Everyone hates vacuum cleaning, so a robot that does it for you must be a good thing, right? We tested some to see if the future is now.

Vacuum cleaners are one of our most popular tests. We might simply be a house-proud nation, or it could be more to do with us searching for a product that minimises the pain of cleaning. A robot vacuum cleaner promises to be the ultimate painkiller. Who wouldn’t want their home automatically cleaned?

How they work

Robot vacuums run autonomously, following random or semi-random paths in a room, guided by on-board dirt, bump and stair sensors. In this test, all models came with “virtual walls”, infrared emitters or magnetic strips that create a barrier to limit where the robot cleans. All except the iRobot can be scheduled to clean at a certain time. All automatically return to their charge dock when the battery runs low and all run for at least an hour between charges.

To get the most from a robot vacuum, our vacuuming habits need an update. Where we might manually clean a room thoroughly once a week, a robot will clean a little each day over a week to get the job done. With the scheduling function, it can do its work while you are out. The result? You never need to vacuum again … in theory.

Our test

Our test for these robots was based on our existing vacuum cleaner test, but with some new twists.

The robot vacuums navigated around the lab – on hard floors and carpet, up and down rugs (with and without tassels), under furniture and around obstacles. We measured dirt and pet hair pickup from carpet, hard floor, corners and edges – just as we do for other vacuum cleaners. When calculating the overall score, we placed more focus on cleaning hard floors than carpet to reflect the intended use of these robot vacuums.

What we found

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