Cleaning your home can be gratifying, however it is ultimately a thankless chore. I love a clean house, but the act of cleaning it… not so much. There is a way to take some of that seemingly endless cleaning off your plate. You guessed it: I’m talking about robot vacuum cleaners.
You found this article either because you are set on buying a robot vacuum cleaner and want to make sure of what you are buying, or you can’t find the time to clean, or you just want to find a solution to the ongoing argument of whose turn it is to clean the floors. I have done my best to outline everything you might want and need to know before spending your hard-earned money.
By researching expert and customer reviews, I put together this article to help identify what important features to look out for when shopping for robot vacuum cleaners, and also to shine a light on some common issues. I have also included my pick of the 5 Best Robot Vacuum Cleaners in 2021.
This article covers:
- Are robot vacuum cleaners worth it?
- Possible drawbacks of robot vacuum cleaners
- What if my robot vacuum cleaner breaks?
- Important features to look out for
- Brands featured in this article
- My pick for the 5 Best Robot Vacuum Cleaners in 2021
Are robot vacuum cleaners worth it?
Unless you absolutely love cleaning, robot vacuum cleaners are amazing, and thanks to competition and innovation they are now more affordable than ever. Robot vacuum cleaners will work tirelessly, day in and day out, to clean up after you, your pets, and your kids. Life is busy and time is precious. While not all chores can be automated, cleaning your floors can be.
On the flip side, seeing a robot vacuum cleaner moving in an unpredictable pattern and potentially missing dirt every now and again could be infuriating for some people. Make sure that you have a cool-off period of two weeks or more in which you can change your mind if you are unhappy with your purchase.
These little worker bee robots collect and scoop up dirt with a combination of brushes and suction. Most robot vacuum cleaners have mobile apps to set cleaning schedules and no-go zones. The more advanced models will map out your home using smart sensors (laser sensors in some cases). Many of them also have the option of voice control using Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Some high-end models will vacuum and mop your floors all in one and can be used on multiple levels of your home, provided you don’t mind carrying it up and down the stairs. A few models will even empty themselves into their docking station, which means that you can completely set aside cleaning floors for weeks at a time.
Possible drawbacks of robot vacuum cleaners
My robot vacuum cleaner is one of the best purchases I have ever made. However, you should be under no illusion: they do not completely replace your upright/canister vacuum. Even though they do not have suction as powerful as their non-robot counterparts, they do a fantastic job of keeping floors and carpet surfaces dirt and grit free.
Robot vacuum cleaners do not promise a perfect clean, especially on embedded dirt and hair in carpets, and very fine dirt (think baking powder as a reference). Robot vacuum cleaners do promise consistent cleaning that is effortless for you except when you have to empty its dust tray.
In my experience, I find that it is much better to turn over your chairs onto the dining table the way you would see in a restaurant, this way it won’t get stuck navigating through the chairs. I typically do a deep clean with my regular vacuum cleaner once every month or two. Also, robot vacuum cleaners are useless at cleaning the inside of a car.
Robot vacuum cleaners need a clear run and can easily get stuck on charger cables or clothes that are lying around. Also, if you have a pet that might leave a mess on your floor accidentally, the robot vacuum cleaner could end up smearing it as it passes over – not ideal.
What if my robot vacuum cleaner breaks?
All robot vacuum cleaners require new parts and maintenance throughout their service. Most times it is as simple as the company sending you the replacement part that you can replace with a few instructions and a screwdriver. However, these maintenance costs do add up over time.
Durability can be an issue, mainly with cheaper brands. As with most things, you get what you pay for. Some brands have a reputation for reliability and durability, whereas other brands simply offer cheap alternatives that are not designed to be repaired. They may be just as capable and do a great job, but what is the point if it has an irreparable breakdown in less than a year?
Be sure of the quality reputation of the brand you are buying from. Customer reviews are very informative in this regard.
Important features to look out for
Run time on a full charge
60 minutes of runtime is considered more than enough for apartments and smaller homes. For average to larger sized homes, or if you have multiple rooms in need of cleaning, 90 minutes+ should do the job. You ideally want the robot vacuum cleaner to be able to clean the whole floor area on a single charge. Some models include fast charging, which allows it to charge up just enough to finish the job.
What do you need it to clean?
Some robot vacuum cleaners are great for cleaning uncarpeted floors (hardwood/tiled/smooth), some are great for cleaning carpets, and some are great at cleaning both. Consider whether you have no carpets, all carpets, or a combination of both. If you need mopping added into the mix, some robot vacuum cleaners do both mopping and vacuuming in one. At the very premium end you can get a vacuum robot and a mopping robot that work as a team to keep your floors spotless.
Mobile app control
Mobile app control is not essential for a robot vacuum cleaner, but it makes control and programming easier. Similarly, many app-controlled robot vacuums will also have basic voice control via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. These features are not an absolute must, but they can be very convenient and useful. For example, in my nighttime routine for Alexa, when I say “Alexa, goodnight”, my robot vacuum springs into life and gets to work in the kitchen, while we sleep!
Smart mapping and the ability to set cleaning zones and times
Basic models often don’t have these features, but they are worth paying for. You know which rooms are used most and which you don’t want cleaned at all, you also know how often you want it vacuumed. All of this can be programmed and controlled using a mobile app. This allows you to set cleaning times that don’t interfere with your lifestyle.
How much cleaning it has to do
If you anticipate that your robot vacuum cleaner will be doing heavy duty cleaning, 7 days a week, I recommend you invest in a higher-end model. Higher-end models cost anything from $450-$1100. If you just need a quick clean every day or two, or don’t have much floor space, a mid-range model will do just fine. Expect to pay between $200 and $450 for a mid-range model.
Brands featured in this article
US-based iRobot has a rock-solid reputation for quality and durability, and they take user privacy and online security very seriously. iRobot still stocks spare parts from its very first Roomba, and these robot vacuum cleaners are designed to be repaired. With regular maintenance some Roombas are still going strong after 10 years!
iRobot has been in business for 30 years and has sold more than 30 million home robots worldwide. Due to all these positive factors, I have included three models from across their range on my top 5 list.
The Chinese company Eufy is one of Roomba’s top competitors and is definitely more affordable. However, its robot vacuum cleaners are not quite as durable. Eufy offers great value and high performance. They have been in business since late 2016 and offer a wide range of smart home products.
Chinese-owned Roborock is another solid competitor of iRobot and it offers high tech premium features and powerful performance at a much lower price. Roborock has been around since 2014 and specializes in the research, development and production of robotic home cleaners and other cleaning appliances.
My pick for the 5 Best Robot Vacuum Cleaners in 2021
iRobot Roomba 657 (Reliable and affordable)
- Most affordable Roomba with Wi-Fi connectivity
- Dirt detection sensor as well as cliff detect to prevent it from falling off stairs
- Mobile app for programming and basic voice control with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
- Automatically adjusts to different floor surfaces
- Can sometimes get stuck, but mostly does a good job of freeing itself
- Can sometimes miss obvious dirt
- Quite sturdy, might move light furniture around
iRobot Roomba i3+ (Premium at half the price)
- Premium features at almost half the price
- Empties itself into its Clean Base docking station, holds up to 60 days of dirt
- App control for programming
- Basic voice control with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
- Works great on carpets and cleaning up pet hair
- Dirt detect sensors will hone in on extra dirty areas
- If the job isn’t finished it will recharge just enough to complete cleaning
- It does not feature smart mapping, and even with smart sensors it can still get stuck
- Runtime on full a battery is only average
iRobot Roomba 9+ (Top of the line)
- By far the most powerful cleaning power of any Roomba, and the price reflects that
- Has a D-shaped design to get into corners, can pick up very fine dirt
- Maps out your home with advanced 3D sensors
- Mobile app control for scheduling and setting no-go zones
- Basic voice control with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
- Empties itself into Clean Base docking station and can hold up to 60 days of dirt
- It is loud, to be expected for powerful cleaning
- Battery life could be better
Eufy 11S (Best budget option)
- Powerful suction, yet is quiet compared to other robot vacuum cleaners
- It’s slim design allows it to fit under low couches and furniture
- Comes with a remote control, and you can set cleaning schedules
- Good size dust drawer
- Auto adjusts to many different floor surfaces; best on hardwood and short-medium pile carpets
- Can get stuck occasionally, overall customer satisfaction seems to be very good.
Roborock S6 (Premium 2-in-1 vacuum cleaner and mop)
- Very powerful suction
- Affordable compared to similar Roombas
- Has a carpet boost setting
- Features multi-level smart mapping, so you can use it on all the floors of your home
- Allows you to customize room cleaning sequences
- Has a Quiet Mode and can clean for up to 3 hours on this setting
- Compatible with Amazon Alexa for voice control
- Uses AI and two front facing cameras to avoid obstacles, navigates very well
- The mopping feature is quite basic, and should only be run after it has already vacuumed for the best results
- Even with great navigation, it will get stuck once in a while
What to do next?
If you enjoyed this article and found it informative, come read our article about the Best Robot Lawn Mowers for 2021