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How to buy the best robot vacuum cleaner


Can these clever household helpers really get the job done?

robot vacuum cleaning under bed

Can a robot replace your vacuum cleaner?


We'd all love to be able to sit down and relax while an artificially intelligent device cleans the house, but can a robot vacuum do as good a job as your regular vac? The answer largely depends on whether you have carpet or hard floors.

Read on to find out whether it's worth getting a robot vacuum, and what to look for if you do.

Want to know how we get our review results? Find out how we test robot vacuums.

Looking for the best robot vacuum?

See our expert product reviews.

Robot vacuum cleaner – Hoover Classic Robot 2240.

Are robot vacuum cleaners worth it?

For most homes, especially homes with carpeted floors, we can't recommend any robot vacuum as a complete replacement for a regular barrel, upright or stick vacuum

Do you have hard floors or carpet?

Hard floors

  • Most of the robot vacs we've tested are very good at cleaning hard floors – albeit not always in the corners and edges. 
  • For a house with mostly hard floors, most of the robot vacuum cleaners we've tested will do a reasonable job of keeping the floors clean when run on a daily basis, though a more thorough cleaning with a standard vacuum (or a broom) will still be needed occasionally. 

Carpet

  • Despite sophisticated technology – navigation software, stair detection, cameras to detect dirt – robot vacuum cleaners are still comparatively poor at removing dirt from carpet.
  • Robot vacuums can't generate the suction of a standard vacuum and while they can leave the carpet looking clean, below the surface a lot of dirt is left behind. Over time, this can damage the pile. 
  • In a home with carpeted floors, a robot vac is fine for a tidy-up, but the carpet will need a regular going-over with a standard vac to get most of the dirt out.

What about pet hair?

  • In our tests, we've found robot vacs can pick up a reasonable amount of fluff (such as pet hair) along with some dirt, but on carpet they also seem to push the remaining dirt even deeper into the pile. 

How much does a robot vacuum cost?

The models in our latest test range in price from $199 to $1699.

Features to look for

Stair detection

This feature, now standard across almost all models, helps the robot sense when it has reached a ledge or step so it can back off and avoid a damaging tumble.

Virtual wall

An accessory used to create an invisible barrier, for blocking off open doorways or other areas you don't want the robot to enter.

Programmable times

This handy function will allow you to set times of the day or week to run the robot – for instance, you could set it to run only while you're away at work.

Automatic docking

When the battery charge is low the robot vac finds its way back to the charger and docks automatically. All the models in our test do this.

Noise level

Robot vacuums are generally quieter than standard vacs, but some have an annoying high-pitched whistle and others make a mechanical grinding noise. 

This may be less important if the robot mainly runs while you're out of the house, but these sounds may be loud enough to annoy neighbours or scare pets.

Remote control

Most models come with a remote control to change the settings or direct the vacuum around the room. But if the robot needs too much overseeing by its owner, you might find that using a regular vacuum cleaner is the more effective (and cheaper) way to go.

Looking for the best robot vacuum?

See our expert product reviews.

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