of the larger dust port. Despite the low suction, the high airflow allows dust collectors to gather dust more effectively.

In practice, this means that shop vacs are better at collecting heavier objects (like stones, large dust particles, or larger debris), while dust collectors excel at collecting light dust particles.

Shop vacs can thus be used for general cleaning in your workshop. A shop vac doesn’t excel at any particular task (including dust collection), but it can do everything with decent performance. Shop vacs are particularly useful when dealing with concentrated, heavy messes.

So when it comes to specifically jigsaw or table saw dust collection, stationary or portable dust collectors are preferable. However, if your budget is limited and you want something universal, then a shop vac can do a decent job, especially if you hook your shop vac to the dust exhaust of your tool.

What To Look For In A Shop Vac For Dust Collection

Now, let’s try to understand what would make a good shop vac for dust collection. To this end, we are going to guide you through key features to consider in a dust shop vac.

  • CFM & airflow– 

    CFM (cubic feet per minute) is the amount of air that is circulated by a shop vac in a minute. Manufacturers may use other units of measurement for airflow, but most use CFM.

    When it comes to shop vac dust collection, the higher the CFM, the better. Of course, the typical shop vacuum will never reach the CFM levels of a good dust collector, but this doesn’t make CFM a worthless spec in shop vacs.

    It’s difficult to give specific recommendations on how many CFM you should have in a shop vac. We suggest that you look for the highest CFM you can find within your budget and needs.

    If you are going to hook your shop vac to a woodworking machine, then you should also check that machine’s manual – some manufacturers give minimum CFM requirements for effective dust collection.

  • Static pressure- 

    Static pressure is usually measured in inches of water. In other words, static pressure measures the number of inches that the shop vac can lift water up the pipe. 

    Static pressure basically measures the amount of resistance that a shop vac can overcome. The higher your shop vac’s static pressure, the stronger its suction will be.

    Note that suction changes with every change in the pipe diameter, with every additional inch, and with every additional bend in the pipe. Higher static pressure will be required to overcome the added resistance introduced by obstructions such as excessive bends, added length, or small diameter. Not only that, but CFM will change with static pressure too.

    With that, although high static pressure is preferable, you should also check the CFM that the shop vac produces at given static pressure. Manufacturers usually indicate CFM vs static pressure in their vac’s spec sheets.

  • Capacity

    Check out the desired shop vac’s capacity as well. This spec will determine how much debris, dirt, or water a shop vac can fit in it. Typically, shop vac capacity is measured in gallons.

    How large should your shop vac be? This will depend on your needs – think roughly how much capacity you will need to clean your garage or workshop without having to empty the vac. Note that a shop vac with higher capacity will be sized larger and weigh more.

    If your dust and debris collection jobs aren’t too large, then you could go for a smaller shop vac to save money. You may need to empty the shop vac a few times to complete the job, but if the area isn’t that large, you won’t have to dump the collected dirt too often.

    On the other hand, for large areas or higher cleaning needs, a large shop vac would be more convenient. You would be able to vacuum your floor with less frequent emptying. But don’t go larger than you need – you would be just wasting money and space.

  • Motor type- 

    The motor type of your shop vac is pretty important as well. Shop vacs can have one of the following motor types:

    • Bypass motors. These motors feature a separate cooling fan that draws air for cooling. As for the air sucked through the hose, it is kept isolated from the motor.

    • Flow-through motors. In flow-through systems, the sucked air is used for cooling. Shop vacs with this motor type can only be used for dry cleaning because any liquids may damage the motor assembly.

    In terms of shop vac dust collection, both motor types can work fine, but bypass motors will likely require less maintenance because they are isolated from the dust-filled sucked air. 

    Shop vac motors may also be single- or two-stage, which refers to the number of cooling fans. Two-stage shop vacs are more expensive but are ideal for heavy use cases, while single-stage motors are sufficient for light home, garage, or workshop use.

    While we are at motors, we should also briefly talk about horsepower (hp). This spec doesn’t matter that much because max horsepower is determined in a lab, and in real use, you will never get close to the advertised figures.

    Although horsepower doesn’t bear any practical value, you can use it for comparison. However, there are many other, more useful criteria to compare against (like the ones we talk in this post).

  • Power requirements-
    Shop vacs also have power requirements. The typical shop vac will work with household 120V current. However, you should still check what the desired shop vac requires just in case.

    Aside from current requirements, also check the wattage. A more powerful shop vacuum will, needless to say, have a higher wattage, which will translate to higher operational costs in the long run.

    If you want a powerful shop vac, then you will just have to accept the costs that come with it. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to get an efficient shop vac. If you find two shop vacs that have roughly the same specs but very different wattages, then it would probably be ideal to go for the less demanding shop vac.

  • Filter-
    When it comes to dust removal, a filter is the key component of your shop vac. The filter captures debris and dust particles in the air that passes through the vac. As a result, the filter protects the vac’s internal components and also prevents the dust from being blown back into the room.

    Shop vacs typically include a filter of some sorts, but keep in mind that filters can have different filtration levels. Some filters can catch the finest dust particles, while others will only deal with wood chips or gravel.

    With that, you should make sure that the desired shop vac comes with a fine filter that can catch small dust particles. Additionally, check whether the manufacturer offers fine replacement filters.

    The best kind of filters for fine dust are HEPA filters or high-performance cartridge filters. Keep in mind that not that many shop vacs work with such filters, so before investing any money, check if your shop vac manufacturer offers any high-efficiency accessory filters.

    Note that above, we’ve talked about dry filters. If you are going to pick up wet debris, then get a shop vac that comes with a foam sleeve filter. Alternatively, purchase such a filter after you’ve got the vac. But also know that some shop vacs may require the removal of any filters for wet cleaning.

    Ideally, you should purchase a shop vac that includes a good filter out of the box. But you may also purchase a shop vac and a filter separately.

    Some shop vacs may have multi-level filtration systems. Comprised of several filters, these vacs typically offer the best dust filtration performance out there. Some filters are washable as well, allowing you to avoid purchasing replacements every time.

  • Accessories- 
    Shop vacs typically don’t come with as many accessories as regular vacuum cleaners. With that said, there are a few important things that you should still get.

    First up, you should get a shop vac that comes with a dust collection bag. A collection bag will trap most of the gathered dust and debris, making the job of the filter easier. Apart from that, a collection bag makes dust & dirt disposal more convenient.

    Note that if your shop vac has a HEPA filter, then you may not need a collection bag. HEPA filters are effective enough not to let a large amount of dust through. 

    Still, you should check what the manufacturer of your shop vac recommends – if they suggest that a HEPA filter should be paired with a collection bag, you may want to follow their advice.

    If you are intending to collect liquids and other wet debris, then you will most likely have to use a collection bag.

    Aside from bags, you should also check what kind of nozzles are included with the shop vac. A nice accessory to have is a wide dust nozzle – this nozzle makes dust collection a little bit easier thanks to improved airflow.

  • Portability- 
    Shop vacs are available in various sizes. Particularly, shop vacs can get really big, making portability a big concern.

    If you are going to purchase a heavy shop vac, then make sure that you are getting one with casters. Carrying handles may be sufficient as well, but only if you are strong enough to lift it.

    Speaking of handles, you should get a shop vac that has one. Shop vacs are typically way less convenient in carrying than regular household vacuums, so a handle is a nice feature to have.

Final Words

So all in all, a shop vac isn’t the very best tool for dust collection, but it’s optimal if your budget is limited and you want an all-in-one solution. For light needs and not too much money, you probably won’t find anything better than a shop vac.

Note that shop vacs aren’t equal in terms of dust collection. Follow our earlier points to ensure that you get the right vac for your use cases!

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