As in offices and in manufacturing plants, robots are slowly taking over homes. Many individuals have replaced standard cleaning items such as mops and vacuum cleaners with robotic cleaners for many reasons. Their compact designs, for instance, are ideal for homes. They penetrate and clean areas where mops and vacuum cleaners cannot reach. They also have powerful and fully automated designs that detect dirty areas and clean them without the intervention of people.
Because of their superior designs, robotic vacuum cleaners play an important role in homes. If you are tired of mopping the floor manually on a day-to-day basis, our recommended brands will serve you well. These are dependable products. They clean without the intervention of their owners. They also have versatile designs that clean most floors.
Top 5 Best Robot Vacuums
iRobot Roomba 690
The iRobot Roomba 690 harnesses the power of three different types of cleaning brushes to get your floors clean. It was able to turn in a practically perfect performance on our cleaning tests with breakfast cereal and kitty litter.
It struggled somewhat on pet hair, though, like most of the vacuums we tested. Much of the hair was wrapped around the brushes instead of in the dustbin, but at least it was cleared from the flooring. The 690 was noticeably easy to use for lots of reasons. You can control it with your voice using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. You can also just push one button on the top of the machine or use a smartphone app. The app was easier to use than some of the other robot vacuum apps. The robot also has its own voice and it will play recorded messages to let you know about any errors it is experiencing so you don’t have to guess. The Roomba 690 had a great run at my house. It moved in and around table legs and cleaned on several different types of rugs and flooring. It needed very little human help to keep cleaning, unlike some machines that would get stuck on flooring transitions and other obstacles. It is a bit taller than some, so it could not clean under a very low-slung wooden chest, but it got under the couches and most other things just fine. The 690 runs for about an hour and thirty minutes, which is about average, but its three-hour charge time is faster than most. That way it can get back to cleaning fast.
- Strong suction left our test floors very clean.
- You can control this vacuum with its own button, Amazon Alexa or a phone app.
- Roomba 690 plays recordings of error messages in a human voice when it needs help.
- There were vacuums that did a better job on dog hair.
- It was too tall to clean under a wooden chest in my house.
- There were vacuums with longer run times.
iLife V3s Pro
The iLife V3s Pro was downright amazing on hardwood flooring. It scooped up more Cheerios, kitty litter, and even dog hair than any other machine. This one was a true standout on pet hair collection.
While others were tangling dog hair tightly around their brushes or leaving it on the floor, the V3’s brushless design allowed it to scoop all debris quickly into its dustbin. The V3 was pretty good at navigating its way through my house as well. It was able to get under some of the stuff that is lower to the ground, including couches with heavy dust ruffles, and keep cleaning. The V3s did struggle with some of the flooring transitions. When it tried to go from hardwood flooring onto different kinds of rugs it would get stuck and even shut down in some cases. It also stopped on the tall transitions such as a transition from hardwood floor to tile in my house. That means it is a little less self-sufficient than others. The V3s were pretty user-friendly. The best robot vacuum cleaners have lots of different controllers and this one has options. You do not get the option of a smartphone app. The lack of a display screen and the fact that there are no pre-recorded voices make it a little less user-friendly so we really didn’t know what was wrong with this one at times. It also has a bit of a long recharge time when compared to the others so when it is done you have to wait a while to get cleaned again.
- This one was excellent at cleaning up dog hair.
- The low price is nice for the budget-conscious.
- One-button operation makes it pretty user-friendly.
- This one was unable to climb over some flooring transitions on its own.
- The relatively long charging time cuts down on cleaning time somewhat.
- The lack of a smartphone app option will be a drawback for some users.
One of the reasons to get a robot vacuum is that it takes one chore off your list but many of them get stuck so often that you could end up spending the same amount of time babysitting them as you would just vacuuming the flooring with your trusty upright or canister. The Eufy 11S is blissfully self-sufficient so you should be able to really leave it alone and expect it to keep on vacuuming.
This unit went up and over some of the most dramatic flooring transitions in the test home – from hardwood to tile, from hardwood to carpets and back again – without missing a minute. There were a handful that also did that but most of those could not go under as many things as the 11S. It was able to go over anything and under anything, even the couches that were close to the ground. The taller machines treated the low furniture like walls and turned away. The 11S also had very respectable numbers on the suction tests, clearing our test floor in our lab of Cheerios, kitty litter, and dog hair. It did have quite a bit of dog hair stuck in its brushes after testing, so you end up cleaning the machine after it cleans the floors. One other drawback is a relatively long recharge time of five hours. Once it is out of juice it will be a while before it can clean again. This machine is pretty easy to control – you just use the button on top or the included remote. Some people might miss the option of smartphone control, though, which most of the best robot vacuums provide.
- This machine sailed over even the tallest transitions.
- The 11S is short so it can also go under low-slung furniture.
- This one scored high on suction tests.
- A lot of dog hair ended up stuck to the brushes instead of in the dustbin.
- A relatively long recharge time will mean a bit of a wait between cleanings.
- It lacks a smartphone app.
Neato Botvac Connected D4
Neato Botvac Connected D4 is great for larger homes because it requires very little downtime for recharging.
It can clean for over an hour before it needs more power. When it does, it recharges smartly. It can do a sort of mini-recharge that will help it finish a specific cleaning project before it needs a good long charge. Even the long charge is relatively short at less than two hours. That means it can get back to cleaning in less than half the time of many competing vacuums. This is also one of the highest-scoring for suction, so it also does a thorough job. One drawback with the D4 is a large initial investment but the fast recharge times will be worth it, especially if you need it to cover a lot of ground.
- Recharges in less than half the time of most competing units.
- A relatively large initial investment will not fit every budget.
Ecovacs Deebot N79S
None of the vacuums in our review were whisper quiet but the Ecovacs Deebot N79S was close. It generated just 63 decibels of sound, which is amazing compared to the loudest ones, which generated more than 75 dB.
Normal conversation generates about 60 decibels, which means you likely won’t have to yell over the Deebot. This one would occasionally get stuck on some flooring transitions during testing but it was mostly self-sufficient. There were units as quiet as this one but Deebot has the distinction of being quiet and scoring over 90% on suction tests. That’s a great combination.
- Strong suction and quiet.
- This vacuum got stuck on flooring transitions during some of our tests.
What Does a Robot Vacuum Cleaner Do?
This question may seem obvious, but there are actually multiple answers. First, robotic vacuum cleaners use suction and spinning brushes to remove debris from floors while moving through a room autonomously. Their role in overall housekeeping is still debatable, however. In their earlier days, almost everyone agreed that robot vacuums were meant to play a supportive role – for maintenance in between real, human-powered deep cleanings. That may be changing, along with overall trends in cleaning, especially since suction on robot vacuum cleaners has gotten so much better over the years.
“Its suction may not be as high (as an upright) but the fact is it’s going to be cleaning regularly, automatically,” said Maes. “Your room is going to stay cleaner so you don’t have to do that deeper clean.”
The same type of idea has taken root at Dyson – cleaning more often so deep cleaning is not necessary. Josh Mutlow, Senior Design Engineer at Dyson, said they are no longer even developing traditional uprights. They are focused on making super-strong stick units that are meant to be used for quick clean-ups daily so that when you get to the end of the week you don’t need a long session of cleaning your floors because they never had a chance to get dirty.
How We Tested
For this round of testing, our laboratory staff built an elevated surface covered with hardwood flooring in a small room in order to observe vacuum behavior. Vacuuming patterns were filmed from above and staffers laid down three types of messes in order to gauge performance – the same amount of kitty litter, cereal, and dog hair. They then weighed how much each vacuum cleaner was able to extract of each. The more they removed from the floors, the better the score.
Our home testing was conducted on the living, dining, kitchen, and bedroom areas of a 1400-square-foot house. The robotic vacuums had to be clean around two couches, several chairs, and a dining room table. We observed whether they could weave through the chair and table legs to keep cleaning. We also considered whether they could effectively clean on many different types of surfaces in the home – two types of area rugs, wood flooring and tile, and the transitions between those flooring types. We also made note of which ones could go under couches with a heavy dust ruffle and under a low-slung wooden chest as well.
We also compared the specifications on each, including their run and charge times. We considered what kind of brushes they use and also how easy their display and other features make it to understand what might be going on inside the vacuum at any given moment.
How Much Does a Robot Vacuum Cost?
You can expect to pay about $450 for a good robot vacuum cleaner, judging by the average price of the five bestselling units on Amazon, Best Buy and Home Depot. We tested products ranging from $150 to $500. You generally get what you pay for in this category, though our top pick was only the fourth most expensive. The most expensive ones were noticeably better in a few ways, though, in terms of suction and self-sufficiency. Generally speaking, you end up having to babysit the cheaper ones, and they don’t pick up quite as much.
Are Robot Vacuums Worth It?
The answer is yes, depending on a few things. First, it depends on whether you have pets. If you do, a robot vacuum is definitely worth it. Pet owners know that vacuuming and dusting regularly can keep pet hair under control for the most part, but no one likes to vacuum more than once a day or to follow their pet around with a vacuum cleaner – the only way to keep your home pristine if you have heavy shedders. Even the fairly mediocre robot vacuums we tried did a good job of keeping pet hair at bay.
Second, it depends on where you plan to use it. Even our favorite robot vacuum cleaners struggled with carpeting. However, they were amazing on hardwood flooring. If you have a lot of hardwood flooring, a robot vacuum is a great investment.
Third, it depends on how you plan to use it. These machines have gotten better and better over the years we’ve tested them, but they do not replace a human being with a broom and a mop. They can keep your place tidy between deep cleanings, though, especially if you have pets, as mentioned above.
Charging Base Upgrades: Are They Worth It?
The robot vacuum marketplace is crowded with new products joining the selection regularly. Some of the latest models offer upgrades not only to the unit itself but to its charging station. The Shark ION robot vacuum, for instance, offers a separate handheld vacuum cleaner that stores and charges on the back of the vacuum cleaner base. You can use it for spots that the robotic vacuum cannot reach, including furniture and stairs. The version with the handheld vacuum costs about $500, and we are not convinced it’s worth it for most people. The handheld vacuum was not too strong in our tests. The ION scored pretty high, though. Since that is the real reason you buy one of these units, we recommend the version without the handheld vacuum.
The latest Roomba from iRobot has a vacuum to empty the robot vacuum. That solves one of the annoying limitations of all robot vacuum cleaners – their tiny dustbins. The typical robot vacuum dustbin needs to be emptied constantly, and there is no graceful way to do it. The dirt and hair go everywhere, every time. The i7 essentially vacuums out its own dustbin, and you only have to worry about getting rid of the bag inside the base periodically. This Roomba costs about $1,000 so it is off the radar of a lot of shoppers, and out of our price range for this comparison, but it represents the type of upgrade it now takes to stand out in the crowded robot vacuum field.
Are Robot Vacuums Safe for Wood Floors?
You don’t have to worry about robot vacuum cleaners on your hardwood floors. Hardwood flooring is their specialty and the brushes are not stiff enough to scratch. We tested them on flooring in a 103-year-old home and the floors looked great afterward – not a scratch on them. There was some chatter online about how early robot vacuums could scrape hardwood flooring with their front wheel, but we have never had a problem, even after testing for hundreds of hours over the years with multiple models from many manufacturers.
What’s the Best Robot Vacuum for Hardwood Floors?
Almost all robot vacuums do well on hardwood floors, including our best overall pick, the iRobot Roomba 690. However, in our testing, the iLife V3s Pro was even a little better at cleaning hardwood flooring. Carpeting is where robot vacuums sometimes struggle, at least on higher-pile carpets. They do fine on low-pile carpeting – the kind you find in offices.
“The hard floor performance is usually going to be as good as an upright. The carpet performance usually is not quite as good as you see in an upright,” said vice president of marketing for Neato Robotics, Stephane Maes.
That was definitely our experience in testing. The wood floors looked great post-test. A few of the vacuums got stuck on carpeting and were not able to clean it at all. Others took a few swipes at the carpeting but didn’t get all the messes, or they just seemed to collect carpet fuzz more than anything else.
Keeping Robot Vacuums Out of Problem Areas
Robotic vacuum cleaners are meant to take one chore off of your list, but your home may not be prepared for a robot vacuum to operate smoothly. These machines can be tripped up by cords, clothing, flooring transitions and much more. Designers have tackled these problems in a number of different ways. Here are some options for keeping robot vacuums away from danger zones:
Some units come with a small device that shoots an infrared beam across a threshold to keep the robot vacuum away. Usually, they offer blockage from 4 to 7 feet.
These are magnetic strips that a robot vacuum’s sensors read and know to avoid. These keep the robot vac from running into objects in your home.
Many modern models offer smartphone apps with mapping capabilities. You can use the app to tell the robot which rooms to clean and which to avoid.
Some Neato models take it one step further and let you section off not just rooms, but portions of rooms. It’s like having a virtual boundary marker that sections off problem areas – a Christmas tree skirt or pet bowl areas. You just swipe off-limits areas in the virtual floor plan of your home on your phone’s screen. Then the Botvac (the versions that integrate with that software) won’t go there.
Care & Maintenance for Robot Vacuums
The best robot vacuum cleaners have a lot of moving parts, so they require some maintenance for optimal performance. Here are some tips on getting the most out of yours:
- Do Not Overfill: This can be easy to do with tiny bins that are typical of these machines. Many of them do not have full-bin indicator lights, either. It is up to you to remember.
- Clean the Brushes: Take time to pick the hair out of brushes and wash them thoroughly on a regular basis. They will struggle to spin and pick up more hair and debris if you skip cleaning them.
- Clean the Wheels: Wheels also need regular cleanings. They won’t turn or grip as well if they are coated in dirt.
- Update Often: The best robot vacuum cleaners come with a phone app that will update itself on a regular basis, but it is still worth checking for updates from time to time to ensure optimal performance.
Is There a Roomba That Vacuums & Mops?
Depending on the model you choose, a robot vacuum can substantially reduce how frequently you need to vacuum the normal way. But what about mopping? Can robot vacuums also mop hard floors? The answer is “sort of.” A few models allow you to attach a cleaning rag to the robot vacuum itself or a separate unit, which allows it to mop as it vacuums. In our latest comparison, there are only a couple of robot vacuums that mop, including the bObsweep bObi PetHair Plus, and the ones we tested didn’t mop very well – they didn’t even come close to cleaning as well as a person with a bucket and mop can.
Generally, the mopping feature consists of a microfiber cloth you attach to the machine so the floor gets wiped down after it is suctioned off. Roomba takes it one step further by including a separate mopping unit – the Braava – on some models, which makes its own rounds after the robot vacuum is done cleaning. We have not tested the Braava, but if it is anything like the other robot vacuums that integrate mopping, we have low expectations. Braava online user reviews are mixed.
Even with their smaller proportions, robot vacuums have the potential to create a lot of the same problems as full-sized machines for those with allergies and asthma. As with all types of cleaning, including vacuuming, the process of eliminating dust can kick up a lot of dust. If you have allergies or asthma, it is worth a little extra effort to make sure the cleaning process won’t make you sick.
Tips for Allergy Sufferers
Even with their smaller proportions, robot vacuums have the potential to create many of the same problems as full-sized machines. Any type of vacuum can kick up a lot of dust, which can affect those with allergies and asthma. If you have allergies or asthma, it is worth a little extra effort to make sure the cleaning process won’t make you sick.
Buying the right machine in the first place is a good starting point. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has not certified any robot vacuum cleaners as asthma and allergy-friendly yet. There are at least a few models that boast strong filters, though, which should help in containing dust and other allergens. Some robot vacuum filters even rise to the level of HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air), which meets U.S. Department of Energy standards for containing very small particles. Look for those and also use the type of precautions that make sense with all kinds of vacuum cleaners:
- Empty Often – Any time a vacuum of any kind gets too full there is the potential for it to throw debris back into the air.
- Empty Outside – Robot vacuum cleaners have tiny dustbins but they can still create quite the cloud when you empty them.
- Be Thorough – When possible, set your robot vacuum to go over high-traffic areas more than once.