Why are people so obsessed with robot vacuums?
It's time to find out.
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Let’s be frank — cleaning is awful. There’s nothing worse than waking up on a Sunday morning, already dealing with the Sunday scaries, and realizing that your home is a mess. But before you pull out the old vacuum cleaner, broom, and dust pan, maybe it’s time to consider a tool that does the work for you, and no, I’m not talking about hiring a maid.
Robot vacuums are a major trend when it comes to keeping your home clean and tidy. Simply unpack the robot vacuum, plug it in, and away it goes, sucking up dust and crumbs the house over. But let’s be real, in 2020 robot technology has made some serious advances, and automated vacuums are better than ever. Make last minute plans to have company over after work? Using a smartphone app you can tell your robot vacuum to get to work before you even leave the office. Realize your kid left a highway-sized trail of Cheeze-It crumbs across the kitchen when you’re running out the door? Ask Alexa to clean it up.
Robot vacuums aren’t perfect, and according to Reviewed’s resident expert Jonathan Chan, they’re best when people “view them as floor maintainers in between manual cleanings.” So it’s better not to think of them as a replacement for a traditional vacuum, but as an assistant to help along the way to a spotless home that would make Martha Stewart proud.
Still not convinced that you should make the plunge and invest in what is basically a live-in-maid? We’ve gathered eight reasons people are obsessed with robot vacuums to help sweep away the confusion about one of the most helpful cleaning products you can buy today.
1. They do the work when you’re away
The most obvious reason why people purchase a robot vacuum: they literally do (most of) the dirty work for you. The biggest draw here is that while you’re out living your life, your robot vacuum is on the frontlines cleaning up the dust, pet hair, and crumbs left behind from your everyday life. Each product works in its own way, but many of them can be set to a specific schedule so you never have to be around while it’s cleaning.
2. They’re great for people who have pets
Having a four-legged friend is an absolute joy; being covered in Fluffy’s fur is not. If your pet sheds as much as my pug Wrigley, you’re probably constantly sweeping up dog or cat hair. Luckily, many robot vacuums were made with pets in mind — and we tested plenty of models to see which one reigned supreme in the battle of the pets. After picking up 75 percent of pet hair, we found that the iRobot Roomba i7+ is the best option if you basically live in a zoo.
When considering which robot vacuum is best for pet owners, be sure to look for an option that can trap fur, dander, and potentially litter without getting clogged. Writer Camryn Rabideau swears by her robot vacuum, saying it’s the best thing she ever purchased as a pet owner. It’s also worth noting that many pets enjoy a good ride on a Roomba.
3. They’re available in every budget
It’s a misconception that robot vacuums are crazy expensive. Don’t get me wrong, there are high-end models that come with a bunch of extra bells and whistles. But when it comes down to it, you can find a version to fit your needs without having to get a second mortgage on the house you’re trying to keep clean. We tested dozens of affordable cleaners to find the best one for the bang — and at $159, the Eufy Robovac 11S was the clear winner. Our testers found that its slim design allowed it to clean more areas while sufficiently picking up dirt.
4. Advanced models can literally clean themselves after cleaning your home
One of the downsides of these friendly robot cleaners is that due to their small size, they need to be emptied frequently, as the little guys can only hold so much dust. iRobot — the brand that popularized the machines in the first place — saw the issue and created a solution: a smart vacuum that can empty its own dust bin. The iRobot Roomba i7+ comes with a special docking station that uses a vacuum method to clean out the Roomba, placing the dirt and debris in a sealable bag that only needs to be replaced once every month or two. Of course, a more advanced model is going to come at a higher price tag, and this guy will set you back about $1,000 (unless you buy him on sale, which we recommend—the i7+ goes down to about $700–$800 when it’s on sale).
5. You can control them with your smartphone
Reviewed has tested a number of smart robot vacuums that come with special apps to make controlling the device easier when you’re not actually home. One powerful but affordable option is the Neato Botvac Connected, which we consider one of the best connected products available right now. With the handy app you can schedule cleanings in advance or directly control the unit to tell it where to clean. Many advanced apps let you use your phone to draw borders or maps of your home so it knows where to clean and where not to clean.
In fact, our favorite smart robot vacuum of 2020, the LG Hom-Bot Turbo+ CR5765GD, has a HomeGuard feature that uses cameras to allow the vacuum to double as an in-house security system. According to Chan, “you can instruct the Hom-Bot to park in front of a main entrance and take pictures whenever anything bigger than a dog walks past.” But if you just want your vacuum to, well, vacuum, there are plenty of indoor security camera options available.
6. They pair with Google Home or Amazon Alexa
Adding to the advanced smart apps that make robot vacuums so handy, now many models can pair with smart speakers like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. One budget-friendly smart vacuum is the Eufy BoostIQ RoboVac 30C, which can pair with your home assistant to make cleaning a breeze. Imagine waking up and simply asking Alexa to clean the floors while you stay in bed to Netflix and chill.
7. They can work in pairs to vacuum and mop
What’s better than a hands-free device that vacuums the floor? One that has a buddy who also mops the floor. Using a process called “teaming” the iRobot Roomba i7+ and Braava Jet m6 work together to vacuum the floors then mop. As the Roomba finishes an area of your home it sends a notification to the Braava to fall in line and polish off the floor. Even better, when you buy the pair in a bundle you save 10% on the total cost. At over $1,000 for the set it’s definitely a pricer option, but does ultra convenience really have a price tag?
8. You probably won’t even know they’re there
Ultimately, the main reason people want a robot vacuum is the convenience of having something to do the work that you don’t want to do. And thanks to their slim design and quiet mechanics, chances are you probably won’t really ever know that there’s a tiny robot zooming around your house. Except for the occasional times you need to clean the dust bin, with the help of scheduling tools and automation you’ll rarely have to interact with the machine. Leave its charging base somewhere discreet and you might as well be at Hogwarts where house elves do your chores sight unseen.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.