The Pros and Cons of Robot Vacuum Cleaners

We can probably all recall a movie or television show that envisioned a future filled with robots who could attend to our every need. These fantasies assured us that by the time we got to adulthood, the average home would be full of robots and automated features designed to save us time and money. This future might still be far off; while artificial intelligence exists, it shows no sign of advancing fast enough to create domestic robot servants.

One sign, though, that there is a glimmer of hope for such a technologically tantalizing world is the robot vacuum cleaner. In a bid to make like more comfortable in the home, Robot vacuum cleaners are a step in the right direction, but are they as good as they claim? We decided to look at the pros and cons of robot vacuum cleaners and compare them to the traditional variety of vacuum to see if they meet the expectations and the hype.

The Advantages of a Robot Vacuum Cleaner

Intelligent Mapping

While a traditional vacuum is limited to wherever you push it, many robot vacuums have the facility to scan the room to establish the optimum route to avoid obstacles. They then store this information so that you get to see precisely where the vacuum has been in the home. It also means that you can make a plan for where to target the cleaning on set days.

Wifi Connectivity

With home hubs becoming increasingly popular, robot vacuum cleaners now connect wirelessly to your home hub so that you can control them via voice control or through a smartphone app so that you can connect to your robot vacuum wherever you are.

Imagine the nightmare scenario where you’ve invited the in-laws for dinner but you’re now running late at work. Simply connect to the vacuum via the app and presto, you have a clean floor. With a standard vacuum, there is no cleaning schedule, so in that same scenario it means that either you are going to have to leave work earlier than planned or the in-laws are going to have to turn a blind eye to your dirty floor.

Programmable Cleaning Schedule

These days we’re all busy and far too stressed to have to worry about cleaning our homes every day. Simply program the robot vacuum cleaner to set to work on specific days, or times, and get on with your life. Your vacuum can be cleaning away while you turn your attention to more important things.

Auto Return

One of the biggest challenges with traditional vacuum cleaners is where to store them. They are bulky items with equally cumbersome accessories that can consume a full upright cupboard space.

The robot vacuum, meanwhile, will put itself to bed once the work is done by connecting with the docking station to charge itself ready for the next time you need it. Given their size, they should be easy to store away without taking up too much valuable space.

Tight Corner Cleaning

Climbing onto your knees and reaching under chairs and tables with a push-along vacuum is time-consuming and awkward at best. Moreover, the shape of a standard upright vacuum is not best suited to reaching tight spots, so you might have to pull out the heavy furniture to get a proper clean, and that is extremely inconvenient and too taxing.

With an automated vacuum cleaner, though, you have no need to worry about these hassles. The robot vac is slim and agile, making it adept at reaching the tightest spots with ease. This means that you get a better result and avoid sore knees.

Spot Cleaning

Let’s suppose that someone has dropped something on the floor and it needs cleaning up before it stains. The traditional vacuum cleaner is big, heavy, and usually stored farthest from the scene of the spill, but with a robot vacuum, all you need to do is click a few buttons on the smartphone app and it can be there in seconds to deal with the spillage. When it’s done, it can return to its docking station with the minimum of fuss.

Limited Mobility Assistance

Many people live independently even though they may have mobility issues. A standard vacuum cleaner is not going to suit their needs due to its design, size, and shape, along with the fact that it has to be physically moved around the home. A robot vacuum, on the other hand, is ideal as it functions remotely, enabling the home to be cleaned thoroughly with the tiniest amount of effort.

The Disadvantages of a Robot Vacuum Cleaner


We don’t want to beat around the bush here: robot vacuum cleaners are not cheap. Take the iRobot Roomba 960 for example, which retails at over $500. If you compare that to a standard upright vacuum, like the Bissell CleanView, you are going to be spending over $400 more for the same cleaning power.

We accept that not all robot varieties are that expensive; some, like the Pure Clean PURCRC25 cost as little as $90, but you are going to need to spend a decent amount to get the best quality because, as with everything, you get what you pay for.


Robot vacuums are susceptible to obstacles, which means that before you set it to work you’re going to need to do a sweep of the floor and pick up anything that will stop its progress. Items like socks, shoes, and toys are going to severely hamper its ability to function effectively. In some ways, this defeats the object of having a remote vacuum in the first place. It is true that the same can be said for a traditional vacuum, but at least you can maneuver around those obstacles and pick them up as you go, meaning that you’ll save time.

Risk of Getting Stuck

Because of its shape and size, often robot vacuums will get wedged under furniture or in tight corners, needing you to come and rescue it.

Frequent Emptying Required

Due to their size, the dust canister on these robot vacuums can be tiny. This means that you are going to have to empty it every day, especially if you have pets that shed a lot of hair. Compare that to an upright vacuum that needs emptying every 2 or 3 days, and you’ll soon forget how convenient your remote vacuum is when you have to attend to it daily.

The type of flooring you have makes a difference as well: if you have deep pile carpets, that pet hair is going to be ingrained into the carpet fibers, so that robot vacuum is going to have to work doubly hard to extract all that matter, again, filling up the dust canister in no time at all.

A push-along vacuum comes with a host of accessories that deal with different types of flooring. Those with pet hair attachments are particularly well suited to removing ground-in materials.

Time Consuming

It could take a robot vacuum cleaner double or triple the time it takes you to push a hand-held vacuum around the same room. Robot vacuums take longer to do their tasks because they use artificial intelligence that just doesn’t function the same way our brains do. They take longer to make decisions on the route, or whether to turn left or right, all the while draining the batteries – and thus the efficiency – of the machine.

Battery Drain

These smart machines have features like an auto return home function and intelligent mapping, but all that sophistication comes from a brain powered by batteries. As the battery begins to drain, the vacuum loses the ability to think. Once that battery runs out, it will be impossible for the vacuum to return to its docking station, so you’ll be the one picking it up and replacing it in its charging base.  

Standard vacuums don’t suffer from this diminishing performance as they are usually attached to a cord, or if they are cordless, when you notice a lack of power, you clip it to its charger yourself.

Ineffective On Stairs

Stairs are not the friend of robot vacuum cleaners. It is the one area of the home where a robot cleaner is ineffective, meaning that you’ll need to keep a spare vacuum to tackle the stairs, which means more expense and more storage issues.

Final Thoughts

Robot vacuum cleaners are a great idea, but they are still in their infancy in technology terms, so it makes them expensive and imperfect machines. For some, though, they are beneficial for keeping homes clean. Those with mobility issues or those with open concept homes might find them a handy tool, but there are so many flaws in the way they are designed and operate that it is hard to give them a recommendation for all users.

As they stand, if you want a practical outcome, you are going to have to either design or buy a home on one level, kit it out with hardwood flooring, eradicate any changes in floor heights, and live a minimalist existence to avoid any clutter on the floors. If that’s you, then a robot vacuum cleaner is going to be a great purchase.

Further Reading