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Robot Vacuums

Today’s robot vacuums promise to map your home, vacuum and mop your floors, avoid pet “accidents,” empty their own bins, do video surveillance, and clean specific rooms following elaborate schedules. Do any of these functions work?

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Published Jan. 6, 2022. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 23: Scandinavian Brunch

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See Everything We Tested

What You Need To Know

We tested the latest robot vacuum cleaners at a wide range of prices. They offer special features that include voice and app control, mop attachments, home mapping and scheduled cleaning, pet-accident avoidance, video surveillance, and more. Our top choices are based on sheer cleaning power: They did the best job at removing dirt. They were also easy to operate, whether we used controls on the robots or their user-friendly apps. The iRobot Roomba j7+ Robot Vacuum was the premier picker-upper, easily “sweeping” the competition. It can keep going to get any job done since it empties its own dustbin, recharges, and returns to cleaning. It quickly created an accurate map that let us label rooms and set up scheduled or impromptu cleaning of designated areas or of the whole house. The Shark ION Robot Vacuum, a more budget-friendly robot with simpler features that performed nearly as well in picking up dirt as our winner, is a great option and our Best Buy. 

What You Need to Know

The first robot vacuum, the hockey puck–shaped iRobot Roomba, appeared in 2002. Since then, the category has grown and evolved as more manufacturers have explored different robot shapes and features. The earliest models navigated by bouncing off walls and furniture as they traveled randomly around each room. Today, many robots can map your home with lasers or optical sensors and follow methodical cleaning patterns. The newest models offer many bells and whistles at a wide range of prices. We first focused on their vacuuming abilities and then decided which extras were worthwhile.

What to Look For

  • Cleaning Power: In our lab tests, robots were presented with equal amounts of kitchen mess that included used coffee grounds, popcorn kernels, onion peels, salt, flour, and minced vegetables. The best robot picked up 100 percent of the mess; the worst, just 59 percent. Next we scattered rainbow confectionery sprinkles on a floor with an area rug. The best model scooped up more than 98 percent of the sprinkles; the worst, just 36 percent. Powerful suction made a big difference: As they passed over dirt, the top two models left clear trails, unlike lower-ranked models. Our favorite, by iRobot, also had unique dual counter-rotating rubber brushes that rigorously scooped up debris. 
  • Thorough Coverage: We liked robots that didn’t miss spots. A few used supposedly sophisticated lidar navigation technology, while some followed preset patterns—and one navigated randomly like an early Roomba. But not all of these movement modes actually sent the vacuum over the whole floor, as we saw in time-lapse photos (and in the results of our lab-vacuuming tests). An inexpens...

Everything We Tested

Good : 3 stars out of 3.Fair : 2 stars out of 3.Poor : 1 stars out of 3.

Highly Recommended

Recommended with reservations

Not Recommended

*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.
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Reviews you can trust

Reviews you can trust

The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.

Lisa McManus

Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.

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