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How does a Wet & Dry Vacuum Cleaner work and why use one?

Date posted: 27 February 2017

The wet and dry vacuum cleaner is designed to deal not only with dry dust and dirt, but also with liquid spills. It was originally used mainly for heavy duty jobs in a commercial setting – but in recent years more compact models have made the wet and dry vacuum cleaner more accessible to domestic customers. 

Its versatility makes it a very handy piece of equipment to have on hand for indoor and even outdoor tasks – from everyday cleaning to a whole host of other jobs such as tackling wet patches or liquid spillages; clearing snow off your doorstep; removing cold ashes from your fireplace; or even blowing garden leaves into a manageable pile.

Instead of incorporating a vacuum bag, wet and dry vacuum cleaners usually use a two bucket system that separates the liquids from the solids into two different chambers. 

Many models also offer a handy blower function which can expel air rapidly – widening the vacuum's potential to include blowing / pushing debris into piles ready for gathering and disposal (e.g. garden leaves).

What are the main uses for wet and dry vacuum cleaners?

Wet and dry vacuum cleaners are incredibly versatile and can not only collect dry debris and suck up liquids but they can also perform a number of other tasks, such as:

  • Unblocking sinks and baths: Set the machine to blower instead of suction and the air force should shift the blockage.
  • Clearing snow or leaves outdoors: Again, on blower setting you can easily clear away snow using this type of vacuum, or blow leaves and other debris from around your garden or off pathways into a manageable pile ready for disposal into green waste.
  • Floor buffing: Most come with certain attachments including one that can clean and buff hardwood flooring.
  • Cleaning curtains and upholstery: Just like an ordinary vacuum cleaner, they can clean dust and other debris from other surfaces and fabrics such as curtains and upholstery.
  • Cleaning fireplaces: These machines will easily suck up cold ashes from your fireplace.
  • Removing flood water: If you experience a burst water pipe or other household water crisis, this vacuum will enable you to tackle the problem and dispose of the water.
  • Cleaning carpets: If you don't own a carpet cleaner this vacuum will offer a means of cleaning your carpets to shift stains, marks and, with some detergent, even mildew.
  • Emptying water mattresses: If you have a water bed and you're moving house, you'll need to empty the water mattress. You can use your wet-dry vacuum to achieve this by inserting its nozzle into the access cover. The machine will automatically stop once the reservoir is full.

How do I look after my wet and dry vacuum cleaner?

Generally these vacuum cleaners are quite straightforward in design, and don't require a lot of maintenance, but the filters will need cleaning and potentially replacing after an extended period of use.

Are there different types of wet and dry cleaners?

This type of vacuum cleaner tends to come in different sizes, with the largest best suited to tackling industrial-scale jobs quickly, efficiently and thoroughly. They also have the greatest capacity but tend to be heavy and rather bulky.

Medium-sized models offer a good middle ground, as they are more compact but still offer high performance and are well-suited to most environments.

Small and mini hand-held models are ideal in terms of portability and storage, since they are far more compact and lightweight – but you will have to compromise on capacity and performance. 

How do I use a wet and dry vacuum cleaner?

This type of vacuum is straightforward to use, and you can switch easily between the two main (wet and dry) functions with a quick click of a button.

You will need to change filters, however, because a different type is required for each function. A foam filter is used for water/liquids, while a paper filter is used for dust/dry debris. When you switch from dry to wet cleaning (or vice versa) the filter will need changing accordingly.

If you are using the wet function the water collection bucket will require emptying after use. Avoid leaving the water to empty later as it will become stagnant.


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