Vacuuming the house is one of the most boring household jobs in the book – which often means we don’t do it often enough.
When science fiction writers imagined a better future it invariably included a robot who could carry out all the worst household tasks. Thankfully real life has caught up and – for the last couple of years – a reliable robot vacuum cleaner is now a reality.
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But is it as simple as binning your old upright vacuum and setting your robo vacuum up to clean while you sleep? Or are there pitfalls and issues to be aware of before you invest in a robot vacuum?
Read through our handy guide answering all the questions you may have about robot vacuums to help you decide:
Are Robot Vacuum Cleaners Worth It?
- Best Budget Robot Vacuums
- Best Mid-Price Robot Vacuums
- Best Top of the Range Robot Vacuums
- Pros & Cons of Robot Vacuums
First up what actually is a robot vacuum cleaner you may ask? Am I really going to get R2-D2 (or maybe better yet, C3PO?) to run the hoover around my house?
Well, not quite, no.
There are many different specifications of robot vacuum cleaners from the most basic to a super smart-home compatible model but basically they are a small, self-propelled robot which moves around a given room (or rooms) sucking up dust and dirt before scooting back to its base to recharge.
The idea being that you can set it up to vacuum your rooms by itself, so you can spend that precious time doing something else, safe in the knowledge you will return to spic and span floors.
How Do Robot Vacuums Work?
Robot vacuums use a series of sensors to make sure they do not bump into walls or fall down stairs as they work.
The more advanced the model the more technology they include so the top of the range robot vacuums (such as the IROBOT Roomba I7158) can build a map of your rooms so they can navigate every nook and cranny while avoiding hazards such as cables. And well you might expect it to, at around £899 a piece.
Wall sensors mean that the robot can tell when it is near a wall and can follow along the wall to vacuum right up to the edges of your room.
‘Cliff sensors’ can tell when a drop is looming so your vacuum will avoid the stairs and ‘bump sensors’ tell it to stop moving forwards if it bumps into an object such as a chair leg.
What can a robot vacuum do that a traditional vacuum cannot?
Most importantly it can vacuum while you are not there!
Once you have set up your robot vacuum and made sure the area is clear for it to vacuum (they’re clever but even a robot vacuum cannot clear up toys from the floor first!) then you can basically leave it to it. At least, not yet.
This should free up a number of hours each week when you would have been vacuuming to go do something else (personally I favour an extra hour of reading while eating cake but you may wish to do something more constructive with your newly-found free time!).
The other great thing about robot vacuums is that they charge themselves. Once they get low on power they can navigate themselves back to their charging point, dock and charge themselves up. You don’t have to remember to plug it in each night, like your mobile phone etc.
Another great plus about robot vacuums is that they are compact so – unlike a bulky traditional vacuum – they can easily fit underneath beds and tables to get those hard to reach spots clean.
Can you use a robot vacuum on the stairs?
In a word, no.
To date robot vacuums cannot navigate steps or stairs, so for now you will need to retain your traditional vacuum (or invest in a handheld model) to keep your stairs clean.
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How long does the battery on a robot vacuum cleaner last?
One charge can last for up to 2 hours which can mean if you have a large home it’ll need to recharge itself in the middle of cleaning your house.
Recharging takes about 2 to 3 hours so this can cause quite a delay to cleaning. Plus if you have a really deep pile carpet (so the robot has to use more energy to wheel through it) it could reduce the battery power substantially, meaning the robot has to recharge itself before the whole room is complete.
Should I run my robot vacuum every day?
Robot vacuum cleaners use less energy per unit of time than traditional vacuums so are usually classed as energy efficient. This means you won’t send your electricity bill soaring if you do choose to run your robo vac every day.
Most people find that running their vacuum on a schedule (say every week day at 8am once everyone has left for work/school) is the best option as it can work while you are out.
However if your house is fairly clean then running the robot vacuum a couple of times a week should suffice.
How often does a robot vacuum need to be emptied?
Unlike traditional vacuum cleaners which can hold a great deal of dust and dirt before they need to be emptied the small size of robot vacuums means that they need to be emptied much more frequently.
To keep your robot vacuum running at optimum efficiency it is wise to empty it after every cleaning cycle.
It’s a fairly simple and quick task to do though, so not a major time commitment.
Can a robot vacuum replace a traditional vacuum cleaner?
If you live in a bungalow, have no pets and are a clean and tidy person then a robot vacuum would probably be sufficient.
However for most people a robot vacuum is a labour saving device which they run alongside a traditional vacuum – rather than replace it.
Robot vacuums cannot work on stairs or curtains and are not as powerful as traditional vacuum cleaners so most people do a deep clean with a traditional vacuum every few weeks and then use their robot in between. They keep your home looking clean and tidy and make that manual job a little bit less of a chore.
A handheld vacuum is another good option to run alongside the robot vacuum for stairs and curtains for those with limited space.Table could not be displayed.
Can robot vacuum cleaners mop the floor?
Yes! Although they are often separate models.
So you need one robot that can wet mop and clean hard floors (such as the iRobot Braava 390T Floor Mopping Robot ) and a different model to vacuum the carpets (such as the Samsung VR20K9350WK robot vacuum cleaner).
There are some models that can do both if you have mostly hard flooring or very low pile carpet throughout such as this roborock S5 Robot Vacuum and Mop:
- Smart APP control: Use the Mi Home App for scheduling, zoned cleaning, spot cleaning, direction control, real-time monitor and customization. Compatible with Android, IOS, support Alexa voice control. 12-month warranty provided.
- Best-in-class Technology with smart sensors enables your house to be cleaned completely in the shortest time, support map and route planning, gentle hitting, anti-falling, jam-resistant and self-recharging.
- Synchronous Sweeping and Mopping: Sweeping system is designed to increase the wind utilization and draw all the dust into the dust bin with nothing left. Mopping system prevents the hemming, leaving no water streak and water stain at rest. Work once, thorough clean.
- 2000Pa Strong Suction and Multi-mode System: Carpet, Quiet, Mopping, Balanced, Turbo & Max mode, switching among different modes flexibly to meet request of different floor types. Enjoy your cleaning time.
- Ultra-high 5200mAh battery capacity: 150 minutes of constant working, ideal for big house and multi-room, low-pile carpet, hard floor, wood floor and all types of floor. Suggest NOT to use on dark or long-pile carpet.
Will a robot vacuum save me money?
A robot vacuum certainly can save you money but what they are more likely to give you is extra time, which in itself is useful (as the phrase goes ‘time is money!’).
If you usually hire a cleaner to clean your house with vacuuming being the largest slice of their job then a robot vacuum could mean you’re able to dispense with the cleaner or reduce their hours.
Although robot vacuums are generally more energy efficient than traditional vacuums you are unlikely to save much on your energy bill as a result because most people run a robot vacuum more often than they would have vacuumed with a traditional vacuum. Plus most people still use their traditional vacuum in between for a deep clean.
How to make your house robot vacuum friendly?
Once you have bought your robot vacuum you need to do a bit of preparation before letting it loose:
- Pick up toys, clothes and loose objects off the floor so the robot has a clear space to run
- Check for any loose cables that could get caught in the vacuum and tidy them away or place them behind a solid object so that robot won’t get tangled in them
- Rugs with loose tassels that could get caught in the vacuum should also be moved.
On its first few journeys follow the robot around to spot any major hazards, such as a lamp that might get knocked off a side table if the robot bumps into it, or a loose shoelaces hanging down from your shoe rack.
Once you’ve clocked all the potential hazards you’ll soon get the hang of setting up the room ready for your robot vac.
Some models come with virtual walls or magnetic tapes that can be used to fence off certain areas but if you don’t want to invest in these you can improvise with pieces of furniture or closed doors to keep your robot in the designated area.
What is the best value budget robot vacuum cleaner?
There are so many robot vacuum cleaners to choose from and it is wise to consider issues such as what flooring you have.
If it is all hard flooring then a lower powered vacuum is fine but if you have deep pile carpets then you might want to invest in a more expensive and powerful model.
Also how large your house is? The larger the house the longer charge you’ll want your robot to hold so it can cover the whole house without the need to recharge.
The best budget options
The Eufy BoostIQ RoboVac 11S which has great reviews on Amazon (over 4.5*s from more than 1,000 reviews) and is suitable for hard floors up to medium pile carpets. It is quiet to use and one charge can last up to 11 minutes and retails at around just £189.99 – significantly less than top line models.
- All-New RoboVac: Re-engineered to be the slimmest* RoboVac (2.85'') but with quiet operation and increased suction power at 1300Pa.
- BoostIQ Technology: Automatically increases suction power within 1.5 seconds when extra vacuuming strength is needed to get the best clean.
- A Quiet Clean: Vacuums for up to 100 minutes** on hardwood floors with consistent, powerful suction at a volume no louder than an operating microwave.
- Premium Features: Anti-scratch tempered glass-top cover for protection, infrared-sensor for evading obstacles, and drop-sensing tech to avoid falls. Automatically recharges so it's always ready to clean.
- What You Get: RoboVac 11S, remote control (2 AAA batteries included), charging base, AC power adapter, cleaning tool, extra set of high-performance filters, 4 side brushes, 5 cable ties, welcome guide, and our worry-free 12-month warranty.
The iRobot Roomba 605 Robot Vacuum Cleaner is ultra slim so it fits easily under furniture. It uses a three-stage cleaning system to push dirt and dust into its path to make sure it picks up everything:
- 3-Stage cleaning system picks up everything from small particles to large debris, to pet hair.
- The auto-adjust cleaning head automatically adapts its height to keep the dual multi-surface brushes in close contact with different floor surfaces, to effectively clean carpets as well as hard floors.
- Dirt detect sensors recognize concentrated areas of dirt and prompt the robot to clean them more thoroughly.
- Just press the “clean” button and Roomba goes to work, no programming required
- An early pioneer in robotics, iRobot was founded in 1990 with the vision of making practical robots a reality
The Bagotte BG600 Robot Vacuum Cleaner has strong cleaning power for its modest price and can tackle pet hair. It also takes itself back to its docking station when low on battery to recharge:
- HIGHLY RATED CLASSIC ROBOT VACUUM: Upgraded 1500Pa suction easily lifts dirt from floors and carpets. Strong suction but with a cleaning volume of just 55dB, without disruption. 2.7'' thickness design easy to thoroughly clean the area under the furniture.
- MOPPING FUNCTION: The vacuum robot features with vacuuming, sweeping and mopping, just Additional Purchase a water tank to achieve the Ultra 3-in-1 function, complete cleaning tasks in one trip.
- BOOST-INTELLECT TECHNOLOGY: Automatically switches to MAX power within seconds to pull dirts and hairs lodged in rugs, super climbing ability makes the robot vacuum cleaner move effortlessly from floor to carpet.
- EFFICIENT CLEANING MODES: Auto, Scheduling, Spot, Edge, Single Room & MAX Cleaning modes, switching among different modes flexibly to meet request of different floor types. Set cleaning schedule according to your living habit. 100 minutes of non-stop cleaning, ideal for big house and multi-room.
- SMART NAVIGATION SYSTEM: Multiple types of sensors combine to offer cliff sensing, collision avoidance and minimize the likelihood of entrapment. Anti-scratch tempered glass-top cover and bumper also provide strong protection for robotic vacuum cleaners. Automatic return to charge, so it is always ready to clean.
The best mid-range robot vacuums
The iRobot Roomba 692040 Robot Vacuum Cleaner is compatible with most smart phones so you can control it from your phone:
- iRobot has over 30 years of robotics expertise and innovation with over 30 million home robots sold worldwide. Whether you choose Roomba, Braava or both - your floors get the specialized care they need.
- 3-Stage Cleaning System - The 3-Stage Cleaning System grabs dirt, dust, and debris from carpets and hard floors
- Smart technology Home app works with Alexa and Google Assistant
- Works with your Voice Assistant - With voice assistant compatibility through Google Assistant and Alexa enabled devices, the e Series cleans your house at the sound of your voice. *Works with Google Home and Alexa enabled devices Alexa and all related logos are trademarks of Amazon.com or its affiliates. Google is a trademark of Google LLC
- Dual Multi-Surface Brushes - Multi-Surface Brushes grab everything from small dust to large debris from carpets and hard floors.
It’s a little more expensive but it’s rubber brush system means it does a decent job of picking up pet hair – handy if you have a dog or cats around the house.
The Coredy Robot Vacuum 3-in-1 Cleaner can – as the name suggests – vacuum, sweep and mop your hard flooring freeing up even more time. It also has an app so you can control the robot from your phone and it’s ‘Amazon Certified’ to work with Alexa too:
- Voice & App Controls: Voice & App Controls: Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands to conveniently start and stop cleaning. Use the smart App to control your R750 robot vacuum cleaner, monitor real-time cleaning/accessories status, customize cleaning modes/mopping levels/schedule cleaning, control cleaning direction, finds your robot effortlessly, and get access to our online support service whenever you need.
- Boost-Intellect Technology: R750 robot vacuum cleaner supports boost-intellect technology, enables it automatically increase suction power within seconds when carpet is detected, moves effortlessly from hard-surface floor to carpet, once off the carpet, normal suction returns. Upgrade vacuums up to 2200pa Max pure power suction strength for an impressive clean.
- Intelligent Mopping Cleaning System : R750 robot vacuum cleaner adopts latest mopping technology, equipped with an electronically controlled water pump, automated monitor and control the water level according to the dryness and humidity of the floor without spillage, you can get to enjoy a completely clean home from a intelligent mopping system.(a water tank and cleaning mop cloth included)
- Virtual Boundary Compatible: Coredy R750 Robot Vacuum Cleaner is compatible with virtual boundary, specialized new upgraded sensors detect Boundary Strips to ensure your robot only cleans the areas you want, 2x6.6ft boundary strips included in the package.
- What You Get: An R750 robotic vacuum cleaner, plus an array of vacuum cleaner accessories: 1x water tank included mop cloth, 2x 6.6ft magnetic boundary strips, 4x side brushes, 1x extra HEPA filter, 1x remote control, 1x charging dock, 1x AC power adapter, and 1x cleaning tool. (Warmly note: please kindly note the Coredy R750 is the upgrade version of R700, it owns the upgraded app, you can use the mopping function.)
The Eufy BoostIQ RoboVac 30C MAX has strong suction power whilst maintaining a slimline look. It also includes a special boost program to add extra suction when needed:
- All-New RoboVac: Re-engineered to boast our strongest ever suction power (2000Pa Max) while maintaining quiet operation and a super-slim design (2.85”).
- Wi-Fi Convenience: The EufyHome app, Alexa and the Google Assistant voice control-services let you accomplish your vacuuming needs with zero effort from you.
- BoostIQ Technology: Automatically increases suction power within 1.5 seconds when extra vacuuming strength is needed—so you get the best clean.
- Set Boundary Strips: RoboVac uses specialized dual-Hall Sensors to detect the Boundary Strips you set, ensuring it only cleans the areas required.
- What You Get: RoboVac 30C MAX, 13.2 ft Boundary Strips, remote control (2 AAA batteries included), charging base, AC power adapter, cleaning tool, extra set of high-performance filters, 4 side brushes, 5 cable ties, welcome guide, and our worry-free 12-month warranty.
The best top of the range robot vacuum cleaners
The NEATO Botvac Connected Robot Vacuum Cleaner has a D-shape design to help it to reach in every corner.
It can work on any type of flooring making it very versatile and can be controlled by an app.
It has its own navigation system so it learns the layout of your rooms ensuring it can avoid hazards:
- This Exclusive Package additionally includes: 1x ultimate pet brush, 2x filters, 1x cleaning tool, 1 side brush
- Pet hair, dust and allergens that linger in the home are first to go - The exclusive D-Shape design mimics corners of your home for a precise clean that round-shaped robotic vacuums simply can't do
- Protect valuable decor, pet bowls or heavy messes by creating "no-go" lines through the app which work as virtual boundaries so that the automatic vacuum knows what objects or areas to avoid
- Choose your clean - The Eco option gives a longer, quieter energy-saving clean while Turbo option provides a super-powered cleaning, with maximum hair pickup for a deeper clean
- Even with 120 minutes of run time per charge, Charge Time: Up to 150 minutes, the smart vacuum cleaner always goes back to its base to recharge if needed and picks up directly where it left off until the job is done
The IROBOT Roomba I7556 Robot Vacuum Cleaner has its own navigation system so it can map your home, remembering the layout of up to 10 different rooms and areas. It returns itself to charge when needed and has 75 minutes worth of charge:
- iRobot has over 30 years of robotics expertise and innovation with over 30 million home robots sold worldwide. Whether you choose Roomba, Braava or both - your floors get the specialized care they need.
- Forget about vacuuming for months - For up to 60 days, the i7+ automatically empties its bin into the Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal with AllergenLock bags that use 4 layers of allergen blocking material to trap 99% of pollen and mold.
- Cleans when, where, and how you want - With advanced navigation, the i7+ can clean messes where you want, when you want. And equally important, it can stay out of where you don’t want it to go.
- Vacuums messes in the moment - Cutting-edge mapping and smart navigation allow you to send the i7+ to messes when they happen, with just a simple command to your voice assistant*. *Works with Google Assistant and Alexa enabled devices Alexa and all related logos are trademarks of Amazon.com or its affiliates. Google is a trademark of Google LLC
- Small dust? Large debris? No problem - Vacuums stubborn messes with a 3-Stage Cleaning System that uses Dual Multi-Surface Rubber Brushes and 10X the Power-Lifting Suction*. *compared to the Roomba 600 series cleaning system
As you might expect for this price tag, this is next level cleaning. It can deal with pet hair but not only that it detects dirt, knowing some areas need more attention than others. It even empties itself into a dust storage bag inside its base, which holds up to 30 loads of cleaning – making emptying it a doddle too.
The Pros and Cons of robot vacuums
- They are small and compact so can easily clean under large pieces of furniture that ordinary vacuums find hard to reach
- If you own a pet you can run your robot vacuum every day making keeping on top of loose pet hair much more easily
- Robot vacuums can be smart-home friendly
- Many models work with Alexa or Google Home so they can be started with a voice command or set running while you are out and about.
You can leave them to it, freeing you up to do something else!
- Many models need to be emptied frequently, some after every clean cycle
- They can be noisy (don’t try to set it running while you sleep!)
- They can’t work on stairs so if you have a home with multi-levels
- They will need to be carried between each level
- And the stairs will need to be cleaned with a standard or hand-held vacuum
- They can’t see what they’re picking up so if they miss a bit (or hoover up your child’s favourite toy) they won’t notice!
Consumer tests have indicated that most models of robot vacuums are not as powerful as large upright vacuum cleaner and therefore their cleaning power is not as great.
As a result most people continue to use their traditional vacuum cleaner alongside a robot vacuum.
Robot vacuums are a great innovation for busy people. You can set them running while you are out at work so you get back to a nice clean home every day.
However as they can’t tackle stairs and are not as powerful as a traditional vacuum then you’ll likely need to keep your old vacuum too.
So a robot vacuum will not save you from ever having to hoover ever again but they will make it much easier to keep on top of day to day cleaning without so much effort.
Before we go…
If you do get a robot vacuum one of the most fun parts (aside from all the time-saving) is naming your robo-cleaning friend.
This is even more fun if you have one that’s controlled by an app as you may get notifications when ‘they’ get stuck, so thinking of a silly name that will make you smile is all part of the fun.
Some of our favourites include:
10 of the best names for your robot vacuum
- Alfred – at last, you get to be Batman and have Alfred clean up your mess
- Dusty – obviously
- C3PO – at last, a practical use for everyone’s favourite protocol droid
- R2D2 – come on, we all wish ‘Artoo’ was our friend, right?
- Obi-Wan Cleanobi – whilst we’re in the Star Wars theme
- Jeeves – a classic butler name: “Clean my room Jeeves!”
- Optimus Grime – the less well known brother of the leader of the Autobots
- Cleanardo Di Caprio – from Wolf of Wall Street to wolfing down your dirt!
- Dustbin Bieber – one for the teeny-pop fans
- Basil Brush – one for those of us old enough to remember to 80s TV icon!
Do share your favourite ideas in the comments – or let us know if you have any questions about robot vacuums, or tips if you already have one!
Last update on 2022-05-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API