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Best Shop Vacs for Dust Collection 2020 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

a shop vac for dust collection

If you work with wood, you need a shop vac. It’s the most important part of any workshop for two important reasons. For one thing, this tool will keep your spouse happy. Woodworking is messy work, and the shop vac is an antidote to that problem.

But on a more serious note, the shop vac also serves as an insurance policy for your health. Sawdust is a known carcinogen. A shop vac will minimize your exposure to it.

Needless to say, picking the right shop vac is serious business. Fortunately for you, we’ve taken the pressure out of the buying process.

We’ve spent a lot of time with shop vacs lately, studying the market, and performing tests. Our results are compiled here in this useful buying guide. So, with that in mind, read on for our shop vac reviews!

A Small Comparison of our Favorite Models in 2020

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Vacmaster VBV1210 Vacmaster VBV1210
  • 12-Gallon Storage
  • 5 Peak Horsepower
  • All Purpose Cleaner
  • Second place
    Shop-Vac 5951400 Shop-Vac 5951400
  • 5 horsepower motor
  • 16-gallon container
  • Versatile
  • Third place
    RIDGID 4000RV RIDGID 4000RV
  • Compact
  • Versatile
  • Powerful
  • Best Value
    Armor All AA255 Armor All AA255
  • Very reasonably priced
  • Vacuum stops running when storage container gets filled up
  • Shop-Vac 5989300 Shop-Vac 5989300
  • Affordable
  • Powerful
  • The 5 Best Shop Vacs for Dust Collection

    1. Vacmaster VBV1210 Shop Vac – Best Overall

    Vacmaster VBV1210 Shop Vac

    First up, the Vacmaster, one of the best shop vacs for woodworking and home use in general.

    The Vacmaster really is a gift that keeps giving. First of all, it comes with a powerful 5 horsepower motor that allows the product to aggressively pick up dust and dirt in your workshop. It also features a massive 12-gallon storage container and a 12-foot long cord so that you can easily place it where you need it.

    There’s also a fun twist. The shop vac features an easily detachable motor that can double as a leaf blower with the proper attachment. As a leaf blower, it’s capable of blowing speeds up to 240 MPH.

    With such versatility, it’s truly is an all-purpose cleaner. You can use it for your shop, your yard, or even for messes in your home.

    The only real issue we have with the Vacmaster is its noisiness. Shop vacs are naturally somewhat loud, but this product is louder than average.

    Pros
    • 12-Gallon Storage
    • 5 Peak Horsepower
    • All Purpose Cleaner
    Cons
    • Noisy

    2. Shop-Vac 5951400

    Shop-Vac 5951400

    Next, we have a Shop-Vac shop vac. This heavy-duty vacuum takes things a step up from the last product we looked at. It features a 16-gallon container, and a 6.5 horsepower motor that will be able to make the most out of it.

    It’s also very adaptable. It features a range of ports and attachments that will allow you to use it inside or out, for messes both wet and dry.

    It’s also easy to transport. The unit comes equipped with wheels and a handle so that you can easily wheel it from place to place.

    We do have a couple of problems with the Shop-Vac. For one thing, the power cord is somewhat short—8 feet. This isn’t a huge deal. For smaller spaces 8 feet won’t be a problem, and for bigger spaces, there are always extension cords. However, it’s always nice to have a long power cord if you can get it.

    This unit is also significantly more expensive than the last one. Granted, you do get a little bit more for your money. Some buyers will find the extra power and storage to be well worth it. Budget buyers, however, might want to steer clear of it.

    Pros
    • 5 horsepower motor
    • 16-gallon container
    • Versatile
    Cons
    • Pricey
    • Short cord

    3. RIDGID 4000RV Shop Vac

    RIDGID 50313 4000RV

    Third, we have the Ridgid 50313. This is a smaller wet/dry vacuum meant for one-handed transportation. It does pack a lot into a small package though. You get a 5 horsepower motor and a range of attachments for sucking or blowing, meaning you can use it for a leaf blower or a vacuum.

    It also comes with a massive 20-foot power cord that will maximize your mobility.

    The power and efficiency of this option may make it ideal for pros who need to be able to take their gear on the go with them.

    Unfortunately, most of the extensions you need to make the most of this product don’t come with it. For example, there aren’t any long-nosed attachments that might be ideal for household messes.

    You can buy them separately, but of course that will cost you more money.

    Which brings us to the second issue. Cost. Though this unit be small, it’s pricey. If you wind up springing for more attachments, it will end up costing as much as, or more than, many high-quality full-sized shop vacs.

    It’s a good product, but the price tag makes it best suited for serious users.

    Pros
    • Compact
    • Versatile
    • Powerful
    Cons
    • Pricey
    • Accessories sold separately

    4. Armor All AA255 Shop Vac – Best Value

    Armor All AA255

    After looking at a couple of expensive options, you might appreciate our “best for the money” pick. The Armor All is affordable and effective.

    This unit is small, but it will get the job done. You get 2 gallons of storage here. Granted, this is a lot less than we have seen with some of our other options on this list, but Armor All does make the small size manageable. The vacuum will automatically stop running when the container gets full, preventing spills, overflow, and damage to the equipment.

    It also features a 6-foot cord and a 10-foot hose. The cord itself isn’t very long, but with the big hose you get plenty of reach.

    The cons are built into the specifications. This isn’t as powerful as many of the vacs we’ve seen. As a consequence, it won’t be able to lift quite as much dust, grime, or spills, as the other tools on this list.

    And of course, the small storage capacity means it will fill up much more often. Ultimately, you get what you pay for.

    The Armor All is good at what it does, and the price is hard to beat.  While size and power limitations keep it from rising higher on our list, it will make an enticing option for people who are on a restrictive budget.

    Pros
    • Very reasonably priced
    • Vacuum stops running when storage container gets filled up
    Cons
    • Lacking in power
    • Storage container fills up quickly

    5. Shop-Vac 5989300

    Shop-Vac 5989300

    Last, we have one more Shop-Vac shop vac to look at. The company that gave the wet/dry vacuum its colloquial name is usually known for producing great stuff. And while the 5989300 does have its strong suits, there is a reason it finds itself last on our list.

    Let’s look at the good stuff first. It features a durable stainless steel 5-gallon storage drum, and a 6.5 horsepower motor that should do an excellent job of lifting dirt, grime, dust, and pretty much anything else in its path.

    It even features a moderate price tag that will suit most budgets.

    So, what’s the problem? For one thing, there is a prominent design flaw. The unit comes with a “tool holder” built into the side where you can place extensions that you aren’t using. In theory this makes storing the unit very simple. In practice? The attachments don’t fit!

    It’s a big oversight, but it’s not the end of the world.

    The Shop-Vac also overflows very easily. While some small capacity vacs will stop running when they fill up, this one doesn’t.

    It’s easy to have an even bigger mess on your hands with this unit, if you aren’t careful.

    The 5989300 isn’t a bad option, but it is glitchy. Still, for the price it’s a decent possibility.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Powerful
    Cons
    • Overflows easily
    • Accessory container does not work

    Buyer’s Guide

    We’ve seen a lot of dust collection systems that are on the market. Each with their own features. But from a review alone, it can be hard to understand what you should be looking out for.

    That is why we have assembled this buyer’s guide to help make your decision easier. Read on!

    Noisiness

    A workshop is always going to be a noisy place. Power tools will ensure that. Unfortunately, shop vacs can also be loud in their own right.

    On the one hand, a noisy shop vac might be a sign that it’s also powerful. Which is a good thing. But some powerful units are also designed to run at quieter levels.

    Cord Length

    Your shop vac is going to be plugged into an outlet in your shop. But since you may need to move it around sometimes, it can be nice to get something with a long cord.

    Aim for a length between 12-20 feet; that should give you enough range to cover your entire workshop.

    Granted, a decent cord probably won’t ever be a deciding factor. If there’s a shop vac you like that has a short cord, you can always use an extension.

    Still, it’s nice to not need to.

    Versatility

    As this list demonstrates, shop vacs don’t have to be limited to just the shop. With attachments, they can perform a wide range of cleaning duties. For example, our top pick, the Vacmaster can also double as a leaf blower.

    You may find it prudent to get something that is versatile. It can be handy, both for financial and storage reasons, to have one product that can clean up your yard, home, and shop.

    Power

    The more power you can get with your shop vac, the better off you will be. Powerful shop vacs are better at lifting lots of dust, and other nasty stuff. They are more thorough in their cleaning than other, lesser powered options.

    They are also better equipped to handle accessories. The longer a suction tube, the less power is actually being applied to the surface you are cleaning. High-powered motors are the answer to that problem.

    Power is, to some extent, relative to the intention of the shop vac. If you are only going to be using it for small cleanup jobs in your workshop, a 3.5 horsepower unit might be just what the doctor ordered.

    However, if you’re doing high-volume work, you may want to start looking at tools in the 5 horsepower range.

    Usually, more power means more money, but it’s well worth the cost.

    Storage Size

    The size of the shop vac will determine how often it needs to be emptied out. Bigger shop vacs will be able to run for some time before you need to interrupt your work to empty them. The downside is that they will also cost a little bit more.

    You pay for convenience though. Something between 12-20 gallons of storage will be ample for most workshops. Of course, this will also depend on what you’re using the product for. If you’re doing heavy-duty, high-volume work, you might want to go even bigger.

     Portability/storability

    All of this talk about tank size is great in theory, but several other factors might also determine the size of the shop vac you get. Namely, portability and storability. If you need to move your shop vac around a lot, maybe to take care of messes in the home or garden, you might need to get a machine on the smaller side.

    The same is true if you don’t have a designated shop space. If you do most of your work in a small corner of your garage, you need to get gear that will fit comfortably in that space.

    Brand Name

    There are plenty of products, even some tools, where you can get away with buying a cheap knockoff option.

    You’ll find plenty of them in the world of shop vacs, but you may want to avoid them. Remember that a brand name is built on reputation. Well-known products have usually gained their fame for a reason. They work. Well. Shop vacs don’t just keep your space clean, they also keep your lungs clean.

    Don’t gamble. Invest in a product that is up to the task of keeping you healthy.

    Price

    Price! The ultimate consideration. Price is the factor that the majority of people focus on the most. The nice thing about shop vacs is that you can get a good one without spending a fortune. There are really cheap options out there, but it may be more financially prudent to buy a quality product.

    A good shop vacuum will stick around for a while. You may get many years of use out of it. A cheap shop vac might not demonstrate such longevity.

    It always makes more financial sense to buy one good product, than to continuously replace cheap ones.

    Then there is also the matter of your health to consider. A good shop vac will be better at keeping your space clean, which will mean much less exposure to harmful substances.

    You can’t put a price tag on your health, but the doctors can. And it’s a big one. Quality counts with shop vacs, so make that your priority when you buy.

    Our other Shop-Vac articles:

    Conclusion

    The shop vac reviews are done, and now it’s time to make a decision. All five of the products that we’ve looked at are decent choices. And one of them is the perfect choice for you.

    Maybe it’s our top pick, the Vacmaster—a product with uncompromising performance.

    Or maybe you’re more determined to get a product that combines value with quality. If you want the best deal you can get, think about going with our “best for the money” pick, the Armor All.

    These are our recommendations, but you certainly don’t need to follow them. By now, you should know enough about the shop vac market to pick an option that will keep your space clean, and your lungs nice and healthy.

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