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A Great Shop Vacuum (or Wet Dry Vac)

Updated April 21, 2020

After new tests, our pick is the Ridgid 12-Gal. NXT Wet Dry Vac HD1200. Our runner-up is the 14-Gal. NXT Wet Dry Vac HD1400. Our previous pick still works, but has been discontinued.

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There are messes and then there are messes. For the latter, your best bet is to break out a wet dry vac. These heavy-duty vacuums suck up water, sawdust, nails, and screws with equal vigor. We’ve been using them for years, and our favorite is the Ridgid 12-Gal. NXT Wet Dry Vac HD1200.

Our pick

Ridgid 12 Gallon NXT Wet/Dry Vac HD1200

A great wet dry vac

The Ridgid HD1200 is capable, powerful, and well reviewed. It’s easy to lug around, and it comes with a great selection of attachments.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $70 .

This wet dry vac (aka “shop vac” 1 ) has a large capacity and a powerful motor for sucking up debris. And with its four casters, well-positioned handle, and manageable weight, it’s not too difficult to drag through a basement or carry on a flight of stairs. The Ridgid 12-Gal. NXT Wet Dry Vac HD1200 comes with three nozzles (one for general use, another for wet spills, and a small one for detail work) that store on the vac and out of the way, using a smarter design than that of competitors’ accessory caddies. The Ridgid is regularly sold on the shelves of Home Depot—where it has hundreds of mostly five-star reviews—and extra filters, hoses, and nozzles are easy to find. The 12-gallon Ridgid is the vac that I saw on job sites and personally used the most often throughout a 10-year construction career, and it’s the one I’ve owned at home for years. We bought the relatively new HD1200 version for testing in spring 2020. So far, it’s exhibited the same excellent Ridgid quality we’ve seen for years from similar Ridgid models, like our previous pick, the Ridgid 12-Gallon Wet Dry Vac WD1270, which has been discontinued.

Runner-up

Ridgid 14-Gal. NXT Wet Dry Vac HD1400

The same, but bigger

This is a more powerful version of our pick, with a slightly larger capacity and motor. It’s widely recommended, but it costs more and is noticeably heavier than our pick.

Buying Options

If you can’t find our pick or you just want a more powerful option, we also like the Ridgid 14-Gal. NXT Wet Dry Vac HD1400. This vacuum has more capacity and a more powerful motor than our pick, the 12-gallon HD1200, but its identical hose should suck up the same debris. The HD1400 is not our pick because its weight—about 27 pounds, compared with our pick’s 22—makes it noticeably heavier and bulkier, especially on stairs. The HD1400 is also more expensive. User reviews for this model, like those for our pick, are extremely positive.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

Ridgid 12 Gallon NXT Wet/Dry Vac HD1200

A great wet dry vac

The Ridgid HD1200 is capable, powerful, and well reviewed. It’s easy to lug around, and it comes with a great selection of attachments.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $70 .

Runner-up

Ridgid 14-Gal. NXT Wet Dry Vac HD1400

The same, but bigger

This is a more powerful version of our pick, with a slightly larger capacity and motor. It’s widely recommended, but it costs more and is noticeably heavier than our pick.

Buying Options

The research

Why you should trust us

I spent 10 years in construction, building high-end homes in the Boston area. On every single one of those days, I was involved in the daily cleanup. Ninety percent of the time, that meant pushing around a wet dry vac, also known casually as a “shop vac” (though that’s a brand name). I’ve vacuumed up nails, water, sawdust, insulation, spilled coffee, dumped-over bags of concrete, spilled paint, and plenty more. At my house, I also have my own workshop, which I keep clean with a wet dry vac. Additionally, through my construction work and at my own homes, I’ve dealt with at least a half-dozen flooded basements and have found wet dry vacs to be instrumental in removing water and cleaning up.

Who this is for

Whether it’s for a flooded basement or just general garage cleanup, a wet dry vac is for the worst kinds of messes most floors ever see. These vacs aren’t going to be able to deal with a foot of standing water in your basement, but they can take out a puddle—not to mention broken glass, small chunks of wood, nails, and other objects that even the best vacuums designed for the home can’t handle. It can be a huge aid in an emergency, or a great addition to any garage or basement dealing with the spills and messes of a DIY lifestyle. These tools tend to last years, and they’re durable enough to get banged around a little—or a lot.

Our pick: Ridgid 12-Gal. NXT Wet Dry Vac HD1200

Our pick

Ridgid 12 Gallon NXT Wet/Dry Vac HD1200

A great wet dry vac

The Ridgid HD1200 is capable, powerful, and well reviewed. It’s easy to lug around, and it comes with a great selection of attachments.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $70 .

In our experience, it’s tough to beat the Ridgid 12-Gal. NXT Wet Dry Vac HD1200. It offers a good capacity and comes with all of the right nozzle ends, and it stores them, so they stay out of the way. The Ridgid is readily available on the shelves of Home Depot, where you can also get new filters, replacement hoses, and additional nozzle ends. The 12-gallon Ridgid wet dry vac was the most commonly seen vac during my construction career, and it’s the one I own and use. I’ve had my current one since about 2010, and I’ve never had any problems with it (other than the hose I melted on a propane heater, but that was my own fault). The HD1200 is a new model, which Wirecutter staff writer Signe Brewster bought for cleanup work in her St. Paul, Minnesota, Victorian home. And it’s an updated version of our previous pick, the WD1270. The design improvements include a center-mounted handle for easy carrying and a larger, glove-friendly on/off switch. So far, this model has exhibited the same quality we’ve come to expect from similar Ridgid vacs over the years.

The HD1200 has enough power to clean up the debris that could damage your home vacuum. One tester who used it to clean up her basement said it “sucked up spider webs, dirt, limestone/efflorescence rubble, screws, concrete chunks up to the size of a ping-pong ball, centipede graveyard, and paint chips without complaint.” She clogged the hose a couple of times on “golf ball-sized concrete chunks,” but that’s going to happen with any wet dry vac. In fact, the HD1200 is so powerful that she said it was pulling loose plaster off the walls, so she had to be careful in certain areas.

The Ridgid has a 12-gallon canister, which is the sweet spot between capacity and maneuverability. Unlike smaller-size vacs, some of which are even handheld, the HD1200 won’t require you to stop and empty it as often. And compared with the larger sizes, this Ridgid isn’t too bulky to empty out or haul up a set of stairs (it has a convenient handle at the top). The HD1200 stands about 2 feet high, with a diameter of about 20 inches, approximately the same as other 12-gallon models.

The Ridgid comes with three nozzle ends, which is all I’ve ever needed. There is a wide dry nozzle, a wet nozzle, and a small nozzle for corners and detail work. Other models might come with more options, but I’ve found that they just tend to get in the way or lost over time. We especially like how the Ridgid stores the nozzles at the base of the drum, just over the casters. This keeps them out of the way while the vac is in use. Other models, like many of the Shop-Vacs, have the accessories on a caddy up at the top, which causes trouble as the hose is moving back and forth over the vac during a cleanup. On construction sites I’ve usually seen these caddies get thrown away out of frustration—then, a month later, all of the accessory nozzles are lost.

The Ridgid has a 2½-inch hose diameter, which is standard for the 12-gallon size. One of the distinctions of the Ridgid is that the hose actually clips to the vacuum, creating a very stable connection; some others have only a pressure fit connection, and these come loose all the time as you lead the vac around by pulling on the hose. The Ridgid hose’s diameter is big enough to clean up most major workshop messes, easily pulling in nails, bits of glass, sawdust, and screws.

Although Ridgid vacs come in other sizes (many of them great), we think the 12-gallon size offers the best balance of capacity and mobility. And it usually comes in under $100, a price that’s lower than that of some other Ridgids and more comparable to those of its competitors. At a little over 20 pounds, this vac is more manageable on stairs than some larger, more powerful, also-popular versions.

Because wet dry vacs are often needed at a moment’s notice in an emergency or for major jobs, availability—for the vac itself and for extra filters and additional nozzles—figures into our recommendation. Even with normal use, filters get clogged over time, and there are only so many times you can bang the dust out of them before you need a new one. Home Depot stocks a number of use-specific filters compatible with several types of wet dry vacs, including HEPA filters and ones specifically designed for fine dust. Additional nozzles and replacement hoses are also available. I’ve lost a number of nozzle ends and have irreparably damaged a hose, so easy replacement parts are important here.

Years of personal experience also informed this recommendation, and this is a vac that I’ve spent countless hours using at home and on lots of job sites during my construction career. I’ve never had any problems with it, and I’ve never found another wet dry vac that was noticeably better. The 12-gallon Ridgid hits all the marks.

The best wet dry vac is powerful, easily available, and has all of the basic accessories.

Cheap or Alternative Ferment Buckets?

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

LloydRenee
Active Member
xsists
Well-Known Member
dbals
Well-Known Member

Those “Home Depot” buckets are NOT made for food. Look at the bottom of the bucket for the number and compare on this site: http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/plastics.html

You also want the 6.5 gal bucket so you can put 5 to 5.5 gal of wort in it and still have a reasonable amount of space for the Krausen.

Hope this helps

LloydRenee
Active Member
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
ChrisS68
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Starderup
Well-Known Member
jmhart
Well-Known Member

Those “Home Depot” buckets are NOT made for food. Look at the bottom of the bucket for the number and compare on this site: http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/plastics.html

You also want the 6.5 gal bucket so you can put 5 to 5.5 gal of wort in it and still have a reasonable amount of space for the Krausen.

Hope this helps

The HD bucket thing has been discussed at length and frequently. They are made from HDPE, same as the buckets sold at your LHBS. The HD buckets aren’t labeled as food grade, but that doesn’t mean they AREN’T food grade. It just means HD didn’t want to pay to have them tested, cause, well, why would they?

You can do your own search for more info, but plenty of people use them.

Beezy
Well-Known Member
JuanMoore
Getting the banned back together
Starderup
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Beezy
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Starderup
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GatorDad
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msa8967
mickaweapon
Stevo2569
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Fletch78
Well-Known Member

The only bad thing about the orange Home Depot buckets is:

1: Can’t do a 5.5 gallon batch, as previously mentioned

2: You’ve got to keep track of which bucket is for beer, which one you had antifreeze in, which one you used to clean out the turtle tank, and which one you crapped in on the side of I-75 after a greasy lunch at a truck stop, etc.

GatorDad
Well-Known Member
Beezy
Well-Known Member

The only bad thing about the orange Home Depot buckets is:

1: Can’t do a 5.5 gallon batch, as previously mentioned

2: You’ve got to keep track of which bucket is for beer, which one you had antifreeze in, which one you used to clean out the turtle tank, and which one you crapped in on the side of I-75 after a greasy lunch at a truck stop, etc.

broadbill
Well-Known Member
Beezy
Well-Known Member
Fletch78
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broadbill
Well-Known Member
Beezy
Well-Known Member
Well-Known Member
TheMan
Well-Known Member

Those “Home Depot” buckets are NOT made for food. Look at the bottom of the bucket for the number and compare on this site: http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/plastics.html

You also want the 6.5 gal bucket so you can put 5 to 5.5 gal of wort in it and still have a reasonable amount of space for the Krausen.

Hope this helps

The markings on my ale pail are identical (#2 HDPE) to the ones on the homer buckets. And the Ale pail does not say anything about being food grade. Many people on this board have used them with no issues. I don’t use them to ferment, but wouldn’t have a problem with them based on the reports of others on this forum.

To the OP, if you have corny kegs you can use them. I have extra’s laying around and so I have been using them, easy to clean and simple to store.

CidahMastah
Well-Known Member

The markings on my ale pail are identical (#2 HDPE) to the ones on the homer buckets. And the Ale pail does not say anything about being food grade. Many people on this board have used them with no issues. I don’t use them to ferment, but wouldn’t have a problem with them based on the reports of others on this forum.

To the OP, if you have corny kegs you can use them. I have extra’s laying around and so I have been using them, easy to clean and simple to store.

The HDPE marking indicates that the HD buckets are food grade. I use them all the time for utility buckets with beer and wine making, occasionally fermenting if I use whole fruit (I have all glass fermenters for all my other fermenting).

i.e. in a pinch HD buckets are great until you splurge on fancy gear.

The only case where HDPE 2 should be disregarded is with black HDPE 2 buckets. I have read multiple places that the black buckets are specifically called out as “never” food grade.

Well-Known Member
Komodo
Well-Known Member

These last two posts are contradictory to what I’ve found. The label of #2 means it’s HDPE but not necessarily food grade. When you say “used them with no problems” that doesn’t make sense to me as the problems wouldn’t be something so readily apparent? The acidity and alcohol would leach stuff into what you drink . . and you wouldn’t know what effects that would have for who knows when.

I’m not trying start arguments or be a PITA, just saying it’s not consistent with what I’ve seen. Here’s a good one:

CidahMastah
Well-Known Member

These last two posts are contradictory to what I’ve found. The label of #2 means it’s HDPE but not necessarily food grade. When you say “used them with no problems” that doesn’t make sense to me as the problems wouldn’t be something so readily apparent? The acidity and alcohol would leach stuff into what you drink . . and you wouldn’t know what effects that would have for who knows when.

I’m not trying start arguments or be a PITA, just saying it’s not consistent with what I’ve seen. Here’s a good one:

This site doesn’t list facts about HD buckets or similar. It is composed of a broad series of generalizations that are safe, legally to post. How could they recc you use a random bucket from a random store without getting themselves in trouble? Of course they are going to say “avoid all buckets that don’t list themselves as food grade.”

We aren’t putting “brine” into buckets either. Which is what the usage is geared towards on that site.

I wouldn’t be worried about using HD buckets. The beer you are making in the buckets causes far more health risks than the plastics ever will.

keep searching the countless threads on this topic on HBT – draw your own conclusions from them.

smyrnaquince
Well-Known Member
TheMan
Well-Known Member

These last two posts are contradictory to what I’ve found. The label of #2 means it’s HDPE but not necessarily food grade. When you say “used them with no problems” that doesn’t make sense to me as the problems wouldn’t be something so readily apparent? The acidity and alcohol would leach stuff into what you drink . . and you wouldn’t know what effects that would have for who knows when.

I’m not trying start arguments or be a PITA, just saying it’s not consistent with what I’ve seen. Here’s a good one:

From that site it states this:
“There is a common misconception that all containers made of white plastic or HDPE plastic bearing the symbol are food grade containers. This is not true. If you are considering the purchase of a container from some place other than a kitchen or restaurant supply store, and the container is not clearly labeled as “food safe” or being made of food grade plastic, then you should assume that it is not food grade and you should not brine in it

Your/my Ale Pail does not say it is “Food Safe”. So it violates what this site is saying, yet most of us have all used an ale pail to ferment at some point. It’s no different than the #2 HDPE buckets from home depot. I agree with Cidahmaster, you are free to make your own choice. Maybe the effects are like you said, not readily apparent. But I have a hard time believing that homebrew equipment stores would sell something that is harmful to us.

I have a hard time spending $20 on a bucket when the same style of buckets at Home Depot or Lowes only cost $3.00. Yes I would use those except they seem a…