Do You Really Need a Robot Vacuum?

Short answer? No. Well... maybe. It’s complicated.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Robot vacuums are all the rage. These adorable little cleaning devices have captured the popular imagination like few other appliances, and it’s not hard to understand why.

From Rosie the robot maid to R2-D2, movies and TV shows have been selling us the dream of the personal robot assistant/cleaner/homemaker for decades. And who wouldn’t want a device that promises to keep floors clean without any appreciable effort?

Don't throw out your regular vacuum just yet. View Larger

You might be wondering why "Should I get a robot vacuum?” is even a question. But before you drop the cash on a self-aware sweeper, be sure to ask yourself the following crucial questions:


1. Are you physically unable to vacuum your home?

For those with disabilities or those who are too frail to operate an upright or canister vacuum, a robot vacuum could be a real godsend. With minimal effort on the part of the occupant, robot vacuums can help keep dust and dirt in check and provide a greater level of independence in the home.

Light and easy to use, robot vacuums are a boon for the elderly. View Larger

2. Do you have wooden floors or low carpets?

Our tests have shown that robot vacuums work best on hard surfaces and shorter carpet lengths—anything less than an inch thick. High pile carpet is usually too thick for robot vacuums' tiny wheels to traverse. And every time your vacuum gets beached like a sad little robotic whale, you need to reset it. (Trust us, it's really annoying.)

Robot vacuums aren't known for their intelligence. View Larger

3. Do you need to “maintain”?

Robot vacuums have really come into their own as maintenance appliances. Think of them as support troops in the war on filth.

Having an iRobot or Miele vac programmed to give your floors a once-over every day makes a proper cleaning on the weekend that much easier. In fact, the simple truth of the matter is that robot vacuums are designed with this use in mind.

Cleaning got you climbing the walls with frustration? You might want to consider a robot vacuum. View Larger

4. Do you have a small apartment or studio?

Robot vacuums aren’t really built to handle large homes, and until iRobot develops an airborne Roomba, multi-story houses are a no-go. But if you live in a studio or a one-bedroom apartment, a robot vacuum can be a great way to keep your living space tidy.

Once you start adding additional rooms into the mix, the cost of running a robot vacuum begins to skyrocket. With the exception of the priciest Roombas, most robot vacuums can only effectively clean a single room. A Roomba can be set to clean additional rooms through the use of an iRobot Lighthouse (sold separately), which acts as a homing beacon, but the majority of robot vacs will get lost if they stray too far from home.

This long exposure perfectly demonstrates the cleaning path of your standard robot vacuum. View Larger

5. Do you have pets?

If you have cats or dogs, you already know how much of a hassle it can be to keep their hair under control. A robot vacuum will definitely save you a lot of time in this department—time you will now be able to spend recording and posting adorable “pets riding on Roombas” videos to YouTube.

Still, robot vacs have small dirt receptacles and can get clogged easily if your Great Pyrenees likes to bed down on the carpet.

Cat + robot vacuum = Hours of entertainment. View Larger

6. Do you love robots?

Not that kind of robot vacuum... View Larger

If you like robots—and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?—you could probably find something to love with even the most basic robot vacuum. However, if you’re hoping for a faithful companion that puts Wall-E to shame, prepare for disappointment.

Easily defeated by carpets and furniture, confused by doorways, and prone to cleaning the same spot over and over, robot vacuums are really pretty dumb. Think of them as slightly evolved, programmable drones with cleaning capabilities and you get the basic idea.


If you answered “yes” to any of these questions we heartily recommend a robot vacuum. It won’t change your life, but it will make cleaning your home a little easier.

Related Video

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

What's Your Take?

All Comments
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below