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Guide to buying a robot vacuum

Guide to buying a robot vacuum

TP-Link Tapo RV20 Mop Plus

Robot vacuum cleaners are a great way to keep your home clean, automating the process so you can regularly get rid of dust and pet hair, without having to lift a finger. There are now many brands offering robot vacuum cleaners, with a wide range of options that include sweeping, mopping, self-cleaning and more. Here's what to look out for when shopping for one.

Do you need vacuuming, mopping, or both?

One of the first things you need to decide is what tasks the robot cleaner needs to achieve. If you have pets in a home with carpeting or rugs, just vacuuming might suffice while you tackle mopping manually. An example of such a robot vacuum is the Dyson 360 Vis Nav, or for something less expensive, the TP-Link Tapo RV10 Lite.

Dyson 360 Vis Nav
Credit: Aloysius Low/Can Buy or Not

On the other hand, some may need just mopping, as they handle dust and hair using a broom or a manual vacuum cleaner. However, robot mops are less common in Singapore, with brands preferring to offer hybrid models that handle both vacuuming and mopping.

The most convenient solution, if you want to automate all your floor cleaning duties, is to get a hybrid vacuum and mopping robot. This usually works with the robot having suction for dust, then a mop or wet wiping section behind it. In the same pass of the floor surface, both vacuuming and mopping are achieved. This works best if you have mostly hard floor surfaces at home, but newer, smarter models are also able to detect rugs and carpeted areas, so mopping is suspended at those areas.

Should you get a model with self-emptying docking station?

The short answer to this question is yes. Every robot vacuum or mop will come with a docking station to charge, but others will also empty the dust bag and clean the mop with fresh water. This adds a huge layer of convenience, especially for the vacuuming part. Instead of having to empty your robot's tiny dust compartment every few days, we are talking about replacing the dock's dust bag maybe every month or longer. 

With mopping docking stations, the dock will clean the robot's mop, draining out the dirty water into a waste water tank. Unlike the vacuuming section, this will require attention after every two or three mopping sessions. It's usually a matter of clearing out the waste water tank, rinsing it before replacing, and just topping up water and floor cleaning solution for the clean water tank. The Xiaomi Robot Vacuum X20 is an example of one with mopping self-cleaning.

Credit: Aloysius Low/Can Buy or Not

The only real reason to get one without self-emptying would be if you are on a tight budget. However, if saving an extra month, or buying second-hand are possible avenues to getting one with self-cleaning capabilities, we say, go for it.

Zig-zag cleaning or mapping?

In the early days of robot vacuums, these devices will use a zig-zag pattern and bump sensors to navigate, in an attempt to cover an entire home's floor surface. These days, robot cleaners often come with advanced sensors that are able to map out your home, giving you a floorplan that's visible on a companion app. This optimises the cleaning so it doesn't go through some places multiple times, or miss spots that the zig-zagging method may not reach.

See Also
Dyson 360 Vis Nav

Roborock's companion software shows a map of your home
Credit: Roborock

As much as we want to say: Always go with the newer models that map out your home, there are still scenarios you might want to choose a model with the older zig-zag algorithm. The first is price. Without having to map out your home, the robot doesn't need more expensive cameras and sensors, which brings down the price quite a bit.

Then there are those who prefer not to have cloud-connected cameras at home due to privacy reasons. They also don't want their robot vacuum cleaner manufacturer to have a blueprint of their apartment. In such cases, getting the older non-mapping robots would be a reasonable choice.

Pay attention to consumables

The more your robot vacuum does, the more replaceable parts will be required. This will result in running costs that may even exceed the price of your robot vacuum over its lifetime. Consider how expensive parts like side brushes, replacement mops, dust bags are. Check if third-party compatible accessories are available, which will often be the case for popular brands like Roborock. This can save you quite a bit of money in the long run.

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