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 cordless wet/dry vacuum. Its two-gallon canister is shaped like a toolbox, and the tube and all the attachments are stored in the lid. Not only is this machine designed well, 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 impressive. That said, the conveniences that this machine offers overshadow its performance shortfalls.
Read Full Review: Milwaukee M18
The Ryobi P3240 is a high-performance machine at a reasonable price. It picks up wet and dry materials like a boss. It is also relatively lightweight, 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 makes 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. However, these negatives may be seen in a positive light as well. With the narrow, short hose, there was an improved ability to move heavy objects when smaller in size. So this is a little cordless wet/dry 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 and the hose is among the longest in the class. 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.
We don't like the fact that it has a 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, the bigger draw is its superior battery life. Battery performance aside, this machine has average scores in all other categories and will tackle most tasks with little difficulty. We were particularly impressed with this vac's performance with heavy debris.
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.
Read Full Review: PORTER-CABLE PCC795B
Best for Dust Collection
The Ridgid WD0319's large hose diameter makes it unique and gives it both positive and negative results, depending on the work being done. 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. 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, for moving big piles of debris, this tool is the ticket.
Read Full Review: Ridgid WD0319
A More Traditional Shop Vacuum
The Bosch GAS 18V-3 has features akin to traditional plug-in shop vacuums. 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.Some of the Bosch's strengths can also be seen as weaknesses. 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 inches 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.
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).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.
Analysis and Test Results
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%).
If a model costs the same amount as other products in the class but performs better, it is considered to be a value product. Also, 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 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.
We focused a good deal of our effort on the dry work evaluation. The evaluation consists of three sub-metrics of dry suction power: 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 uses the 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 highly effective. In the timed sawdust pickup the Ridgid inhaled the sawdust pile in only eight 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 enabled this machine's success
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 began with a water drawing test where the filter was removed, and two gallons of water was sucked up 14 ½ inches — the height of a five-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 six cups of water mixed in. Next was the hard surface puddle test where we employed the floor attachment to slurp up three 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 two 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 were surprised at the degree of variability in these machines' performances across the tests. The Ryobi and Ridgid were the best with 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 two 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.
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 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.
The DEWALT, operating with a 5 amp-hour cell, was first 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.
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.
The Makita makes a solid effort to check all the boxes. 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 cordless dry/wet vacuuming, battery life, and convenience. The result is that you can easily and confidently select the right machine to fit your needs.
— Nick Miley and Austin Palmer