Earlier this year we reviewed the Makita 18v Vac and found it to be a very handy cleanup tool, particularly if you already own a few other Makita 18v tools. But what if you like to tidy up and are more a Milwaukee loyalist? It turns out Milwaukee has you covered with an M18 vacuum that not only sucks, it blows too. Normally things that suck and blow are bad. Well, now that I think about it, sometimes blow . . . uh, never mind. The point here is that we mean suck and blow in the mechanical, non x-rated sense, and not in the “Dude, that like totally blows” sense either. Now that our semantics are crystal clear, we’d share our impressions of the 0880-20 wet/dry vacuum Milwaukee sent us to review here.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Milwaukee M18 Vac is that it looks like a tool box. The last thing most of Milwaukee’s demographic users want is to look like they’re running around a job site in a French Maid’s outfit with a feather duster in hand. Being a clean-freak just isn’t considered all that burly. So, our theory goes, Milwaukee devised a clever way to smuggle cleaning tools onto the job by disguising the vac as tool box. Genius!
When you open the top of the 0880-20 Milwaukee vac (using a pretty typical toolbox latch mechanism), you’ll find two covert cleaning heads and a spot for your 18v RedLithium battery, or even an old-skool Milwaukee NiCad. The heads (one nozzle, one wider head), attach to the flexible hose that resides in a caddy on the side of the vac. One end of the hose has a couple small nibs on it that enable you to lock/unlock the hose into the vac with a twist of the wrist. Given how small those nibs are it seems unlikely they’ll break, but not impossible. In a perfect world, one filled with unicorns and sexy french maids, we’d like to see a bit more robust locking mechanism (and the hose caddy on the more frequently used vacuum side so it could stay plugged-in). So far the nibs haven’t broken off or worn off. A small brush head would also be a welcome attachment, not that I’m a clean-freak or anything.
EDITOR’S NOTE: See the initial comments after the article on a simple solution to the hose caddy orientation. Also, after wishing the vac came with a brush attachment I picked up a little Shop-Vac brush attachment which fit perfectly. You can find the Shop Vac Accessory Brush for about $8 on Amazon.
Once you’ve made sure no one is watching, you can power up the vac with a simple rocker switch on the top of the box. The M18 Vac is remarkable powerful, which really surprised me given it’s size and battery-powered setup. It’s also remarkably loud, (in the mid 80’s dbs from about 3′ in our testing), which turned out to be our only substantive gripe with the M18 Vac. I’m not sure how feasible they’d be, but I’d love to see some engineering efforts directed more at making a quieter tool (not just by Milwaukee). Standard shop vacs that you find at most big box stores are notoriously loud, and this smaller Milwaukee vac unfortunately is not a stealth exception.
Debris can easily be dumped by unlatching the vac. Debris simply hangs out in the bottom of the box, which is also where you can access the vac’s HEPA filter assembly. According to Milwaukee, ” A washable, reusable wet/dry HEPA filter delivers excellent fine dust collection and does not need to be changed between wet and dry applications.” It’s a simple but effective design. One surprise feature for us was the realization that in addition to the vacuum port, there’s also a blower port on the opposite side of the box. When it comes to blowing sawdust off tools and work areas, not everyone wants to fire up their air compressor just for a quick tidying up. With the crevice nozzle attachment, I found the blower feature to be almost as handy as the vacuum feature. And, switching between the two is an absolute breeze (or strong wind).
So, whether you’re a closet clean-freak, or you just need a relatively compact blower and vac combo, I think you’ll be well served by this vac. You can find the Milwaukee M18 Cordless Vac on sale for just under $100 from our sponsor Ohio Power Tool. Note, the battery pack and charger are not included.