DeWalt 20V Max 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac

PTR Review
  • Build Quality 9.0
  • Ergonomics 8.0
  • Feature Set 9.0
  • Suction Power 6.0
  • Value 8.0

The key to loving what the DeWalt 20V Max 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac is capable of is understanding what it is - and isn't - designed to do.

Overall Score 8.0 (out of 10)

My wife is always telling me that I am way too OCD in the area of needing to have my work space clean and tidy (this includes my desk, dresser, shop and my car). So what does an OCD kind of guy need to keep things clean when he does not want to drag out the big 16-gallon vacuum from the shop? Why a cordless vacuum, of course! The DeWalt 20V Max 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac fits the bill perfectly for me.

It is based on the DeWalt 20V Max lithium-ion platform – of which I have plenty of other tools – and it can work for picking up dry debris and liquid things too. So now when I need to straighten up the carpets in my car or small areas around my shop, I can go OCD all I want to!

First Impressions

The DeWalt 20V Max 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac is a kit set which means that it comes with one battery and a charger so that even if you don’t have other 20V Max tools yet, you’re in business. The battery is 4.0 amp hours, giving you a total capacity of 72 watt hours. Since it’s on the 20V Max line, you can also use your FlexVolt batteries to boost the capacity even more.

The vacuum is made up of three main components – the vacuum base, 1/2-gallon tank, and removable filter. The debris tank is held in place with a heavy duty latch that provides positive feedback for when the container is locked into place.

To keep dust and liquids from escaping, there is a rubber gasket around the perimeter of where the tank meets the vacuum unit. Also, there is a rubber flap where the suction hose enters the tank that keeps debris in the tank should the vacuum flip over.

DeWalt 20V Max 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac

Once the tank is removed from the bottom of the vacuum, you have access to the removable filter. This is a HEPA wet/dry filter that traps 99.97% of dust at 0.3 microns according to DeWalt’s documentation. There is no need to remove the filter if sucking up liquids as it is designed to be rinsed with water when you need to clean it. Replacement filters are available in stores and on-line.

DeWalt 20V Max 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac

The vacuum in its regular form is sort of like that of the Dirt Devils with a wide suction nozzle integrated into the vacuum housing in the front. For when you need to reach or get in smaller places, you can pull out the 1-1/4” diameter black hose and stretch it up to 2-1/2 feet long.

The large on/off toggle switch is easy to flick with your finger when holding the centrally located top handle.

Testing and Use

One of the big reasons I wanted this vacuum is because I was looking for an easier solution than dragging out my 16-gallon vacuum and an extension cord to do simple cleanups on the fly. The trade-off with going smaller (and cordless for that matter) is often an issue of suction power.

I live in a 90-year old two story home in a old section of town. Being that it is old, the single pane wood windows over the years have been painted in place. Some of the windows’ upper sash had not been properly pushed up to the top before the paint “sealing” happened, leaving a gap to let outside air in or let conditioned air to escape freely.

One Saturday, I took it upon myself to free the upper sashes to allow them to return to their fully closed position and got the lower sash moving freely in the frame. Given that this work mostly involved a razor blade to cut the paint, a stiff putty knife, and a small pry bar, my cleanup involved mostly sucking up paint chips from the window sill and the floor.

The first thing I did in testing out the DeWalt DCV517M1 was to charge the battery. Once fully charged, I slipped the battery into the tool, checked that the filter and debris container were properly attached, and hit the switch. This vacuum is perfectly suited for this kind of clean up effort as it is lightweight, convenient, and only being asked to tackle small debris.

DeWalt 20V Max 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac

I also used the vacuum to do a quick detail of my car’s carpets. When I was car shopping, I swore that I did not want a car with black carpets as they show everything. I ended up with black carpets and on an almost daily basis my OCD kicks in and I have to do a quick shake off or vacuum them.

The real secret with the DeWalt 20V Max 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac is that I wanted to be able to vacuum my car on the fly without the hassle of a large vacuum or a power cord! To say the least, this vacuum has changed my life (at least in a way that it makes it easy to keep my car clean) All joking aside, this handy little vacuum does a great job and solved a simple problem in doing small cleanup jobs on the fly.

Final Thoughts

When you first start using the DeWalt 20V Max 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac, you may think that it is under powered and lacks suction. However, understand its place in the world of cleanup and vacuums. This is not a shop dust extractor or shop-vac replacement and should never be thought of as such.

Once you understand this, you’ll find that where this little guy shines is in doing the small stuff. It’s ideal for picking up that small mess and sucking up the dirt of your car carpets. Compared to a larger corded vacuum, it doesn’t have as much suction power and can struggle with larger objects (this is kinds of obvious given its 1-1/4 inch suction hose size), but this is less and less an issue as you find its niche around smaller clean up jobs.

As far as battery life, on a fully charged battery, I was able to fully vacuum out both my Volkswagen CC and my wife’s Toyota Highlander with one bar left on the battery power meter. That’s pretty solid for any vacuum as they are energy hogs.

My only real complaint for the vacuum is that it is loud. I did not have a decibel meter on me, but It seemed that this vacuum operates at a volume level that is higher than some of my corded models. All and all I like it, and I’ll keep it in a handy place where I can help keep my OCD tendencies in check.

DeWalt 20V Max 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac Key Features

  • Gore HEPA wet/dry filter traps 99.97% of dust at 0.3 microns
  • Dual clean-up modes allow for debris removal with either the front utility nozzle or extendable rubber hose
  • 1/2 gallon tank with heavy-duty latch is easy to empty and clean
  • Washable filter; Tap or water rinse to clean
  • Heavy-duty rubber hose provides durability and flexibility
  • Large on/off switch that is easy to access with one hand
  • Runs off of 20V Max DeWalt battery packs for long run-time

DeWalt 20V Max 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac Specifications

  • Model: DeWalt DCV517M1 (kit), DeWalt DCV517B (bare)
  • Power Source: DeWalt 20V Max battery pack
  • Tank Size: ½ Gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 1-1/4”
  • Hose Length: 2.5 feet
  • Weight: 3.8 pounds (bare)
  • Filtration: HEPA wet/dry filter traps 99.97% of dust at 0.3 microns
  • Battery: DCB204 20V Max Lithium-ion (included)
  • Charger: 20V Max DCB115 Charger (included)
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Price: $219 (kit), $109 (bare)

Related articles