DEWALT 20-Volt MAX Wet Dry Vacuum

Last updated date: February 25, 2021

DWYM Score

9.3

DEWALT 20-Volt MAX Wet Dry Vacuum

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We looked at the top Wet Dry Vacuums and dug through the reviews from some of the most popular review sites. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Wet Dry Vacuum you should buy.

Update as February 25, 2021:
Checkout The Best Wet Dry Vacuum for a detailed review of all the top wet dry vacuums.

Overall Take

The filter on this wet dry vacuum is easily accessible, and can be washed and reused to save money. The tank can hold up to 2 gallons, which makes it an excellent choice when emptying a clogged pipe. Additionally, this unit features on-board accessory storage to keep everything you need within arms' reach.


In our analysis of 65 expert reviews, the DEWALT 20-Volt MAX Wet Dry Vacuum placed 3rd when we looked at the top 15 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

From The Manufacturer

The DEWALT DCV581H 18/20v MAX* Cordless/Corded Wet-Dry Vacuum has the ability to provide cordless or corded operation powered by either an 18v or 20v MAX battery or an AC outlet. It features a HEPA rated wet/dry filter that traps dust with 99.97% efficiency at 1 micron. The filter is easily accessible, washable/reusable (use tap or water rinse to clean). This unit has a heavy-duty crush-resistant fully integrated 5' (by 1-1/4" diameter) hose which provides durability, flexibility and ease of use. The on-board hose and accessory storage makes the vacuum easy to carry and transport. Also comes with a crevice tool attachment and a wide nozzle tool attachment. Battery and charger sold separately.

Expert Reviews

Expert Summarized Score

6.8
9 expert reviews

User Summarized Score

8.4
1,016 user reviews

What experts liked

One standout feature, though, is its rechargeable battery. This means you don't have to be near a power source to use the vacuum.
- Top Ten Reviews
The crevice tool stores nicely in the handle and the wide nozzle clips to the front of the unit.
- Pro Tool Reviews
On-board hose comes with useful accessories – crevice nozzle and wide nozzle.
- Tool Guyd
July 8, 2014 | Full review
Rugged and versatile. Reliable suction w/HEPA filtration.
- BestReviews
It is very sturdy and durable unit – casing is much stronger than casing of many other, larger and more expensive vacuums.
- Pick A Vacuum Cleaner
DeWalt DCV581H comes with wet-dry true HEPA air filter, which is capable of filtering out 99.97% of 0.3 microns and larger particles from the sucked air.
- Uprights With Hoses
DeWalt added on-board storage to the vacuum to make it easy to keep accessories neatly organized and ready to use when needed. Adding to this small wet/dry vac's popularity is the fact that it isn't as big as a standard unit.
- Power Tools Zone
The filter traps 99.97 percent of dust which makes this vac fit to use for fine dust like drywall dust since it will not blow particles into the air like some vacuums do.
- Vac Advice
This model wil work on just AC power without the battery. It is equipped with a power cord and storage for the cord.
- Vacuum Cleaner Online

What experts didn't like

It's also the slowest at wet cleanup. It took the DeWalt over 12 seconds to suction 2 gallons of water. That was the worst of those we tested.
- Top Ten Reviews
You’re not going to be able to do really heavy work with this vac, and I wouldn’t hook it up to anything where you were staking your LRRP credentials on its dust-collecting prowess.
- Pro Tool Reviews
Noisy; hearing protection is recommended.
- Tool Guyd
July 8, 2014 | Full review
Pricey, and the battery and charger must purchased separately.
- BestReviews
It is not the lightest vacuum cleaner – it weighs around 9.1 pounds (around 4.1 kg) and when in use, it is held by one hand (or it is on the floor), while other hand cleans the area with cleaning hose.
- Pick A Vacuum Cleaner
When the battery is plugged into the unit and the power cord is also plugged in, DeWalt DCV581H doesn't charge the battery - to charge the battery, separate battery charger must be used.
- Uprights With Hoses
Won't pick up nails or screws.
- Power Tools Zone
​You have to buy the battery and charger separately and that becomes expensive.
- Vac Advice
This product does not come with a battery and charger. You have to buy those items separately.
- Vacuum Cleaner Online

Our Expert Consultant

Vicki Liston 
Home Improvement Expert

Vicki Liston writes, produces, and narrates “On The Fly…DIY,” an award-winning home improvement and DIY show of unique project tutorials for the casual DIY’er.

Home improvement and all things DIY have been Liston’s passion since she bought her first house in 2007 and she started making video blogs in 2014. She’s performed hundreds of DIY projects, from small ones to major, wall-smashing renovations and can teach you how to make a trendy DIY barn door for cheap. The proceeds earned from “On The Fly…DIY” are donated to no-kill animal shelters and rescue organizations. You can find her show on Prime Video.

An Overview On Wet Dry Vacuums

What do flooded basements, messes in your workshop and the ashy aftermath of a BBQ have in common? If you’re thinking that they’re all major annoyances, you’re not wrong — but they’re also all jobs for a wet/dry vacuum. 

Wet/dry vacs, or shop vacs, are common accessories in woodshops, but they can also help out with lots of different messes. These versatile appliances have more powerful suction, plus tougher filters and sturdier canisters than a standard vacuum. They can pick up debris like nails and screws, and you can use them to clean up wet messes. Puddles from a leaky dishwasher or water basins that need emptying don’t stand a chance against a wet/dry vac. 

Standard vacuums operate using a relatively simple process. Once you turn them on, the motor receives electricity that drives the fan and the brush roll (that spiky part that goes deep into your carpet and gets tangled with hair). After the motor starts running, it creates an area of low pressure behind the fan, which generates the suction you need to chase down those dust bunnies. Your messes move into the vacuum’s removable dust bag or canister, and poof! You’ve got a clean floor. 

Shop vacs have different power levels for different size messes.

“A wet/dry vacuum’s power is measured in Sealed Pressure (or SP) units,” says Vicki Liston, a home improvement expert and host of “On The Fly…DIY,” an award-winning show with project tutorials. “Vacs with an SP rating over 75 should be able to handle almost everything you throw at them. “

Cubic Feet per Minute, or CFM, is your vac’s airflow rating.

“If you’re sucking up tiny particulates like sawdust, opt for something that’s at least 90 CFMs,” adds Liston. “If you’re vacuuming up heavier items like nuts and bolts, look for an Air Power (AP, also called Air Watts) rating over 250.” 

Another difference between wet/dry vacuums and standard vacuums is the motor placement. Instead of sitting inside of the vacuum’s canister, a wet/dry vac’s motor sits on top of the canister. This design allows anything that you suck up through the hose to go directly into the canister, instead of passing over the motor. It’s the reason that wet/dry vacs can safely pick up water — if the water was moving through electrical or mechanical parts, it could create a dangerous electrical shock. 

Some wet/dry vac models also vent air through an opening in the canister. With the help of a few accessories, you can turn this opening into a blower on many shop vacs. Vacs that convert into a blower make your autumn leaf chores much easier. 

We’ve covered the wet/dry vacuum basics, but make sure to check out our Tips & Advice to find the perfect choice for your needs. 

The Wet Dry Vacuum Buying Guide

  • Before you buy, think about where you’ll get the most use out of your wet/dry vacuum. If you’re buying it for heavy-duty construction projects, a larger unit is appropriate. A handheld vac is fine for everyday jobs like vacuuming your car or sucking up spilled liquids in your kitchen.
  • Wet/dry vacs have an unmatched level of versatility and they can pick up far more debris than a standard vacuum. However, that convenience comes at a cost. Most wet/dry vacs are much heavier and bulkier than a standard vacuum, so make sure you take a look at the unit’s weight when you purchase it. You’ll also want to account for the weight of the dust, dirt and junk you’ll be picking up. Make sure you can comfortably lift and handle that weight. Most vacuums that weigh over 20 pounds will have something in the neighborhood of a 16-gallon capacity, while vacuums under 10 pounds can pick up roughly 2.5 gallons of mess. 
  • Check out the length of the vacuum’s hose and power cord. Unless you want to stop every few minutes and find a new power outlet, you’ll need a nice long cord for vacuuming up larger areas. A 12-foot cord works well for bigger rooms, while a six-foot cord is easy to store and makes small jobs simple and quick. 
  • Will you need a wet/dry vac with wheels? Cleaning up an entire construction area means you’ll need some help moving the vac around, but wheels can get unwieldy if you need to pick up the vac and get between seats in your car. 
  • Wet/dry vacs come with accessories galore so that you can get the most out of your investment. A fully accessorized wet/dry vac will come with a brush, a crevice tool, a detail brush and a deluxe car nozzle. It’s a great pick for cleaning out your car. Others will add multiple extension wands, so they’re ideal for reaching every space in your woodshop. 
  • A wet/dry vacuum’s design prevents water from crossing paths with the interior electrical components, but you could be in for some trouble if the external cord winds up in a puddle. Investing in a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (or GFCI) is the smartest thing you can do to stay safe while using your vacuum’s wet mode. GFCIs trip electric power in as little as 1/40 of a second, preventing shocks or reducing the shock’s damage.
  • Three-pronged electric outlets have built-in GFCIs, but there are also portable versions that you can plug into two-pronged outlets, as well as attachment plugs that incorporate the GFCI module. Portable GFCIs and Cord-Connected GFCIs are available online or at your local hardware store.
  • Although wet/dry vacuums are designed differently than standard vacuums, they still use filters. “It wasn’t until I aerated a room with drywall dust that I realized just how critical correct filter size was in wet/dry vacuums,” says home improvement pro Vicki Liston. “Before starting every job, consider the debris size and install the appropriate filter.  They’re available from ‘fine’ to ‘large’ and ‘wet’ for damp environments.”
  • You’ll also have to swap out your filters depending on what type of job you’re doing, and you’ll need to clean the filters regularly or buy replacements. Double-check the cost of the filter replacements before you buy your wet/dry vacuum. 
  • Cleaning your filter is essential if you want your vacuum to function at its highest level. Wet filters are made from foam, and you’ll have to set them aside to dry after every wet mess you clean up. After they dry, give them a good shake to knock off any debris. If it’s still dirty, hold it under running water for a few minutes. Make sure you rinse from the inside of the filter to the outside. Let it sit for a long time in a room with low humidity — this prevents mold from forming.  
  • Cleaning dry filters is a bit simpler. If they’re reusable, you can knock loose any debris and call it a day. If you just finished a big job, rinse them with water on both sides and give them plenty of time to air dry. Using a disposable filter? Just toss it and start over with a new filter the next time you’re vacuuming.
  • The standard filter you’ll use for dry messes will vary depending on which wet/dry vac you choose. Some come with HEPA filters. These filters force air particles through the ultra-fine mesh, and they’re great at picking up small particles and allergens. It helps prevent dust from spreading as you’re cleaning up, making it an ideal filter for anyone with allergies or asthma. 
  • You’ll have to dump some wet/dry vacs upside down to clean out the canister. Other models have dust bags that you can empty or remove instead of flipping the whole canister upside down. Make sure your wet/dry vacuum is easy for you to lift and tilt before you hand over your cash.