Shark Messmaster Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum – perfect unless you have pets

I used the Shark Messmaster Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum for weeks and found an almost-perfect product

A Shark Messmaster Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum on a countertop
(Image credit: Future)
Homes & Gardens Verdict

If you want a compact, portable vacuum that can be used on both wet and dry debris, the new Shark Messmaster is a solid pick. It’s thoughtfully designed with a variety of convenient features, and its powerful suction is effective on all sorts of everyday messes. Plus, unlike full-size shop vacs, this portable option is a breeze to clean and can be tucked away in a closet when not in use.

Reasons to buy
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    Compact design

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    Effective on wet and dry messes

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    Can be used with bags

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    Easy to clean

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    On-board accessory storage

Reasons to avoid
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    Not the best on pet hair

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    Slightly heavy for its size

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There are some messes in life that you don’t necessarily want to clean with your regular vacuum. I’m talking muddy footprints, spilled soda, and tipped-over houseplants. Luckily, the new Shark Messmaster Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum is designed with these 'un-vacuumable' messes in mind. 

Unlike regular wet/dry vacuums, which are typically big and bulky, this portable model has a modest 1-gallon capacity and weighs just 10 pounds. It’s small enough to store in your coat closet when it’s not in use, but it’s just as capable as larger models, easily picking up even the worst messes. Plus, thanks to its 'AnyBag Technology' you can line the inside of the dustbin with a plastic bag, making it quick and easy to empty when you’re done cleaning. 

I put it to the test in my home for a few weeks. I used it for a variety of cleaning tasks, including removing spiderwebs from my basement, vacuuming the floors of our messy truck, and sucking up a kitchen spill. After all that testing, here’s why I think the Shark Messmaster is a great option for busy households. 

Product specifications

A Shark Messmaster Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum on a white background

(Image credit: Shark)
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Dimensions:10.5 L x 16.5 W x 13.5 H inches
Weight:9.8 lbs
Cord length:15 feet
Hose length:3 feet
Wattage:950 watts
Warranty:3 years
Attachments:Squeegee Tool, Carpet Tool, Crevice Tool, and Extension Wand

Unboxing and setting up

The Messmaster arrived in a medium-sized box, and there was a quick-start guide printed right on the inner flap. (I’m not one to read instruction manuals, so I love when brands do this.) Upon opening the box, I was greeted by a mass of plastic – every single piece was wrapped in its protective bag, and there were a lot of pieces. In addition to the main vacuum body, the box contained the 3-foot hose, three attachments, a three-piece extension wand, the attachment storage clip, and three plastic bags that you can use inside the dustbin.

Unboxing the Shark Messmaster

(Image credit: Future)

With the help of the quick-start guide, I was able to put the vacuum together in just a few minutes. There’s onboard storage for two of the attachments, and you can simply leave the third attached to the hose. The power cord, which is 15 feet long, wraps around the upper handle, making it quite convenient and compact to store. The only pieces that don’t have designated storage are the extension wand sections. 

There’s a latch on the front of the vacuum that lets you swing open the lid, and inside, there are instructions on how to outfit the dustbin with a bag. It’s easy to do, and I love that you can use any size plastic bag – you don’t have to buy special ones from the brand. The dustbin also pulls out of the base so you can pour out any liquid into the sink after cleaning. 

Who would it suit?

If you want a wet/dry vacuum but don’t have the space for a full-size shop vac, the Shark Messmaster is a good alternative. Thanks to its three attachments, it can be used to clean up virtually any type of mess, from a tipped-over houseplant to a bowl of soup that hit the floor, and I found it to be particularly handy for cleaning the car. It’s versatile but still quite compact, and you can outfit it with any plastic bag to capture and easily dispose of the debris you suck up.

However, if you’re looking for a vacuum to clean up pet hair, this probably isn’t the best choice, as none of its attachments are very effective on fur that’s embedded in upholstery or rugs.

Test 1: Dry cleaning

My old farmhouse has an unfinished basement, and I frequently use our full-size shop vac to clean up dirt and spiderwebs down there. I decided to use the Messmaster for my monthly cleaning session, and I was impressed by its powerful suction. The power button is a little hard to press – you have to make sure it goes down all the way – but once it’s on, the vacuum can easily pick up large and small pieces of debris, as well as those yucky spiderwebs. Plus, the extension wand let me reach up along the edges of the ceiling without having to climb on a chair. While cleaning in the basement, I carried the vacuum along as I went. However, it was a bit heavy after a while, as it weighs around 10 pounds.  

Test 2: Cleaning wet messes

Wet cleaning with the Shark Messmaster Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum

(Image credit: Future)

There weren’t many wet messes that needed cleaning while I was testing the Messmaster, so I manufactured one to see how it would perform. I spilled some cereal and milk on our hardwood floors, then used the wet/dry vacuum to tackle the mess. 

With the squeegee tool attached, I did have to hold it at a slight angle to pick up the pieces of cereal, which meant it didn’t do a great job on the milk. However, once the cereal was picked up, I was able to hold the squeegee flush against the floor, and wow! It did an incredible job sucking up all the moisture, even from the cracks between the floorboards. I expected I would need to mop to pick up lingering moisture, but it wasn’t necessary at all. I just sprayed a little cleaning solution over the area, wiped it down, and that was it. It was super quick and easy, and I was impressed with the vacuum’s powerful suction. 

Test 3: Cleaning a car

Using the Shark Messmaster Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum to clean a truck

(Image credit: Future)

I also used the Messmaster to clean out my partner’s truck, and this is where the vacuum shined. Its nozzle tool is perfect for getting into all the cracks and crevices around the car, and it’s easy to either hold the vacuum as you clean it or rest it on one of the seats. The 3-foot hose was long enough to get into all the hard-to-reach areas, and the carpet/upholstery tool lifted dirt and debris off the carpeting and seats. I also loved that I was able to capture all the dirt, pebbles, and trash in a plastic bag inside the vacuum—when I was finished cleaning, I just tied it off and threw it all away. 

The only time the vacuum struggled was when it came time to clean up pet hair. Because our dogs ride in the back seat of the car, there’s quite a bit of fur that gets worked into the upholstery. Unfortunately, the vacuum isn’t effective at pulling out this fur, so I had to pull out my favorite handheld vacuum, the Black + Decker Furbuster, available at Amazon, to get this area clean.  

Cleaning and maintenance

Using plastic bags in the Shark Messmaster Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum

(Image credit: Future)

One of my favorite things about this wet/dry vac is that it’s a breeze to clean, no matter what type of mess you’re using it on. If you’re sucking up dry debris, you can simply put a plastic bag inside the canister—it can be any brand and size between 2 and 13 gallons. The bag will collect all the dirt and dust, and when you’re done, you can just pull it out and toss the whole thing in the trash. 

This isn’t as feasible if you’re sucking up a lot of water or a messy spill, but the vacuum is still simple to clean when you use it on liquid. After you empty the canister, all you have to do is reassemble the vacuum and use it to suck up a few cups of clean water. The brand says it only requires 1 cup of water, but I got the best results using 4 or 5 cups. It effectively rinses out the attachment, hose, and inner dustbin, leaving the vacuum clean and ready for next time. The dustbin can even go in the dishwasher for a hands-off deep clean. 

How does it rate online?

The Shark Messmaster Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum is fairly new, so it doesn’t have a lot of online reviews yet. It has a 4.6-star rating from over 200 reviewers on Amazon, and 4.7 stars from over 250 reviewers on Best Buy. Many people comment that it’s easy to carry around and has powerful suction, and a lot of reviewers note that it’s perfect for cleaning out cars. Among negative reviews, one of the most common complaints is that the vacuum isn’t good at picking up pet hair, which aligns with my own experience testing the vacuum.  

How does it compare?

If you’re looking for a compact vacuum that can tackle pet hair, the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser is one of the best handheld vacuums we’ve tested. It’s a little cheaper than the Messmaster, retailing for around $80, and it comes with a special pet tool that lifts hair out of carpeting and upholstery, making it a better choice to clean pet hair out of your car. 

On the other hand, the Stanley SL18116P Wet/Dry Vacuum, available from Amazon might be a better choice if you’re looking for a more classic shop vac. It costs roughly the same as the Messmaster, but it has a large 6-gallon capacity and is mounted on wheels, making it easy to move around. However, it takes up significantly more space in storage and likely isn’t practical for those in small homes or apartments.  

Should you buy the Shark Messmaster Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum?

If you’re looking for a portable wet/dry vacuum, the Shark Messmaster is a worthwhile buy. It retails for around $100, and it’s a powerful and versatile cleaning tool that can be used all around your home. It had no problem sucking up spider webs, debris under car seats, and even spilled milk, and unlike full-size shop vac, this model is quick and easy to clean. Plus, it’s compact enough to tuck in a closet when it’s not in use, so it’s ideal for anyone who has limited storage space in their home.  

How we test wet/dry vacuums

We test all our wet/dry vacuums on a range of different debris on different surfaces. Where applicable, we test them on carpets, rugs, and different types of hard floors like wood, vinyl, and linoleum. We test them on several types of common stains and spills, and we also test them throughout every room of an entire home, as well as in cars. 

Camryn Rabideau
Contributing Reviews Editor

Camryn Rabideau is a writer and product reviewer specializing in home, kitchen, and pet products. In her five years as a product tester, she's tested hundreds of items first-hand, including many, many kitchen appliances for Homes & Gardens. Camryn does her product testing from her small homestead in beautiful Rhode Island.