From the authors of MOLD: The War Within

Why Everyone Should Own a Wet/dry Vac

12 Jul Why Everyone Should Own a Wet/dry Vac

Just as every structure should be equipped with a fire extinguisher, so should it be outfitted with a wet/dry vacuum. The mere act of having a wet/dry vac within arm’s reach could save a building owner thousands—if not tens of thousands—of dollars’ worth of water damage to their business or home should a leak occur.

The Race Against the Clock

Speed is critical when dealing with water intrusion or a leak inside a structure, because once building materials become wet, the clock starts ticking. It takes only 24 to 48 hours for mold growth to start. It doesn’t matter if it’s water from a broken pipe, a leaky dishwasher, or an overflowing washing machine, by having a wet/dry vac already on hand, structural damage can be minimized or avoided altogether.

Saving Health

The similarities between a fire extinguisher and a wet/dry vac don’t stop at protecting the dwelling; both also can be used to protect the occupants from life-threatening harm. Just as the fire extinguisher has the capacity to save lives, the wet/dry vac has the ability to save health as quick cleanup of water with removal of non-salvageable items and building materials (followed by drying with fans and dehumidifiers) reduces the likelihood of structural mold forming. The health effects of exposure to mold and mycotoxin can be devastating to health, especially to people in high risk groups.

In the case of a fire, the risk to life is announced with the bells and whistles of fire alarms and suffocating smoke that can immediately take the breath away. Fire and smoke get people’s attention and fast! But when it comes to the risk to health from being in the presence of water-damaged building materials, no sirens alert the occupants of the potentially life-threatening danger. But know, nonetheless, that risk to health goes hand-in-hand with wet building materials, so the more quickly water is sucked up, the less risk to health will incur due to the water being contained to a smaller area.

No matter the size of the water intrusion or leak, the same steps need to be taken so mold growth doesn’t result. According to Doug Hoffman, executive director of the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors (, the first step is to always remove any standing water, which can be accomplished with a wet/dry vac when the amount of water involved is small to medium in quantity. In cases of large amounts of water, such as with flooding, a pump will be required.

The Best Mold Sucker-upper

All too often water leaks are subtle and insidious, growing gradually in size in areas not immediately visible in the day-to-day life of the occupant. By the time the problem is apparent, the area of water damage can be sizeable and already supporting a plantation of fungus. In this case, a wet/dry vac is still your go-to tool.

Not only can you use your wet/dry vac to remove the standing water, but you can also use it to vacuum up any mold growing on surfaces, according to Jim Pearson, CMH, Chairman of the Consensus Body publishing the two foremost industry standards on mold remediation: the IICRC S520 Standard for Professional Mold Remediation and the R520 Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation.

Furthermore, there is no need to wait for the mold or substrate to dry out because with the wet vac feature, you can just suck the mold right up and contain it, without having to put yourself at risk from touching it or dispersing it into the indoor air. Wearing personal protection equipment is still recommended.

When using a wet/dry vac in its wet mode to clean mold off building materials, line the water tank with an extra strength garbage bag to make disposal of the fungal debris simple and sanitary, suggests Mr. Hoffman. Once completed for the day, he recommends cleaning the water tank with a solution of water and enzyme cleaner and flush the solution through the hose. Then hang the hose to ensure any remaining water drains out so the inside of the hose will be able to adequately air dry. You don’t want bacteria or mold forming on the inside walls of the hose.

For more information on the steps to take when addressing a structural water intrusion or leak, see the Professional Resource section at

Our Personal Experience

Don’t relegate the wet/dry vac to the garage. By all means, use it in the house! With the increased power and suction of a wet/dry vac, it will make cleaning up daily household dirt a simple and easy task. But do be aware that not all wet/dry vacs are of equal quality.

We recently had the opportunity to try the Nilfisk AERO 21 HEPA wet/dry vac and were quite surprised by its ease of use and quality of functionality. It is a light weight contractor-grade unit that easily rolls around with a long hose, wand and nozzle attachment to quickly and quietly suck up all specks of dirt and dust. Although the AERO 21 is wand-based with no motorized carpet attachment, it works exceedingly well on carpet without requiring much effort by the operator due to the high level of suction. This was an unexpected benefit.

Another unexpected bonus was that the unit had no noticeable affect on lowering indoor air quality. The dust bag, body and filtration system of the AERO 21 HEPA vacuum is designed in a way that no noticeable particulate enters the living space when turned on or while in use. The HEPA filter retains 99.995% of dust and debris down to .3 microns while the dust bag and canister design ensures particulate matter remains contained inside the vacuum. It also has a semi-automatic filter cleaning system to keep the HEPA filter operating at maximum efficiency.

The Nilfisk AERO 21 HEPA wet/dry vac is by far the cleanest vacuum we have experienced even with a full bag in terms of preserving air quality in the indoor living space. The Nilfisk design engineers have done a good job in overcoming the following two most common trouble areas with vacuums: 1) Puffs of dust emit from a vacuum bag or canister when initially turned on once the bag or canister begins to fill, and 2) The emission of particulates can then continue to emit from a bag or canister during use of the vacuum.

Without getting into all the product features and options (you can look them up), it is worth mentioning that the Nilfisk AERO 21 HEPA has a relatively low price point that makes it a quality bargain buy. We now use it as our daily household vacuum for both carpets and hard surface flooring.

After having had such a positive experience with the Nilfisk AERO 21 HEPA, we suggest that if you can choose only one vacuum to use in your home for all needs, seriously consider this particular wet/dry vac. The powerful suction will quickly take care of daily dirt and in the case of a water leak, it can become your superhero!

Safety Reminder

Even though a wet/dry vac is designed to suck up water, it is not an amphibious vacuum. Only the wand and floor attachment should touch any source of water. The cord and body of the vacuum itself must remain dry and sit on dry ground.

For more information on the Nilfisk AERO 21 HEPA wet/dry vac, fill out an inquiry form at the following webpage or contact their customer service department at 800-NILFISK or