A shop-vac is an essential tool to have around the shop, and has some hidden uses you may not have thought about. Shop-vacs are great because they can suck up wet materials and larger items that would instantly destroy your traditional indoor vacuum. I will go into some traditional and non-traditional uses for the shop vac. We have the shop-vac shown below, which we purchased from Lowe’s on sale a couple of years ago. We have been really happy with it and gotten more than our money’s worth out of it (it also converts to a blower which has come in handy for yard work). If you are looking to purchase one, I would strongly recommend this model.
#1 – Sucking up water
If you have ever had a large water spill around the house (maybe your hot water heater has a leak or your toilet overflowed), the shop-vac is a great way to take care of your water problem (make sure your shop-vac is intended for wet/dry use). Before starting, empty your vacuum out so you don’t create mud, and make sure to use a receptacle with a ground-fault such as the bathroom, garage, or outside outlets. We had a slight problem with our irrigation, and the irrigation box was filled to the top with water. We needed to determine what was wrong and fix it, but the water wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We pulled out the shop-vac, sucked the water out of the whole in minutes, found the leak, patched it, and our problem was solved. When you are done, make sure to dump the water, and leave your vacuum open so it can fully dry out.
#2 – Digging Holes
To build our golf net, each 20’ post needed to be set in a 3’ hole for stability. When you are digging a 1’ wide hole 3’ deep, how do you get the dirt out from the bottom? You use your shop-vac! We dug all 9 of our golf net holes using this technique, and it made the job a million times easier (and saved our backs). Simply use a digging bar (a heavy metal bar which uses gravity to break up the ground), then suck up the loose dirt you create. When you encounter large rocks, remove them prior to sucking out the hole. Make sure to empty the vacuum often because it can get heavy fast, and brush out your filter when it gets full (you may have to replace the filter after a while).
Note: This will not work in all soil conditions
#3 – Clean as you go
Many shop tools create nothing short of a mess, and the last thing you want is a garage full of sawdust because it is a slipping hazard, a breathing hazard, and a fire hazard. Use the shop-vac to clean up as you go, and you eliminate the issue. When we were routering out the channels for our bookshelves, each router pass produced a ton of sawdust, because we were removing a 1”x 1/2” x 8’ channel of MDF board each time (approximately equal to a 3 ½” cube of dust). To speed up the process and keep things clean, one person followed the router with the vacuum, capturing the mess as it was created. Depending on how much power you have running to your garage, you may not be able to run 2 power tools at the same time without tripping a breaker, so try plugging them into separate circuits, or alternating between the tool and the shop-vac.
I hope these shop-vac tips were helpful. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.