When we first started testing robot vacuums about five years ago, people had very general questions: “Are they worth it?” or “Do they work?” But as the automated cleaners have become more commonplace and consumers have accepted robots into their homes, the queries have become more specific and focused on how to get the most use out of the cleaning power.
One question that keeps coming up (especially in the summer months) is, “Can robot vacuums deal with sand?” After going through the data of hundreds of test runs and dozens of different robot vacuum models, we’ve come to an astoundingly scientific conclusion: It depends.
How well do robot vacuums clean?
Back in the day, people who purchased robot vacuums often returned them disappointed. The name robot vacuum makes you think it should just turn your floors from dirty to clean after a single run, but that’s rarely the case. Nowadays, there are a few models that fit the bill, however, our testing has shown that robot vacuums are better described as floor maintainers. If you run them every day, in between manual cleanings, you’ll be satisfied.
In fact, one of the reasons you still need to manually clean is the fact that most robot vacuums have trouble dealing with dust and sand.
Can robot vacuums even clean sand?
Fine dust and sand give vacuums trouble because static causes them to adhere to the floor. Individual grains of sand can range from 1/16th of a millimeter to 2 millimeters in diameter. Typically, robot vacuums have an easier time dealing with large grain sizes because they don’t sink into carpets and don’t generate as much static.
Which robot vacuums work best at picking up sand?
In our labs, we have tested three models that can handle what you may track home after your next trip to the beach.
• iRobot i7+: One way to overcome sand’s attraction to the floor is to use powerful suction. The i7+ performed extremely well in our debris pickup test and can even empty itself for the ultimate set-it-and-forget experience. With the app, the i7+ can also focus only on trouble spots like near entrances and mudrooms.
• Neato D7: The D7 is also a powerhouse. It has a 10.5-inch cleaning path, one of the widest in the industry. The brush head uses a combination of a rubber scraper and soft bristles that peel sand off then sweeps it up. You may also notice that Neato robot vacuums are D-shaped, this has the advantage of allowing the unit to get flush against walls, a place where sand tends to collect.
• Ecovac Deebot 930: This unit has the most unique solution: a mop. It’s a bit of a pain to attach, but once the microfiber cloth is in place, it wipes sand away. The 930 utilizes a water tank to mop, so it’s a wet clean only suitable for hardwood floors. In more sandy situations, you can tell the 930 to clean areas twice via the app.