What’s the Best Automatic Vacuum?
Vacuums have come a long way. You no longer have to suffer the indignity of dragging around an unwieldy plastic hose connected to a clumsy, wheeled canister the size of a Galapagos tortoise. In fact, you don’t even need to get off of the couch. Though it still feels like a relatively new product category, there are several good robot vacuums available to help you dispose of dust, pet hair, and other debris in your home—without needing to lift a finger. Which is the right one for you? We’ve rounded up our highest-rated robot vacuums, and provided a few pointers to help you find just the bot you’re looking for.
Robot Vacuums vs. Canister and Upright Vacuums
Unlike more traditional canister or stick models, robot vacuums are autonomous and (for the most part) intelligent. The vacuums we’ve tested are equipped with lasers, motherboards, sensors, and even Wi-Fi to navigate around your home without the need for assistance. With a few exceptions, you barely have to interact with them at all.
Most robot vacuums come with charging docks and can even charge themselves. Just pick a robot-accessible spot for the dock, and the bot will return on its own before it runs out of juice. When it does, it will sit there until it has enough energy to go back out and continue to bust dust from where it left off. You can also set schedules for most bots to wake up and start a cleaning job, so it can take place while you’re out of the house. That means you can potentially avoid all physical interaction until the vacuum needs to be emptied—you still can’t take that step out of the equation.
Also unlike many traditional vacuums, all of the robots included here don’t use bags to hold the dust, hair, and other debris they suck up. Instead, they use an easy-to-remove dustbin you can simply eject and empty into the nearest garbage can. And many come equipped with HEPA filters that prevent allergens from spreading through the air.
The best robot vacuums you can buy
Eufy RoboVac 11S
No other robot vacuum blends into the background like the Eufy RoboVac 11S. It can clean almost every nook of your house, yet you’ll barely notice it. It sounds more like a fan than a vacuum, so even if you’re at home while it’s running, it shouldn’t get on your nerves. Of all the bots we’ve tested, it’s one of the least likely to get stuck and quit cleaning mid-session. We also found that, in certain situations, it’s strong enough and persistent enough to pick up more debris than bots that cost two or three times as much. Like most affordable robots, it relies on a semi-random navigation system, which can struggle in larger homes (and some people get frustrated when they watch it too closely). But it’s perfectly effective in smaller spaces, and you can find ways make it work in bigger areas, too.
iRobot Roomba 690
The iRobot Roomba 690 is a sturdy, repairable robot that’s still effective and affordable. Like the Eufy RoboVac models, the Roomba 690 is a semi-random navigator that works best in smaller spaces, though it’s a larger, louder machine and typically costs more. The main upside is that it’s designed to be repairable, so in the right hands it should last for years—long enough that you’ll actually save money. (iRobot has an excellent track record for keeping spare parts available for ages.) The Roomba 690 connects to Wi-Fi (if you want it to) and can be controlled from an app or with Alexa voice commands. It also comes with a “virtual wall” beacon, which creates an invisible do-not-cross line for the Roomba—a much more elegant solution than the magnetic strips used by Eufy vacuums.
The ILIFE V3s isn’t on Roomba’s level — nor is it on the level of other models considered budget picks, so don’t expect the feeling of a professional clean under your feat. That said, the V3 shines with hardwood, and it does a pretty decent job of keeping tile debris-free. (The mopping capabilities are unique, but they’re so underdeveloped that they might as well not be there.) Owners of high-pile carpets should heavily consider paying the extra $100 for a Eufy, Ecovavs, or model that has a primary rolling brush. That pet hair ain’t going nowhere.
One shining feature is the battery life. At 120 minutes on one charge, the V3s could run circles on higher-end models — potentially an option for a large office space where people won’t be walking barefoot.
iRobot Roomba 980
Roomba is synonymous with robot vacuums, and this is never more exemplified than in the iRobot Roomba 980.
With smarts to keep from crashing into objects and environment mapping so it quickly learns every nook and cranny of your home, the Roomba 980 is an impressive cleaning machine. (We’ll be keeping our eye on the iRobot Roomba i7+ in the coming months though to see if it could possibly be usurped.)
At 35.05cm in diameter, the Roomba 980 is wider than your average vacuum head, but thanks to its circular design and rotating body, it’s able to maneuver through narrower areas than you’d initially think possible.
The Roomba 980 works magnificently on floorboards, tiles and other hard surfaces (operating relatively quietly while doing so), but it kicks things up a notch when entering carpeted territory. It automatically senses it’s rolled onto carpet, and its motors whir into high gear to get in between every fiber.
Botvac D7 Connected
Neato’s premium D7 Connected has seen considerable improvements since our review. Rather than taping magnetic boundaries all around your house, you can draw no-go lines on your phone’s touchscreen. It can also store multiple floor plans for multi-story houses, and it has zone cleaning so that you can send it to tidy up the kitchen after you’re done baking. It can also calculate exactly how long it needs to recharge in order to finish cleaning, instead of charging for the full hour. It’s amazingly powerful, fast, smart, and effective. Just keep it on gentle navigation if you don’t want it to break its own bump sensors.
Eufy Robovac 35C
Eufy’s slim, small robot vacuums are the easiest to use. The 35C is the latest, and at less than three inches tall, it’s small enough to store under the couch and scootch under the lowest cupboards. But it still packs a punch, with up to 1,500 Pa of suction power and optional BoostIQ when it hits a particularly grody spot. The app is simple and attractive and includes features like scheduling, a remote, and a locator. I highly recommend an app, but if you don’t think you need one, the 11+ and 11S are also affordable picks for light daily cleaning.
Automation has promised mankind a lot over the years, but nowhere are the benefits clearer than in the humdrum of domestic housework. Today’s advanced robot vacuum cleaners mean you’ll never have to lift a finger to clean your floors – except maybe when it comes to emptying the bin.