How to Empty Shop Vac

By Bruce RiversLast update: 2024-04-18

The shop vac model is an excellent wet-dry vacuum machine to clean dry and wet messes. However, the process of emptying the shop vac depends on the model you have. When working with dry messes, you must empty them after removing the tank lid. For wet messes, you may have a drain cap with your shop vac model for easy disposal.

In this article, you’ll get valuable insight into how to empty a shop vac in a step-by-step way. So, let’s start.

How to Empty Shop Vac

Why We Need to Empty a Shop Vac

From alleviating spilled liquids to sawdust, a shop vac is an excellent machine for most of your home improvement tasks. Although the purpose of the shop vac is to keep your work area clean, the wet-dry vacuum can itself get stained or dirty in the process.

You will have to empty the shop vac so that the paper filter doesn’t get water-logged and restricts airflow.

Moreover, if you forget to empty the shop vac, you’ll be allowing the water to rise as high as the fan and motor. This will severely affect the overall performance of the shop vac and may even destroy it.

When it comes to dirt and debris, they can clog the crannies and nooks of the shop vac filter, resulting in improper suction.

Thus, emptying the shop vac becomes essential to keep it running smoothly and efficiently.

How to Empty Shop Vacs

If you want to eliminate rubbish and liquid from the shop vac, then you’ll have to empty the shop vac. Below are some steps to guide you on how to empty the shop vac.

Steps to Drain and Empty the Shop-Vac

Step 1: Locate the Drain

Firstly, you have to check the shop vac model and see where the drain spout is. Without the drain spout, it will be a bit difficult to get rid of the stored liquids, but it’s always possible. Once you locate the drain for your shop vac machine, proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Position the Shop-Vac Drain

You’ll have to ensure positioning the Shop-Vac drain spout in this step. You must do it over the receptacle, as you can use it to drain the liquid. Then, remove the plug. It’s as simple as that.

Step 3: Connect the Spout to a Drain Hose

Nowadays, most shop vac models come with a drain hose. If not, they’re mostly compatible with it. Connecting the drain hose with the drain spout will be your next task. You can easily connect them by pushing the drain hose onto the end. And, you’re done!

How To Empty Shop-Vacs Without Tank Drain

Step 1

First, you have to turn off the shop vac and ensure unplugging it from the electric outlet. Start pulling the machine’s latches in the outward direction. Then, remove the tank cover.

Step 2

Secondly, you have to start lifting the unit’s tank to pour all the content into an appropriate area like the bathtub drain.

For instance, if the tank consists of plain water as the content, draining the tank would become easier as you can simply dump them on your lawn.

Step 3

Thirdly and lastly, you must replace the tank cover and lock the lid by pushing the latches inward. Then, go with the cleaning.

How To Empty Shop Vacs With Tank Drain

Step 1

You have to turn off the shop vac machine and ensure unplugging it from the wall. Then, as said earlier, position the machine next to an ideal draining area or drain.

Step 2

Go for the drain cap at the machine’s lower side and loosen it. Do it by twisting it with your hand to the left. Then, remove the drain cap and proceed to the next step.

Step 3

Go for tilting the shop vac unit towards the way where it’s draining. It will help you get rid of all the liquid content completely.

Step 4

Finally, twist the drain cap to the right to replace it and continue using the shop vac machine.

Tips to Empty Shop-Vac Efficiently

1. Filtering the Debris

You must open the shop vac canister. Remember to eliminate any significant chunk of the debris before pouring out the water or liquid content.

2. Dispose of the Water Safely

You must pour the water or the liquid content into an appropriate disposal area. Avoid pouring water with construction debris into your lawn or garden.

3. Remove the Collection Bag

You must never use collection bags while using the wet/dry shop vac for wet operations. You have to start unlatching the topmost blower-unit section of the shop vac unit. Remove and set aside the collection bag along with fasteners (if any).

Safety Tips to Empty a Shop Vacuum

Apart from knowing the steps and ways, it’s crucial to know how to empty a shop vac safely. Below are a few tips on how to do that.

  • If you notice any stuck-on stains from debris, tears, or rips on the shop vac filter, replace it. This is a safe option, as, without replacement, the clogged filter would lose suction and function improperly.

  • You should never empty the shop vac if there are hazardous materials inside it. This isn’t safe as you can accidentally expose it. It’s best to contact a local cleaning service in such a situation.

  • You must turn off the shop vac machine and if it’s connected to the mains, ensure to pull out its power cord from the outlet. Also, turn off the unit if you’re switching to another function before emptying the shop vac.

  • If there’s any liquid or foam escape right before emptying the shop vac, switch off the unit first. Also, ensure protecting the unit against any frost.

To get more tips for safe shop vac draining, you can always refer to the manual guide provided by your shop vac manufacturer.


With this comprehensive guide on how to empty a shop vac, you must have gained every insight that you ever needed. The shop vac needs proper handling and maintenance for optimal performance. So, empty and clean it routinely to ensure it works fine for several years.

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