Robovacs Are Terrible, And A Bad Gift Idea

Listen to me, no one needs a robovac of any kind. Whether it's a Roomba, an EcoVac, or a cheap Anker like what I have - they're nothing more than infant-sized metal-and plastic turds that push small piles of dirt around and scream when they cannot figure out what "rugs" are. They are inefficient, wasteful annoyances that enable laziness and poor cleaning habits.

With the holidays here, you may be tempted to purchase a robovac for someone who you imagine is in need of help cleaning - your overworked mother (who wouldn't be so overworked if you went home and visited every so often), your messy roommate (the Roomba will not fix your passive aggressive apartment problems), or even yourself (just... buy a regular vacuum).

But I'm here to tell you, each and every model - from the $250 bargain bin finds that probably can't handle an unusually large Twistie, to the $550 machine that still manages to get tangled up if you don't put your chair back just right - is useless.

Look, I get the theoretical appeal of a robovac. It's the Crock-Pot of cleaning. Let the machine do the work for you! But whereas the Crock-Pot presents you a finished product (ideally a hearty chilli con carne or tender pork roast) after five hours, a Roomba leaves you with dusty moulding and a desire to just put the poor thing out of its misery.

I'll admit, I was once charmed by the robovac craze. I thought I needed one too. My roommate brought a Anker T2100 home one night and I laughed in delight! "How cute!" "Look at its tiny brushes!" "You're my new best friend!" I even named it. What a fool I was!

It became quickly apparent that my new "friend" was nothing but a con artist. We set it to "clean" the living room, a simple enough task, and one I can achieve in 15-20 minutes if I've had a motivational beer. As I sat down to relax, I could hear it whirring across the room. Not five minutes later do I hear CLICK CLICK CLACK CLACK CLACK. It was stuck under the coffee table. Still content to help the little guy out until he gathered his bearings, I righted him and set him on his way once again.

(10 minutes later)

CLACKACLACKCLACKCLACKCLACKACKACKACKACK. I quickly found out the robovac does not like rugs with fringe. I reluctantly got up and moved it to the kitchen, hoping it could handle a couple of square metres of tile. It could not. I watched in anger as it got stuck in the same routine. Bump into a wall, turn to the right, go for a minute, bump into a wall, turn to the right. On and on. Occasionally it'd get lucky and accidentally stumble across a dusty lentil. An hour later my apartment was no cleaner.

Look at this pathetic creature, hiding under the couch like a rat. It knows its existence is shamefully unnecessary.

And while my Anker doesn't make the best robovac out there, no matter how well any robovac knows the ins and outs of my home, it's still bested by odd corners, steps, any spill with more water content than a soggy Pringle, or the ever-present MacBook charger on my floor.

Perhaps most importantly, you should be aware that your house is not clean just because your floors are slightly less dusty. The purchase of a robovac will lead you to believe your home will be spotless each morning, and ignores the fact that every other surface in your home is dusty and stain-ridden. You'll be tempted to let your house get dirtier and dirtier with the thought that the robovac will just take care of it. But can it dust in between my venetian blinds? Can it wipe down the caked-on matter ringing the rim of the toilet? Can it scrub my hot sauce-stained countertops? No. Good cleaning habits dictate that you clean from the top to the bottom - moving dirt and dust to the ground as you go. And robovacs are mere bottom-feeders. Don't let them lull you into a false sense of cleanliness. You can run that thing around your house every damn day and it will still be a sty.

Plus, they don't even clean well! If I drop a globule of masaman curry onto my carpet, there is no scenario in which I'd turn on a Roomba, place it in front of the mess, and say, "Get to it, old chap." Twenty minutes later it'd still be dragging streaks of curry across the room!

Say you do spill a box of breadcrumbs (or something this thing is supposed to be good at cleaning). Wouldn't you rather just grab a broom and sweep it up in an instant instead of watching the bot tepidly scrape 10cm-wide strips for 30 minutes before becoming so embarrassed for the little guy you have to leave the kitchen??

And if I'm not home, I'm not making any mess, so what is there for this thing to do? Wander aimlessly waiting for dead flies to fall? You don't need to sweep or dust daily so long as you take off your shoes upon entry like any civilised person.

Robovacs are also like $250! Minimum! If someone really needs help keeping tidy, that same amount of money will get them a cleaning service for a few months (after which they should have learned enough to do it themselves).

Don't encourage this style of 21st-century laziness with frivolous stopgap technology. Clean your home properly, and you'll be rewarded with feelings of accomplishment, rather than anger at the tiny robot that has one again died beeping in a pathetic heap under the bookshelf.



    Why would you buy one to clean a floor? I've seen the youtube videos, they are clearly designed as a taxi for cats to sit on

    I have a Xiaomi Mi Robot Vac and I can't sing its praises enough. Hardwood floors & carpet in the rooms, and the little sucker zips around our 1-storey house in a couple of hours. I even use the App to do it remotely so if I have unexpected company, I know the house will be vacuumed by the time guests arrive. And don't get me started on how amazing it is at sucking up my long-haired cat, & also golden retriever's, fur, that's all over the carpet. (hint: it's the bomb-diggity).

    Sure, you gotta make sure chargers are out of the way, but like you said about good cleaning habits, good cable management keeps them free of walking feet anyway.

    TL;DR Journo makes assumption on all robot vacs based on owning a rug and leaving chargers lying around.

      +1 for the xiaomi robo vac. I got mine delivered from china for $360 and after using it think it does a pretty good job.
      Never see it get stuck and it just works.

      I like the app functions too but need to update ot to use the english voice pack.

      Definatley not worthless like the writer declares of all robo vacs.

        My Mum and Dad just got one of the Xiaomi vacs and I think they're better than the current wider market ones we get here. They're retirees and have bad backs now they're in their 70s. This little beauty has been a godsend for them, the floors are clean (we set it to clean the floors twice a week) and this thing has helped out immensely. Dad finds it easy to lift it once and empty rather than pushing a broom all around the house. What got me was this comment:

        If I drop a globule of masaman curry onto my carpet, there is no scenario in which I'd turn on a Roomba, place it in front of the mess, and say, "Get to it, old chap."

        Honestly mate, you've missed the point of the whole thing. Would you use a broom on your curry? No. You'd wipe that up then mop it. So it's not even comparable.

    I get that these "you're doing it wrong" articles are good for interaction metrics, but this one is just strange. Why are robovacs selling so well if they are so bad at what they do? Am I just imagining my Roomba cleaning my floors? We can't all be wrong.

      Selling well is more the cool factor and marketing. Real test would be repeat buyers i think.

    Yeah, don't extrapolate your experience with a shitty cheap model to all robovacs. We've had a Neato D80 for 3 years and it's been fantastic. It cleans both levels of a massive U.S. house twice a week and does a great job. It actually picks up more dust than doing it by hand with a normal vac. Far better value than a Dyson.

    Buys low end product, doesn't understand how it works, complains when it doesn't magically fix everything.

    All of the issues described also affect regular vacuum cleaners. You don't vacuum benchtops, any vacuum will try to eat your rug's fringe and get tangled on cables if you leave them lying around, WHY WOULD YOU VACUUM CURRY!?

    As for the pathing, if you buy one of the better units that can actually map out rooms you'll be less likely to have issues.

    Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair

    One of the best purchases I ever made... we have a dog, and kids with allergies. Of course we still have to clean regularly, but the Roomba vacuums every night, and collects a whole load of dog hair every time. Every night, not just once a week (or fortnight) when I get around to cleaning.

    Sure, it's only 50% of the cleaning. But it's 1% of the effort.

    Thanks to these comments, I'm going to buy one. As for the the article author, lol derp.

    What are you bagging on about!
    We have had a Roomba for a couple of years and providing you look after it and keep it clean it does an amazing job for such a small piece of hardware. Amazes me every time just how much dust etc it picks up. Worth every penny!

    Seemed a bit gimmicky, so ended up getting a cheap one for $100. It's been a year since, we use it daily and still going. Waiting for it to break so I can buy a better xiaomi or neto.

    There is also a "Tile: A Bad Gift Idea" article complaining about having to leave bluetooth on for the Tile app to function?

    Lived with a Roomba for at least 5 years now. Can't go back, its as useful as a dishwasher.

    I have a Samsung $1700 worth. I fired my cleaner after she spotted it and complained. It does a far better job than she ever did and it never complains.

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