A Roborock vacuum and its docking station.

For years it’s been hard to take robot vacuums seriously, and they often come off like a boring, furless pet. We often picture them bumping into walls, leaving a trail of moon dust wherever they go, and running out of batteries while trying to reach some dirt in a hard-to-reach corner.

Many of them still do that, but most have moved up in the world.

Robot Vacuums Bumble Less, Clean More

Robot vacuums are no longer content to simply scare your dog. Newer ones have the ability to both vacuum and mop, can be integrated with your smart devices, and totally won’t fall down the stairs like a drunken android.

Take the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra. It can recognize the type of flooring it’s on and adjust accordingly (except if the floor is snakes) and uses 3D scanning for advanced obstacle avoidance. I let mine drive when I’m tired.

Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra Robot Vacuum

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This robot vacuum probably won't bump into your foot.

The docking station has more features than my apartment. It will automatically wash away any debris from the vacuum’s mop, acts as a water tank refilling station, and can collect debris and hold seven weeks’ worth of solids. But for the love of God, don’t try to use the docking station as a bathroom.

Because the iRobot Roomba s9 features smart connectivity, you can give it voice commands and tell it to go clean up that broken wine glass you dramatically threw into the fireplace. The weirdly named Ecovacs Deebot T8 will avoid the slow, scenic route around your place with laser mapping, and the eufy by Anker claims that it offers powerful suction “at a volume no louder than an operating microwave.” I feel like that’s a shot at microwaves.

Better Than Upright Vacuums?

While it feels like robot vacuums are to upright vacuums what iPhones are to phone booths, it’s not quite that simple. They are certainly more advanced than the original models that humped your feet and smeared dirt around the house. But they’re still ultimately a supplement to a regular, upright vacuum.

Some detailed areas will be missed, and robot vacuums clearly can’t be used to clean between sofa cushions or help wipe down your car after an unfortunate incident. And until they’re combined with drones, a robot vacuum won’t be able to get that spider that hangs out in the top corner of the room—unless you throw it.

Your Zamboni-like vacuum doesn’t need to feel threatened by your new hotshot robot vacuum. In time they can ideally work in tandem and learn the other’s value like a cop movie or something, and soon you’ll have the cleanest place West of the Pecos.

The Best Robot Vacuums of 2023

Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra
Best Robot Vacuum Overall
Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra
eufy RoboVac 11S
Best Budget Robot Vacuum
eufy RoboVac 11S
iRobot Roomba Combo j7+
Best Robot Vacuum and Mop
iRobot Roomba Combo j7+
Best Robot Vacuum for Pet Hair
Shark AV1010AE IQ Robot
Best Self Emptying Robot Vacuum
Shark AV1010AE IQ Robot
Profile Photo for Chason Gordon Chason Gordon
Chason Gordon is a former staff writer and editor for How-To Geek. His writing has previously appeared in Slate, Vice, Input, and The Globe and Mail, among other publications.
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