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How To Use Shop Vac For Water

Many homeowners know the Shop-Vac is a versatile piece of equipment, capable of picking up dust, dirt, and even solid debris, but many are not sure How to use a Shop-Vac for water clean up, or if you can use a Shop-Vac to Clean up Water?  The short answer is – Yes.  Shop Vacs, while being well known for their power and ability to clean up dust, dirt, or solid debris, they are also designed to suck up large amounts of water as well. 

This short guide will answer your most pressing questions on cleaning up water with a shop vac, as well as how to use your shop vac efficiently. 

Can You Use A Shop Vac To Clean Up Water?

The beauty of the shop vac is that it can effectively suck up just about any type of liquid. Overflowing toilet, Simple. Leaking dishwasher or puddling in the basement? No problem. The only exception, of course, is that a shop vac should never be used to clean up any flammable liquids (ie; gasoline, kerosene, etc.)


If you work as a cleaner for commercial or rental apartment buildings, you might even be relieved to know that it can collect urine and feces without issue – I know, gross, but true. 

You can even use a shop vac to clean up the edges of your pond, which is super handy if you have ducks that need to reclaim their paddling space. That’s something we will look into a little later.

Using Shop Vac with HEPA Filter To Remove Mold and Mildew 

Shop Vacs are not only used for collecting debris and liquids. If you buy a shop vac with a HEPA filtration system, it can also help remove mold and mildew growing inside your home.  The fact that shop vacuums are so versatile in their cleaning is part of what makes them an appealing choice, and the addition of a HEPA filter can make a big difference to your air quality.

Removing HEPA filter when using shop vac for water
HEPA Filter with optional Cover – besthomegear.com


What Liquids Should a Shop-Vac Avoid?

While your shop vac can collect all sorts of liquids, there are a couple of cardinal rules for cleaning with them. 

You should never use a  commercial shop vacuum to collect any flammable liquids, as this is exceptionally dangerous. 

Also, you cannot suck up any liquid messes if you are using a vacuum bag. You must first remove the shop vac collection bag and switch the vacuum to the “wet mode”. 

Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid errors and potentially damaging your machine. 

How to Use a Shop Vac to Collect Water

Here are the DIY instructions on how to use a wet/dry vacuum to suck up water and get rid of those liquid messes. 

The great news? It doesn’t take a lot of effort, and all you need is a good and reliable shop Vac on hand. 

Step 1 – Remove the Shop-Vac “filter and the bag” from the vacuum.

The HEPA filter, paper vacuum filter, and Vacuum bag are not designed nor can stand up to getting wet. Water will ruin paper vacuum filters. To prevent damage to the paper filter, always remove the filter before using your shop vac to collect liquids.

The exception to this rule is if your shop vac includes a “foam filter” for wet applications. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions first. 

Step 2 – Install Correct Shop Vac Attachments

If you want to use the “Wet Mode” feature on plush carpeting, you will need a special attachment that can reach right down into the carpet fibers, which helps lift the liquid and any dirt that is with it. 

The carpet attachment also opens up the carpet fibers and ensures that the carpet’s base is not soaked, leading to potential mold and mildew. 

Step 3 –  Switch Shop-Vac Setting to “Wet Mode” 

Once you’ve selected the correct hose length and nozzle attachment, the paper filter has been removed, make sure it is switched to “wet mode”.  Most shop vacs have a toggle switch marked Wet or Dry. Simply switch it to wet mode, and turn it on to start sucking up those wet messes. 

For substantial wet spills (we’re talking basement floods), many wet/dry shop vacs come with an external drain and extended hose that allows you to drain the shop vac into a floor drain, while your working. Just be aware that most shop vacs come with a safety feature that will cut the power once it becomes too full of liquid. 

However, If you notice a change in your vacuum suction and the sound is surging, or changes abruptly, stop cleaning immediately and empty the tank – It’s full!

Can I Use Shop-Vac for Solid Debris?

The shop vac is perfectly capable of dealing with a wide range of solid debris and liquid. It can easily vacuum up building materials, such as sawdust, small chunks of concrete, and even nails, without batting an eye. 

Shop Vacs are durable yet simple pieces of equipment built as powerful tools to help you clean thoroughly. 

For building debris and nails, you don’t need to use a bag to collect the mess – make sure it is on the “dry setting” and that you clean it out thoroughly after use. Ensure the filter is in place; otherwise, it will likely refuse to switch on. 

What is a HEPA filter for Shop Vacs?

Unless your shop vac includes a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, it does not act as a true dust filtration system.  However, many of the better shop vacs sold today, do include a HEPA filter, and add a sufficient upgrade for those with allergies.

Shop Vacs undoubtedly collect large amounts of dust and even help remove mold and mildew, they are not effective in removing enough dust for asthma and allergy sufferers. 

We highly recommend purchasing a Shop-Vac with a HEPA filtration already included and built-into the shop vac, especially for those who suffer from asthma or allergies – You can Check out a new HEPA filter for your Shop Vac at Amazon.

What About the Pond?

There are other techniques for shop vacs and Yes, you can use your shop vac for cleaning the borders of a small pond. However, you should make sure to use a model that comes with the drainage hose we mentioned earlier. Why? Well, ponds have a lot of water and gunk, so if you don’t, you’ll be emptying the Vac every 20 seconds. 

Removing HEPA filter when using shop vac for water

Just take it slow so that you don’t overload the output hose and your shop vac. Ideally, you should invest in a pond pump to drain the water for you. While the shop vac can be the right tool for a temporary solution, it is not permanent.



The shop vac is one of the most significant and helpful purchases a homeowner can invest it.  It is both a commercial and residential wonder, providing the capability to clean up any nearly any mess you may face.

The best part is Shop Vacs are easy to store to operate and come in a wide range of sizes and prices to help you find the perfect solution for your home or workplace and your needs.

References & Additional Resources

About the Author: As a Builder, Realtor, and Property Manager for 25+ years, Kevin has used Tools and Outdoor Equipment for the bulk of his career. Managing property in Michigan and Arizona, he also tests many of the products he reviews firsthand, in vastly different climates and conditions. Our goal at BestHomeGear.Com is to share first-hand experience - Providing "Unbiased" Product Reviews, DIY Guides, and useful Home & Garden Techniques for our faithful readers - Homeowners just like you!

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