Looking for the best cordless wet/dry vacuums of 2020? We purchased the 8 most promising models and exhaustively tested them in our lab. We evaluated these machines for wet and dry vacuum power on materials ranging from nuts and bolts to sawdust to puddles of water, and more. We tested batteries, measured hose lengths, and took weights. We scrutinized attachments, measured suction, and evaluated the ease of use. Our team of tool and electronic experts have assembled the results of this analysis so that you can be sure that when you settle on a vacuum, it'll be exactly what you wanted.
The Best Cordless Wet/Dry Vacuums of 2020
Best All-Around Wet/Dry Vacuum
Milwaukee M18 0880-20
The Milwaukee M18 is a slick little vacuum. Its 2-gallon canister is shaped like a toolbox, and the tube and all the attachments are stored in the lid. Thus, the inconvenience of awkward shaped shop vacuums and components is remedied. Not only is this machine designed well, but it's also a beast at sucking-up all types of debris from nuts and bolts to sawdust to buckets of water. This machine also has one of the longer tubes in the class. The tube has the added benefit of self-retracting like a spring, so it's long when you need it and short when you don't.
While the M18 is indeed a sweet cordless wet/dry vacuum, it does have a few drawbacks. For one, it's one of the noisier models we tested. Also, at 10 lbs, 2 oz, it's on the heavier side of the class. Despite its 5 amp-hour battery, a fully charged cell would only power the machine for 23 minutes — not exactly an impressive outcome. That said, the conveniences that this machine offers overshadow its few performance shortfalls.
Read Full Review: Milwaukee M18
The Ryobi P3240 is a high-performance machine at a reasonable price. What more could you ask for? This cordless wet/dry vacuum picks up wet and dry materials like a boss. It is also relatively lightweight, which is great for moving around with the tool in hand. Lastly, the Ryobi's self-retracting hose and effective attachments store on the outside of the machine in convenient, in-line slots.
While this model's self-retracting hose design is a boon for easy storage, when fully extended the hose is among the shortest in the class. Additionally, the hose diameter poses some problems when attempting to pick up larger, rigid materials. It should be said that these critiques may be seen in a positive light as well. In the case of the narrow, short hose, we observed an improved ability to move heavy objects when smaller in size. With that in mind, we think that this is a proper little vacuum that will satisfy most people's needs and budgets.
Read Full Review: Ryobi P3240
Best Bang for the Buck
Kobalt KWDV 0124B-03
The economical Kobalt is a thoughtfully designed, toolbox shaped machine. The hose stores in the lid, along with the attachments making it fuss-free. The tool comes with a HEPA rated filter, so you can rest assured that you're pulling the worst particulate matter out of the air. The hose is among the longest in the class, and it's self-retracting so you don't pay a storage penalty for the extra reach. Perhaps most importantly, the machine really sucks. Both wet and dry materials are drawn-up like they've been taken by a twister.
What we don't like about this machine is that it has a bit shorter runtime than we'd prefer. Additionally, the Kobalt is not great at pulling liquids off hard surfaces, and its suction rating leaves something to be desired. Nonetheless, this machine performs at a level superior to many of its higher-priced peers, making it more than worth the money spent.
Read Full Review: Kobalt KWDV 0124B-03
Best for Battery Life
While the PORTER-CABLE has an appealing price point, the bigger draw is its superior battery life. The outcome of our battery test shows that amp-hour ratings are not the whole story as this machine was tested on a 4 amp-hour cell and it outperformed models with higher rated cells. Battery performance aside, this machine has average scores in all other categories. As such, it will tackle most tasks with little difficulty. We were particularly impressed with this vac's performance in our heavy debris sub-metric, where this it held its own with the best in the class.
There were trouble spots in the PORTER-CABLE's performance, however. First off, the motor lacks the power to move water at a high rate. Also, the handle of the unit is neither folding nor inset. As a result, the toolbox design is compromised, and it's more difficult to store. The crevice tool is on the short end, making deep penetrations challenging, and the filter does not meet the HEPA standard. Despite these shortcomings, we believe that this machine's performance and cost warrant recognition. For those in need of long battery life, the PORTER-CABLE is an excellent option.
Read Full Review: PORTER-CABLE PCC795B
Best for Dust Collection
The Ridgid WD0319's large hose diameter makes it unique in the class. This feature renders both positive and negative results depending on the work being done. In particular, the hose dimensions are great for picking up both wet and dry sawdust. Also, the hose can accommodate large debris. So, this machine will be useful in a shop or on smaller construction jobs.
While we like the large hose for picking up piles of sawdust, it definitely struggles with liquids and small, heavy items. Case in point, the vac picked up large washers without a problem but struggled with small screws. As an additional gripe, this machine lacks a storage system for the hose and attachments. As it is, the hose just hangs out there, and one of its attachments is stored on the end of the hose. That said, if you require a tool that can move big piles of debris, this tool is the ticket.
Read Full Review: Ridgid WD0319
A More Traditional Shop Vacuum
Determining which cordless wet/dry vacuum is the best largely depends on the needs of the user. While the Bosch GAS 18V-3 received below-average marks in all but the convenience metric, this may be somewhat misleading. If you are looking for a compact, battery-powered machine that has features akin to traditional plug-in shop vacuums, this will be a good fit. It has a rigid hose with extension tubes that make it possible to sand-up while using the tool. The hose is also quite sturdy and able to hold its shape while bearing the full weight of the user. Additionally, you never have to fight the spring-like action of a self-retracting hose.
Like with many of the machines in this product class, the Bosch's strengths can also be seen as weaknesses. For example, the hose and extension tubes are stored on the outside of the machine, making the unit a bit cumbersome. Also, the hose is always 72" long, so it prevents the increase in airflow that other models receive when their hoses are retracted. That said, the Bosch is an excellent machine in the right scenario and worth a look if it matches your needs.
Read Full Review: Bosch GAS18V-3
Why You Should Trust Us?
Our expert review team is comprised of Senior Research Analyst Austin Palmer and Senior Review Editor Nick Miley. These two bring to bear more than 15 years of combined experience in the trades (heavy equipment maintenance and custom carpentry) in their analysis of these tools. From the woodshop to the mechanic's bay, our team is dialed in on all the scenarios in which wet/dry vacuums facilitate clean-up, air filtration, and worker safety.Our team spent dozens of hours brainstorming practical tests that would paint a clear picture of the performance characteristics of each machine in the various areas where cordless wet/dry vacuums will be expected to deliver suction and filtration. In the end, we pulled 16 gallons of water through these machines and took dozens of water lift measurements. We sucked-up heaping piles of wet and dry sawdust as well as an array of heavy hardware items. We also tested the runtimes on each battery cell. Additionally, we measured and cataloged 18 unique features on these machines relevant to convenience, ease of use, and general performance. The following is a detailed breakdown of these tests and the machines that performed well in each.
Analysis and Test Results
Our review process began with the creation of broad categories that capture the various ways in which a cordless wet/dry vacuum will be used. We call these categories metrics, and within each is a series of tests or evaluations that facilitate an objective analysis of each vacuum so that the models in our review can be compared in an apples to apples fashion. Additionally, these metrics are weighted proportionally to their impact on the overall performance of the tool. The final score for each product is 1-100 points. The metrics and their contribution to the overall score are as follows: dry work (40%), wet work (30%), battery life (20%), and convenience (10%).
We understand that the value placed on a purchase is often a personal assessment. However, we strive for a mathematical approach to such evaluations. As such, we think of value as a ratio of cost to performance in comparison to other products in the class. So, if a model costs the same amount as other products in the class but performs better in our evaluations, it is considered to be a value product. On the other hand, if one product performs at the same level as other machines but costs less, it is also considered to have value.
Both the Ryobi and the Kobalt are both good examples of our means of assessment. These models perform at the highest level in wet and dry work, yet they both ring-up for significantly less than the average price in the class. Accordingly, both of these models received Best Buy Awards.
In most cases, wet/dry vacuums will primarily be used for dry work. As such, we focused a good deal of our effort on the dry work evaluation. The evaluation consists of three sub-metrics of dry suction power. Namely, heavy debris (i.e. washers, nuts, bolts, screws, and 100-gram cylindrical weight), large sawdust pile (9 cups), and crevice cleaning. The first two do not use attachments on the end of the hose, while the crevice test makes use of the — you guessed it — crevice attachment to pick up rice in a narrow slot.
Both the Ryobi and Kobalt thrived in the heavy debris assessments. The combination of their narrow hoses diameters, high airflow, and decent suction proved to be highly effective at moving heavy items. The timed sawdust pickup challenge revealed how different configurations of hose diameter and airflow move different items and materials. The Ridgid proved to be top dog in this analysis by inhaling the sawdust pile in a mear 8 seconds. The Kobalt and the Milwaukee M18 were right on its heels at 13 seconds. As was confirmed in the wet sawdust tests (discussed below), the Rigid's wide diameter hose combined with the lack of an elbow at the connection point with the canister is instrumental in this machine's success moving loose debris.
The crevice test is an assessment of both the crevice tool itself, but also the reach of the suction produced by the vacuum motor. Here too, the Milwaukee, Ryobi, and Kobalt proved themselves to be top-notch. Their attachments all penetrated 8 or more inches, and at least another half-inch of suction reach. Overall, the Milwaukee and Kobalt lead the class in dry work.
We would be remiss if we didn't test wet/dry vacs for the wet working capabilities. Our exhaustive examination began with a water drawing test where the filter was removed, and 2 gallons of water was sucked up 14 ½ inches — the height of a 5-gallon bucket. Having replaced the filter, we then ran a wet sawdust pickup evaluation that is identical to the dry sawdust test with the addition of 6 cups of water mixed in. Next was the hard surface puddle test where we employed the floor attachment to slurp up 3 cups of water off a linoleum floor. Of course, no wet work assessment would be complete without sucking water out of a carpet. We poured 2 cups of water onto a floorboard mat, allowed it to soak in, and measure how much we could pull back out. Finally, we measured each unit's suction with a water lift gauge. We weren't exaggerating when we said it was exhaustive.
We were surprised at the degree of variability in these machines' performances across the tests making up this metric. The Ryobi and Ridgid are the best overall, claiming 7/10 possible points. However, neither excelled in every category. In the water drawing evaluation the Milwaukee, Ryobi, and Ridgid came out on top by moving 2 gallons of water in about 10 seconds. As for the wet sawdust assessment, the Milwaukee and Ridgid lead the class at 36 and 15 seconds, respectively. As was discussed above, the Ryobi is uniquely suited to this task due to its wide hose diameter and lack of bends in the passage to the canister.
In large part, the puddle tests proved to be a measure of the floor attachment design. Attachments with channels through the contact surface did best because they allow air to flow continuously. The PORTER-CABLE and Ryobi came in at 35 and 24 seconds, respectively, in this evaluation. The Ryobi showed that a powerful motor and a good attachment design go a long way in cleaning up tough messes. As for the wet carpet test, the Makita finally got into the fray as did the PORTER-CABLE and Ryobi with all three of these models basically sucking the carpet dry. Finally, the water lift/ suction test registered the Ridgid at 29 inches of lift, Bosch at 28, and Milwaukee at 25.
To measure battery life we perform one simple but telling test. We take a fully charged battery, plug it into the vac, and run the machine (just pulling air) until the battery dies. We call this the runtime. Not all battery cells are created equal, even if the voltage and amp-hour ratings are the same. To make direct comparisons between batteries, we divide all runtimes by the amp-hour so that we can make direct comparisons amongst the models.
The DEWALT, operating with a 5 amp-hour cell, came in first place with a runtime of just under 40 minutes. The Makita, also working with a 5 amp-hour cell, clocked in at 33 minutes, 45 sec. Similarly, the PORTER-CABLE ran for 34 minutes. Here's the twist. This last model uses a 4 amp-hour battery. So, if we look at these outcomes in terms of runtime per amp-hour, the PORTER-CABLE ran for 8 mins, 30 sec, whereas the DEWALT and the Makita ran for 7 min, 56 sec, and 6 min, 33 sec respectively. A noticeable difference in performance to be sure.
The convenience metric is an evaluation of how the user interacts with the vacuum. We measure the outer dimensions of the machine, the hose length (both retracted and at its maximum stretch), the weight, and the noise level at 3 ½ feet. Finally, we look at the filters. Are they HEPA rated? Can they be washed? Are there better filters available for purchase?
With so many features under inspection, you might imagine that it would be hard for one unit to check all the boxes. This is true, but the Makita makes a solid effort. This model's toolbox design offers compact storage and below-average weight (8 lbs 13 oz). It has a washable HEPA filter and a prefilter option available for purchase. Additionally, this model is relatively quiet, registering well below average at 74 dBa. The only knock against this machine is its hose length, which is slightly below average at 82 inches fully stretched. Other notable models are the Milwaukee, Ryobi, PORTER-CABLE, and the Bosch.
The production of this review required weeks of research and testing. We ran these machines through every conceivable test and measurement for dry and wet vacuuming, battery life, and convenience. This information has been gathered and organized to make direct comparisons between these machines easy and accurate. The result is that you can easily and confidently select the right machine to fit your needs.
— Nick Miley and Austin Palmer