Most robots can be programmed to clean on a schedule or can even be turned on with an app. Some are smart enough to self-empty their dirt bins and have mopping capabilities for wet cleaning.
Our rigorous lab tests find that robovacs usually clean hard floors pretty well, but they struggle with corners and carpet and can get tangled on rugs or snagged by pet toys. That said, a few of our favorites have features that help them overcome these issues.
Saves You Time
With a robot vacuum cleaner, you don’t have to be home while it is working. In fact, it’s possible to set it to work while you’re at work or on a vacation.
But robovacs have their drawbacks. They tend to get stuck under furniture, on door thresholds or thick rugs. They can also snag on things like shoelaces, phone chargers and pet toys. And they may run out of battery power trying to navigate obstacles or stairways.
To avoid these issues, CR experts recommend making sure your vac is docked in an open area that’s free of obstacles. Minimize clutter, and create a 3- to 5-foot-wide docking zone so the robot can locate and return to it easily. You also need to make sure the filter and dustbin are cleaned or emptied regularly to reduce the risk of damage. For a more thorough cleaning, some robots can double as automated mop heads and can remove water-based messes while they’re working.
Saves You Money
Robots are able to do their work when you’re at work or out of the house, which is a huge benefit for busy families. You don’t have to set aside time in your schedule to vacuum, as you can just program them to do it while you’re gone.
However, if you want to make sure they’re able to access hard-to-reach areas, you should clear out any free-standing obstacles like chairs, coffee tables, and rugs before each scheduled cleaning session. Otherwise, the robovac might get trapped or run down its battery trying to navigate around them.
Most robotic vacuums come with a small dustbin that needs to be emptied frequently. But some models can automatically empty their own bins into a larger clean base, which will eliminate the need for you to do it manually. Depending on the model you choose, this could save you up to two full trash bags a month. Many robotic cleaners also have a self-emptying wiper for quick, simple cleaning jobs.
Reduces Your Stress
Some robotic vacuum cleaners can be set to run even when you’re away from home. They’re programmed to map out a room, so they can navigate the space without you having to be there to guide them. They’ll automatically adjust for different floor surfaces and can even detect barriers like stairs or furniture, so they won’t get stuck or cause any damage. They’ll also let you turn them off when you’re ready to head out, so you can relax knowing your home is still clean when you return. Samantha Jones is a commerce editor at Better Homes & Gardens and writes about a wide variety of home products including removable wallpaper, steam irons, and robovac benefits.
Saves You Energy
The robovac can be scheduled to work while you’re at work or on vacation, so it keeps your home clean without needing your supervision. This can be particularly helpful for people with mobility and vision issues or those who have allergies to dust and pet dander.
Robots typically use a bagless system to hold the dirt they collect and only need their bins emptied regularly. Some also require periodic maintenance to keep them working properly — for example, a filter needs to be cleaned and/or replaced every three or four cycles or as recommended by the manufacturer.
However, a robovac can’t fend for itself against obstructions like thick carpets or door thresholds and may get stuck or snagged on objects such as shoelaces, cords and pet toys, which need to be removed manually before the robot can continue its rounds. And, unlike traditional vacuums, most robovacs aren’t designed to climb stairs. Still, these limitations don’t detract from the overall benefits of a robotic cleaner.