How To Use A Shop Vac For Water? This Is A Sucky Job!

If you spill some water on your floor, you might be wondering how you can clean it up without a lot of fuss and hassle. If you’d rather not get down on your knees with cloths and sponges, there is another option – your shop vac.

It might come as a surprise to many people that it’s possible to use either a wet/dry vacuum or a shop vacuum to clean up spilled liquids.

Whether those liquids are soda, water or urine (hopefully from your pets), it’ll work just the same as long as the liquid isn’t flammable.

That said, you’ll need to adjust your shop vac so that it can suck up water, since this is different to cleaning dry surfaces.

Dry surfaces require a filter, and a bag will also make your life easier, however, if your shop vac has the ability to be run without a filter and bag, you can use it for cleaning wet areas.

How to use a shop vac for water

What Is A Shop Vac?

Shop vacs are special types of vacuum cleaner which are traditionally used in wood working and construction. They consist of a suction unit paired with a high power motor that can suck of material, debris and dirt from surfaces.

They have a tough hose as well as a canister which holds the debris which has been collected from the surface and they are ideal for cleaning extremely dirty spaces.

They are sometimes called bucket vacuums since they look very similar to a bucket which has a hose protruding from it.

Usually, they also have wheels which make them easier to move from room to room. They are extremely efficient, and powerful – much more so than a standard vacuum cleaner for home use – and this is why they are associated most with industrial applications.

What Do I Need To Know About Using A Shop Vac For Water?

If you’re going to suck up water with your shop vac, you’ll first need to take out the paper filters and bag from the vacuum.

In some cases, there’ll be a foam filter which you can leave in place. In any case, read the instructions provided with your shop vac first to make sure that your model is suitable for picking up water.

If you’re planning on cleaning water from your carpet rather than from a hard floor surface, you’ll require a specialist tool which fits to the vacuum’s hose, and helps in extracting the water from the carpet.

Can I Use It With No Filter?

Not all shop vacs are able to run with no filter in place. However, if your model can run without its filter, then this method should only be used for picking up water.

There are only two settings in which a shop vac should be run – with water in its tank, or with its filter one.

If you run the machine without either of these, you could end up breaking your shop vac.

Does Water Act In The Same Way As A Filter?

If you aren’t using a filter in your shop vac, you should only use it outside your home and in open spaces.

This is because the filter is in place to prevent dust from escaping back into the room, defeating the very point of having the vacuum cleaner if you use it without the filter in place.

Although water doesn’t exactly act in the same way as a filter, if you put a small amount of water into the tank’s bottom, some dust will be trapped, although not all of it.

There are some models which use water as a filter, however most do not.

Is It Possible To Use With No Bag?

If you’re cleaning dry surfaces, you should always make sure that you use a bag on your shop vac, as otherwise, there will not only be a mess inside the canister but the filter will clog up more rapidly.

However, if you’re cleaning wet areas, you have to remove the bag.

How To Use A Shop Vac For Water

If you’re ready to use your shop vac to clean up water, you need to know where to begin.

Here are some step by step instructions to help you to get the process right.

Cleaning Small Spillages

  • Remove the filter which is used to vacuum dry areas but leave your machine’s foam filter in place if it has one.
  • Cover up its filter cage with the foam sleeve if the water that you’re cleaning up contains any solid waste.
  • Put your shop vac onto a flat surface.
  • Fit the floor nozzle to the machine.
  • Vacuum up any stagnant liquid or water.
  • Switch off your vacuum and drain out the water you’ve collected.

How To Drain A Puddle Of Water

If you need to clean a larger amount of water, such as a puddle caused by a broken pipe, or some collected rainwater, you can achieve this very easily by following these steps:

  • Attach your garden hose onto your shop vac’s designated port.
  • Put the other end of your hose into the area in which you want to drain out the water you’ve collected. This will make sure that its container stays empty and the container won’t get full.
  • Once you’ve done this, clean up the liquid with the paper. It should only take a couple of minutes for the water to drain out.

Precautions To Take

While most shop vacs are suitable for use on liquid spills and wet surfaces, there are some exceptions, so always check your model.

You should also follow a few precautions to make sure that both your property and you yourself remain safe and that your shop vac’s life isn’t shortened by damage.

  • Don’t use your shop vac to suck up hazardous liquids such as chemicals, oils, flammable liquids and alcohol-based liquids. This will result in the motor breaking or a short circuit occurring which could be very dangerous.
  • Never use the vacuum on a floor that is uneven.
  • Never leave the paper filter in place when you use the shop vac to suck up liquids.
  • Never take out the tank if the power is still switched on.
  • Always switch the vacuum off once the container is full of water.
  • Never pick up liquids that contain sharp debris.
  • Avoid operating your shop vac if you’re wearing loose fitting clothing.

How Do I Remove Collected Water From The Vacuum Canister?

  • When you need to drain out the collected water from the vacuum’s container, turn the canister upside down, remove its foam sleeve and shake it vigorously so any dust is removed.
  • Rinse out the foam sleeve under running water. Blot it using a clean cloth or towel then leave it to dry.
  • Once the filter is dry it can be used another time, however it’s always recommended to have a couple of extra foam filters so that you can carry out the job straight away, otherwise you’ll have to waste time waiting for the filter to dry out completely before you can carry on working.
  • Remove all of the junk carefully from the canister.
  • Never use a household cleaning product or flammable produce to clean the canister. You can simply use a mix of water and soap to clean off sticky residue from the canister.

What Else Can A Shop Vac Clean Up?

One of the greatest benefits of owning a shop vacuum is that it can clean virtually anything.

Powerful enough to clean such diverse items as dog feces, wine, coins, nails and urine, a shop vac is a lot more versatile than a standard vacuum cleaner, and is a great investment for anyone who wants a truly flexible cleaning system for their home and workshop.

Should your basement get flooded, your shop vac can get rid of the excess water, and some models are even fitted with an output hose which drains the water away.

While a shop vac isn’t suitable for use as a water pump for extended periods, it can be vital in an emergency.

The majority of shop vacs feature a float which shuts the suction off from its motor once the canister is filled with water, however it always pays to listen for a change of pitch in the vacuum’s sound, and any loss of suction, as this indicates the tank must be emptied before you carry on.

Here are just some of the uses for a shop vacuum:

  • Cleaning a BBQ pit
  • Pumping out flooded basements
  • Running fish wire through a pipe
  • Cleaning up kitchen mess like liquid food or drink spills
  • Unclogging the sink drain
  • Inflating rafts and pool toys
  • Cleaning out the fireplace
  • Cleaning an aquarium
  • Cleaning up snow from sidewalks, stairs and floors
  • Retrieving items from the drain

As you can see, shop vacs are extremely versatile and are a great investment for anyone who wants a flexible solution to cleaning in their home or workshop.

Many of the uses mentioned here involve wet spills and messes, and a shop vac can handle them just as efficiently as dry messes.

Can I Clean A Pond With My Shop Vac?

While shop vacuums can suck up water, it isn’t recommended that you use one to clean any substantial amount of water such as a pond.

This is because your vacuum’s canister will fill up very rapidly and it will become clogged up with all the gunk that is usually found in a pond.

You will need to empty your vacuum incredibly frequently if you decide to use it for this purpose.

While it isn’t recommended that you use a shop vacuum for cleaning your pond, if you absolutely must use it for this purpose, you should only use a model which features an output hose.

This is essential since it enables the water to escape immediately after being sucked up.

Do bear in mind, however, that in some cases your vacuum’s output hose may be unable to keep pace with the amount of water flowing through the system, and you could end up having to wait every few minutes for the water to flow out before you can suck up any more.

It’s always best to use a proper water pump first, and then when the majority of the pond’s water has been sucked up, you should then use your shop vac to finish the job

Overall, you’ll find your shop vac a great addition to your home or workshop thanks to its versatility.

You can clean both dry and wet areas, and in the event of a flood or spillage, you can simply follow these easy steps and your area will be clean and dry quickly.

Of course, you should always make sure to follow the safety precautions specified here, and also to read the instructions of their model before using it to avoid causing any damage or injury.


Drew - CountrySilo


Co-Founder CountrySilo

Growing up around the farmlands of the Midwest you learn at an early age getting your hands dirty is a way of life. Whether it was helping my Grandpa make cedar furniture, mowing neighborhood lawns or throwing bails of hay the do-it-yourself mentality runs strong in our family.

I am excited to help you tackle your projects and discover new ways to make your house a home!

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