10 Surprising Uses for a Shop Vac

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Shop vac
Benedek Alpar / Shutterstock.com

Let’s get this out of the way: “Shop-Vac” is a brand name, not a generic one. Just as we call adhesive bandages “Band-Aids,” we tend to refer to all wet/dry vacuums as “shop vacs.”

No matter what you call it, a wet/dry vac is a darned useful addition to your home — as anyone who’s ever had an overflowing washer can attest. It’s also great for vacuuming up dry stuff, such as the sawdust and wood bits left after your latest DIY project.

But those aren’t the only uses. Think outside the box and let your shop vac pay for itself, over and over.

1. Cleaning your vehicle

Young man cleaning his car
Ivanko80 / Shutterstock.com

Dead leaves and mud on the floor mats. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crumbs in backseat crevices. A water bottle leak in the console’s cup holder.

Sure, you could bring out the household vacuum cleaner or drive to the car wash. This Old House suggests you just plug in the shop vac.

“Shop vacs can be used to thoroughly clean the interior of your car, including carpet, seats, floor mats and trunk. They can remove dirt, crumbs, pet hair and even small liquid spills,” notes author Ross Bentley. Manufacturers sell accessory kits to augment the wands and nozzles that come with even the most basic shop vac models.

Incidentally, those car wash/gas station vacuum costs really add up. Pricer.com estimates the average cost at $3 to $8 a pop. If you’ve got carpool duties or a super-shedder of a dog, the savings can be significant over time.

2. Blowing leaves

House in Derby Line, Vermont, in fall
Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock.com

Yep, these appliances suck and blow. Attach the hose to the exhaust port and you get “a blower that can perform a range of chores that normally require extra equipment,” according to GarageTooled.com.

Dragging a shop vac across a lumpy, grassy backyard might not be ergonomically friendly. But if you just want to move leaves (or powdery snow) off the driveway or walkway, your shop vac can do the trick. Make the kids rake the back 40 while you use the shop vac out front.

Speaking of which, the device is also good for …

3. Inflating stuff

Pool floats
2M media / Shutterstock.com

Remember those accessory kits? You can also buy one for a stand-alone “inflator nozzle” that lets you blow up air mattresses or kiddie pools with the greatest of ease, according to GarageTooled.com.

“Where a small air compressor would struggle to inflate a (good-sized) inflatable pool, a shop vacuum would get it done quickly,” the site notes. That leaves you enough breath to inflate all the pool toys the kids want to take into the water.

4. Battling pet hair

Siberian husky dog
Twinsterphoto / Shutterstock.com

Some people don’t care if the dog is on the couch or the cat sleeps in the recliner. Your guests might not want to go home all haired-up, though, and even the most doting fur-parent might get tired of the look.

As mentioned above, the shop vac is great for cleaning your car. So before inviting everyone over for the big game, why not let it attack the household’s upholstery as well?

“Many (models) have a specialized, bristled brush just for picking up pet hair,” notes a site called DetailCentral.com. The other attachments are “ideal for getting into the nooks and crannies.”

5. Cleaning gutters

Clogged gutters
Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock.com

Home centers and Amazon sell gutter-cleaning accessory kits for shop vacs. As one Amazon customer puts it, the kit “makes cleaning gutters as easy as vacuuming your car’s floor mats.”

The typical kit features an angled attachment and extension wands that let you remove leaves without standing on a ladder. This could save you some serious coin: BobVila.com suggests the average cleaning costs $163.

6. Removing items from drains

Bathtub drain
Dmitry Markov152 / Shutterstock.com

Kids drop stuff. So do adults, especially those who take off engagement rings to wash their hands. There’s a good chance that toothbrush or diamond is caught in the U-shaped portion of the drain’s plumbing (aka “the trap”). Writing for the Napa blog, Benjamin Hunting shows how to fix things:

  • First, cover other drains in the bathroom, to allow for maximum suction.
  • Next, cover the sink drain with the shop vac hose and turn it on. That should do it. (If not, call a plumber.)
  • Retrieve the item from the shop vac like the hero you are.

Incidentally, TheKnot.com suggests keeping a decorative “ring dish” by the sink. It’s a safe spot for you and any visitors with valuable jewelry to stash their bling.

On the topic of drains, shop vacs can help with ….

7. Clearing a clog

Man using drain snake to unclog kitchen sink pipe and plumbing
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

Shop vac accessories really do run the gamut! “With the right accessory attachment, you can use a shop vac to remove clogs in your tub, sink or drain,” according to ThisOldHouse.com.

The plumbing service Superior Drainage suggests inserting the hose from a shop vac into a clogged drain and setting the vacuum to exhaust. If it doesn’t sound like the clog is moving, try alternating between the suction and exhaust settings.

A plumbing service call could cost anywhere from $147 to $343, notes HomeAdvisor.com. If you’re successful with the shop vac, then that accessory attachment will pay for itself instantly.

8. Drying a wet cellphone

person picking up cellphone out of water on beach
Yevhen Prozhyrko / Shutterstock.com

Scrolling in the Jacuzzi or recording reels from the swimming pool is not a great idea. Water that gets into a cellphone can corrode the circuitry and turn the device into a pricey paperweight.

If you drop your phone in the drink, or if it gets wet some other way, the Napa blog suggests firing up the shop vac. “Aim your wet/dry vac at the phone’s ports and points where the plastic frame meets, and then use it to suck air past them. This will pull water out and leave your phone dry,” Hunting writes.

Don’t put the phone in a bag of rice, though. Apple says you shouldn’t.

9. Cleaning up broken glass

shattered glass on ground
Birute Vijeikiene / Shutterstock.com

Both glass and ceramic items produce loads of shards when dropped or knocked over. Cleaning up with an ordinary vacuum cleaner can damage the machine, according to TheSpruce.com.

Sharp edges can slit the flexible hose, and even a tiny cut will reduce suction. In addition, the vacuum’s beater brushes can scatter rather than collect the bits of glass, or the shards can embed themselves in the roller. Those sharp bits can also cut the vacuum cleaner bag or scratch the canister of a bagless model.

Shop vacs aren’t afraid of a little glass. Once you’ve swept up and safely disposed of the big pieces, start vacuuming on the low setting. You might need to dial it up a bit to make sure you get all of the smallest bits. Holding an LED light at different angles can help you make sure every last piece has been picked up.

10. Entertaining the dog

Gunnar Rathbun / Shutterstock.com

Your arm is killing you, but your rambunctious pup is begging for more tennis-ball tosses. GarageTooled.com suggests a novel remedy: the blower setting on your shop vac.

“Simply stick a ball on the end and tap the power to shoot the ball,” the site recommends. “For once, your dog will get tired before you do.” (That is, once it gets used to the sound of the vacuum.)

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