Wet/dry vacuum cleaners come in variety of shapes and sizes


Q: I need an inexpensive wet/dry vacuum cleaner that has an attachment for steam cleaning carpets and furniture. Also, what else should I consider in getting the best one for both indoor and outdoor cleanup?

A: With all the new models, features and accessory kits, choosing the best wet/dry vacuum is as complicated as buying a new car. Accessory kits like do-it-yourself steam carpet cleaners, gutter cleaners, detachable blowers, etc., make wet/dry vacs versatile.

Wet/dry vacs can clean almost any liquid, dirt and debris. Sizes range from one gallon to 20 gallons. If you have children or pets, a lightweight one-gallon model on casters is ideal for indoor floor and carpet spills. There is also a small, three-gallon model with a shoulder strap and 20-foot cord.

For general indoor and outdoor cleanup, select a large and powerful (16 or 20 gallon) wet/dry vac. Several models are designed with a detachable motor that converts to hand-held blower for leaf, garden, driveway or patio cleanup.

The most powerful blowers produce 200 cubic feet per minute (cfm) air flow at 200 mph to move large debris. One wet/dry vac model has a two-speed detachable blower with a "power burst" switch for quick, extra blowing power.

Vacuum-cleaning power is dependent on both the air flow rate (cfm) and suction force (inches of lift). These two factors determine the cleaning "air watts" power rating. Don't base your purchase decision on the advertised "peak horsepower," which is often just marketing hype.

A drain in the bottom of the tank is a great convenience. Having to lift and empty a 16-gallon tank full of filthy liquid is heavy and messy.

One model has two separate internal sections -- the top for dry dirt and the bottom (with a built-in drain) for liquids. Keeping them separate makes emptying it simpler. To switch from the dry to the liquid section, you just plug the flexible hose into one of two holes in the side of the vac.

Do-it-yourself carpet and furniture cleaning kits work well for small spots or an entire room. A thin 50-foot hose with special fittings which automatically mix detergent and hot water, snaps over the end of any faucet.

Pull a trigger on the cleaning handle to spray the cleaning solution onto the carpet directly in front of the clear suction nozzle. You can see the dirty water being sucked back out of the carpet or sofa into the wet/dry vac.

A gutter cleaning kit has two tube extensions and a U-shaped nozzle. This allows you to easily reach up it into a gutter to suck out leaves and debris.

Write for Update Bulletin No. 579 showing a buyer's guide of wet/dry vacs listing air watts power, sizes, prices, built-in features, accessory kits available and cost-to-use chart. Please include $2 and a business-size SASE.

Address: James Dulley, The Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

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