How much of the vacuuming can you leave to a £200 robot cleaner?

After nearly two decades of trying to clean up, it would be nice to think that robotic vacuums had by now relieved us of at least one household chore. Sadly, that’s not quite the case – but a modest outlay can at least reduce your reliance on your regular Hoover and let you do some of the tidying up from the comfort of your armchair.

The RoboVac 30C will do the vacuuming while you're out

Remote controlled vacs use sensors to mark out an area, like a cat in heat, and then proceed to glide around the room, sweeping up while you get on with something else. They’re not always particularly thorough and some are extremely noisy – and of course they can’t go up and down the stairs – but they don’t require much effort on your part until its time to empty them out.

The £200 RoboVac 30C by Eufy is possibly the best value on the market today, especially if you already have either a Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa voice assistant. With the two hooked up together it’s possible to employ some artificial intelligence by saying out loud, “please clean the dining room”, as if you were talking to the maid. More usefully, you can tell it to do the sweeping-up while you’re out.

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As with many new-age appliances, you control the RoboVac through an app on your phone. This applies whether you want to talk to it or not. You can set cleaning schedules from your handset and direct it to the spot you want cleaning, without getting your hands dirty.

Like most robot cleaners, it adjusts automatically for different types of floor and will run for up to 100 minutes between charges – which it will take care of itself by returning to its base station. Eufy says the noise it makes is no more distracting than an average microwave oven.

Also in common with its rivals, it comes with several feet of “boundary strips” which it uses to sniff out where it can’t go. You will place the first of these at the top of your staircase to prevent it falling over the edge.

But while those “no entry” markers help to prevent accidents, they also expose the weakness of all these cleaners in any home other than a flat or bungalow. The stairs are among the most heavily trafficked areas of the house and you’re always going to need to bring out your regular vac to tackle those.

The shape of the robot cleaners doesn’t help, either. They’re mostly circular so they won’t go into corners and the requirement for them to glide under furniture means they’re too small to hold much fluff – which in turn means they need emptying more often than you’re used to. They are also underpowered compared to mains cleaners and they take a great deal longer to vacuum a room than doing it by hand – think of them as the indoor equivalent of a goat nibbling away at your lawn.

Nevertheless, their ability to do the day-to-day cleaning while you do something else makes them an attractive proposition.

There are many rivals to the RoboVac, including the Roomba models from iRobot, which were the first on the market in 2002, and some have a D-shape to help them get into crevices. There are also floor cleaners which move around in the same way but mop rather than vacuum.

Some are from familiar manufacturers like Miele, Samsung and Dyson, and have extra brushes and beaters that are better at picking up pet hairs. Many of these are priced exotically – but it doesn’t take much artificial intelligence to work out that it’s unrealistic to pay much more than £200 for something that’s only ever going to be a secondary appliance.

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