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How To Use Shop Vac For Water

How To Clean Up Water and other Liquids WIth Shop Vac (FAQ)

Many homeowners know the Shop-Vac is a versatile piece of equipment capable of picking up dust, dirt, and even solid debris, but many aren’t sure How to use a Shop-Vac for Water or if you should use a Shop-Vac to Clean up Water? 

The short answer is – Yes; Shop Vacs are designed to “safely” vacuum up liquids. And, while being well known for their power and ability to clean up debris, they can suck up large amounts of water just as well. 

If you work as a commercial or rental apartment building cleaner, you might even be relieved to know that it can collect urine and feces without issue – I know, it’s 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.

Can you use a Shop Vac with a filter for Water? 

Shop Vacs are not only used for collecting debris and liquids. Buying a shop vac with a HEPA filtration system 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 you Avoid with Shop-Vac?

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

It would be best never to use a commercial shop vacuum to collect flammable liquids, as this is exceptionally dangerous. 

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

Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid errors and damaging your machine. 

How to Use a Shop Vac For Water

Here are the DIY instructions on using 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.

This rule excludes 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 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 during work.

Just be aware that most shop vacs have 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 can deal with a wide range of solid and liquid debris. 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 straightforward 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 clean it 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 proper dust filtration system.  However, many better shop vacs sold today include a HEPA filter and add a good upgrade for those with allergies.

Shop Vacs undoubtedly collect large amounts of dust and even help remove mold and mildew; they are ineffective in removing enough dust for asthma and allergy sufferers. 

We highly recommend purchasing a Shop-Vac with 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 to clean 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

Take it slow, so you don’t overload the output hose and your shop vac. Ideally, you should invest in a pond pump to drain the water. 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 in.  It is both a commercial and residential wonder, providing the capability to clean up nearly any mess you 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

Kevin is the author and editor for Best Home Gear. In addition to his work in publishing, Kevin enjoys exploring the Outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, Hiking, Cycling, Fishing, Reading, and Completing Projects for Home and Garden.

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