The best robot vacuum for 2024

Whether you have kids tracking in dirt on a daily basis or a few fur-shedding pets (or both), a robot vacuum can help make it easier to keep your floors clean. Vacuuming doesn’t have to be a daily chore for which you alone are responsible — these smart machines have gotten even better in recent years, to the point where some of them can even mop your hard floors in addition to sucking up debris. Yes, they are on the expensive side of the smart home gadget spectrum, but there are more midrange and affordable options today than ever before. But if you’re unclear where to start in your search for the best robot vacuum, we’re here to help. We’ve tested dozens of these machines over the years to find our top picks mentioned below, and lay out some advice that will hopefully help you decide which robo-vac is right for you.

Editor’s Note (3/14/24): We’re constantly testing new robot vacuums and updating this guide accordingly when we find new favorites. One model that’s on our radar is the Dyson 360 Vis Nav robot vacuum cleaner, which has been announced and will be available soon. Although it’s been available in other markets for some time, the 360 Vis Nav has yet to launch in the US — when it does, we’ll be eager to test it out and see if it’s worthy of a spot on our list.

What to look for in a robot vacuum

Wi-Fi connectivity

As we explained in our budget guide, Wi-Fi connectivity is a key feature for most robot vacuums. Some of the affordable devices aren’t Wi-Fi connected, though, so it’s best to double check before you buy cheap. Wi-Fi lets a robot vacuum cleaner do things like communicate with a mobile app, which then allows you to control the device from your phone.

Vacuum suction

Suction power is another important factor to consider. Unfortunately, there isn’t a standard power scale that all robo-vacs adhere to, so it’s difficult to compare among a bunch of devices. Some companies provide Pascal (Pa) levels and generally the higher the Pa, the stronger the vacuum cleaner will be. But other companies don’t rely on Pa and simply say their robots have X-times more suction than other robots.

Floor type

Ultimately, we recommend thinking first about the floors in your home: Do you have carpet throughout, or tile and hardwood floors, or a mix? Robots with stronger suction power will do a better job cleaning carpets as they can get into the nooks and crannies more easily. Some machines have “max” modes as well, which ups the suction power but also typically eats at battery life faster than the “normal” cleaning mode.

Mapping features and object detection

Past a certain price threshold, you’ll find advanced perks like home mapping features, improved object detection and automatic dustbin disposal. Home mapping is exactly what it sounds like: The vacuum uses sensors to map your home’s layout as it cleans, allowing you to send it to particular rooms or areas. Most robo-vacs have object detection, but some will be better than others at actually avoiding things like chair legs and children’s toys. Higher-end models like iRobot’s j7 series even go so far as to promise obstacle avoidance to steer clear of things like pet poop that can potentially ruin your machine.

Robot vacuums with mopping capabilities

We’re also now starting to see more robot vacuums with mopping capabilities. Machines with this feature have a water reservoir either built into the robot’s chassis or as a separate piece that you swap in for the dustbin when you want to mop your floors. It makes the robo-vac more useful if you have hard floors in your home that you like to keep squeaky clean, but it does require more work on your part. Filling and emptying the reservoir remains a human’s job.

Auto-empty station

Finally, for peak convenience, consider a robot vacuum that comes with a self-cleaning base. These are basically garbage bins attached to the machine’s docking station. At the end of each job, the robo-vac automatically empties its small dustbin into the large clean base – that means you won’t have to empty the dustbin yourself and you’ll only have to tend to the base once every few weeks. Just keep in mind that most self-emptying bins require proprietary garbage bags – another long-term expense you’ll have to factor in. Also, any vac-and-mop robot with a water tank will not dump its dirty water into the clean base, so you’ll still have to clean up that yourself.

Are robot vacuums worth it?

We tackled this question when we reviewed budget robot vacuums and the answer is yes, especially if vacuuming is one of your least favorite chores. Robots take the hard work out of cleaning your floors – just turn the thing on and watch it go. Any robot vacuum cleaner worth buying is semi-autonomous in that it will suck up dirt around your home until its battery is low and then make its way back to its charging dock. Unlike a regular vacuum, you should only have to interact with it to turn it on, empty its dustbin and untangle it if it were to get stuck somewhere.

That’s not to say robot vacuums are perfect. They’re almost always less powerful and less flexible than traditional vacuums. Since most robo-vacs are much smaller than traditional models, they often don’t have the same level of suction you’ll get in an upright machine. Plus, their dustbins are smaller, so they will need to be emptied more frequently. While Wi-Fi-connected robot vacuums give you the flexibility to start a cleaning job from anywhere using an app, targeting a small area of your home can be more complicated. Some robo-vacs have spot-cleaning features that focus the machine’s attention on a specific area, which almost – but not quite – mimics the spot-cleaning you’d be able to do yourself with a regular or cordless vacuum.

Robot vacuum maintenance tips

First and foremost, always empty your robot vacuum’s dustbin after every cleaning job. If you have a model with a self-emptying base, there’s less work for you to do yourself. If not, simply detach and empty the dustbin as soon as the robot is done cleaning. It’s also a good idea to take a dry cloth to the inside of the dustbin every once in a while to remove any small dust and dirt particles clinging to its insides.

In addition, you’ll want to regularly examine the machine’s brushes to see if any hair has wrapped around them, or if any large debris is preventing them from working properly. Some brushes are better than others at not succumbing to tangled hair, but it’s a good idea to check your robot’s brushes regardless — both their main brush and any smaller, corner brushes they have. These parts are often easy to pop off of the machine (because they do require replacements eventually) so we recommend removing each brush entirely, getting rid of any tangled hair or other debris attached to them and reinstalling them afterwards.

Robot vacuums also have filters that need replacing every couple of months. Check your machine’s user manual or the manufacturer’s website to see how long they recommend going in between filter replacements. Most of the time, these filters cannot be washed, so you will need to buy new ones either directly from the manufacturer or from other retailers like Amazon or Walmart.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at