How To Use Shop Vac For Water

How To Clean Up Water and other Liquids WIth Shop Vac (FAQ)

Many homeowners know the Shop-Vac is a versatile piece of equipment capable of picking up dust, dirt, and even solid debris, but many aren’t sure How to use a Shop-Vac for Water or if you should use a Shop-Vac to Clean up Water? 

The short answer is – Yes; Shop Vacs are designed to “safely” vacuum up liquids. And, while being well known for their power and ability to clean up debris, they can suck up large amounts of water just as well. 

If you work as a commercial or rental apartment building cleaner, you might even be relieved to know that it can collect urine and feces without issue – I know, it’s gross but true. 

You can even use a shop vac to clean up the edges of your pond, which is super handy if you have ducks that need to reclaim their paddling space. That’s something we will look into a little later.

How to Use a Shop Vac For Water

Here are the DIY instructions on using a wet/dry vacuum to suck up water and remove those liquid messes. 

The great news? It doesn’t take a lot of effort, and all you need is a good and reliable shop Vac on hand. 

Step 1 – Remove the Shop-Vac “filter and the bag” from the vacuum.

The HEPA filter, paper vacuum filter, and dust collection vacuum bag are not designed nor can stand up to getting wet. Water will ruin paper vacuum filters. Always remove the filter before using your shop vac to collect liquids to prevent damage to the paper filter.

This rule is excluded if your shop vac includes a “foam filter” for wet applications. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions first. 

Video on How to Convert Shop Vac from Dry Vac to Wet Vac (Video)


Step 2 – Install Correct Shop Vac Attachments

If you want to use the “Wet Mode” feature on plush carpeting, you will need a special attachment that can reach right down into the carpet fibers, which helps lift the liquid and any dirt with it. 

The carpet attachment also opens up the carpet fibers and ensures that the carpet’s base is not soaked, leading to potential mold and mildew. 

Step 3 –  Switch Shop-Vac Setting to “Wet Mode” 

Once you’ve selected the correct hose length and nozzle attachment, the paper filter has been removed; make sure it is switched to “wet mode.” 

Most shop vacs have a toggle switch marked Wet or Dry. Switch it to wet mode, and turn it on to start sucking up those wet messes. If your shop vac doesn’t have a wet/dry mode, turn on the shop vac to start vacuuming water.

For substantial wet spills (we’re talking basement floods), many wet/dry shop vacs come with an external drain or picket near the bottom, allowing you to connect an extended hose to drain the shop vac into a floor drain during work.

Just be aware that most shop vacs have a safety feature that will cut the power once it becomes too full of liquid. 

However, If you notice a change in your vacuum suction and the sound is surging or changes abruptly, stop cleaning immediately and empty the tank – It’s full.

Note: Remove the Paper Filter in Shop Vac Before Using it for Water. 

Wet dry shop vacs are primarily used to collect dust and other fine particle debris. Many shop vacs today also include a HEPA filter (paper) that removes even more fine dust, which is especially beneficial to those with allergies.

However, any filter in any shop vac must be removed before vacuuming water.  Failing to do so will ruin most filters, especially paper filters.

In addition, if your shop vac includes a dust collection bag, the bag must be removed before collecting any water.

The fact that shop vacuums are so versatile in their cleaning makes them an appealing choice, and adding a HEPA filter can make a big difference to your air quality.

Removing HEPA filter when using shop vac for water
HEPA Filter with optional Cover –

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q:  Can I Use Shop-Vac for Solid Debris?

A:  A good shop vac can handle many types of solid debris, such as sawdust, small chunks of concrete, and even nails, without a problem.

Shop Vacs are durable yet straightforward equipment built as powerful tools to help you clean thoroughly. 

For building debris and nails, you don’t need to use a bag to collect the mess – make sure it is on the “dry setting” and clean it thoroughly after use. Ensure the filter is in place; otherwise, it will likely refuse to switch on. 

Q:  What is a HEPA filter for Shop Vacs?

A:  Most of the better shop vacs sold today include a HEPA filter, an important upgrade for health concerns and those with allergies.

Unless your shop vac includes a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, you are not using a proper dust filtration system. Most of the better shop vacs sold today include a HEPA filter and add a good upgrade for those with allergies.

Shop Vacs undoubtedly collect large amounts of dust and even help remove mold and mildew; they are ineffective in removing enough dust for asthma and allergy sufferers without a HEPA filter.

We highly recommend purchasing a Shop-Vac with HEPA filtration already included and built into the shop vac, especially for those with asthma or allergies. Check out a new HEPA filter for your Shop Vac at Amazon.

Q: What Liquids Should You Avoid with Shop-Vac?

A:  While your shop vac can collect all sorts of liquids, there are a couple of cardinal rules for vacuuming liquid. 

You should never use a shop vacuum to collect flammable liquids, which is dangerous for obvious reasons.

Never use a shop vac to clean up any liquid mess with the shop vacuum bag in place to avoid damage. You must remove the shop vac collection bag and switch the vacuum to the “wet mode” before using it for liquid (water) removal.

Q:  Can You Use Shop Vac To Clean the Pond?

A:  Yes, you can use your shop vac to clean the borders of a small pond. However, it would help if you used a model with the drainage hose we mentioned earlier.

Why? Ponds have a lot of water and gunk, so if you don’t, you’ll be emptying the Shop Vac every few seconds. 

Removing HEPA filter when using shop vac for water

Take it slow so you don’t overload the output hose and your shop vac. Ideally, you should invest in a pond pump to drain the water. While the shop vac can be the right tool for a temporary solution, it is not permanent.


The shop vac is one of the most significant and helpful purchases a homeowner can invest in.  It is both a commercial and residential wonder, providing the capability to clean up nearly any mess you face.

The best part is Shop Vacs are easy to store to operate and come in a wide range of sizes and prices to help you find the perfect solution for your home or workplace and your needs.

References & Additional Resources

Kevin Carroll
Kevin Carroll
Kevin is the author and editor for Best Home Gear, and uses his 25+ years experience in Commercial and Residential Construction Management to author and publish the work for this website. In addition to publishing Best Home Gear; Kevin enjoys the outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, hiking, cycling, fishing, golf, and completing DIY projects at his Home and Garden.


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Author and Publisher for Best Home Gear

Kevin is the Author, and Publisher @ Best Home Gear, which he began In 2018.

As a Professional in Construction, Real Estate and Property Management, Kevin uses that experience to publish Useful Articles, and help homeowners improve (DIY) their own homes, lawns, and outdoor spaces.

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