How to Use a Shop Vac

Shop vacuums are handy tools that live up to their moniker by being tough enough to clean up a shop in a matter of minutes. They can handle tasks an ordinary upright vacuum cleaner cannot although using one can be difficult if you’ve never seen a shop vac in action.

If you’ve been hesitant to pick up a shop vacuum in the past because of that fact, our guide will show you how to use a shop vac the proper way. Once you understand how they work and what they are used for, you may find that it’s a tool you can’t stand to live without.

Tips how to use a shop vacuum in the best way

When you first unpack your shop vac, don’t get too excited. It’s tempting just to plug it in and turn it on, but that could be a huge mistake.

Once it is unboxed, you will want to open it up and remove anything inside. Some manufacturers will pack additional parts in that area, so never turn on your vacuum straight away. There could be instructions or attachments in the drum.

Setting up a shop vacuum is simple as you generally just need to connect a hose and attach a few filters. Once you flip that switch, the suction takes care of the rest, but you should proceed with caution around certain substances.

Just because it can suck something up, doesn’t mean you should.

Paint, oil and other thick liquids can be sucked up just like water but may require you to clean the canister thoroughly once you’re done. You also want to keep the areas around the filters clean and replace those as needed if you want optimum performance.

While the hoses are built to handle more than just dirt, makes sure they don’t get clogged. It’s easy to suck up a sock in an upright, but shop vacs can swallow screwdrivers and other small objects that could become lodged in the hose easily.

How to use a shop vac for water

Wondering how to use a shop vac for water? Have no fear as it’s much easier than you think provided you have the proper vacuum.

Not all shop vacs are considered “wet/dry” vacuums so if you are going to clean up water, make sure your vacuum is rated to deal with liquids beforehand. Some models may have special attachments, but the regular hose will do as well.

Most canister vacuums use a bag, and that is something you will want to remove when you have to suck up water or other liquids. Water is the easy to deal with however if you know how to use a shop vac the right way.

Once the bag has been removed, you will want to pull any filters from the vacuum to keep them from getting drenched. After that, you simply need to flip a switch to suck up the mess and dump the canister when you’re done.

If you’re going straight back to the vacuuming dust and dry debris afterward or don’t use a bag, be sure to dry out the canister, or you’ll have a major mess on your hands.

How to use a shop vac as a blower

Shop vacuums not only suck, using them as a blower is a popular past time as well.

The process of using your shop vac as a blower can vary depending on the model and manufacturer. In a nutshell, you simply need to reverse the flow and that generally involves flipping a switch or moving the hose from one port to another.

Once you’ve changed things over, your shop vac will produce air which opens the doors to new applications around your home or outdoors.  It won’t work as a leaf blower, but you might be impressed by what it can do.


One universal tip applies to all tools, especially shop vacs, and they are words to live by. Don’t try and do too much…

No matter how powerful your shiny new shop vac is, don’t intentionally put it to the test and try to pick up heavy objects or substances it is not meant to handle. You should never try to exceed its capabilities, or you’ll risk voiding the warranty.

When properly taken care of, a shop vac will outlast other tools and is a piece of equipment that will quickly prove its worth in your wood shop or garage.

If you wanna know more about most popular shop vacs on the market you can check our review for Vacmaster or Craftsman vacs.


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