To say that I dislike wet-dry vacuum design is an understatement. I revile it.
Not one I have used—cheap, fancy, in the middle—really seems to be able to manage itself well and still gobble up everything I throw at it. Unless it is operated by The Handiest Man in the World, the dust puts itself in the vacuum.
There is, however, one full-size unit that isn’t as insulting to a contractor’s time as just about all the other ones I’ve tried and that’s Ridgid’s 1956.
Part of it comes from good design. Part of it comes from job site hacks that make it do what it doesn’t do well. Let’s start with the basics, because even though I could carry on this invective for much longer, there’s no point. I have to have a vac and I do use this one often. So here we go.
The Ridgid has plenty of it. Sure, the vac hose can—and does—get clogged with the same stuff that clogs other vac hoses (large flakes of paint or plaster, a nail that gets wedged across the inside the hose, a hunk of wood, etc), but the 1956 has plenty of go-juice to stay un-clogged when used right. As a point of contrast, these same larger items all but instantly disable the fancier, (way) more expensive and only slightly more organized dust-extraction focused units (‘dust extractors’ have their place, but it’s not in hard core clean-up).
Pretty much any competent manufacturer can plop a powerful motor on top of a can-on-wheels and deliver power. As such, the CFM the unit moves is usually a constant. The variable—and how we interface with the motor on site more often than not—is the filter, notably how easy it is to change, clean and replace and is a giant user-feature I focus on.
First, if your vacuum doesn’t suck (in the suction sense), it’s often NOT because it sucks (in the slang sense). More often than not, it’s because the filter is clogged with everything from sawdust to cat hair to drywall particles to whatever. Clean filters, like sharp tools, work better.
The way to clean a vac filter—while kinda gross—is pretty easy. Remove the filter, take it outside and bang it on the ground. In any big project, you’ll end up doing this often enough so an easy filter removal process is something to be appreciated and the Ridgid has it. Pop off. Pop on. No wing nuts or screws to use or loose.
The filter the Ridgid 1956 comes with is plenty tough too; better than many I’ve had. And replacement is a snap because it’s a The Home Depot thing. However you dislodge the dust when cleaning the filter—banging it on a fence or blowing it with your compressor’s blow gun—stand upwind so the breeze blows the dust cloud away from you.
Vac Tip: Use it for what it’s for: dust or water. Sweep big stuff with a broom (or shovel), then vacuum the smaller stuff and dust.
Hoses & Nozzles
They’re the same semi-flexible black plastic junk every vac manufacturer uses. One terrific feature is the latch that locks the hose to the vac body so you can drag it around. And, if you keep one of the crevice tools on the hose, you can wrap it around the body of the vac and shove the nozzle back under the hose and it stays. This hack turns the unit from Spider-Man’s nemesis Doc Oc into a an R2-D2 unit that is reasonably mobile. Remarkable!
Without that, hose management is a fiasco, as it is with most vacs. As a point of tool geekery, dust extractors tend to have smaller diameter but much more flexible and easily coiled hoses. Problem is, they’re almost instantly clogged on anything but dust recovery. Ridgid has a ‘pro’ version of this vac with a similarly higher quality hose.
Nozzles also stink. The wide nozzle for basic clean-up never seems to be in the right angle and either leaves stuff behind or sucks itself to the floor. It functions, but that’s it.
One saving grace is the little supermarket basket on the carry handle. Basically, I can jam everything in there (including extension wands that DO NOT stay on the extension wand bosses on the vac body and the mercifully long cord) and move the whole pile around fairly well. It’s a sort of accidental success, but I’ll take it. The carry-handle is also well placed for lugging the unit up stairs or into my truck. If you don’t like it, it’s can easily be removed.
If you’re looking for more storage, please see How To Build A Storage Shed.
Yup. The Stainless steel canister holds buckets of stuff, empties easily and I have not yet lost or broken a caster (wheel) or latch. This is NOT the case with many, far more expensive vacs I have owned. Nice job Ridgid.
Could it be better? Sure. A lot better. But it would also cost more. So can I live with it. I have. And I can handle it. In short, this is a nicely built, effective tool in a tool category full of dirty, dusty and hot messes.
For more tool reviews, please see Tool Review: Duluth Trading Riggers Bag.