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Wet/Dry Vacs 101: What is a Wet/Dry Vacuum?

Wet/Dry Vacs 101: What is a Wet/Dry Vacuum?

If you’re trying to up your cleaning game and tackle a wide range of messes on your hard or carpeted floors, a commercial wet/dry vac could be your new best friend. 

Versatile, durable, and capable of handling both wet and dry messes, this cleaning powerhouse has become an essential tool for homeowners and professionals alike. But, with all the different accessories and attachments, it can be hard to know which wet/dry vac is right for your business needs. 

Today, we’re delving into the world of wet/dry vacs. In this article, you’ll learn where and when to use one, along with which accessories and features you need to consider. 

A wet/dry vac is a specialized piece of cleaning equipment designed to handle both wet and dry debris pickup. 

Unlike traditional vacuum cleaners that are meant for dry use only, wet/dry vacs are built to withstand cleaning tasks that involve liquids, sludge, grease, and other messes. They are known for their durability and versatility, making them a valuable addition to any custodian’s closet.

The ability to switch between filters for wet and dry pickup, along with its durable construction, are what make it an essential piece of equipment. Whether cleaning up a small spill or a large construction site, the wet/dry vac can handle it.

The beauty of a wet/dry vac lies in its versatility. It can be used on almost any surface and is equally effective indoors and outdoors. 

You can deal with tile, carpet, concrete, asphalt, or any other material, and a wet/dry vac is up to the task. Additionally, their variety of sizes and attachments allows you to access tight spaces or tackle large areas with ease.

Wet/dry vacs are the perfect equipment for a wide variety of cleaning tasks. For the sake of this article, we’ll split those tasks into three categories: wet pickup, dry pickup, and fine particulate pickup. 

Wet Pick-Up

The wet/dry vac is known for its ability to handle even the toughest of wet pickups. That includes removing cleaning slurry from the floor, picking up thick liquids, grease, and sludge, and performing carpet liquid extractions. 

Examples of wet pickup use cases: 

  • After stripping the floor
  • After using a floor cleaner
  • After spilling on a carpeted surface 

Dry Pickup 

Aside from wet pickup, wet/dry vacs also excel at dealing with dry debris. Everything from dry soil and the large debris you might find on a construction site can be handled with ease. 

Examples of dry pickup use cases: 

  • After making a mess
  • After construction efforts

Fine Particulate Pickup

Lastly, wet/dry vacs equipped with a cloth or pleated filter can perform fine particulate pickup. That means you can safely clean up drywall dust, sawdust, and other fine particular matter without having to worry about it recirculating into the air! 

Examples of fine particulate pickup use cases: 

  • After tearing up drywall 
  • After cutting fiberglass

Can You Use a Wet Dry Vac Without a Filter? 

No, you cannot use a wet/dry vac without a filter. 

Without a cartridge or filter in place, you risk damaging the motor. This rings especially true when dealing with dust particles and wet pickup. Doing so will reduce the equipment’s lifespan and can lead to costly repairs. 

The same is true if you use the wrong filter.

Wet filters are designed to pick up liquids like slurry. Dry filters are designed to be used for an assortment of dry pickups like wooden debris or fine particulate pickup. 

Using the incorrect filter will damage the wet/dry vac’s motor and other internal components. Therefore, using a filter is absolutely essential to protect the motor and the equipment’s overall well-being.

If you’re looking to enhance your wet/dry vac or make the right purchase when upgrading, consider some of the many wet/dry vac accessories listed in this section.

When considering which wet/dry vac to purchase, remember that there are various features and accessories to consider. Below, we’ve listed different accessories that enable you to perform different cleaning tasks.

A quality hose is a must-have accessory for any wet/dry vac. 

Some models will come with a hose, but that shouldn’t stop you from considering alternative hoses. For example, an elongated hose can be useful for covering a wide area, while a crush-proof hose won’t kink or break under pressure.

While the standard length is 15ft, you can usually find hoses anywhere from 10ft to 20ft. There are even longer hoses, but those aren’t standard. 

Similar to the hose, some wet/dry vacs come with a wand tool. The wand is perfect for reaching narrow spaces and tight corners, especially when it comes to cleaning dust. While some wands are adjustable, and some come in two, they’re all generally going to be the same size. 

The standard wand tool is great for general application, but the brush and crevice tools are exceptional for nitty-gritty applications. 

Brush tools are made for scrubbing surfaces and removing stubborn debris, while crevice tools are essential for getting into tight spaces and corners. 

Bulk pick-up tools are for picking up large debris. Using one of these tools helps save you time and effort on bigger cleaning tasks. 

Cartridge filters work well for wet and dry bulk pickup. Essentially, one of these filters will trap debris inside the cartridge. Still, you’ll need to clean the inside of the tank after use. 

Collector bags are great for dry pick up and make disposal easy, as you can remove the collector bag rather than empty the tank manually. 

Be sure not to mix up the wet filter with the dry filter. These filters cannot be used interchangeably, as wet filters are designed for wet pickup and dry filters for dry pickup. Confusing the two can result in severe damage to the motor and other internal components. 

Along with the array of accessories, there are several features to consider when purchasing a wet/dry vac.

One of the most important features to consider is the tank size. A larger tank means you have to empty it fewer times, leading to better cleaning productivity. On the other hand, smaller tanks are more maneuverable and easier to store. 

Performance is also important to consider. The equipment’s performance is determined by the power of its motor.

Wet/dry vac motors typically fall under the 1-1.5 horsepower range, but some models have dual motors for double the power. 

For dry pickup, bigger debris requires more power. Similarly, you’ll need a powerful motor for wet pickup, depending on the thickness of the liquid or sludge you’re cleaning.

Wet/dry vacs can either be electric or air-driven, also called pneumatic.

Electric units are powered by either a wall outlet or a rechargeable battery. Pneumatic units are connected to an air pump and don’t require an electric power source. 

The power supply you choose will depend on your specific needs. Electric-driven wet/dry vacs will be adequate for almost every commercial setting. Pneumatic wet/dry vacs are incredibly powerful, far more than electric, and are only used for niche applications. 

Many wet/dry vac models have the option for a front-mounted squeegee. Squeegees are great for picking up liquids on smooth surfaces, making them a must-need if you deal mainly in wet pickup. 

Regarding tank material, you have three options: poly, aluminum, or stainless steel. 

Poly tanks are affordable and lightweight but have been known to retain odors when dealing with wet pickup.

Meanwhile, aluminum and stainless steel tanks are stronger and more durable but are also heavier and less affordable


Final Thoughts

A wet/dry vacuum is a versatile piece of cleaning equipment that can handle a wide range of cleaning tasks. By better understanding its features, accessories, and best use cases, you can make an informed decision when choosing the right wet/dry vac for your facility’s needs.

If you’re still not sure about what you need in a wet/dry vac or which is the best option for your facility, consider reaching out to an Imperial Dade facility near you. One of our equipment specialists is waiting to provide your business with a free evaluation of its equipment needs. 

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