How to Use Shop Vac for Water Pump

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Brad Smith
Written By Brad Smith

Everyone has gone through or seen one of these situations at least once. You wake up in the morning, and there is no water on the taps, so you use your water storage to bath and leave for work, only to come home to a flooded house because water came back when you were away.

Or maybe your situation was that someone flashed a cloth in your toilet and it reacted by flowing all over the floor. The worst of them is when it rains heavily and your basement floods.

In all these situations, the number one thing you must do is drain the water before it ruins your floors, carpets, and furniture. But what do you use when there are gallons of water lying there on the floor? Surely using a mop or a rag would take ages to finish the job.

A shop vac is exactly what you need.

You heard that right. A shop vac can clean up liquids off the floor or surfaces by acting as a water pump. Unless you use a borehole that supplies your home with water, most people do not need a water pump. Pumps are expensive, complicated to use, and dangerous hence it makes no sense to have one if you don’t absolutely need it.

Fortunately, you don’t need to deal with the complications of a pump if you have a good dry/wet shop vac. They are versatile, inexpensive, and very easy to figure out.

What Is A Shop Vac?

shop vacs

A shop vac is a special type of vacuum cleaner used traditionally in construction and woodworking. The simple machine has a suction unit and a robust motor, enabling it to suck materials, debris, and dirt from surfaces. A shop vac is not your ordinary vacuum cleaner because it can handle large pieces of debris and filthy surfaces. However, it does work exactly like a vacuum cleaner in that it sucks the dirt and stores it in a canister inside.

A shop vacuum looks like a bucket with a protruding hose on it, hence the reason why some people call it a bucket vacuum. Unlike your home vacuum, this one has wheels so it’s easy to work on a big area or move from room to room.

Shop Vac for Water

Before we get into how you can use a shop vac as a water pump, it’s important to note that not all shop vacuums can do that. You need to choose a wet/dry vacuum that is designed to handle both dry debris and water.

A wet/dry vac is built with protection to keep the motor from being harmed by the water. There is also a liquid-proof container where the water will be stored once you suck it. You can then discard the liquid after you are done or when the canister is full.

spill pumping tool

However, there is a type of shop vacuum designed to transfer water from one source to another just like a pump without storing it in the canister. This type of vacuum has a port at the back where you will connect a garden hose, and the hose will remove the water as soon as it gets into the cylinder. Interestingly, you can also modify basic shop vacuums with an attachment known as the shop vac pump bought at any home improvement store.

This attachment is a tube-shaped object that goes inside the shop vacuum and provides all the parts you require to transfer the liquid to a secondary location directly.

How do You Turn a Shop Vac into a Water Pump?

Even with a wet/dry vacuum, you have to remember that its primary purpose is to clean dry dust and debris, and that is how it’s made. If you want to use it as a water pump, you have to make some slight modifications.

However, sometimes issues can arise when dealing with liquids, such as the shop vac blowing out water instead of sucking it in. If you encounter this problem, you can refer to our guide on why is shop vac blowing out water and how to fix it.

  1. One of those modifications is removing the paper filter used to keep the dust from getting to you, and protecting the machine. Water will destroy this filter, so it’s important to take it out first. That said, the vac should have some water inside the tank to ensure it doesn’t break now that you have removed the filter.
  2. The second thing you have to remove is the bag used to collect dust when cleaning. This bag is not necessary when sucking water because it will go directly to the canister or out through the garden hose.
attached paper filter

If you have a basic shop vacuum, modifying it with a shop vac pump as we have explained above is the best and easiest way to turn it into a water pump. Once you are done draining the water, you can simply remove the pump attachment and go back to having a dry shop vac.

How to Use a Shop Vac for Water?

The process of installing the shop vac pump inside your vacuum cleaner is pretty simple after you have removed the filter and the bag.

  • Remove the lid from your shop vacuum. You can do this by holding down the two snaps on either side of the lid.
  • Insert the pump attachment inside the shop vacuum and snap the lid shut.
  • Take out the plug stopper at the back of the shop vac. This exposes the place where you will attach a garden hose. Tighten the hose onto that thread.
  •  Move the other end of the hose to where you want the water to go. This could be your lawn, garden, or toilet.
  • Power on the vacuum and use the suction to remove all the water from the surface.
  • Once all the water is cleaned out, switch off the vacuum and drain out any water inside the tank.
  • Clean out the canister with some warm water and soap and let it air dry to prevent mold formation.

Note; if you are using a dry/wet shop vacuum without the pump attachment, you have to discard the water every time it fills up. You will tell the canister is about to fill up because the sound of the suction will change.

If you’re having issues with your shop vac blowing out air, we also have a guide on why your shop vac might be blowing out air that can help.

What Else Can A Shop Vac Clean-Up?

One of the benefits of owning a shop vacuum is that you can use it to clean virtually anything, including picking up glass. The motor on this machine is powerful enough to support cleaning up heavy stuff, unlike a home vacuum cleaner. It is an incredibly versatile machine and a great investment for any home.

  • to suck out water from a couch, mattress, or carpet
  • to collect feces and animal dander from your house
  •  to clean the dog’s kennel
  • to drain a tank fully so you can clean it before a refill
  • to dry out a swimming pool
  • clean the barbecue pit
  • unclogging the sink drain
  • cleaning the fireplace and the aquarium
  • retrieving items from the drain

Can You Use a Shop Vac to Inflate?

Absolutely. If you have blower mattresses, balloons, and inflatable toys that need to be inflated often, you can use a shop vacuum to do it instead of buying an inflator pump. Attach a hose on the inflator nozzle and the other end on your inflatable. If it’s not already there, you can buy an inflator nozzle for less than $10. Turn on the vacuum and let the air fill up your stuff. However, you can only use a vacuum that has a blower.

Can I Clean A Pond With the Shop Vac?

cleaning process

While shop vacuums are powerful enough to suck a lot of water, we do not recommend using it to clean a substantial amount of water like ponds and swimming pools. This is because the vacs canister can become clogged up with all the gunk usually found in these ponds. You would also have to empty the container quite frequently and an output hose can be overwhelmed as well.

If you want to drain a pond full of water, a swimming pool, or any other large water feature, it is better to go for a real water pump, even if it means borrowing or hiring one.

Using a Shop Vacuum Safely

Shop vacs may not be as dangerous or complicated as water pumps but they have their moments as well if you don’t take these simple precautions;

  • Do not use a shop vacuum to suck up hazardous liquids like oils, alcohol-based liquids, chemicals, and fuel. This can result into a fire on top of ruining the vacuum.
  • Do not use the vacuum on an uneven surface
  • Always power down the machine before taking out the tank/canister
  • Always power down when the canister is full
  • Avoid picking up sharp debris
  • Do not wear loose clothing when using a shop vacuum

In Conclusion

A shop vacuum is one of those things that every home should have. Its versatility and the fact that it can help you clean up anything make it worth the money. The important thing however is to understand how vacuums work as a dry vacuum cleaner and also as a water pump to ensure you are doing the job right without damaging the machine. Make sure to read the manual before use and practice the safety precautions we have outlined.

Further Reading

  • For enthusiasts seeking to minimize noise while maximizing efficiency, our comprehensive guide on the Best Quiet Shop Vacuums offers detailed insights into selecting the perfect low-noise solution for your workshop or garage, ensuring a peaceful yet productive environment.
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Written by Brad Smith

CEO & Lead Interior Designer

Brad Smith is an experienced interior designer and the founder of With a Master's degree in Interior Design from Pratt Institute and a passion for creating safe and healthy living spaces, Brad shares his expert insights and innovative design ideas with our readers. His work is driven by the belief that home is where every story begins.