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Are robot vacuum cleaners worth it? Everything you need to know about hands-free hoovering

If you’re looking for an easier way to vacuum, a robot vac could be the answer to this boring household chore.

By Laura Cooke | Last updated Jan 23, 2024

Black iRobot robot vacuum poking out from underneath a grey sofa

Let’s face it - even with the very best vacuum cleaner, many of us find vacuuming a bit of a bore.

Whether you favour a sturdy corded cylinder vacuum cleaner or a slimline cordless vacuum cleaner, this rudimentary household chore is still taking up our precious time that could be better spent doing… well, anything, really.

That’s where robot vacuum cleaners come in. All you have to do is programme these nifty little machines and they’ll do all the hard work for you.

But is it really that simple? And are robot vacuum cleaners worth the expense?

We’ve consulted the Mumsnet forums to find out exactly what our users think about robot vacuum cleaners - the good, bad and ugly - to help you decide whether to take the plunge with hands-free hoovering.

How do robot vacuum cleaners work?

Unlike traditional vacuum cleaners, robot vacuum cleaners do all the hard work for you. All you need to do is programme them then sit back and relax. Robot vacuums come equipped with all sorts of technology, including sensors, cameras, lasers and even Wi-Fi to navigate your home unaided without banging into obstacles, getting stuck or toppling down stairs. Some can even return to their docking station for charging or self-emptying.

Many of the newer models are controlled by smartphone app or voice-controlled devices, including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing you to schedule vacuuming remotely, and your vac can alert you if it manages to get itself tangled up or stuck.

Read next: How to clean a carpet: top tips from Mumsnetters

Are robot vacuum cleaners effective?

Yes, robot vacuum cleaners are effective, as plantmadness says: “I have a mid-range Eufy. Love it. Whizzes round after tea each night and sometimes late morning on weekends as well. Keeps on top of things and I'm constantly amazed at how much dust it picks up each day.”

However some robot vacuums have a tendency to get stuck under furniture or struggle with cables or other obstacles, so you may need to do a little rearranging before you send your vac on its way. “I find it a nuisance having to remove everything off the floor, including lamp bases,” says CuckooClocked. “It does do a good job though, and can get under sofas etc which is useful. Cables and wires need to be removed.”

Read next: The best budget robot vacuum cleaners under £200, tried and tested

Are there surfaces that a robot vacuum cleaner can’t tackle?

“I bought it for my large family room which has amtico flooring as I was spending my life sweeping up,” said AngelsWithSilverWings. “I also occasionally send it around my main living room which is carpeted and it does a really great job.”

Robot vacuums can work wonders on carpet, laminate and hardwood floors, but beware of rugs and mats, which some vacs may struggle with.

RainbowZebraWarrior adds: “Love my Eufy [...] Utter godsend. Mind, I have wood floors throughout. My Mum has one and it struggles a bit in her lounge as she has a large, deep rug.”

Read next: How to clean a floor: tips on cleaning wood, laminate and tile floors from Mumsnetters

What’s the battery life of a robot vacuum cleaner?

Depending on the make, model and setting, robot vacuum cleaners can clean for anywhere between around 60 to 100 minutes per session before they need to be recharged. The battery itself should last, on average, between three and six years before you should consider a replacement.

But with a little TLC, you can prolong the life of your robo vac, as Frazzlerock says: “Ours is a few years old now and we nearly pensioned it off recently to go for an all singing all dancing hybrid one. But Eufy customer service is so brilliant I managed to fix it with a new side brush motor. I also treated it to a lovely new filter and side brushes (soooo cheap) and it's as good as new again with plenty of life left in the old thing.”

Read next: Samsung JetBot AI+ review: is this the best robot vacuum cleaner money can buy?

5 reasons why Mumsnetters love robot vacuum cleaners

Two white cats looking at a white robot vacuum cleaner as it moves across a wooden floor

1. It frees up your time

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough hours in the day? Robot vac fans say that one of the big perks of owning one of these nifty little machines is that it frees up your time to do something else.

“I no longer panic on the day that visitors are coming over as I can put Eufy on first thing and get on with other housework that needs doing,” says Topsy44. “As a lone parent, it has been a life changer for me!!”

fitzbilly adds: “The only maintenance is emptying it once a week which is hardly difficult. I love mine. One less job for me to do.”

2. It can go to work when you’re out

The beauty of robot vacuum cleaners is that you don’t even need to be in the house while they do their thing. Just programme your vac before going out to the shops, heading out on a dog walk or dropping the kids off.

SkankingMopoke says: “I usually set him off just before we leave for the school run, and by the time I get back to gather my bits for work, he's done.”

3. It is easy to use

Many of the newer robot vacuums can be controlled via a smartphone app, allowing you to programme the vac’s route and allowing the machine to alert you when something is up.

“I splashed out and got a Roomba self-emptying one,” says Jellybean81. “It has an app that tells you how it's doing and messages for help if anything gets jammed (Lego people).”

4. They can make vacuuming fun (really!)

Let’s face it, vacuuming isn’t the most enjoyable job in the world, but somehow robot vacs have helped to inject a little fun into proceedings. Many Mumsnetters have given their robot vacs quirky names - Flat Eric, Goofy Eufy, Sir Sweepsalot, J Edgar and Mr Truffles being some of our faves - while 2022IamHavingYa has taken things one step further, saying: “Love my Eufy! He has Googly eyes and tons of stickers from my son.”

And who doesn’t love a YouTube clip of a cat hitching a lift on a Roomba? Which brings us onto our next reason why Mumsnetters love a robot vacuum…

5. Takes care of pesky pet hair

Perpetually moulting cats and dogs can put the toughest vacuum cleaner  to the test. But a good robot vacuum takes dog hair and feline fluff in its stride.

“We have one upstairs and one downstairs. Two highly shedding dogs (one husky mix, one Rommie something), a long haired cat and two hairy humans. They are AMAZING,” confirms SilverHairedCat.

But we will leave the final word with Frazzlerock, who has a cautionary tale for all pet owners who are considering taking the plunge and getting a robot vacuum.

“Just be careful if you have any pets who either bring in rodents or do a stealth sh*t/sick. It's not a pleasant job cleaning Eufy after that, trust me. We used to have it set on a timer for, like 3am so that the floors were lovely when we came down in the morning. After several experiences of aforementioned carnage, we now put it on just before we go to bed, so we know the floors are clear.”

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

About the author

Laura Cooke is a Content Editor at Mumsnet, with a special focus on home care content.

Laura started writing Swears By articles for Mumsnet in 2021 and has recently taken over responsibility for floor care and laundry content. She writes buyers guides, including what to consider when buying a robot vacuum cleaner, cleaning articles and tests products, including the Henry Quick vacuum and the Beldray 60m Rotary Airer, to help Mumsnetters make informed choices when it comes to parting with their pennies.

Laura has also written articles for publications including the Daily Mirror, the i, Metro, Stylist and Happiful magazine.