Are Robotic Vacuums Really Worth It?

Should you invest in an iRobot to clean your home? We asked technology expert Burton Kelso for all the pros and cons.

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Vacuuming a home is one of those chores that nobody wants to do—which is why robotic vacuums are so brilliant… in theory. When the first-generation Roomba was introduced in 2002, it seemed too good to be true—an actual robot that could do all the work for you. In the last few decades as technology has dramatically approved, robotic vacuums have become all the rage. Companies like iRobot, iLife, and Efuy offer products that promise to automatically clean your carpets and hardwood floors, leaving you more time to do the things you love. But are these smart home cleaning items really worth it? We asked technology expert Burton Kelso to rundown all the pros and cons of robotic vacuums, to determine if they are really worth investing in. Don’t miss these 11 unexpected ways you never thought to use your vacuum cleaner.

PRO: It will reduce your cleaning time

No more slaving away to the big vacuum! Instead of having to pull out the appliance and spend hours sucking up the remnants of your life, a robotic vacuum, like this Roborock S5 Robotic Vacuum and Mop Cleaner will do it for you. “The great thing about robot vacuums is you can set a regular schedule to clean the floors of your home,” Kelso explains. “Set your cleaning time and the robot vacuum will do the work you need.” Looking for other ways to cut down your cleaning time? Here are 8 other products you should check out.

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PRO: It’s compact and fits into constricted areas

Have you ever tried to clean underneath your couch with your vacuum? It’s impossible. “Robot vacuums [like the ILIFE Robotic Vacuum] can fit under most pieces of furniture that your traditional vacuum can not fit,” points out Kelso. “This means that couch or bed you don’t vacuum under because of the weight or the time to move it can be taken care of by your robot vacuum.” These are 10 of the places you’re not vacuuming but should be.

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PRO: It cleans multiple surfaces

Most vacuums come with a bunch of annoying attachments for different types of flooring, not so when it comes to a robotic vacuum, like the Neato Robotics vacuum. “Carpet, laminate, or hardwood floors can be cleaned with a robot vacuum,” says Kelso. “This saves you a hassle because you don’t have to worry about switching attachments on your vacuum from the carpet cleaner to the attachment for your floors.”

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PRO: Many are smart home friendly

Most models of robot vacuums, including the iRobot, will work with smart home devices like Google Home or Amazon Alexa, points out Kelso. With some of the higher-end models, like the iRobot Roomba s9+ (9550), it can even do next-level tasks—like map out your home and clean accordingly and return to its base on its own. “A simple voice command can activate your vacuum to clean up your house,” Kelso adds. Interested in creating a totally smart home? Here are 18 products (in addition to the iRobot) you need to invest in.

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PRO: It’s not as noisy as the traditional vacuum

No one likes the noise of a standard vacuum, which is a great bonus when it comes to a robot like the Roborock. “Its low noise level means you can set your vacuum to work overnight cleaning your floors,” says Kelso. You can also run some when you aren’t home via an app, avoiding the noise altogether.

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CON: The dust collection boxes aren’t that large

In theory, you can go months without cleaning out a stand-up vacuum cleaner. However, this isn’t the case with a robot. “Unlike your traditional in-home or upright vacuum, a robot vacuum does not have a large container to hold all of the dust and dirt collected,” Kelso points out. “This means you have to constantly dump the dustbin out more often than you would on a standard vacuum cleaner.”

CON: It only works on level surfaces

If you live in a multi-level home, or if there are lots of step-ups, a robotic vacuum may not be for you. “A robot vacuum can only work on level surfaces which means you still have to use a standard vacuum to do the stairs,” Kelso points out. A solution around this is purchasing more than one unit for different levels, or simply carrying the vacuum to different areas around your home. Find out the places you should (and shouldn’t) store your robotic vacuum.

CON: They are expensive

Unfortunately, most robotic vacuums aren’t very cheap. While most models of robot vacuums start around $400, a super high-tech one will set you back over a thousand. “Quite a jump when the starting point for a standard vacuum is $60!” says Kelso. Though if you pay attention to sales, you may be able to score one for significantly less.

CON: Your home has to be robot vacuum friendly

Do you have young kids who leave little LEGOs around? Or often drop jewelry on the ground? “If you tend to have members in your household who don’t pick up all of the time, then you might have to rethink purchasing a robot vacuum,” warns Kelso, who says that items like socks, toys, and unmentionables can get caught in your robot vacuum. Also, if you have frilly rugs or floor covering with tassels, they will likely get stuck in the vacuum. Find out 13 items you should never vacuum.

CON: Low battery life

Be prepared to charge your robot vacuum in between rooms. “Most robot vacuums have a two-hour battery life which means they spend a lot of time charging,” Kelso says. If you have a small home, this won’t be a problem. However, with a larger home, your vacuum could take a while for it to get the job done around the house. Want to get as many years as possible out of your vacuum? Then avoid doing these 13 things that are shortening the life of your vacuum.

Also, there could be privacy issues

Back in 2017, there was some concern that iRobot’s mapping feature resulting in data collecting, and that ultimately, the company could sell or share some of your personal information with other companies, such as Amazon, Google, or Apple. However, the company has always maintained that it would never do so. If this is still a concern of yours, you can always opt to shut off the Wi-Fi portion of your iRobot, according to Consumer Reports. Find out 17 everyday things you didn’t know could be hacked.

The final word on robotic vacuums

So should you invest in a robot vacuum? It totally depends on your situation. So many people who are incredibly busy find them to be a lifesaver, while others consider them a waste of money. Only you can determine if a robot vacuum is right for you, based on how all of the pros and cons apply to your life. If you do decide to go the traditional vacuum route, make sure to check out all of these Consumer Reports endorsed models.

Leah Groth
Leah is a Philadelphia-based writer, editor, mother and product junkie. Her obsessions include old houses, home design, fashion, beauty, books and anything that makes her life — which includes working full-time and taking care of two "spirited" children and a Vizsla puppy — a little bit easier. Her work has appeared on a variety of publications and websites, including Glamour, Prevention, Business Insider, Livestrong, Mindbodygreen, Fatherly, Scary Mommy, Wonderwall and Cosmopolitan.