This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

How to handle autumn leaves with your Shop-Vac

Using a Shop-Vac to clear your yard of fallen leaves makes the task go easier and more quickly with your choice of two operating modes. You can use it to vacuum up leaves for easy collection and disposal. When you change the direction of the air flow by moving the hose to the exhaust side, you can use it as a leaf blower. Some people simply blow their leaves into the street while others blow them into a pile and dispose of them responsibly.

What is a Shop-Vac?

  • It’s a brand name: Although often used generically by consumers to mean vacuums that are bigger and tougher than home vacuum cleaners, Shop-Vac is the name of a company that builds work-grade vacuums.
  • It’s a special kind of vacuum: Shop-Vacs are used by contractors, tradespeople and woodworkers who need to remove lots of debris from work areas. Most are shaped like buckets; a few are shaped like canisters.

What does a Shop-Vac do?

  • It picks up loose items: Shop-Vacs pick up every small item that ends up on the ground at job sites and the floor in factories, shops, warehouses and other work areas. Where regular vacuums are made to pick up dust, dirt and pet hair, Shop-Vacs have the power to suck up nails, screws, wires, scraps of wood, metal, plastic and anything that fits inside the hose.
  • It picks up water: Wet/dry Shop-Vacs are made to not only pick up loose debris and dirt, but also to suck up water, wet messes and spills.

What is a leaf blower?

Leaf blowers are the handheld gas- or electric-powered machines that have replaced hand rakes. Where once most people raked their dry autumn leaves into a pile and burned them, now many use leaf blowers to just blow them away. Careful, though: don’t make your leaves a problem for someone else by blowing them into the street instead of picking them up. 

What is a leaf vacuum?

A leaf vacuum is a considerate, responsible leaf-removal device that sucks up leaves and traps them inside a container. Leaf vacuums are usually large machines towed behind tractors, mowers or utility vehicles. The amount of leaves that can be gathered before your Shop-Vac’s bin needs emptying is measured in cubic feet as well as bushels, which are slightly larger units of measurement.

How to use it as a leaf blower

  1. Open your Shop-Vac by unbuckling the side latches and lifting the top unit off the machine.
  2. Remove the bag and filter and turn your machine over to remove the loose debris that sometimes collects inside.
  3. Remove the hose from the intake port and make sure no debris is trapped inside. 
  4. Fit the hose to the exhaust port and twist it until it locks firmly.
  5. Plug it in.
  6. Turn it on.

How to use it as a leaf vacuum

Repeat all the steps above, except #4. To use it as a vacuum, fit the hose to the intake port.

The limitations of using it as a vacuum

Shop-Vacs are not the ideal way to vacuum leaves because of three built-in limitations:

  • The bucket: If you have a lot of leaves to deal with, you’ll be stopping to empty your Shop-Vac frequently. 
  • The attachments: Shop-Vacs have many attachments, but none is made specifically for picking up leaves. 
  • The wheels: Because most Shop-Vacs are used at indoor job sites, the wheels are made to roll about on flat surfaces. None has wheels designed for use on grass. 

What you need to buy to use your Shop-Vac to clear leaves

If you’re going to get serious about blowing and vacuuming your leaves this fall, it may be time to get a new Shop-Vac with more features, more power, higher speeds and greater capacity.

Best Shop-Vac 6-Gallon 3-Horsepower Heavy Duty Wet-Dry Vacuum

Shop-Vac 6-Gallon 3-Horsepower Heavy-Duty Wet/Dry Vacuum

The exhaust port blows to the rear to allow for quick cleaning of leaves and grass clippings. You get three extension wands, a filter cartridge with a bag and a 7-foot-long secure fit hose made to flex without kinking and allowing 180 degrees of movement at each end.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Shop-Vac 12-Gallon 5.5-Horsepower 3-in-One Wet-Dry Vacuum with Cart

Shop-Vac 12-Gallon 5.5-Horsepower 3-in-One Wet/Dry Vacuum with Cart

This quickly converts to a blower that uses a powerful fan to blow 130 cubic feet of air per minute. The cleaning range of an 8-foot hose connected to a machine with a 12-foot power cord gives you the ability to clear a 100-square-foot area before having to move the machine.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Shop-Vac 5-Gallon 5-Horsepower Compact Vacuum

Shop-Vac 5-Gallon 5-Horsepower Compact Vacuum

This canister vacuum comes with a wall mount and an extra-long 18-foot hose. Its size and shape make it easy to strap the collector tank on your back and use it across wide areas as a leaf blower. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Whether you’re using an old or a new Shop-Vac, make sure you have a good pair of work gloves, sturdier than gardening gloves.

Best Ironclad Unisex Adult Leather Work Gloves

Ironclad Unisex Adult Leather Work Gloves

The patented fingertip design is rolled with no seams and provides two layers of protection without limiting your dexterity. The goatskin leather is machine-washable and will not dry out or shrink. The thermoplastic rubber cuff puller makes for swift and even positioning.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Amazon Basics Women's Work Gloves

Amazon Basics Women’s Work Gloves

Made to fit smaller hands, these elasticized polyester/cotton gloves are reinforced with leather and have a terry cloth swipe on the back for clearing your brow without having to remove your gloves. Keep them clean by machine-washing and line-drying.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Safety goggles

Don’t forget to protect your eyes, too.

Best Mozeeda Ultraviolet Blocking Safety Goggles 5 Pack

Mozeeda Ultraviolet Blocking Safety Goggles 5 Pack

The clever design lets you wear these clear plastic goggles over your prescription eyeglasses to protect them from being scratched by high-speed flying debris. They’re anti-fog, anti-splash and impact-resistant. With five pairs, you can keep them wherever you need them.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

David Allan Van writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.