Shop Vac Uses

While you can’t drive a screw with a hammer or use a rake to cut a piece of tin, some tools do have multiple purposes. The powerful little shop vac is one such device, as it can do more than suck dirt off the floor.

If you’re unfamiliar with shop vacs, you’re in for a treat. They are known for their cleaning ability, but we are going to discuss some of the best shop vac uses for your new tool whether you’re using it around the house, on the job site or outdoors.

Main uses for a shop vacuum

Before you attempt to use your shop vac for any of these tasks, remember the tips in our guide on how to use a shop vac.


This one is obvious as a shop vac can suck up screws, dirt, rocks and even small animals if you’re not careful.

You’ll want to steer clear of anything furry, but everything else is fair game including wood shavings and sawdust. Shop vacuums are a “must” if you have a wood shop which brings us to its next best use.

Dust Collection

If you work with wood, sawdust is something you’re going to deal with daily, and it can really bog down machines or wreck your work area quickly. Keeping those particles off your table will make life easy, and a shop vac can draw dust in as it leaves the blade.

While we won’t go through them all, saws and other types of woodworking equipment typically come with ports that allow you to hook up a shop vac. You’ll need to keep your filter clean, but will be surprised by how much sawdust a canister will hold.

Sucking up liquids

Did little Bobby or Susie turn over the goldfish bowl again or drop a gallon of milk on the floor?

You may still need to put them in time out, but you won’t have to pull your hair out cleaning up the mess if you have a shop vac on hand. They can easily take care of water and various other liquids which makes them ideal for household use and those times when disaster strikes.

Feed Wire

Feeding wiring through holes or tight spaces can be a real pain, and while there are plenty of tricks to make things easy, a shop vac beats them all.

If you need to snake a piece of skinny wire through a long hole, you can use your vacuum to pull the wire through in seconds. Just tie something to one end of the wire, create a “seal” around the area, and put the hose to the hole.

Manually feeding wiring through a hole or pipe can frustrate you for hours, but a shop vac can take care of the problem in seconds.


One of the cool things about shop vacuums is the fact they blow air. This extends their capabilities and allows you to do things you couldn’t dream of with an ordinary vacuum cleaner.

Need to inflate a big pool toy?

That’s a piece of cake if you have a shop vac and the proper attachment. You’ll need to pay more attention to the “full” level, so you don’t overdo it, but it will significantly speed things up.

If you have a light dusting of powdery snow, you can use your shop vac to blow it away as well. Leaves are definitely no match for this machine, even if the cord may limit your movements around the backyard.

Other interesting uses for shop vacs

While those are all fine ways to use your shop vac, there are some “interesting” uses as well for folks that like to think outside of the box.

If you have a good HEPA filter and dust bag, fireplaces and grills can be cleaned with this tool. You can also quickly clean out an aquarium; something that can take hours without help. There are even special adapters made to take debris out while leaving the water in… well, most of it.

Another interesting use would be in your kitchen, but not to pick up muck from the floor. You may be able to use your shop vac to unclog your drain if you can create a strong enough seal. That could say you hundreds of bucks if you can avoid a trip to the plumber.


If you’ve ever experienced a few inches of water in your basement after a flood or soaked floorboards in your car, there’s a place for a good shop vac in your life.

These tools still live up to their namesake as they are built for shop use, but as you can see, it’s a versatile piece of equipment that can do far more than its name implies.  If you’re interested in picking one up, be sure to check out the choices in our guide to the best shop vacs.

You can also check some of our reviews for VacmasterCraftsman or Ridgid vacs.


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