If you’re your family’s designated handyman, your workshop is probably in a constant state of disarray. The regular vacuum cleaner you use in your home can’t handle that kind of mess! And please, don’t even think of reaching for a broom or a mop. Only the best quiet shop vacs can keep your workshop clean while preserving your sanity.
You see, shop vacs aren’t like regular vacuum cleaners. They have all sorts of features you won’t see in dainty cordless stick vacuums or even sturdy canister vacuums. Shop vacs are built to withstand much more serious clean-up jobs. Most of them can vacuum up dust, larger chunks of debris, and wet spills.
On top of that, some of these products can be used as blowers. But all of these additional features come at a cost. I personally have no problem getting over the higher price point, considering the superior longevity and functionality of these products.
However, the simple fact of the matter is that most shop vacs are also much louder than regular vacuum cleaners. Some of them can produce up to 100 decibels of noise! That’s about the same level of noise you’d hear in a subway or while standing next to a helicopter.
Since listening to that kind of clamor is only safe for up to 15 minutes per day, it’s best to look for quieter models. Most of my top picks for the best quiet shop vacs can be the right one for you to use in your workshop, home, or car. After I present my reviews, I’ll tell you how I narrowed down my options as well as how you could quiet down a shop vac you already own.
I’ll go through my list starting from the smaller to the larger shop vacs I’ve found.
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1. Shop-Vac 1.5-Gallon 2 HP All Around EZ Wet-Dry Vacuum
Is there a better way to begin these reviews than to highlight the company that started it all? The Shop-Vac EZ series 1.5-gallon vac is one of the quietest units on the market as it only produces around 78 decibels of noise. Its small, portable design and 2 horsepower motor make it the perfect tool for all sorts of clean-ups.
This vac’s small canister has a handle on top and four swivel wheels on the bottom, making it easy to drag or carry around. Between its 18-foot cord and 7-foot hose, you’ll have plenty of freedom to move around. And when you’re done using the vac, you can hang it up on a wall bracket. At least you won’t have to worry about it crowding the floor of your workshop.
Another thing that should make movement and storage easier is the vac’s onboard tool storage slots. They’ll allow you to keep extension wands and nozzles close by while you’re vacuuming. Besides, dedicated storage space will make the accessories more difficult to lose. In addition to the crevice tool, gulper nozzle, and round brush, the vac also comes with a foam sleeve that enables liquid pick-ups.
The 1.25-inch diameter hose means that you can vacuum up larger rubble. Aside from its regular suction mode, this vac also has a blower feature. If you’re a woodworker, that can come in handy for blowing sawdust off your newest project to get a better view of what you’re doing. And if you’re not, you could still use it to push leaves out of your yard or chase dust out from under the fridge.
- Four swivel wheels and an 18-foot cord make it decently portable
- Wall-mountable or hand-held
- 7-foot long hose with a 1.25-inch diameter
- Two extension wands and various nozzle attachments
- Foam sleeve filter and a disposable filter bag
2. Armor All 2.5-Gallon 2 HP Wet-Dry Utility Shop Vacuum
Next up, we have a small shop vac from Armor All. However, even though these two shop vacs both have a 2 horsepower motor, this one has a slightly larger 2.5-gallon canister. Also, like the previous product, this one has onboard storage slots for the various accessories that come with it.
This vac comes with several attachments, including a 2-in-1 utility nozzle, a deluxe car nozzle, a detail brush, and a crevice tool. The tools are all different shapes and sizes, and some of them even have synthetic bristles. In addition to those attachments, you’ll get a special blower nozzle, which can give you a more concentrated blast.
Since this product is a wet and dry vacuum like the previous one, it also comes with a reusable foam sleeve you can replace the cloth filter with. However, there is a notable difference between this vac and the previous one I’ve reviewed.
Namely, this one doesn’t have wheels. Still, it’s light enough to carry around, and it even has a conveniently placed power switch on the top handle. In any case, the lack of swivel wheels and wall mount does make this unit considerably cheaper than the one from Shop-Vac.
Another noteworthy feature of this Armor All shop vacuum is its built-in noise diffuser, which ensures efficient and quiet operation. The vacuum produces 82 decibels of noise, which is just slightly more than the previous product.
- 2.5-gallon polypropylene detachable tank
- 10-foot cord and 1.25-inch wide 6-foot long hose
- Different nozzle attachments
- Comes with reusable foam sleeve and cloth filter
3. PowerSmith PAVC101 3-Gallon Ash Shop Vacuum
The 3-gallon PowerSmith Ash Vacuum is a truly unique product in that it is mostly made of metal. The vac’s 10 A motor is pretty quiet, producing only 79 decibels of noise. However, it’s still powerful enough to handle most messes. In fact, this shop vac was designed to handle fireplaces, barbeque grills, and wood and pellet stoves, even if the ash is still smoking.
There’s a reason most shop vacs can’t withstand that kind of heat. Namely, they’re not made of heat-resistant materials — but this one is! Aside from having a metal canister, hose, extension wands, and attachments, it also has a fire-resistant, washable filter system. The manufacturer built in a heat-sensing automatic shut-off feature to be extra safe.
In addition to the metal accessories, there are two other nozzles that are less heat-resistant but still useful for various spills. Notably, though, this shop vac’s filter system can’t handle liquids as some others can.
While the hose itself isn’t very long, the 16-foot cord and the swivel wheels at the bottom of the canister should make it easy enough to maneuver around your house or workshop. Lastly, the vac has a carrying handle you can flip up if you need to carry it upstairs or outside.
- Swivel wheels and 16-foot cord make it easy to drag around
- Made to handle hot fireplaces and stove ash and debris
- Two extension wands and metal and brush nozzles
- Fire-resistant, washable, and replaceable filter system
4. Vacmaster 4-Gallon 5 HP Wet-Dry Shop Vac with 2-Stage Industrial Motor
The next two products on my list are both from the same company: Vacmaster. Their shop vacs are the absolute top of the line when it comes to quiet performance. Whether you’re dealing with a medium-sized workshop or you simply don’t want to have to empty the canister after every use, these 4- and 5-gallon units will be perfect for you.
First, let’s talk about the company’s basic 2-stage industrial wet/dry shop vac. The 2-stage (meaning it has two layers of insulation) motor operates really quietly at 72 decibels. That’s particularly impressive for a five horsepower machine.
However, those specs only apply to the 4-gallon vac I’ve linked to. You’ll see different options listed on the product page, with capacities ranging from 2.5 gallons to 12 gallons.
The 4-gallon vac has a carrying handle on top, where the power switch is. It also has four wheels on the bottom — two large ones in the back and two swivel wheels in the front. Additionally, the vac has a fantastic onboard storage system, allowing you to put the three extension wands and four nozzle attachments in a basket and wrap the ribbed hose around the top.
The filtration system of the appliance is state of the art, so it’ll work on both dry and wet spills. After all, the vac comes with a cartridge filter, a foam sleeve, and even a dust bag for the canister. Furthermore, the HEPA filter over the exhaust should prevent harmful particles from getting blown back out.
- Wheels and 18-foot cord allow you to cart it around
- 7-foot long hose with a 1.25-inch diameter
- Onboard accessory basket for different attachments
- Comes with dry and wet filters, dust bag, and a HEPA filter over the exhaust
5. Vacmaster Professional Beast Series 5-Gallon 5.5 HP Wet-Dry Vac
Obviously, this Vacmaster Professional shop vac is from the same manufacturer as the previous item on my list. But there are plenty of differences between the two. For example, they have very distinct color schemes.
While the previous product had a black top and a blue canister, this one is predominantly black with yellow details. Among other things, these colors are what mark this appliance as a part of Vacmaster’s Beast series.
Additionally, while the previous product I reviewed has wheels for ease of movement, this one relies on the top handle. The bottom is flat and sturdy, so you can plop it down on any level surface. The vac’s polypropylene tank is incredibly durable, which is great if you’re worried about taking it to a construction site.
When you’re not using the vac, fold its 18-foot cord up in the back under the blower port. And if you want to use the blower feature, attach the 7-foot hose to that end of the device. As with the previous Vacmaster product we’ve seen, this one has wire holders on the sides that allow you to attach the hose securely.
This shop vac is the quietest on the list. The device has a noise diffuser, which reduces the noise to only 62 decibels. If you’re willing to sacrifice the quiet performance you’d get with a 5.5 horsepower motor, products in this line go up to 16 gallons and 6.5 horsepower.
- 18-foot cord and top handle make it easy to carry around
- 7-foot hose with a 1.8-inch diameter
- One extension wand and three nozzle attachments
- Comes with standard dust and foam filters, as well as a noise diffuser
6. FEIN Turbo I 5.8-Gallon Vacuum Cleaner
The FEIN Turbo I shop vac is the best option for you if you want to clean up messes as they happen. The most interesting feature of this vac is the 100–1,800 Watt outlet on its front, next to the power dial.
Essentially, that outlet allows you to use your vac in conjunction with different power tools. To make that easier, the manufacturer incorporated an auto-start option. Basically, if you select that setting, the suction will turn on automatically when you power your tools up. So the vacuum will pick up the dust as soon as you start using your sander or table saw.
Of course, while these features are the main selling point of this product, there are others you might want to consider. For example, the 5.8-gallon canister provides a bit of soundproofing for the powerful motor inside. According to the company, this device only produces about 67 dBA of noise. And thanks to the filter cassette, you won’t have to switch out the cellulose filter when you want to vacuum wet spills.
When you put the flip-up handle flat against the top of the vac, you’ll be able to use that surface to set down your tools. The tall rim around the top should prevent smaller items like nails from rolling off the device. The vac also has four swivel wheels, a 13-foot long hose, and an 18-foot cord, giving you ease of movement within a range of 31 feet.
- Swivel wheels and 18-foot cord allow for freedom of movement
- 13-foot hose is stiff enough to be crush-proof
- Attachments available for purchase in a separate set
- Comes with a cellulose filter and a fleece filter bag
7. DeWALT 10-Gallon 5.5 HP Quiet Poly Wet-Dry Vacuum
DeWALT is another one of those hugely popular brands when it comes to power tools. Honestly, I have nothing but good things to say about their products. I’ve even recommended several of their quiet air compressors before. So I knew it would only be a matter of time before they came out with their own spin on a quiet wet/dry shop vac.
The DXV10P shop vac is the perfect example of the company’s excellent build quality. Like the 4-gallon Vacmaster unit, this one has a dual-stage motor, which makes it half as loud as some competitors (80 decibels). That kind of motor has also shown to have a longer lifespan. And at its peak strength of 5.5 horsepower.
Even though this 23-inch tall vac has a top handle, most people just use it to wrap the 20-foot cord around. When you plug the vac in, you’ll find it’s easy to maneuver it around the room on its three swivel wheels. The vac also has an accessory storage basket in the back below the exhaust outlet, which can turn your vac into a blower. In the front, there’s a standard suction outlet on top and a drain port at the bottom, right under the famous DeWALT logo.
That drain port will be really useful for emptying the tank of liquids. And if you often work around water, you should be happy to learn that the power switch at the top of the appliance is actually waterproof.
- Three wheels and 20-foot cord allow you to move it easily
- 7-foot hose with a 1.8-inch diameter
- Two extension wands and three nozzle attachments
- Comes with a cartridge filter and a dust bag
8. CRAFTSMAN 16-Gallon 6.5 HP Wet-Dry Heavy-Duty Shop Vacuum
Like DeWALT, CRAFTSMAN is another company I’ve already recommended in previous articles. In fact, I’ve already reviewed one of their shop vacs when I was looking for quiet dust collectors, though that product had a weaker motor than the one I’m about to mention.
The CRAFTSMAN 16-gallon shop vac with a 6.5 horsepower motor is probably the best choice for medium to large workshops. Between the powerful motor and large capacity canister, you should be able to vacuum up the biggest messes easily. On top of that, this vac can suction both dry and wet spills and double as a blower.
The design of this appliance is quite similar to the previous one on my list, with some marked differences. Once again, the carrying handle doubles as cord storage, and there are hose hooks on the side of the device as well. The vac also has a big power switch on top, a blower port in the back, and a large drain port at the bottom for emptying wet contents.
Unlike the previous vac, though, this one has four swivel wheels, not three. But that’s pretty much standard. What you might want to pay attention to is the width of the ports and attachments, which is 2.5 inches. If you often need to clear away large chunks or splinters from your workstation, this will be a godsend.
According to the manufacturer, this shop vac produces less than 70 decibels while running, which is an impressive feature for those who require a quiet cleaning solution.
- Swivel wheels and 20-foot cord make it decently portable
- 7-foot long hose with a 2.5-inch diameter
- Two extension wands and three attachments
- Comes with a cartridge filter and a dust bag
What to Consider When Shopping for Quiet Shop Vacs
If you want to get a shop vac that will suit your needs, you should ask yourself these questions first:
- Do you often find yourself needing to vacuum up large messes? Will you use the vacuum in multiple areas, such as your workshop, car, and home? Do you want not to have to empty the canister regularly? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to get a vac with a large dust bin.
- Where are you planning to put the vacuum while you’re not using it? If you don’t have any floor space for it, you might want to get a unit you can hang up on the wall.
- If you need to be able to move around freely while using the shop vac, you’ll need to get one with a decently long cord and hose. However, you should keep in mind that an overly long and unmanageable hose can make storage a bit tricky.
But these are just some of the questions you might consider. Ultimately, buying a quiet shop vac is different than shopping for a quiet vacuum. After all, most regular vacuums that are made for home use are weaker than shop vacs, which makes them quieter too. Now, let’s see how you can ensure that the shop vac you end up with is reasonably quiet as well.
Shop Vac Size and Built
As I have previously noted, smaller shop vacs often have the advantage of being quieter due to their less powerful motors. However, this is not always a definitive factor. The noise level of a shop vac can also be influenced by other aspects, such as the overall build quality, design, and additional noise-reduction features. Consequently, it is essential to consider these factors when evaluating the noise output of a shop vac.
Smaller devices are also easier to lift as needed, provided that they have a carrying handle. They’re more maneuverable when you’re dragging them around too. But handles and wheels aren’t the only things you need to consider when you’re thinking about the portability of a unit.
Cable and Hose Length
When we were kids, my brothers and I used to take turns vacuuming our childhood home. It was an easy enough chore, except for one aspect that would make the whole thing unpleasant beyond belief. In the middle of vacuuming, we’d have to stop and unplug the cord to move it to an outlet on the other side of the room. Now, that’s the predicament I most wanted to avoid when I was looking for shop vacs.
In general, shop vacs have much longer cords and hoses than you’d find on a regular vacuum. As you have seen, some of them can be upwards of 15 feet long. Furthermore, the hoses are usually more than an inch wide to allow you to vacuum large debris. Not many of the vacs have retractable cords or easily bendable hoses, though. So the one you pick should have convenient cord and hose storage places.
At some point, you’ll probably use your shop vac in your workshop, garage, or at a construction site. It’s important to know that you won’t damage any of your vac’s parts. That’s why manufacturers often highlight the durable build of their appliances and accessories.
Vacuum Features and Attachments
Lastly, you should consider the filters and accessories that come with the shop vacs you’re looking at. As we have established, most shop vacs can suction dust and debris. That requires nothing but the basic cartridge filter. The vacs that can pick up wet spills usually come with an additional foam filter sleeve, which you’ll have to put on before vacuuming liquid manually.
Of course, many vacuums have a blower port in the back. When they don’t, they have a grille with a filter over the exhaust. Some of those units actually have a HEPA filter over the exhaust. As I have explained in my article about air purifiers, those kinds of filters trap 99.9% of the harmful particles that would otherwise end up floating around the room.
Whether you’re vacuuming dust, liquids, or using the shop vac as a blower, you’ll probably have several attachment nozzles to choose from. Most devices come with one or two extension wands and the basic utility nozzle, wet nozzle, and the smaller crevice tool. Some also have a special blower nozzle that’s meant to direct the airflow.
Of course, if you’re going to be carting your shop vac around your workshop or a construction site, you’ll want to be able to take its accessories along. Most of the devices I reviewed have some kind of built-in storage, but it differs from product to product. For example, while some vacs have hooks or slots for their nozzles, others have large baskets you can chuck the accessories into. You just have to figure out which design is the most convenient for you.
How to Make Your Shop Vac Quieter
Modifying the Shop Vac
There are several ways to make sure your shop vac isn’t too loud for your neighbors. More importantly, you need to protect your hearing since you’d be close to the source of the noise. Fortunately, there are a few ways to make sure your shop vac is running quietly:
- Clean the filters. If they are overly dirty, the filth may be preventing free airflow. Fortunately, that usually has an easy solution: just wash the filters. Or, if they’re not washable, get new ones — it’s as easy as that. In fact, while you’re at it, you could clear out any clogs from the hose for the same reason.
- Attach a muffler to the exhaust. If the exhaust is circular, you could make a muffler using the method I explained in my article about quieting a car exhaust. Alternately, you could make a muffler out of PVC pipes, like so.
- Build a sound enclosure. If the muffler doesn’t work, you’re probably hearing the noise coming through the canister itself. In that case, I’d recommend building a sort of soundproof box around the canister. Some air and, therefore, sound, will still be able to escape because you’ll have to leave exhaust holes in the box. Still, it should trap most of the noise.
Outside of these kinds of modifications, there’s another way.
Controlling the Environment
Some shop vacs will remain raucous despite the work you put into quieting them. At that point, your only course of action will be to use your environment to make the noise less distracting.
Try using your vac in open spaces, as opposed to closed, small rooms. Even leaving the machine itself outside of the room with the door mostly closed would lessen the noise. If the hose that came with your shop vac isn’t long enough to reach inside the room while the body of the vac is outside, you may have to invest in a longer one.
If the noise is still overwhelming, I suggest covering your ears with noise-canceling headphones or plugging them. However, neither of these options will prevent others from hearing the racket.
If you really don’t want your shop vac to bother your family or neighbors, do the opposite of what I just said. Close all doors and windows before you fire up your device. You can also implement some workshop-approved soundproofing methods for good measure. And make sure you’re wearing earplugs when you use the shop vac — enclosed spaces will amplify the sound.
Final Tips on How to Set up and Use Your Quiet Shop Vac
As I have previously mentioned, there are two basic ways to utilize a shop vac. On the one hand, you could use it for its suctioning properties for dry or wet spills. And if the vacuum has a blower port, you can use it as a blower as well. But how exactly do you switch between these modes?
Vacuuming Dust, Debris, and Cobwebs
The most straightforward way to use your shop vac would be to aim it at dust and fire it up. Generally, this doesn’t require you to make any changes whatsoever. Simply keep the cartridge filter in the vacuum, use whichever nozzle you prefer, and power it up.
If you’re using the shop vac to clean up around your home, use a wide nozzle. A bristled one will do wonders for the dust bunnies under your furniture. However, if you’re vacuuming the inside of your car, you might want to reach for the crevice tool. And you can use any tool to vacuum sawdust from the desk in your workshop.
There is another way you could use your shop vac — as the main suctioning tool of your dust collection system. As I’ve explained in my previous article on this subject, dust collection systems are made up of pipes that suction dust away from your power tools to end up in a collection bin. When you turn on your table saw, the dust won’t be left floating in the air. That is undoubtedly better than inhaling wood or metal particles and potentially scarring your lungs.
Vacuuming Wet Spills
If you often have to vacuum up liquids, you’ll need a shop vac that can handle that kind of workload. As you have seen, many of the vacs on my list come with special foam filter sleeves you’ll have to set up before vacuuming wet spills. Fortunately, doing so shouldn’t be difficult — just refer to the user manual.
Of course, some vacs also have filters that can handle both wet and dry spills without needing to be switched out. So make sure to check your shop vac’s features before you get carried away and vacuum something you shouldn’t.
Using It as a Blower
Finally, some vacs can double as sawdust or leaf blowers. You’ll have to attach the hose to the blower port, which is usually in the back of the device. But it should simply click into the port. From there on, you’ll be able to turn the blower on the same way you’d turn on the vacuum.
A Good Quiet Shop Vac Can Replace All Your Vacuuming and Blower Devices
As you can see, a good shop vac is an indispensable tool, whether you use it in your home, your workshop, your yard, or your vehicle. It’s the perfect all-in-one device — as long as you find the vac that can do everything you need it to.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a cheap vac with a quiet motor and basic features, I can recommend the first three products I’ve mentioned. However, if you need a really powerful unit for a larger workshop or a construction site, a 10- or 16-gallon vac should do the trick!