All it takes is a little bump — your cup tips over, and suddenly, your floor is covered with water! Whether you knocked a water glass off the dinner table or accidentally poured the pitcher out on the kitchen floor, major spills happen to the best of us.

Your first reaction to a spill is probably to bust out the paper towels. Maybe you’ll grab your mop and bucket. No matter how you tackle it, you probably wish there was an easier way to soak up that spill.

Vacuum cleaners are versatile tools that can quickly clean a variety of messes. As I explain in another article, you can use a vacuum cleaner to pick up glass. But can you also vacuum water? Read on and find out!

Can You Use a Regular Vacuum for Water?

You probably already have a vacuum cleaner. And if you’re here, you’re probably wondering if you can use it on a spill that’s currently soaking your floor. Before you turn on your vacuum, wait a moment — not all vacuum cleaners can vacuum water!

Can you use a regular vacuum cleaner for vacuuming water?

Most vacuum cleaners collect debris in one of two ways:

Vacuums With Collection Bags

You should only use vacuum cleaners with bags for dry messes. These types of vacuums are designed to collect hair, dust, dirt, and larger particles like broken glass and crumbs. Once the bag is full, you either empty it into the garbage or dispose of it entirely.

Vacuum bags are great at holding dirt and dust, but they aren’t intended for storing water. The bags are often porous, which means that they can (and probably will) leak! Liquids like water can be dangerous for your vacuum cleaner — they may damage the electronics that make it run.

Vacuums With Reusable Trays

You might think that vacuum cleaners with reusable collection trays can suck up water. Unfortunately, vacuums with reusable trays aren’t meant for water either. The problem isn’t just with where the water goes — water can also damage a vacuum’s motor.

What Happens if You Vacuum Water?

The main reason why you shouldn’t use a regular vacuum for spills is safety. If water gets inside a normal vacuum cleaner, you could risk being electrocuted! Saving a few minutes on cleaning a spill isn’t worth the risk of injury or death — don’t use your vacuum for water!

If you’re determined never to use your mop again, it’s possible to vacuum water. The catch is that you’ll have to buy a specialized vacuum designed for cleaning up spills.

Can You Vacuum Water With a Wet-Dry Vac?

Wet-dry vacs are big, round, tub-shaped vacuum cleaners that look right at home in workshops and garages. They’re called wet-dry vacs, which means that they can clean up liquids like water just as easily as dirt or other solid debris.

Most wet-dry vacs are designed for industrial, rather than home cleanup. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them in your house!

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Shop Vac is probably the best-known wet-dry vac brand. The Shop Vac 2036000 could be a good option for smaller spills or less regular ones. It doesn’t have wheels, however.

For something more portable, you could try the wheeled Shop Vac 5895200. Its pink and white color scheme also makes it look a bit more homey and less industrial.

Need something even smaller and easier to store? Fortunately, it’s possible to get even smaller wet-dry vacs more suited to use in the home. This Mini Shop Vac won’t clean up huge spills, but it should be more than enough for most people.

Heavy spills, like the kind from a leaking water heater, will need some more serious hardware. This Craftsman wet-dry vac may look like a mini garbage can, but it has enough power to suck up any major household spill. If you have to deal with that much water, however, you may need to call a professional!

How to use a shop vac (dry-wet vac) to vacuum water.

How to Use a Shop Vac to Vacuum Water

Using a Shop Vac isn’t rocket science. Nevertheless, it’s a little different from using a regular vacuum cleaner.

Depending on your model, you may need to remove the Shop Vac’s filter before using it to suck up a spill. You’ll also need to attach the correct hose — most wet-dry vacs have different hoses for different kinds of messes.

Once you’ve set everything up, simply use the hose to suck up all the water you can find. It’s pretty easy!

Depending on the size of your Shop Vac’s tank and the spill you need to clean, it’s possible that you’ll need to empty the tank partway through cleaning. Some models have a system that cuts off the vacuum’s suction when the tank is too full. If your vacuum doesn’t have this, then you should pay close attention to how full its tank gets.

After you’ve cleaned up the spill, take some time to wash out your Shop Vac’s tank. You don’t want any nasty surprises like mildew growth — it’s not only gross but also bad for your health!

DIY Wet Vacuum Cleaner

Remember how I said that you couldn’t vacuum water with a normal vacuum cleaner? That’s not entirely true. This video shows how you can create your own wet vac with common household items.

I don’t necessarily recommend trying it since water could still get into your vacuum cleaner. But if you’re the handy DIY type, you might be interested in giving it a try.


Now you know that it’s not possible or recommended to vacuum water with most vacuum cleaners. You’ll need a wet-dry vac in order to do it safely.

If you’re clumsy and can’t seem to stop spilling water everywhere, then a wet-dry vac might be a good investment. Even if you don’t spill that often, these vacuums can be great for more serious solid messes.

If you don’t want the extra equipment cluttering your broom closet, however, a regular mop will do just fine in a pinch.

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