For years my daughter, Ava, begged to help with housecleaning as a way to earn extra money—but I usually ended up feeling like I was laying out too much cash for too little effort. Not anymore. Instead of relying on a not-especially-motivated teenager, I hired a crew of cleaning bots and haven’t looked back.
Let me rewind a sec: When robotic cleaning machines first rolled onto the scene (around the early 2000s), I tracked down every model I could get my hands on and set them to work, hoping to let us all off the hook. No dice. Those first-wave machines were pretty quickly overwhelmed, and troubleshooting them was frustrating and time-consuming. But the tide has turned. And my house has never been cleaner.
Many vacuum manufacturers now make a robot model. I tried a half dozen, at prices ranging from $300 to over $1,000. All were perfectly capable of cleaning a hardwood or low-pile carpet floor in a house with a couple of reasonably tidy adults and maybe a child. However, my household poses a much bigger challenge, thanks to the mess created by two adults and two sloppy teenagers plus three cats and one dog.
Two standouts emerged. The ($1,200) mapped a plan to vacuum my high-traffic area and bested Ava’s usual efforts in its very first session, so I programmed it to do the same thing every morning at dawn while I was still sleeping. A week later, the carpet was so clean I was happily doing sunrise yoga with no worry whatsoever about breathing in pet hair. Sure, I occasionally have to rescue the POWERbot when it gets stuck under the dining room table (if I forget to put the chairs up at night). And when I walk by, I glance to check whether the dirt reservoir is ready to be emptied. But every detail of this bot seems to have been thought through. Even removing a tangled string from the carpet roller is a cinch. I never imagined a robot could wow me in terms of both ease of use and results, but this one certainly did.
The ($1,000) was excellent too. It’s smaller than the Samsung and super cute. It has the suction and dirt-bin volume to handle my kitchen, home office and entryway while the Samsung works the living and dining area. Admittedly, these machines are not inexpensive by any means. However, I was really impressed by their ability to get the job done. I haven’t touched a vacuum in quite some time, which is awesome. Only you know what that could be worth to you budget-wise.
For the most part, I don’t mind mopping the kitchen floor by hand—the process is quick and easy now that the floor is vacuumed nightly. But I keep the ($200) in the bathroom. Once a week—sometimes more often—I pop in the battery, refill the water chamber and peek to see if a new cleaning pad is needed. The floors get scrubbed while I go about my life.
I found only one robot that does windows: The (I tested the 850, $350). After attaching the suction cups and security leash that ultimately keep it from falling off the house, I stuck it to the window to do its thing. (Watch the on the company website.) An hour later, my windows were sparkling and I was three chapters into a good book.
When the ($120) was running under the hood of the barbecue, it vibrated like monsters were battling within—but the interior ended up surprisingly spiffy. The latest version, due out this fall, connects to your phone through Bluetooth so you can control the start and stop via a few taps on the touchscreen. In other words, no more metal scrub brush needed!
Bottom line: Spending less time cleaning? Priceless.