Best Portable Shop Vac Cleaner Reviews and Buying Guide in 2020

A shop vacuum picks up what household models drop off. When your cleanup involves liquids, automotive debris, job site materials or heavier household waste, you need the best portable shop vac that can pick up all of that. This is a job for a wet/dry vacuum.

Almost all of the reputed brands have their own version of portable vacs. Some are more powerful than others. While it is fairly easy to just buy any compact vacuum cleaners out there, it is difficult to find the right one that can handle all types of messes.

That’s why I have selected some of the best portable shop vacs out there that will surely save your time when buying for one. If you want to know how I’ve selected them, please refer to the buying guide at the end of this article.

In a Hurry? Check out the list of our Top Rated Portable Shop Vacuums

Product Name Rating Check Price
Armor All 2.5 Gallon 4.4
Check Latest Price
Vacmaster 2.5 Gallon 4.1 Check Latest Price
DEWALT DCV581H 18/20-Volt 4.4 Check Latest Price
Shop-Vac 2021000 Micro 4.2 Check Latest Price
Stanley Wet/Dry Vacuum 3 Gallon 4.5 Check Latest Price

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Our Top Picks of Portable Shop Vacuum Reviews

1.Armor All 2.5 Gallon, 2 Peak HP, Utility Wet/Dry VacuumArmor All, AA255 , 2.5 Gallon 2 Peak HP Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum

The Armor All Utility Vac is a small machine has a 2.5-gallon tank capacity with a 2-peak horsepower. Since it’s a wet/dry vacuum, it can handle both wet and dry vacuum. This unit is specifically designed to clean the interior of your vehicle. The low-profile design makes it easy to carry around tight corners. It also comes with all the necessary accessories needed for complete interior cleaning.

The best feature is yet to come. This unit easily converts to a blower. You can use this feature to dry motorcycle or blow out dust from your tires, car grills and air filters. To prevent overflow and also to prevent damaging the unit, it has an automatic shut-off feature. For efficient and quiet operation, there is a built-in noise and air diffuser.

It has a 2-horsepower motor on it so you should be able to get good suction out of it. The vacuum hose is pretty long too. It is 6-foot long, and the diameter of the hose is 1.25-inch, which means it is flexible and wide enough so that you won’t have any clogging issue. Not only that, but it also has a 10-foot long power cord with a cord wrap.

If you have a power outlet located nearby where you park your car, I’m pretty sure you won’t need any extension cords. That’s is pretty handy because you don’t have to drag the vacuum all over the place. The polypropylene tank might be small, but it has enough space for most interior cleaning jobs.

Highlighted Features

  • This utility vac has the best value for the money.
  • It has very strong suction.
  • Long power cord and hose.
  • Small and lightweight design.
  • Easy to use blower function.

2. Vacmaster 2.5 Gallon, 2 Peak HP, Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum, VP205Vacmaster, VP205, 2.5 Gallon 2 Peak HP Portable Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum

Spruce up your home, workshop or garage with the Vacmaster 2.5 Gallon ultra-portable wet/dry vacuum. Full-sized shop vacs are cumbersome, so Vacmaster created a compact vac that is just the right size. For minor messes and spills around the house, in the car or anywhere you need for a quick clean, there is no need for two tools when one does it all.

It is equipped with a powerful 2 Peak HP that can deliver powerful suction right from the start. The Vacmaster VP205 makes quick work out of any mess wet or dry. It comes equipped with a 4-ft long hose that has a 1-1/4-inch diameter. It also comes with an 8-inch long power cord with cord wrap.

Now, the hose and the cord aren’t that long as the Armor All utility vac, but you can expect the same level of performance.

It also comes equipped with an easy-to-empty 2.5-gallon tank — is ideal for quick cleanup. With a handy suite of tools and the reusable and washable cloth filter and wet foam filter, you will have the right tool to suit any cleaning tasks. The 2-in-1 utility nozzle makes quick work of any type of dirt and debris. To keep all of the attachments in one place, it has onboard accessory storage which makes storage very easy.

It has a large easy to use on/off button and pretty straightforward usage. To prevent overflow, it has an auto shut off mechanism. The key feature of this tool is its blower function. From inflating pool toys and inflatable beds to clearing unwanted debris, you can use the blower feature.

Highlighted Features

  • It has a convenient size and weight for maximum portability.
  • Ideal for quick cleanups and storage.
  • Reusable and washable foam wet filter and a cloth filter.
  • Easy conversion to blower function.
  • A strong 2 Peak HP motor.

3. DEWALT DCV581H 18/20-Volt MAX Cordless/Corded Wet-Dry VacuumDEWALT 18/20V Max Vacuum, Wet/Dry (DCV581H)

The DEWALT DCV581H is portable wet and dry vac from Dewalt, a brand that is very popular among contractors and garage owners. It makes for an easy tool for any kind of cleanups on the job site. This isn’t your ordinary shop vac. It has a 2-gallon tank capacity that can be powered either via a 20V or 18V lithium-ion battery or with a power outlet. It’s both ac and dc. They call it the multi-port battery interface.

The advantage of this interface is that it allows users to use their 18V batteries as well as 20V max slide batteries in the same interface. It’s their first product that runs off both platforms in their lineup. It gives the user who’s invested in the 18-volt system and for those of you that want to transfer over the 20V system, the versatility of using both battery packs on this product.

This unit comes with a high-efficiency HEPA filter for picking up fine dust. It has a tool-less change. So, if you want to remove it for wet applications like sucking up water, just slide the filter right off or put it back for dry applications. This unit has great onboard accessory storage. The gulper tool fits right into the handle of the unit for clean, compact storage. They also have built-in cord storage on the handle.

This unit has a 5-ft long crush resistant, fully-integrated heavy-duty hose with a 1-1/4″ diameter. It provides great durability, ease-of-use, and flexibility. This vac is all about convenience. It’s powerful, light, small and very ergonomically designed. This is a great tool for bringing to the job site.

Highlighted Features

  • It has a crush-proof 5-ft long hose.
  • Very ergonomically designed.
  • Integrated onboard storage.
  • Ac and Dc powered.
  • Easy to clean and service.

4. Shop-Vac 2021000 Micro Wet/Dry Vac Portable Compact Micro Vacuum with Collapsible HandleShop-Vac 2021000 Micro Wet/Dry Vac

The Shop-Vac 2021000 is a little monster that is perfect in every way. It’s small but at the same time extremely powerful. It has powerful suction with a 1-gallon tank capacity. It has 1 peak HP motor that delivers good suction right out of the box. This is a wet/dry vac so you can clean dry and wet dirt and debris. The only downside is that it doesn’t have a blower port. Other than that, it does what it was supposed to do and does a great job.

It has a 6-foot long power cord so you would want to consider getting an extension cord. Keep in mind that it has 1-gallon tank capacity, so you need to frequently empty the can before you start picking up dirt again. It comes with a paper bag filter that fills up for dry debris and for wet pickups. All you need to do is remove the bag, and you are good to go.

It doesn’t have a blower system, so you won’t be able to put the hose into the exhaust side to convert it into a blower. If you absolutely need a blower function, this isn’t the tool for you. This mini vac is perfect for cleaning the interior of your car. It will take up little to no space in your trunk because of its small and ergonomic design. If the cord is too small for you, you can make some adjustments and purchase a 25-foot three-prong extension cord.

Considering the price of this unit, you don’t need to keep your expectations high. What you will get is way more than what you will be paying for. It’s an ideal shop vac for small jobs, and if you want more tank space, you can buy the next size up. You can also mount this unit to a wall and use a long hose to do all your cleaning.

Highlighted Features

  • Very lightweight and compact.
  • Wall mountable unit.
  • 1-gallon tank capacity with 1 Peak Hp.
  • Wet/dry capable shop vac.
  • It comes with a lot of cleaning accessories.

5. Stanley Wet/Dry Vacuum, 3 Gallon, 3 HorsepowerStanley 3 Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum, 3 Peak HP Poly 2 in 1 Shop Vac

This small Stanley wet/dry vac is great for small messes. But it is also built to take on bigger messes too, making it perfect for picking up pet hair, drywall dust, debris and more. That’s not even the half of it. It has a removable blue cloth filter as well as a foam filter. Attach the foam filter when you are ready to take on spills that would normally take up an entire roll of paper towels.

You no longer need to use a different vac to clean spilled milk. You can clean it up in an instant with this Stanley wet/dry vac. This mini vac also features a high-performance blower port. It is perfect for blowing leaves off the patio. You can even use the inflator kit to turn your vacuum into a custom tool for quickly inflating your air mattress.

You can also use this for coal-ash cleanup. This vac is just the tool you need to clean out your fireplace, grill and bonfire pit. You don’t need to use a bag to pick up wet stuff. It’s a good product at a good price and has plenty of suction power for general cleaning applications. It can easily suck water off the floor or carpet. This particular model has 3-gallon tank capacity with a sealed pressure of 53-inches.

You won’t have to worry about leaking or anything. It has a powerful 3 peak Hp motor. This hose is 4-ft long with 1-1/4-inch diameter. Accessories include gulper nozzle, crevice nozzle, foam filter, reusable dry filter and clamp ring. In addition to that, it also has onboard storage which makes storage very easy and neat. It would be a killer vac if the hose was a bit long and also the power cord. Other than that, you will be getting good value out of it.

Highlighted Features

  • 60 CFM airflow capacity.
  • Easily converts into a blower.
  • Powerful suction for wet pickup.
  • Reusable dry filter and foam filter.
  • 52-inches of sealed pressure.

6. Stanley Wet/Dry Vacuum, 4 Gallon, 4 Horsepower, Stainless Steel TankStanley 4 Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum

This is a stainless steel 4 gallon wet/dry vac from Stanley. It is perfect for wet spills, messy jobs around the workshop or garage or you can convert this into a blower and take care of those big jobs like cleaning the patio, blowing out the leaves, etc. On top of that, the housing and the tank is made from stainless steel. I mean, who doesn’t love ss steel? It’s ridged, it’s tough, it’s rugged, it won’t crack, and it certainly won’t brittle when it is cold outside.

It lasts forever. When it comes to the vac, this is my favorite metal behind gold and silver. The whole vac with all the accessories is right around 8 pounds. So, this is really the perfect size. It still has 4-gallons of tank capacity; it comes with all the accessories you will ever need, and it has a powerful 4 peak HP motor. Speaking of accessories, you will be getting a complete set.

It comes with a standard 5-ft long flexible hose with 1-1/4-inch diameter, three long extension wands, three nozzles, three separate filters and many more. If you have one of those cleaning jobs that require fine vacuuming like drywall or fine wood shavings, it comes with disposable filter bags that pop right in. These filters are handy for that stuff that can really mess up a vacuum.

The whole unit, you can pick it up with one finger. That’s how lightweight this unit is. Because an ordinary shop vac is kind of bulky, heavy and cumbersome to move around. In addition to that, it also has 4 swivel casters that allow for convenient multi-directional movement. The power cord is 10-feet long and has a cord wrap design.

Highlighted Features

  • Waterproof design for safety and easy operation.
  • Stainless steel durable tank.
  • High-performance motor for great suction power.
  • Swivel casters for easy maneuverability.
  • Lightweight and compact design for easy storage.

7. Shop-Vac 5895200 2.5-Peak Horsepower AllAround EZ Series Wet/Dry Vacuum 2.5-GallonShop-Vac 5895200 2.5-Peak Horsepower All-around EZ Series Wet/Dry Vacuum

The shop vac 5895200 is small, portable, powerful, comes with great attachments and looks pretty darn cute. It is one of those compact wet/dry vacs that offers similar performance and power of a full-sized shop vac. Plus you will get the freedom of mobility and the convenience of a handheld model. It is powered by a 2.5 peak horsepower motor and has a 2.5-gallon tank capacity. You can easily pick it up using the top carry handle or drag it around the house with the easy roll casters.

This AllAround EZ Series wet/dry vac comes with a complete set of versatile accessories. It has a 7-foot long flexible hose with a 1.25-inch diameter. Other accessories include two extension wands, dual surface nozzle, crevice tool, gulper tool, a round brush and a bracket to wall mount this unit. It has a rear blow port that you can use to attach the hose and easily convert this machine into a powerful blower.

For easy storage, you can hang this unit on the wall, and the vacuum will be out of your way. As a matter of fact, all of the All Around EZ Series vacs are wall mountable. This unit is very lightweight and can be easily carried to where the mess is. Whether it is a wet or dry mess, you can use this to pick those up in and around the house.

You can keep all the accessories and tools organized with the vacuum by using the onboard storage. This way, you can easily reach any tool whenever you need it. This is a highly versatile cleaning machine because of its versatile accessories. Simple switch the cleaning heads and you can easily and effortlessly go from bare floors to carpet.

Highlighted Features

  • It has an 18-foot long power cord. The longest one in this list.
  • A powerful 2.5 peak HP motor.
  • Versatile cleaning attachments.
  • Easy roll casters for mobility.
  • Wall mountable unit.

8. WORKSHOP Wet Dry Vac WS0250VA Compact, Portable Wet Dry Vacuum CleanerWORKSHOP Wet Dry Vac WS0250VA Compact

The WORKSHOP Wet Dry Vac has some unique features that make it stand out from the rest of its competitors. First of all, like other wet/dry vacs, it has a compact size that makes it ideal for dorm rooms, apartments, and condos. It is perfect for quick pickups around the house and lightweight and portable enough to be used by anyone. Unlike other popular vacuum cleaners out there, its wide base makes it nearly impossible tip no matter how you are using it.

Not only it is ideal for cleaning inside the house, but this vacuum is also ideal for car cleaning because it stores very easily in small spaces like the pantry or the cabinet. Also, it has a great onboard storage design. Perhaps the best one I’ve seen so far. Just pop out the hose, slide it in, flip the switch and start the 1.75 Peak HP motor that can deliver 60 air watts of suction power. That’s a lot of power right there.

It has a long 10-foot length power cord. For most of your cleaning needs, you won’t even need an extension cord. It also has storage space that keeps all the accessory tools clipped securely in place. The ergonomic handle allows you to easily carry and turn the vac off and on with the same hand. This vac also has a blower port on the back. You can plug the hose there and use it as a blower.

This 2.5-gallon cleaner is ideal for small mess cleanup like emptying a stale bird batch or sucking up pet food spills. Also, the motor inside is the longest running motor in the industry. It is probably for that reason why the manufacturer backs this unit up with a long warranty period.

Highlighted Features

  • Stable and flat bottom prevent the cleaner from tipping over.
  • 60 air watts of suction power.
  • Great onboard storage facility.
  • It has a long reach.
  • Comes with all the essential cleaning accessories.

How to Choose the Best Portable Shop Vac?

what is the best Portable Shop Vac

Since you here, that means that you probably own some sort of vacuum or you are looking for something that can not only clean your house but also your garage and vehicles. A standard upright vac won’t help you clean those areas, and that is why you should opt for a portable shop vac.

These handy tools will give you amazing cleaning power in a compact package, but not all of them are up for the task. That is why you need to carefully consider some key features that will make your purchase worth the investment.

Here are the following key factors that you need to consider when choosing a portable shop vac.

  • Size

You are looking for a shop vac that you can easily move around with, i.e., a portable vacuum. That is why the first thing you should consider is the size of the unit. You don’t want to end up choosing a model that is going to be heavy or too bulky.

Size of the unit is also related to the weight. When picking the right vacuum for your needs, pay attention to the number of gallons that the vac has. The perfect carrying amount is 3 or 4; I would recommend you don’t go beyond that because the vac will become too heavy when it is full.

Also, check if the unit comes with wheels as they are necessary for most cleaning tools. Wheels are a must if you go beyond 4 gallons of cleaning capacity. The more cleaning capacity the vac has, the bigger and heavier the unit will get.

You should also look at the overall weight. Keep in mind that when the vacuum gets full of dirt and debris, it will probably weigh 50% more than the initial weight when it was empty.

Last but not least is the shape. There are actually two reasons why you should carefully consider the shape of the vacuum. First is how well you can move it around and the second one is how well you can store it after you are done with your cleaning.

  • Performance & Capacity

First, consider the mess. The larger the job, the bigger and better vac you will need in terms of peak horsepower and capacity for bulk pickup.

A larger tank will save you from repeatedly emptying the unit. For smaller tasks like household maintenance or auto cleaning, a smaller model will get the job done and store away easier.

  • Motor

A portable shop vac isn’t going to be as powerful as their full-sized counterparts. So, don’t expect the clean up your entire garage with a single pass. Because of their compact size, you need to pay extra attention to the suction capacity.

These models are made for smaller jobs, but there are some that boast a powerful motor. Look for the amount of wattage or the horsepower. Higher is better. Also, keep in mind that a high-performance motor will cost more than a regular shop vac.

  • Filters & Collection Bags

Wet/dry vacuums use filters ranging from general to fine grade. Choosing one comes down to the job at hand.

Cartridge filters are great for both wet and dry pickup but can require tad cleanup. A general duty collector bag keeps your tank clean and makes disposal easy as long as debris is dry.

Foam filters handle wet pickup, and for a mixture of wet and dry debris, a tear resistant wet and dry collection bag separates wet and dry waste in one handy container.

For fine debris like drywall dust, you will need a high-efficiency or HEPA rated filter. You can combine a HEPA cartridge with a HEPA collector bag for maximum dual dry filtration.

  • Vacuum Accessories

Next, think about the accessories that you will need. They give your vac an advantage of handling different spaces, materials, and surfaces. Examine the size of your tank port to figure out which accessories are compatible with your wet/dry vac.

A two-and-a-half-inch port allows you to select multiple sizes using an adapter. And if you are using shop vacuums, filters and accessories are all interchangeable.

A longer crushproof hose adds reach and prevents step damage. The one and a quarter inch turbo nozzle makes cleaning upholstery and car interior a breeze.

From wands to brushes, accessory options are nearly endless. Look for tools that will make cleanup more effective. Also having a set of attachments can make the whole cleaning process easier and efficient.

You don’t want to end up cleaning every surface with just a hose. Most standard shop vacs will come with a crevice tool, cleaning brush and hose pipes. But when it comes to cleaning the interior of our car, you need more than that.

You need components that can expand your cleaning potential and can reach into every corner of your vehicle with ease.

  • Wet/Dry

In any garage, messes can happen in all shapes and sizes. It can be either in liquid form or solid. So, you need to be prepared for whatever happens. Get a shop vac that can clean both liquids and solids. Only the vacs that are marked “Wet/Dry” can do that job with ease.

They have special filters and dust bags that can separate liquid wastes from solid and make cleaning much easier afterward. You never know what kind of mess you will make inside the car or your garage. And you certainly don’t want to use two vacuums.

Don’t limit yourself in how you can clean messes and get a wet/dry capable vac. Even though there are a lot of models that are capable of cleaning both types of waste, there are some models that are better at it than others.

The first thing you should look for is the filter. Check to see if it works well for liquids. Otherwise, you could wind up with a big mess. You should also look for a drainage spout which is located at the bottom of the vac.

It’s a necessary feature that can get all the water out easily without having to dump all of the liquid waste from the top. Compared to full-sized models, portable shop vacs are easier to clean and don’t necessarily need a drain plug. But it is handy to have one.

  • Built-In Features

Up next, consider the built-in features. For sizeable wet pickup, consider a vac with a built-in pump out feature. This allows for continuous pumping beyond tank size using a standard garden hose.

If you are dealing with basement flooding, a pump vac may be a better bet. Poly tanks avoid static while stainless steel tanks prevent odor absorption.

A blower port helps with interior car cleaning or leaf blowing. If noise is a factor, choose a vac with a lower decibel rating.

Staying in one place, try a stationary or drop away dolly model. If mobility is important, consider how onboard tools are stored, how the hose connects and the length of the electrical cord.

  • Long Cord

Having a generously sized power cord will give you more reach in larger spaces. There are some wet/dry vacs that are wall mounted that come with a short hose of 5-ft long. And there are other models that come loaded with a long 20-ft or more cord.

  • Long Hose

Similar to a long power cord, you should also look for a long hose. The longer the hose, the longer the reach. Usually, a portable or a wall mount unit will come with a long hose of 20-ft to 32-ft in length. A medium to a large hose can have 7-ft to 10-ft in length.

  • Hose Diameter

The diameter of the hosepipe should be between 2.25-inch to 2.5-inch, anything less than that tends to clog. It’s a good idea to go for the widest hose if you don’t want to end up clogging the pipe. However, if the hosepipe is very long, then the width would normally decrease.

Some shop vacs are used with power tools, and for that, you would need a smaller hose pipe that can adapt with other cleaning tools. A smaller pipe will have better flexibility too.

  • Built-In Storage

It’s better to have storage space for all the vacuum attachments. Cord wraps, cleaning heads, hoses, and other accessories can be neatly tucked away if you have proper on-board storage.

  • Noise Level

Shop vacs are noisy. There is no doubt about it. However, there are some models that have a quiet operation, but those models tend to be pricier. If you want a quiet unit, you need to pay the extra price. If it’s too loud, I would suggest you wear ear protectors.

  • Drain Valve

Depending on the gallon size, a full tank of liquid dirt can get very heavy. Having a drain valve on the bottom is convenient. You don’t need to open the vacuum lid, tip the tank over and drain out the liquid.

  • Vacuum Wheels

Having a wide set of wheels is very convenient if you have a large shop vac and constantly move around the house. Also, having a low-profile unit will help prevent tipping and can make it easier for you to haul the vac up and down flights of stairs.

Benefits of Using A Portable Shop Vac

Portable shop vacs aka canister vacs have a wide variety of benefit. Apart from being portable, there are also other benefits of owning one over the more significant, more traditional model.

  1. Portability

The obvious reason why you would pick up one of these models is because of their portability. Since they are compact in size, you can take them anywhere you want and clean even the tightest of corners. They are light in weight and can be used by anyone. The size and weight of the vacuum allow you to carry them around from room to room with ease.

  1. Vehicle Cleaning

These vacs are great for cleaning the interior of your car. They work better than a handheld vacuum. The wide array of cleaning heads and attachments are small enough to go anywhere and allow you to effortlessly clean upholstery, leather surface, car floor, dashboard, in between cushions and many more.

There are models that come with a crevice wand that can do some of those cleaning but having a portable shop vac do the job can result in better cleaning experience.

  1. Simplicity

These are simple and easy to use vacs. Just turn on the switch when you need to clean dirt and debris from floors and other surfaces. You don’t have to mess around with adjustable brushes or suction speed. The vac does the hard work for you. They have fewer buttons and lever and easy enough to be used by anyone.

  1. Storage

Because they are compact, short and lightweight, they are very easy to store. You can easily find enough storage space inside your closet to fit one of these cleaners. Some of them allow you to hang them up when not in use.

  1. Accessibility

You can simply clean more with a portable shop vac than you could with an upright vacuum. A portable vac is small and light, and because of that, you can clean bedsheets, countertops, workbenches, desks, upholstery, stairs, window sills and much more.

In addition, you don’t have to worry about knocking over valuable objects or messing up the upholstery. By using the specialized cleaning heads that come with the vac, you can easily reach tight spots and safely clean sensitive fabrics, in between cushions from sofas and much more.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have gone through all the criteria for selecting a shop vac, that means that you are ready to buy one. If you are still in doubt, take your time a do a little bit of research of your own. All the models listed here have high positive reviews. With unbeatable durability and versatility, the best portable shop vac will remove the stress from your next big mess from whatever you are cleaning.

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