Skip to main content

It’s the stuff dreams are made of: getting a clean house without having to lift a single finger. Maintenance around your home takes more time than you sometimes have, and there’s really no way around that. From taking care of your lawn to your car, and everything in between, your time is valuable. A robot vacuum cleaner isn’t going to take care of everything for you, but maybe it’s enough to take care of your floors. It could be a great tool to help you stay on top of clean floors. So, should you leap and buy one of these little miracle machines? 

What are robot vacuum cleaners?

Robot vacuum cleaners on a merchandise display in a Bed Bath & Beyond
Robot vacuum cleaners on a merchandise display | Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A robot vacuum cleaner is a small, self-propelled unit that will vacuum your floors for you. Some models will let you set a designated time for them to vacuum, while others you have to turn on manually. Newer models will be able to connect with your smartphone via an app, and you’ll have more control that way. 

According to Consumer Reports, sales of these robot vacuums have increased exponentially, making 16% of all vacuum sales, whether upright or robot, in 2019 and the first part of 2020. In comparison, they made up one percent of those sales in 2010. 

With popularity soaring like that, they must be doing something right. 

Robot vacuums have pros and cons

The pros are pretty straightforward and self-explanatory. There is always something that needs to be done, and having a robot vacuum pick up one of those small but necessary chores can help free up some time for yourself or for other things that need to be done. So, maybe you hate vacuuming. It’s loud, time-consuming, and hard to find time for sometimes. Having a robot vacuum would let it maintain your floors while you do other things. 

The newer models have even more going for them. They will map out rooms, send the information to your smartphone via an app, and you’ll be able to tell the model which room, or even part of a room, that you want it to vacuum. Additionally, most new models will return to the docking station to charge without you having to track it down and move it yourself. 

Another positive of robot vacuums is that they are also more mobile. At about the size of the base of an upright vacuum, they can get under tables and chairs without problems, while you would be struggling to get an upright into tight spaces. 

As for cons, robot vacuums work better in uncluttered rooms, on either no carpet or low-pile carpet. This is because the battery of a robot vacuum can wear down quickly if it is working through a high-pile carpet. If your battery runs out because it’s working too hard to move through the carpet, you may not get the whole floor clean, and some models won’t remember where they stopped if they shut down due to a lack of power. 

Robot vacuums also can’t tell if they missed a spot, and if they run over something left on the floor, you might have a mess to clean up. They also have a tiny internal bin, which makes their cleaning power a little on the short side. 

Can you replace your upright vacuum?

Because of the robot vacuum’s battery and small internal bin, these models don’t have the cleaning power that an upright vacuum does, so it would be wise to keep an upright vacuum on hand. In fact, Consumer Reports says that the upright vacuum they tested picked up over twice as much dirt as the robot vacuum. 

Therefore you’ll still want an upright vacuum for deep cleaning purposes, but the robot vacuum can absolutely handle daily maintenance. It can likely make using the upright easier by lessening the dirt it has to pick up on deep-cleaning days and perhaps making the upright last longer due to less wear and tear. Additionally, your upright vacuum is useful for jobs that the robot vacuum can’t do, like helping prevent damage to your vehicle and keeping it clean in general.

Therefore, getting a robot vacuum cleaner can absolutely make your daily maintenance, and even your deep cleaning, easier. However, while a robot vacuum can be a great addition, it probably can’t replace your upright vacuum just yet.