7 best robot vacuum cleaners that will clean your home while you're at work
Take the hassle out of household chores with a smart, hard-working machine
Whether you love having the latest tech, hate cleaning or you’re not as mobile as you once were, robot vacuum cleaners are a fun way to get a rather boring household chore done. And they certainly look impressive – but with the most expensive one we tested costing eight hundred pounds, it’s worth knowing exactly what you’re getting for your money before you invest.
We'd also note that there are no effective substitutes for soft brooms, dust pan and brushes, damp mops or vacuum cleaners for a thorough clean. However, these robots will keep the dust at bay in between big cleans and provide that all-important psychological reassurance that the house is being looked after, even if it could be a lot cleaner.
Different robot vacs have different approaches to cleaning; some take a methodical approach while others may look like they’re moving randomly around your home but are actually mapping out the room with in-built cameras or other smart sensor technology – although it can be a little frustrating to watch. Some come with remote controls, so you can direct them to the exact spot you want them to clean from the comfort of the sofa, and generally the more expensive they are, the more cleaning modes they have. Most come with apps too, so you can control them outside the home. The priciest robots have up to six modes, including auto, where you can programme it to move around a space until it runs out of battery; turbo, which is the most powerful mode and picks up the most dirt and dust; and spot cleaning, where you can get it to focus on a particular area.
Each robot vacuum cleaner will also come with an array of accessories. A virtual wall is a small device that you can place around the home and use to block off areas you don’t want to be cleaned, while they also come with different types of cleaning brushes. Sweeper brushes stick out from the side and sweep in dust and dirt to be sucked up, whereas brush bars live underneath and work to suck up dirt from floor surfaces. So before you buy, think about what your priorities are – do you want good suction, have lots of tight spots around your home that need cleaning, or obstacles that will need avoiding? Then you can pick the best one for you and have fun watching it clean your home, or have it work its magic while you’re at work.
We tried and tested a range of robot vacs in two different settings: a kitchen complete with dining table, chairs and an island, and a living room with armchairs and rugs, to contend with. We set out the same challenges for each robot to tackle: small, dust-like piles of white flour in corners and middle of rooms, and bigger messes (piles of popcorn kernels), to find out just how much mess each could vacuum, while also testing different cleaning modes and accessories. Here are the ones we think are worth investing in.
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iRobot Roomba 980: £899, John Lewis & Partners
iRobot’s Roomba is probably the best known name in the robot vacuum cleaner market, and this is the best model in the range and the favourite one we were able to get our hands on to test.
It methodically navigates multiple rooms, increasing or decreasing suction power depending on which surface it’s cleaning – we found it picked up large pieces of fluff as easily as it did embedded dust. If the machine runs out of battery mid-clean, it will return to the docking station and then complete the cycle. It was also easy to clean out, meaning no end-of-cycle disposal disasters and it ran much more quietly than other models.
It also works with Google Home so you can now tell your Google Assistant when to start, stop or dock the robot. And if you want to avoid a certain room or area, the two virtual walls form an effective barrier. Download the app to set up cleaning schedules on your phone, and keep an eye on the progress of the Roomba when you’re not around.
But, the price tag really does demand a lot, being over £500 more expensive than the entry-level Roomba and the most expensive one we tested.
Dyson 360 Eye: £799.99, Currys
You know with Dyson you’re going to get something impressive, and this small robot vac didn’t disappoint. Although this one has the largest price tag, it’s the smallest and most compact (roughly the size of a Quality Street tin), taking up minimal space in the cupboard or at its charging dock. It’s simple to use – you leave it to charge and then press the (only) button to get it going.
It works its way methodically around your home and if it gets stuck on rugs or shoes, it turns off, navigates its way back to safety and starts again. It maintains Dyson’s high suction power, although still not as good as a standard vacuum cleaner, and certainly sucked up the most dirt out of all the robots tested. There’s an app too, so you can schedule when you want your robot to start cleaning and the instruction manual is clear to follow (unlike others we read).
Miele Scout RX2: £676.76, Amazon
This was our favourite machine aesthetically. It wasn’t trying to look too futuristic like the rather sci-fi Dyson and its round, simple shape looked neat sat in the corner of the kitchen. With two spinning, circular, sweeping brushes sticking out in the direction of travel designed to sweep dirt inwards towards the vacuum and to get at the corners, it looks like it means business.
It was one of the quieter machines, too, coming in at 65-67 decibels (just bearable enough to kick back with Netflix while it works) and it collected an impressive amount of dust from the living room which it spent an hour cleaning.
Its little front brushes meant it reached into corners including those into which we’d snuck some flour to be found. When it came to the edges of rooms, though, it merely brushed dirt around and left behind a little trail of popcorn kernels. It also met its match in rugs, with the sweeping brushes sneaking underneath and preventing the hoover from climbing on top. It managed to avoid some steps but fall down others.
Despite its seemingly random methods, it did better than many other models when it came to the centre of rooms and the tricksy corners.
Eufy RoboVac 11: £156.99, Amazon
A younger sibling to electronics brand Anker, Eufy has created a reasonably priced robot vac that is certainly one to consider. Its simple, elegant design means it doesn't look out of place in a modern home and it’s easy to set up and use. Attach the sweeper brushes underneath the machine and charge using the docking station. Then switch on and use the remote (batteries not included) to set up the cleaning mode you desire – pick from auto, scheduled, spot clean, edge clean (for skirting boards), maximum clean (similar to turbo) or single room clean.
There are no accessories such as virtual walls but there are two replacement sweeper brushes. The robot works by bounding along the floor (it almost looks like it bounces) until it detects a wall or piece of furniture, after which it will change direction. The suction is good, while the side sweepers do an impressive job at collecting additional dirt. But the most impressive part is that it barely makes a sound – you can easily watch the TV or chat while it gets to work. It's a great option if you want to test out the world of robotics without spending too much.
AirCraft Vacuums Pilot Max robotic vacuum cleaner: £275.45, Amazon
We think this one wins when it comes to looks. The sleek and compact white design would fit perfectly in modern homes and shouldn’t take up a lot of space either. It comes with sweeping brushes that stick out the side to sweep in and suck up dirt in corners, which is fairly effective. And it’s very quiet, so won’t disturb you if you’re watching TV.
It also comes with a virtual wall, so you can block off areas you don’t want cleaning and a remote control. Our only annoyance was having to charge and put the battery pack in ourselves, which we found a little bit fiddly. For the price though, it does a decent job of vacuuming and is worth considering.
Neato Botvac Connected: £589.98, Amazon
This is the most advanced machine from the robot vacuum specialist, utilising the same navigation technology Google puts into its self-driving cars. It uses lasers to scan the room it’s cleaning, noting any obstacles and then returning to the same spot from which it started, which can be useful for storage.
The design is a bit clunky with an over-large charging base. The raised hub on the top gets it trapped under some furniture and it would benefit from a carrying handle on top to make it easier to move locations. Designed with a flat bumper, it has a wider sweeping area than others and yet still managed to twist around chair legs during our test. Thanks to large wheels, this robot climbed readily onto rugs over slightly raised hearth stones and thin doormats – something other hoovers were flummoxed by. Although, it did have trouble with tight gaps and got itself wedged under one armchair.
It has good suction for dust, the power of which can be increased by switching on the turbo mode (this increases the machine’s speed and noise, too – which is something for an already rather loud machine, coming in at 67-70 decibels).
Despite its cutting-edge technology, bits of our planted popcorn seeds and flour was left behind – sometimes it appeared it forgot and in other places it couldn’t quite reach. It also worked slightly wide of the skirting board. But, as mentioned, these machines are made for quick top-up cleans and it didn’t do too badly considering.
The app, available for iOS and Android devices, means you can control the vacuum’s actions from wherever you are, whether that be the office or the supermarket, so you can do a quick whip around while you collect your guests from the station.
Hoover Robo.com³: £499.99, Electrical Discount UK
Hoover knows a thing or two about vacuum cleaners, and it has transferred that knowledge into the robotic world. This machine is small and quiet, but still manages to provide a great clean thanks to its effective sweeper brushes and powerful suction, picking up embedded dust as well as larger items. The cleaning pattern is comprehensive, but you can steer the machine to a particular area using arrow buttons on the accompanying remote. The app, available for iOS on Android, also allows you to control the machine, as well as set up cleaning schedules. An effective, well-priced option.
The verdict: Robot vacuum cleaners
Despite the hefty price tag, iRobot's Roomba won our best buy – we were impressed with its methodical cleaning methods, tackling everything from fluff to dust. If that’s a little out of your price range though, Eufy's is a safe option, cleaning up dust and dirt while also effectively tackling tricky corners.
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