Out of sight, out of mind.ByMorgan Bulman
Published Mar 13, 2022 1:30 AM
Robot vacuums often look like they’d be better suited to an episode ofBattle Bots rather than puttering about your home with their bulky bodies, attempting to suck up various messes. But recent models have slimmed down and powered up—low profile enough to weave around the legs of a chair or beneath a sofa, but with strong enough suction to grab more without leaving a trail behind. They might not replace your standard cordless Dyson or even the millennial-cool Airsign in terms of functionality, but they’ll keep your floors cleaner with a little less effort. For the chore-averse or those who simply can’t muster up the energy to rummage through the closet and untangle cords for isolated messes, the best robot vacuums are the perfect little helpers for quick, daily cleanups.
Fair warning, though: Bringing home one of the best robot vacuums is likely to lead to a strong connection to an inanimate object. Having tested these machines and watched them maneuver throughout our apartments with little to no intervention over several weeks has made our hardwood, rugs, and kitchen tile cleaner, but also resulted in an unexplainable attachment to our favorites.
Size: 13.9-by-3.8 inches | Weight: 7.36 pounds | Smart features: Wi-Fi connected, voice control | Mapping: Yes | Battery life: 180 minutes
What we like:
Why we chose it:A strong yet soft suction with quality navigation abilities—you can even turn it on while out running errands.
If you dread pulling out a vacuum or have a large home that can take hours to clean, consider the chore complete with Roborock’s S6. You won’t have to worry about our overall pick banging into your furniture or getting stuck on a rug; its impressive navigation system (and software updates accessible through Wi-Fi that resolve most issues) quickly detects obstacles and maneuvers around them without worry. Our tester was especially impressed by this machine’s mapping capabilities after just one go throughout their home, intuitively moving between chair legs only an inch wider than itself, and accidentally inhaling a plastic bread clip without disrupting its cleaning session. While it will easily clear transitional floor changes, it may struggle to scale barriers taller than 2 inches (something we saw in all the robot vacuums we tested). And if you’re tapping it for the mopping option, our reviewer warns that cleaner shouldn’t be added to the water tank, as it can cause corrosion and damage. Choose between a sleek all-white or all black body, and put your feet up.
Size: 2.85-by-12.8 inches | Weight: 6.4 pounds | Smart features: Wi-Fi connected, app or voice controlled | Mapping: No | Battery life: Up to 100 minutes
What we like:
Why we chose it:A straightforward, speedy value pick for the uninitiated robot vacuum user.
An impressive value for what you get, the Eufy G20 is an ideal robot vac for someone new to the genre. Leaps beyond value-driven models of years past, the G20 is a breeze to set up. While the app is relatively simple, it does offer the options to spot-clean, adjust suction power, and create schedules. We found that it’s a speedy little thing, zipping around hardwood and transitioning easily to low- to medium-pile rugs. It did get tripped up in one particularly busy area it was tested in—the living/dining room. With lots of table and chair leg, it had a little trouble navigating the space. The first time it rolls around your home, it might not hit all the rooms or corners, but run it consistently every day and eventually it will get everywhere and keep your house cleaner over the course of using it.
Size: 3.25-by-12.25 inches | Weight: 7.5 pounds | Smart features: Wi-Fi connected, app controlled | Mapping: No, but has a rug-avoidance sensor | Battery life: Up to 100 minutes on hardwood; 30 minutes on medium-pile carpet
What we like:
Why we chose it:The spot-clean function is a piece of cake to use compared to other vac-mops we tested.
There’s a lot to like about Bissell’s SpinWave wet/dry robot vacuum. Upon delivery, it’s clear that the company prioritizes eco-friendly packaging (it uses mostly recyclable plastic and cardboard) and the product, parts, and accessories are well organized. The vacuum itself is a sleek, shiny white, and as with all of our picks, fits under a standard sofa. Like most robot vacuums, this one needs to be charged out of the box; a good strategy is to do so overnight so it’s ready to use the next morning. In our testing, we found that it was effective at dry vacuuming up dust and debris (and pet hair!) on hardwood and low-pile or flat-weave rugs, but it struggled with the highest pile versions, and its navigating skills weren’t as good as others we tried out. Flooring transitions weren’t a deal breaker, but it had to work harder to overcome them in the older home it was tested in. We particularly liked the mopping function of this vacuum, which uses spinning microfiber pads that are removable and machine washable (and come out sparkling clean). There’s a separate chamber for water and cleaning solution, which comes with the vacuum, and the solution ingredients contain no heavy metals, phosphates, or dyes if that’s a detail on your radar. The mop worked well on tile and hardwood, buffing out stuck-on grime and leaving things shiny. We loved that you could drop it in a room to spot-clean—something that wasn’t as easy with other vac-mops we tested.
Size: 3.48-by-13.52 inches | Weight: 7.6 pounds | Smart features: Wi-Fi connected, app controlled, carpet detect, no-go-zone selection | Mapping: Yes | Battery life: Up to an hour
What we like:
Why we chose it:This vac-mop climbs over flooring transitions with ease, and its vacuum function picks up dirt and debris like a champ.
This robot vacuum is like having a Monster Wheels, with a vacuum and mop attached, rolling around your home—and we mean that in a very good way. For an older home with inconsistent transitions, or just one with non-smooth changes between flooring or rooms, Shark’s AI Robot VacMop Pro is an ideal option. The setup is involved, but for good reason: You should go through the process thoroughly, as it will prepare for more consistent cleaning over time. This robot vacuum needs to map your entire home before going through its first cleaning cycle, and you can then select no-go zones to avoid when mopping or if you don’t want it to tackle an area. This is seriously important: We found that if your map isn’t accurate, the vacuum won’t know to bypass a certain area you’re asking it to—as in, you’ll get a wet rug. The app also lets you know where it has already cleaned up, so if you’re not near it, you’ll still have a sense of what’s been handled. In testing, we saw that it was good at moving around furniture thanks to the mapping function. It picked up debris, pet hair, and errant dirt with ease on hardwood and tile, and worked well on low-pile rugs. As opposed to the Bissell, you click the mopping chamber on versus swapping out the dust container, so it vacuums and mops at the same time. The mopping pad is one large piece, but it is removable and machine washable; plus two replacements are included. You can use the included solution (or your own ingredient preferences) or just room-temperature water. It became less agile with the mop chamber attached, so be mindful of that with transitions.
Size: 13-by-3 inches | Smart features: Wi-Fi connected, app and voice control capabilities | Mapping: Yes | Battery life: 110 minutes
What we like:
Why we chose it:With Wyze’s impressive mapping technology, you won’t have to worry about snagged rug corners or scuffed furniture.
The biggest takeaway from testing robot vacuums is that LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology is no joke. This little vacuum is equipped with a series of lasers that quickly map out its surroundings and obstacles. Wyze’s didn’t hit a single piece of furniture on the first use, which tracks since the company states it has serious scanning capabilities, measuring 2,000-plus points within a 26-foot range. Its movements are smooth and clean; other robots here are a bit stiffer, with knee-jerk aggressive righting. But this one hardly even needs to pause, simply rerouting itself as needed (our tester found that’s likely because of the added gyroscope, a similar addition that makes gimbal camera holders stay steady). And although it can clear surface changes about .8-inch high, you’ll need to flip it to strong mode to handle soft-surface cleaning—just know that it will be a bit louder than normal. If the battery happens to dip too low before completing a task, it’ll return to the dock to charge up enough before resuming where it left off.
Size: 13.3-by-3.4 inches | Smart features: Wi-Fi connected, app controlled | Mapping: Yes | Battery life: Varies depending on floor covering
What we like:
Why we chose it:Deep cleans high-pile, shaglike rugs (and don’t worry about tasseled edges getting eaten up).
While the Roomba j7 easily transitions from hardwood and tile to linoleum and back without any issues, this product truly shines when faced with fluffier floor coverings, especially a variety of low- to high-pile rugs. Much like a regular vacuum, this Roomba left behind a satisfying trail of suction lines in its wake. And while other machines only fully covered a space once, Roomba’s Dirt Detect technology focused on areas that required a bit more attention, returning to a spot a number of times until no dust or debris could be seen, which is incredibly helpful for those areas underneath the couch that never see the light of day. It had no issue making its way under furniture of all kinds, from coffee tables to desks to office chairs, and even found itself underneath a pretty low bar cart without getting stuck. Our tester had yet to save it from a funky corner or readjust its path (which can’t be said for several of the machines on this list). Plus if having to regularly empty a bin is a hassle, you can always upgrade to the Roomba j7+, which comes with a self-emptying base you won’t have to touch for months—it just requires a bit more room (spatially and visually) to take up.
Size: 13.9-by-3.3 inches | Smart features: Wi-Fi and app connected, live image feed | Mapping: Yes | Battery life: 120 minutes
What we like:
Why we chose it:Quietly banish dust from your hard-surface floors.
Dual brushes, double the support—every other robot on this list only features one extra side brush, which is helpful for hard-to-reach spaces that these circular machines can’t move into. The four-part suction system is ideal for dust, but the Scout RX2 needs a bit more manual support to get started (and to unstick). Where other apps on this list can simply determine zones to avoid digitally, the Miele robot cannot. It’s shipped with magnetic strips to manually establish areas not to enter. But if you do decide to step out during a vacuum session, whether for a midday break or a quick grocery run, you can see in real time where your machine is and direct it around any new obstacles that may lie in its path. The one caveat: We don’t recommend it for homes or apartments with a lot of different rugs. Shifting from one floor covering to the next proved a bit difficult for the Scout RX2 to overcome, which often stopped functioning when it faced an insurmountable obstacle. But for large rooms with, say, hardwood, it’s especially great if you’re working from home and would like to sneak in a clean while logging hours at your laptop—the silent function shouldn’t interrupt your focus.
The best robot vacuum cleaners are for the chore-averse, but if emptying a dustbin also triggers an allergic sneezing fit for you, we recommend upgrading to one of the models, below, that promise to go for extended periods of time—we’re talking close to two months—without ever needing to be fiddled with. The catch? This additional feature warrants a steeper price tag, and the self-emptying bin generally won’t fit under a sofa. If you have a walk-in pantry or laundry room to house a larger unit without worry and don’t mind the splurge? Click “add to cart” on one of these semi-cute cleaners.T10 Robot Vacuum, Narwal ($1050)Shop Robot Cleaner and Mop, Dreametech ($1000)Shop Roomba s9+ with Automatic Dirt Disposal , iRobot ($999)Shop Jet Bot AI+ Robot Vacuum, Samsung ($1300)Shop
In order to narrow down the list of the best vacuum robots, we considered a number of factors, but priority number one was that each one could either easily navigate under every type of furniture, whether a coffee table or sofa, or be stored there out of sight. This meant keeping heights under 3.8 inches, or a standard sofa-base height. But size wasn’t just about maneuverability—large units, especially those that include self-emptying cleaning bases, soak up quite a bit of square footage, horizontally and vertically. “Out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t really work if this item has to be on display 24-7 to properly function, and we personally found the cleaning bases to be eyesores. So in true Domino fashion, we tried to keep sleek, compact designs top of mind, too.
When it came time to test, our biggest concerns were how each of these machines performed during a change in terrain—from hardwood and grouted tile to high-pile rugs and bristle-y entry mats—and if they were able to still actually suck (did crumbs disappear in their path or were there still remnants of debris after a completed task?). Of course, while we’re always a big proponent of good design and color options, including sleek matte white, these machines still had to do as promised, too.
Navigating at floor level, robot vacuums are already designed to be compact, but that doesn’t mean every model is cleared to scoot underneath a sofa without getting stuck. That’s why the products we choose to test all have a height that falls under 3.8 inches and didn’t include a self-emptying base, for both storage and aesthetic reasons. But if you want to ensure your robot will fit underneath that one chair, we advise you measure the space between floor and base to pick out a model that won’t have any issues reaching hard-to-see dust bunnies. During our search for the best robot vacuums, we found that most measure at about 4 inches, but expect newer models (that promise to do it all) to be a bit bulkier in height and width.
If you’re concerned about strength, you’ll want to look for a number followed byPa, which stands for pascal pressure unit. Like most quantifiable measurements, the higher this number, the stronger your vacuum’s suction power. It isn’t the sexiest term, but it does provide a general understanding of what your robot is capable of sucking up. For comparison’s sake, our favorite standard vacuum cleaners—like the Dyson (duh)—have a suction power of 6,000 Pa, whereas the strongest robot vacuum on our list (at least for those companies that disclosed the information) doesn’t exceed a suction power over 2,100 Pa. Long story short, your robot vacuum isn’t going to be as effective in this regard compared to a stick, canister, or handheld vacuum cleaner. Sure, it may not be the appliance you turn to for deep cleaning, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t great for sucking up piles of fur and dust on a daily or weekly basis.
Part of the fun of going with a robot vacuum is enjoying all the high-tech bells and whistles; we dare you not to be impressed by these AI-powered machines that can wander around a home with little to no intervention. Our testers were particularly taken with models that understood invisible boundaries drawn up in an accompanying app to either avoid or solely focus on. This is,ahem, especially handy if you’re a parent to a cat that likes to kick litter, one tester noted; just create a zone around their box for daily visits. If this is a feature you’re particularly jazzed about, we can’t recommend LIDAR technology enough—robots that came equipped with the feature were some of the most impressive at mapping and maneuverability.
For a machine that crawls over as much space as possible in your home, sucking up dust, crumbs, and hair, these products do require a little TLC of their own. For instance, our testers reported vacuums were quickly covered in dust after a few sweeps about their space. And if you happen to have long strands of hair, then you might want to flip your vacuum over and give that beater bar a closer look. The more often you clean your vacuum, the better.
For those with multilevel homes, the only way to bring your robot vacuum upstairs from downstairs (or vice versa) is by physically picking it up. However, if your machine happens to get confused or caught, moving it around while it’s in the middle of a task can cause mapping and navigation issues later on—your robot will think it’s in one spot, when in actuality it’s somewhere else completely. In these situations, our tester recommends hitting pause or reset by sending the model home before restarting the task.
For our testers, this would depend on two things: the first, how complicated your home floor situation is in terms of obstacles (lots of rugs or other flooring transitions?), and second, the model you decide to go with (those with LIDAR technology are far less likely to put themselves in sticky situations). In any regard, during the first few rounds, it doesn’t hurt to keep a watchful eye: These little guys can accidentally fall down a staircase during the initial mapping process. Always consider that, while you can usually rely on these automatic cleaners to scoot around while you’re running errands or at the office, sometimes they do get stuck (or won’t always detect a rug during a mop mode), so we wouldn’t say this is always a set-it-and-forget-it situation.
We love calling on the assistance of a robot vacuum before a guest arrives for a quick sweep of our home, or to help with more frequently dirty spots like kitchen floors and dining rooms where errant crumbs often show up. It’s important, though, to keep in mind that these machines can’t get into every nook and cranny. That’s why even our favorites should be considered a trusty companion to a regular vacuum. If you’re looking to kick-start a cleaning session, sit back, relax, and power up your new roommate at the press of a button.
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