Wessex 18L Wet & Dry Vacuum reviewon November 21, 2022 at 16:29 Tech Advisor

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At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

CheapGood suctionVacuums up liquid

Cons

Flimsy, paper dust bagsDust bags are expensive from ToolstationVery basic build quality

Our Verdict

A cost-effective vacuum that does a great job of vacuuming up mess

Price When Reviewed

£39.98

Best Prices Today: Wessex 18L Wet & Dry Vacuum

Retailer
Price
Toolstation
£39.98

Vacuum cleaners can cost a lot and if you just want a cheap one for your garage, van or even your home, one that costs less than forty  quid certainly looks tempting.

The Wessex 18L Wet & Dry vac is the entry-level model  with 20L and 30L versions (with metal  drums) offering more capacity.

As the name says, it can vacuum up liquid as well. And as a bonus, it can do triple duty as a blower as well.

But should you buy one instead of a much more expensive cylinder vacuum such as a Henry? Read on and find out.

Features & design

There’s no doubt that you get what you pay for. Everything is made from plastic including the extension tubes that push together and connect to the floor brush.

None of the accessories feel good quality, and there’s no angle adjustment on the floor brush: it’s fixed. It does swivel, but the rigid angle can be a pain if you haven’t got lots of room.

It has bristles at the front and a rubber blade at the rear, which is mainly for wet use. It’s designed for hard floors as these don’t retract (as the bristles on a Henry do) for easier vacuuming of carpets or rugs.

Jim Martin / Foundry

You get a crevice tool for getting into corners and a hose adaptor which can be used to connect to the outlet of some power tools, allowing you to directly vacuum up sawdust or any other kind of dust from cutting or sanding.

The four castors need to be screwed to the drum: the screws are just about the only thing that isn’t made of plastic.

Jim Martin / Foundry

There are thee paper dust bags included (also not plastic) but calling them “high strength” filter bags is a step too far. They feel as if they’ll rip open while you’re fitting them, and you need to push hard on the cardboard around the opening to ensure they’re properly attached. If not, the dust will end up in the bottom, underneath the bag.

At 1.5m, the hose is just about long enough and the 5m power cable, while half the length of a Henry, is also probably enough. It’s just a shame there’s no storage for it when you’re not using the vacuum. There’s a hook, but that’s it. With a Henry, of course, the cable winds up neatly inside the top section.

Jim Martin / Foundry

The user manual explains just about clearly enough how to use the three modes, but doesn’t properly explain that you need to fit the HEPA locking nut under the motor when dry vacuuming.

If you need to suck up a spillage or flood, the bag and locking nut must be removed, and you have to fit the foam filter around the motor.

You can them vacuum away as normal, but you can’t submerse the brush completely as it needs air as well.

In order to use it to blow, the manual says the bag needs to be removed and you attach the hose to the outlet on the top part, rather than the inlet on the drum.

None of this takes long, but it is a faff to remove the bag and refit it, partly because you have to clean and dry the drum first but also because there’s every chance you’ll damage the bag while removing or refitting it.

Performance

The good news is that the Wessex is better than you’d expect for the money. With 18kPa of suction, it’s more powerful than a bagless Dyson and a little less than a Henry, but unlike both of those it doesn’t offer a ‘turbo’ mode when you need that bit more suction.

However, in use, I found the Wessex was perfectly capable of hoovering up sawdust, general workshop dirt and coped relatively well with larger pieces, and the odd leaf.

Similarly, it performed well for vacuuming a car, removing dried mud and small stones from carpet and crumbs from seats.

The only attachment it doesn’t have which could have been useful is a small brush attachment for vacuuming more delicate things. But the Wessex isn’t really designed for that, and there was clearly no room in the budget for one.

As it happened, some torrential rain proved too much for the seal on the bottom of my garage door so I had the perfect opportunity to try out wet vacuuming.

This worked very well, swiftly transferring water from the garage floor into the cylinder. You can then tip out the water, but you’ll need to rinse out or otherwise clean and dry it before refitting a paper dust bag.

Jim Martin / Foundry

The blowing function, as mentioned, is supposed to be used without the bag fitted, but does work with it in place. It won’t replace a dedicated leaf blower, but you might possibly find a use for it on occasion.

Price & availability

You can buy a Wessex 18L Wet & Dry vacuum from Toolstation, either in branch or online. As it’s over £25, delivery is free unless you want it next day, in which case it’s an extra fiver.

At the time of review, Toolstation had knocked 10% off, bring it down to just £34.98 – a bargain.

Toolstation also sells packs of three dust bags but, absurdly, these are more expensive than Henry HepaFlo bags which are much better quality. You’d be better off buying larger pack of universal bags from Amazon or ebay.

Rachel Ogden / Foundry

A Henry, by contrast, is considerably more expensive at £149 direct from its maker. You can read our in-depth review of the HVR160 to learn more. It’s worth noting that although this model is dry-only, there’s an HWD 370 which can also vacuum liquid and is the same price from Argos.

Verdict

Even at full price the Wessex is good value if you’re after an inexpensive shop vac for keeping a garage or shed clean, or to clean up after DIY projects in your home.

It’s not the best choice if you want a daily vacuum for your home: bagless, cordless stick vacuums are almost all preferable there, even if they cost more. For some recommendations, see our roundup of the best vacuums.

And if you’re deliberating over this or a Henry for regular home use (as opposed to a garage) then the extra money is almost certainly worth spending for the better build quality, extra attachments, extra suction and cable storage. The only drawback is that a Henry won’t be able to sort out any liquid spills.

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