Hang around the Internet long enough, and you will see hacks that will supposedly change your life. Everything in your pantry has a secret, awesome off-label use, and every distasteful chore you have on your to-do list can be made easier with some creativity (and perhaps a pool noodle).
But not all hacks are on the same level. There are some truly innovative ideas out there that definitely add value to your everyday routines, but some hacks are really just alternative ways of doing things without much benefit to them—and some actually make things harder.
For example, if you live in an area of the country that experiences significant snowfall every year, you may have glanced at the calendar and realized that winter is coming—and with it, snow to shovel. If you search around for hacks, you may have read that using that wet-dry vac in your garage to suck up the snow will make your life easier. While this will, technically, work, it will most likely not make your life or your snow removal experience easier. In fact, it will make it actively worse.
Using a wet-vac for snow is too slow
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Shoveling or even blowing snow off your property and sidewalks can be tedious as it is—if you have a lot of property to clear you’ll spend a few hours out there stamping your feet and cursing the weather. So the idea of magically vacuuming up the white stuff might seem like a brilliancy. Except vacuuming snow will take you much, much longer.
If you have a larger vacuum with a wider attachment, it might go a little faster. But you’ll also be dealing with different types of snow cover—light, fluffy snow might get sucked up more easily, but dense, soggy snow will be a slow, grinding process.
A wet-dry vac full of snow is way too heavy
Let’s say that you have a super-powered shop vac with an enormous attachment that makes short work of even the slushiest snow. Great! If you have an average wet-dry vac with a capacity of about 12 gallons, you’re going to fill that sucker up fast. Even if you have a monster wet-dry vac with a 30-gallon capacity, you won’t get far before you have to stop vacuuming, open up the vac, and dump out the snow.
And a larger capacity also means your wet-dry vac will be heavy. There’s a reason so many people have heart attacks shoveling snow—it’s heavy, heavy stuff. Depending on how dense it is, snow can weigh about 20 pounds per cubic foot, and that 30-gallon vac can hold about four cubic feet of stuff. So at full capacity, you’re hauling 80 pounds of snow, then dumping it out. Repeatedly. Even a 12-gallon wet-dry vac is about 1.5 cubic feet, so you’re lugging 30 pounds of snow around.
A wet-dry vac can’t handle ice
If you walk out of your door to a winter wonderland of dry, fluffy snow, maybe you can get away with vacuuming it up. And if you’re absolutely determined to be cool and avant-garde and use your shop vac, you might chew your way through some dense, wet snow. But your wet-dry vac will do absolutely nothing about snow that has been tramped down by passing pedestrians, or frozen into solid ice by extremely cold temperatures.
Yes, that’s also a problem you face when using a snow blower—but the blower at least has the advantage of being a faster and more efficient tool for the purpose even if you have to go back over your work with a scraper or some kind of ice melt. And if you’re shoveling you can scrape that rock-like ice up as you go.
Put these three factors together and what you get with the wet-dry vac solution is a slow, grueling process that stops feeling like a hack about half an hour in. Will it work? Yes, it will work. Your wet-dry vac will suck up that snow just fine. Is it better than shoveling or blowing that snow (or hiring local urchins to do it for you)? Probably not. So it’s not much of a hack.
We all wish we could find a way to just make snow disappear from our sidewalks, front steps, and yards. Someday science may hear our pleas. But for now, leave the wet-dry vac in your shop and get to shoveling.