Wet & Dry Vacuum vs Carpet Cleaner

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Keeping your home clean can be a challenging task, and choosing the right cleaning equipment can make all the difference. Two popular options are wet & dry vacuums and carpet cleaners. But which one is right for you?

In this article, we'll take a deep dive into the features, benefits, and differences of wet & dry vacuums and carpet cleaners. So if you're struggling to decide which one you need, this article is for you.

Wet & Dry Vacuum Cleaners

Wet & Dry Vacuum on hard floor

Wet & dry vacuum cleaners, also known as shop vacs, are versatile machines that, as the name suggests, can handle wet and dry cleaning tasks. They can be used for cleaning carpets, floors, upholstery, and other surfaces.

The main difference between a wet-dry vacuum and a regular vacuum cleaner is that it has the ability to suck up liquids as well as dry debris. This makes it an incredibly versatile tool to have in any household or commercial setting. However, the key difference compared to carpet cleaners is that they don't use water or cleaning solutions to clean carpets.

Another thing to bear in mind is that wet & dry vacuums are not made by your typical vacuum brands like Miele or Dyson. Check out our review of the best wet & dry vacuum brands to find out which ones are best. Our favorites are Vacmaster and Stanley.


Wet-dry vacuums come in many different sizes and styles, from large industrial models to small handheld ones. They are typically equipped with attachments such as brushes, hoses, and squeegees for more thorough cleaning of various surfaces.

They also often come with varying levels of suction power so you can adjust them accordingly depending on what you’re trying to clean. Many models also include additional features such as filters, HEPA filtration systems, adjustable nozzles, dust bags, and even blowers for drying out wet spots quickly.

Moreover, wet & dry vacuums have large capacity tanks that allow them to hold more dirt than other types of vacuums, making them ideal for deep cleaning carpets or area rugs. Separate tanks for dry and wet debris are a great feature to look for in wet-dry vacuums. They allow you to quickly switch between dry and wet cleaning without having to empty the tank in between uses.


  • Wet & dry vacuums are typically more affordable than carpet cleaners;
  • Great for tackling any type of mess. Whether it’s spilled liquids, pet hair, or sawdust and debris, a wet-dry vacuum is up to the task.
  • The powerful suction also helps remove dirt particles from deeper within the pile without damaging the fibers.
  • They require minimal maintenance;


  • Not as effective as carpet cleaners when it comes to removing deep-seated stains or embedded dirt from carpets. 
  • They also don't provide the same level of cleaning and sanitizing power as carpet cleaners, as they don't use water or cleaning solutions.

Carpet Cleaners

Carpet cleaner on carpet

Carpet cleaners use hot water and cleaning solutions to deep clean carpets. They use a combination of steam, suction and agitation to remove dirt, dust, and stains from carpets. Carpet cleaners are typically more expensive than wet & dry vacuums, but they offer more comprehensive cleaning power.


We like carpet cleaners that have large capacity tanks because they allow you to cover larger areas in one session without having to constantly refill the tank. A dual tank system is most common in carpet cleaners. This system separates the clean water tank from the dirty water tank, ensuring that the cleaning solution remains effective throughout the entire cleaning process. With this system, you can easily see how much dirty water has been extracted from the carpet and empty the tank as needed for optimal cleaning performance.

In addition, carpet cleaners typically come with various attachments that allow users to reach into tight corners and crevices. This makes them a great choice for stairs or other hard-to-reach areas.

Many carpet cleaners also come with additional features such as heated cleaning solutions and adjustable pressure controls, offering deeper cleaning capabilities. Furthermore, many models now come with easy-to-use design features such as automated brushes for fast and efficient operation.


In our opinion, the main advantage of carpet cleaners versus wet & dry vacuums is their ability to remove ground-in dirt and stains from carpets. They can also sanitize carpets, removing bacteria and other microorganisms that can be harmful to health. As a result, carpet cleaners are ideal for households with pets and young children, as they can remove pet dander, urine, and other allergens from carpets.

Moreover, the quick drying time of carpet cleaners leaves carpets ready to use in minutes while pre-treating agents allow you to treat spots before the full cleaning process begins.


However, carpet cleaners can be heavy and bulky, making them difficult to maneuver around the house. On the other hand, there are some great, highly portable, spot carpet cleaners that we've reviewed.

Another disadvantage is that carpet cleaners require more maintenance than wet & dry vacuums, as they need to be regularly cleaned and serviced to prevent clogs and damage.

Comparison of Wet & Dry Vacuums and Carpet Cleaners

Wet & dry vacuums and carpet cleaners are two of the most popular home cleaning solutions available. While they both offer excellent suction power and deep cleaning capabilities, there are distinct differences between them that should be considered when choosing a cleaner for your home.

Wet and Dry Vacuum Cleaner
Carpet Cleaner
Large capacity tanks
Powerful suction
Easy to use
Effective for removing dry debris and liquid spills
Deep cleaning power
Ability to sanitize carpets and remove allergens
Effective at removing deep-seated stains and embedded dirt
Heavy and bulky
Require more maintenance

Pros & Cons

Here is a summary table of the pros and cons of Wet & Dry Vacs vs Carpet Cleaners:

Wet and Dry Vacuum
Affordable, large capacity tanks, powerful suction, easy to use, effective for removing dry debris and liquid spills.
Less effective at removing deep-seated stains and embedded dirt from carpets, do not provide the same level of cleaning and sanitizing power as carpet cleaners.
Carpet Cleaners
Deep cleaning power, ability to sanitize carpets and remove allergens, effective at removing deep-seated stains and embedded dirt.
Expensive, heavy and bulky, require more maintenance than wet and dry vacuum cleaners.

Maintenance and Care for Both Types of Cleaners

Proper care and maintenance of your cleaning equipment is essential to ensure they function at their best and last a long time. Here are some tips for maintaining and caring for your wet/dry vacuum or carpet cleaner:

  • Regular Maintenance: After each use, empty the dust cup or container and check all filters for clogs. If necessary, clean them with water and mild detergent before replacing them back into the machine. Additionally, inspect hoses regularly for any signs of wear-and-tear such as cracks and holes that can affect suction power over time.
  • Storage: Store your equipment in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight where there’s no risk of exposure to extreme temperatures which could cause parts to malfunction over time. Also avoid storing it near flammable materials like paint thinner as these substances can be hazardous when mixed with electricity from the motor unit inside the machine itself.

Choosing the Best Cleaner for Your Home

When it comes to choosing the best cleaner for your home, there are several factors to consider, including performance, maintenance, and cost. 

The table below provides our assessment scores for these two types of cleaners for each of these factors:

Cleaner Type
Performance Score (out of 10)
Maintenance Score (out of 10)
Cost Score (out of 10)
Wet/Dry Vacuum
Carpet Cleaner


Choosing between a wet/dry vacuum and a carpet cleaner can be challenging. Wet/dry vacuums are ideal for quick cleanups, while carpet cleaners offer thorough cleaning of carpets.

When selecting a cleaning device, consider your specific needs and budget. Wet/dry vacuums are great for spills or pet hair from hard surfaces like tile floors or car interiors, while carpet cleaners are optimal for a deeper carpet cleaning experience.

Check out our some of our recent reviews of the best carpet cleaners and wet & dry vacuums for help with choosing the right model for you:

In summary, both wet/dry vacuums and carpet cleaners have their own unique advantages depending on the job you're trying to tackle around your home. Consider all factors, including your specific needs and budget, before making a purchase.

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