For those whose busy schedules get in the way of housework, the robot future has arrived. Robotic vacuum cleaners can make your life easier by giving you an automated hand with the chores. Today's robot vacuum cleaners offer many features, such as automated recharging and wall sensors, which make them perfect helpers for keeping your floors clean.
While they won’t give you the full clean of a regular upright or canister vacuum, robot vacuums can work wonders in keeping your floors at a basic level of cleanliness. That means you won’t have to pull out the upright as often. They also offer advantages in mobility: because of their compact design, these cleaners can go where uprights can’t.
The automated helpers can also get the cleaning done while you are away from home, and you can even program some to automatically start at a specific time. Our top three picks for the best series of robot vacuum cleaners are the long-running iRobot Roomba 700, the exceptionally quiet LG Hom-Bot and the Neato XV, which offers laser-guided mapping. Learn more about these convenient cleaners in our articles on robot vacuums.
When choosing a robot vacuum, keep in mind what kind of flooring you have. Most robotic cleaners don't work well on shaggy carpeting, and many even have restrictions on how tall the carpet strands can be. You should also know that some have sensors that do not operate on dark-colored carpets.
In rating the best robot vacuum cleaners, we looked at performance, features, design, and help and support. See more about those criteria below:
A few different factors will determine your robot vacuum's overall cleaning performance. Keep in mind, however, that though these cleaners remove surface dirt and hair, they won't give you the deep cleaning that upright vacuums provide.
High-performing robot vacuums offer long running times. The best cleaners keep going for two hours or longer on a single charge. Some of the models with the shortest running times take the longest to charge, making them doubly inconvenient.
Many of the robot cleaners we reviewed offer different cleaning patterns. Look for cleaners that use a variety of patterns and make multiple cleaning passes. In general, if your cleaner makes more passes over the same spot, it gives you a better chance of getting a thorough cleaning. Some cleaners come equipped with up to five patterns, including random, spiral, and back and forth. The best robots use sensors to map out a room and "remember" where they have gone, ensuring that they do not miss a spot.
The top robotic vacuum cleaners also offer additional cleaning brushes on the sides of the machine. These brushes make it easier to pick up dust in hard-to- reach places along walls and in corners.
A number of additional features can make your robot vacuum even handier around the home. Some machines offer scheduled cleaning so you can program when you want the robot to do its work. You just set the times and days you want your floors cleaned ahead of time and let the vacuum do the cleaning whether you are at home or away.
Auto-docking and recharging features make a great complement to scheduled cleaning. These features automate the recharging process. When the robots' batteries run low, the machines return to their home base to get more energy – meaning your robot can both clean and recharge itself when you're not around. Just set the robot up to vacuum, and it will be ready to go again the next time.
Many cleaners also come with features to keep them from going places they should not like virtual walls that emit a signal that the cleaners will not cross. You can set the virtual walls on the ground at the entrance of doorways or other off-limit areas. Boundary markers, simple strips of rubber-like material or plastic, can accomplish the same goal: just place these boundaries on the floor. Once the cleaner’s sensors detect the markers, the robot should change direction. Another feature, called a cliff sensor, prevents robot vacuums from falling over drop-offs, like stairs.
To make managing your robot even more convenient, check for a vacuum with a remote control. A handy feature for any user, remotes are especially helpful for those who have a hard time lifting or bending.
Other features aim to make robot cleaners more useful for pet owners and those with allergies. If you have pets, consider a machine with anti-tangle features and brushes designed for removing clingy pet hair. Those with allergies should look for a cleaner with a HEPA filter.
Robot vacuum cleaners offer the advantage of mobility. Designed to be small and compact, they can get into tight spaces that upright vacuums won't be able to clean. Most robot vacuums stand only 4 inches tall or shorter, meaning they can easily slide under beds and couches to keep those hard-to-reach spaces clean. To prevent your robot from causing any counterproductive scuffmarks as it vacuums, look for models with soft rubber bumpers. These will keep the vacuum from damaging floorboards and furniture.
Help & Support
The best type of warranty for your cleaner depends on its price tag. All of the robot vacuum cleaners we reviewed come with at least a one-year warranty, which won't be enough for higher-end machines. Keep in mind that robotic vacuum cleaners are not as durable as standard vacuum cleaners. So, if you buy an expensive machine, you will want to purchase an extended warranty.
Customer support will make a difference in your experience with your vacuum, too. As you enjoy the benefits of a robotic cleaner, you still often need the help of a human representative. The best manufacturers offer support via chat services and toll-free numbers with access to live agents.
While robot vacuum cleaners can't provide the deep cleaning you get with traditional vacuum cleaners, these little helpers are great for maintenance cleaning. Thanks to your robot, you will not have to use your regular vacuum cleaner as often. These cleaners have some room to grow before they can entirely replace traditional cleaners, but they are on their way.
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