A good vacuum cleaner is essential for keeping your floors, carpets, and rugs free of dust and mites. We’ve already covered all kinds of vacuums at the Strategist — including cordless and handheld options — but if you’re looking to delegate the work (without hiring a cleaner), consider a robot vacuum. These cheerfully move around the rooms of your house guzzling dust and dirt, and can be programmed to get to work while you’re heading to the office or going to bed for the night.
Most robot vacuums, from high-end to affordable, look very similar, so to figure out the best robot vacuums out there, we spoke to professional cleaners, pet owners, and other experts to find out what models actually work — and which ones are best avoided. We also asked Strategist contributors to tell us about the models they swear by, and considered the best-selling models on the Strategist, too.
What we’re looking for
Suction power: While Dyson and Shark vacuums measure their suction power in AW (referring to “air watts”’), robot vacuums use a different metric: Pa (which is short for Pascal Pressure Unit). Most models offer a Pa of 1,500 to 2,000, though more expensive cleaners can go up to more than 3,000. Manufacturer Roborock offers this by way of comparison on their website: A Pa of 2,000 is “enough suction to pick up AA batteries off your floor.” We’ll be listing the Pa of each model where available, and when it isn’t, we’ll be comparing reader reviews and other models in order to gauge a robot vacuum cleaner’s potential suction power.
Run time: Just like with standard vacuum cleaners, battery life is important. Nobody wants a model to cut out while you’re in the middle of a deep clean. But with robot vacuums, it’s perhaps even more crucial, as the robot needs enough power to make the journey back to the docking station. If you live in a big house, consider a model with a longer run time, which is less cumbersome than moving the dock from room to room.
Capacity: Though they are notably smaller than their upright counterparts, we’ll be listing each robot vacuum’s total capacity. Some models have self-emptying towers, so they’re able to do several laps of your home, but a low-capacity model isn’t necessarily a deal breaker — most robot vacuum cleaners need to be emptied after they clean anyway.
Best overall robot vacuum
2500Pa suction | Up to 70 minutes run time | 600mL capacity
Eufy is one of the most well-known robot manufacturers (and they’re owned by Anker, who make some of our favorite phone chargers). In the past, experts told us Eufy’s BoostIQ 11S robot vacuum cleaner was the best out there; it’s also the best-selling model among readers of the Strategist. However, we’ve decided to name Eufy’s newer G20 as our best overall, as it has updated and improved on all the things that made the 11S so good in the first place. For example, the 11S had a Pa of 1,300 — not notably high, but certainly dependable. The G20 is almost double that at 2,500. The battery life of the G20 is slightly shorter, however. While the 11S has up to 100 minutes, the G20 offers up to 70 minutes in standard mode, or up to 35 minutes at max-suction mode. But we think that’s a pretty good trade off.
The G20 has a 600-milliliter capacity, which is at the higher end for Eufy vacuums, and uses smart-mapping technology that allows it to tackle large spaces in a series of smaller zones. If the battery does get low, the vacuum will stop, take itself back to the charging station, and when fully charged can resume where it left off. It also has a voice — and will announce if it has run into any problems while cleaning.
Best (less expensive) overall robot vacuum
1300Pa suction | Up to 100 minutes run time | 600mL capacity
If you’re not as fussed about the high suction offered by the G20, then we think the original 11S is the best less-expensive option, especially as it has a longer run time (though it lacks the high-suction option). It does lack the intelligence of the G20, if Amazon reviews are anything to go by, but this might be a good entry-level option or perfect for someone with a smaller home. Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo called it “the robot vacuum that helped me avoid couples therapy,” while Strategist UK contributor Abigail Opiah said, “Its suction power is strong enough to swallow an ankle sock whole, and it operates at a volume no louder than a working microwave.” Opiah bought her robot vacuum during lockdown, when her family was at its wits end trying to keep on top of chores while working and isolating from COVID-19. “It limbos underneath the beds and sofas, using sensors to avoid casualties. I even have it on during my work Zoom calls and nobody suspects a thing, as it quietly zips around the room.”
Best robot vacuum for pet hair
N/A suction | Up to 100 minutes run time | 700mL capacity
When our sister site went on a hunt to find the best robot vacuum for pets, they were told by pet-care experts and owners that Neato was the best for picking up hair and other pet messes. That’s in large part because of the Spiral Combo brush, which is designed especially to pick up pet hair on most surfaces. Canine-behavior expert and trainer Shelby Semel recommends Neato robot vacuums to her clients because of their zoning features. “You can block off and control sections of a room from your phone,” she explains, marking virtual no-go zones for the vacuum to avoid. Ryeon Kim, co-founder of pet e-commerce retailer Little Beast, also loves the vacuum’s ability to focus on specific areas in a home. And Dr. Jamie Richardson, veterinarian and chief of staff at veterinary start-up Small Door, says the unique D-shape helps this robot vacuums get into all the nooks and crannies of her house where pet hair can accumulate.
Best quiet robot vacuum
2000Pa suction | Up to 180 minutes run time | 480mL capacity (dustbin), 180mL capacity (water tank)
Canine trainer Shelby Semel told us this Roborock vacuum cleaner had a particularly effective quiet mode, which means it is able to get to work at home without causing a fuss. “Stressing your dog out when you’re not home and they have no one to protect them can honestly have lasting effects,” Semel explains, which is why she recommends this robot vacuum to all her clients with skittish dogs. We’ve previously featured the earlier model, the S5, which is the second best-selling robot vacuum on the Strategist. The S6 offers the same suction and capacity, but the zone-mapping is now automatic and the cleaning is faster — meaning the battery now lasts longer. On Amazon, customers wrote that the S6 was quiet enough to clean a toddler’s room without waking them, while two roommates said they were able to hold full conversations and take work calls while the S6 quietly cleaned up around them. The suction power is up to 2,000 Pa, though this will be lower during the quietest setting, and though the capacity is smaller than other models here, that is largely due to this being both a vacuum and mop — as well as a 480-milliliter-capacity dustbin, there is a 180-milliliter-capacity water tank for the mop.
Best self-emptying robot vacuum
1700Pa | Up to 60 minutes run time | 500mL capacity
Compared to the other models, Roomba’s self-emptying robot vacuum cleaner isn’t as powerful, nor does it have as long a run time. However, self-emptying vacuums are prized for convenience. They empty their contents into the towerlike dock when they return from a day’s cleaning, and you can lift the sealed bag right out. We had to choose between two models — the Shark IQ and the Roomba I7. The Shark is the third best-selling robot vacuum on the Strategist, but we were convinced by the Roomba after hearing photographer Winnie Au recommend it to us. Though she has had other Roombas before, she was always annoyed by the need to empty the vacuum after every usage, which fills up easily. In her opinion, “it defeats the purpose of having a Roomba.” But this model does it for you — after each cleaning session, the vacuum empties the dirt into a disposable AllergenLock bag located inside the charging dock (the bag holds 60 days worth of vacuuming, too.)
While the actual suction power is standard, the Roomba offers ten times suction by way of the variety of bristles and brushes, which are designed to pick up pet hair, dust, and cereal more effectively. The edge sweeping brushes, for example, are angled at 27 degrees so they can “pull” debris toward it from edges and corners (like most of the expensive models, this vacuum cleaner uses a “Z” cleaning pattern, where it cleans the perimeter of a room before zig-zagging within it to catch as much as possible). The double brushes are also designed to irritate and break up any hard stains or marks, allowing them to get sucked up more easily.
Winnie Au, photographer
Liza Corsillo, Strategist senior writer
Nicole Ellis, dog trainer at Rover
Parisa Fowles-Pazdro, Maxbone founder
Stacie Grissom, director of content at Bark
Minha Khan, art director
Ryeon Kim, co-founder of Little Beast
Abigail Opiah, Strategist UK contributor
Dr. Jamie Richardson, veterinarian and chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary
Shelby Semel, animal trainer
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