8 things I wish I knew before getting a robot vacuum cleaner

Yeedi Cube being tested in writer's home
(Image credit: Future)

If, like me, you hate cleaning, chances are you’ve been considering buying a robot vacuum cleaner. The best robot vacuums are in many comical videos on TikTok and Instagram of people decorating them, cats riding them, and users showing how simple they can be. What’s not to love about one less chore, right? 

I have a robot vacuum, the eufy Clean X8 Pr (that I awarded 4.5 stars on test), and there are a few things I wish I knew before getting one.

1. They're not always as thorough as an upright vacuum

I have a very fluffy dog that likes to shed a LOT, and as well as the eufy robot vacuum I own an upright Shark vacuum cleaner specifically designed for pet hair. I liked the idea of a robot vacuum as I thought it would mean doing less of the dreaded chore with the upright model, when in fact I still have to use it to clean around the edges where the robot can’t reach, as well as on the sofa, skirting boards and more. 

It often leaves some dog hair behind despite a once-over around the flat, especially on carpets and rugs, but it is admittedly excellent (and amusing) to watch the robot go off to seek and destroy dust, and everyone loves a trier.

So, don't be too quick to throw away your upright vacuum. It's better to pair your new robot vacuum with one of the best vacuum cleaners.

2. Pets + robot vacuums = chaos

As mentioned before, the internet is awash with charming videos of cats riding around on robot vacuums, and it all looks very wholesome. If you have a pet, be aware that they may well not be the biggest fan of the arrival of a lumbering, noisy, low-level antagonist in their household. 

My dog watched it with suspicion from a distance the first few times, and now she is only annoyed if it nudges one of her toys or her food bowl, so I make sure to lift it up first. However, some pets will actively try to attack or chase the robot, so be mindful of your pet’s nature before investing. 

Narwal Freo X Ultra

(Image credit: Future / Jennifer Oksien)

3. Check which model is best for your home

I live in a one bedroom apartment with a lot of hard flooring, apart from one large rug in the living room. The model that I have is possibly a little on the big side for a one bedroom, with one person and a dog living in it, but it does the job well. A smaller version would probably find it easier to navigate around furniture, but also would require emptying and cleaning more often so the bigger capacity is a win. 

If you live in a house instead of an apartment, double check how the robot vacuum copes with stairs, in order to avoid the dreaded “stuck on a cliff” plea for help from the dramatic little robot. 

It wouldn't hurt to learn how to choose a robot vacuum cleaner to make sure you're getting the right one for you.

4. Be prepared for accidents

I had owned my robot vacuum for just over two weeks, the novelty was still high, and I was very keen to show it off to my boyfriend who had been working away. Excitedly, I set it going and we both looked on as the robot vacuum trundled off and under a futon chair stored in the corner of the living room. Suddenly my other half wrinkled his nose, asking “what’s that smell?” and to my horror we saw the robot vacuum come back out from under the chair, dragging the undetected dog mess with it. I ran to switch it off and turn the vacuum upside down to stop it from spreading further (mercifully it had only inched onto the carpet) but then came a marathon cleaning process. 

If you too end up with a pet-based nightmare, you can find instructions on how to clean your robot vacuum cleaner.

Other common mishaps involve cables getting sucked up and damaged, phone chargers being a regular one, or even curtains being yanked down. Make sure to double check nothing is left on the floor or within reach that could get tangled up.

5. They can be very cute 

Yes, I stuck giant googly eyes on my robot vacuum, and even after several months it provides me with great joy every day. Some others like to make their vacuum robot look like a ghost is cleaning, or make it look like a monster. The possibilities for ridiculous fun are all there. 

Admittedly, I do also like to pretend I’m on Robot Wars when I manually control the robot vacuum and will spend twice as long trying to make it clean up a missed spot rather than using the upright hoover, simply because it’s funny. 

Cleaning robot vacuum

(Image credit: Future / Jen Thomas)

6. Robot vacuums are great for a daily light clean

Don’t expect the robot vacuum to do a deep clean for you. I mistakenly thought it would be a one-and-done clean a couple of times a week, when actually it’s much better to get into a routine of keeping on top of things daily by scheduling it to clean and maintaining things when there is only a light layer of dust and dog hair to be picked up, rather than expecting miracles when you’ve been lazy or busy and things have built up. It’s handy to be able to set it going while you sort out the laundry or clean the kitchen side instead, and can keep an eye out for it. 

7. Don’t forget to clean the vacuum

Robot vacuums do need maintenance, so be sure to check the instruction manual to see how often the filter needs cleaning or replacing, as well as cleaning the brush roller. 

The model I have is designed specifically to prevent hair from wrapping around the roller which is a god send when I seem to have more of my wavy black hair on the floor than my head half the time, as well as the pet fur. It will run much better and efficiently if you do the regular maintenance, and don’t forget to empty the storage bin too. 

8. Don’t expect them to be completely hands-free

Many people (me included) expected the robot vacuum to be a miracle device that doesn’t need any help and is intelligent enough to navigate around the home with ease, leaving things spotless. 

As many comical videos show, unfortunately robot vacuums can be foiled by something as simple as a rug, a doorway, a step or a stray shoelace. Be prepared to receive help notifications on your app, before going to find what mischief it has got into. Let’s be honest though, that’s half the fun.  

Jen Thomas
Freelance writer

Jen Thomas has been working as a freelance journalist and reviewer for two decades, also presenting for Magic Radio. She has a fondness for leopard print, houseplants, and mixing patterns, as well as a tendency to acquire more gadgets than she really needs. In her spare time, Jen enjoys playing with and training her rescue dog from Romania, as well as tending to her balcony garden.