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Pets are great. Pet hair? Not as great. One of the worst parts of pet ownership is keeping up with the sheer amount of fur your dogs or cats shed on a daily basis.
If you agree, maybe it’s time to get a robot vacuum cleaner designed to keep up with your pet’s constant shedding. These automated cleaners can be set to run on a schedule, so the only thing you have to do is occasionally empty its dust bin. A good rule of thumb is, the bigger the battery (and the longer the battery life is), the better the cleaning job.
Because we love a clean home as much as you do, we’ve tested dozens of robot vacuums for pet hair and we think the best is the Neato Botvac D7 Connected. In our tests, we learned that dealing with fur on your floor is about three things: navigation, agitation, and powerful suction. The best robot vacuums can find their way around a room, root pet hair out of carpet fibers, and vacuum it up.
These are the best robot vacuums for pet owners ranked, in order:
1. Neato Botvac D7 Connected
The Neato Botvac D7 Connected stands as a milestone in robot vacuums. It’s the first robot vacuum you can tell when, how, and where to clean—all from your smartphone.
With its innovative No-go lines feature, you can draw lines on virtual maps, that the D7 creates, to prevent the unit from going near sensitive areas like pet bowls and beds.
While the No-go feature is cool, Neato also made a robot vacuum that cleans well, where you want it. The D7’s large wheels and D-shaped design allow it to climb high-pile carpet and get flush against walls. On average, the Neato picked up 9.6 grams of dirt per run. To put that in perspective, if you set the D7 to run automatically every day, that equals 67 grams of dirt a week–on par with light cleaning from a full-sized vacuum. Additionally, as it’s equipped with a HEPA filter, owning a D7 will go a long way towards keeping your home allergen-free.
2. iRobot Roomba i7+
The iRobot Roomba i7+ is the best overall robot vacuum we’ve tested to date, but it scored just below the Neato Botvac D7 Connected when it came to pet hair.
One of the innovations that makes the Roomba i7+ attractive—its the first robot vacuum that can empty itself. A vacuum in the charging base suctions everything out of the bin into a sealable bag. That means you don’t have to see, touch, or smell what your robot vacuum picks up. As much as you love your cats, their hair can get gross, so keeping it sealed always is a huge boon, especially when allergies are involved.
Also for your convenience, the i7+ has a whole host of smart features. Plus, it’s Amazon Alexa and Google Home compatible. The i7+ can even make virtual maps that can track cleaning cycles and even keep it out of individual rooms, perfect for keeping it away from pet beds and litter boxes.
Fancy tech aside, the i7+ picks up quite a bit. On average, it picked up 10 grams of debris, so in a week, it can keep up with a mild manual cleaning. The i7+ is expensive, but every penny is accounted for in the large number of features and excellent performance.
3. Eufy Robovac 11S
If dog hair is the furriest thing on your floors, the Eufy RoboVac 11s is worth checking out. It’s a highly affordable model that also rocks good performance. The Eufy is perfect for anyone who wants to figure out if a robot vacuum and their pets are compatible. The slim design allows the 11s to jam its brushes into places where pet hair often get swept away. This model also boasts quiet operation, so it isn’t likely to irritate your pets.
The RoboVac 11s has a few drawbacks. It has no virtual walls or magnetic strips to ward it off from unwanted areas. Also, during testing, the Eufy was entirely unable to clean high-pile carpet. That means it will do best in homes with bare floors, not thick carpets.
4. Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 930
Testing shows that the Ecovacs DeeBot Ozmo 930 sits ahead of most of the competition. The majority of smart vacuums let you start, stop, and schedule from your phone. The 930 lets you do that with just the sound of your voice, since it’s Amazon Alexa- and Google Assistant-compatible.
You can also create virtual barriers—lines you don’t want the 930 to cross. The opposite is also possible. With a single swipe, the app tells the 930 to go over a certain area multiple times. This feature works really well with high-traffic locations in your home. Areas like doggy doors and near food bowls always seem to need an extra going over before they get fully cleaned.
After testing automated cleaners for so long, we often see the robot in robot vacuum left behind. The Ozmo 930 puts it in the forefront, letting you control, when, where and for how long you want an area vacuumed.
5. LG Hom-Bot Turbo+ CR5765GD
For once, a robot vacuum has actually impressed us with its tech. The LG Hom-Bot Turbo+ represents the next step in robot vacuums. It not only did a great job cleaning floors, but it also had an app that was actually useful. See, the Hom-Bot has multiple cameras that you can access anytime through wifi.
It’s those onboard cameras that we think pet owners will enjoy. We see it as a two-for-one deal: you get a robot vacuum and a mobile pet camera to keep track of our furry loved ones.
How we tested
Most of the tests involve our robot obstacle course. The area contains analogs for furniture legs, shelves, and thresholds. Each robot vacuum has three chances to prove itself. The first two runs, we placed cork pellets under the shelves and between the furniture legs.
When we let the robot vacuum loose, we look for how long a cleaning cycle takes in the various cleaning modes, what obstacles it was able to clean around thoroughly, and overall debris pickup. For the final test run, we replaced the cork with pet hair and run another test run.
What You Need to Know about Robot Vacuums
After testing dozens and dozens of robot vacuums, we think the name is a bit of a misnomer. A robot vacuum’s ability to pick up dirt pales in comparison to that of a full-sized vacuum and can only really compete over the course of a week. We found that consumers experience the most satisfaction with their robot vacuums when they view them as floor maintainers in between manual cleanings. It can keep your place from looking dusty and grab bits here and there, but you’ll still need a full-size vacuum.
We should also point out that most robot vacuums are designed for bare and hardwood floors and medium carpet. If you have throw rugs taller than ½ inch, your robot vacuum might not be able to climb atop it or may get stuck if it gets up there. This fact is vital for pet owners because pet beds can quickly become the bane of your robot vacuum’s existence.
Avoiding Robot Vacuum Pet Mishaps
Over the years, three technologies have developed to help keep robot vacuums from running amok: magnetic strips, virtual barriers, and app-based barriers. All three of these methods have their pros and cons.
Magnetic strips: These are the simplest. You lay them on the floor and they create a barrier that designated robot vacuums will not cross. While they don’t require batteries, magnetic strips are cumbersome. Most robot vacuums that included them only ship with one, so you have to cut them if you want to cover multiple entryways.
Virtual barriers: The next step up are virtual barriers. These battery-powered devices emit an infrared line that tells robot vacuums to turn back. Some specialized barriers, like iRobot’s lighthouse, can create a “halo” or a circle barrier to encompass a piece of furniture or a pet bowl, but most work by line of sight, meaning you’ll need several to block multiple doorways.
App-based barriers: The final method, aside from shutting doors, involves specialized apps. New mapping technologies allow robot vacuums to actually map out and navigate your home like a person might. They can then send that information to your phone, letting you designate where the vacuum should and shouldn’t go. Companies like iRobot, Neato, and Ecovacs all produce robot vacuums were you can draw lines on virtual maps to create these barriers.
Robot vs. Vacuum
Like most modern tech with limited power and a mobile (in this case, literally) design, robot vacuums typically have to make a fundamental tradeoff: are they a good robot, or a good vacuum?
A good robot can navigate its surroundings expertly, learning where to go and avoiding getting stuck on obstacles. Not only does this lead to a more consistent clean, there are fewer times you’ll have to actually go “rescue” your robot from your high pile carpet. However, being a good robot often means drawing power away from the brushes and to the wheels, sensors, and CPU.
In our experience, the robot vacuums that clean well tend to do so aggressively (not unlike people, actually). They cover a lot of area, but they also ram into your furniture. A robot vacuum can’t clean where its brushes haven’t been, so this in some ways actually allows them to get closer to the dirt that lesser vacuums miss. They also tend to be noisier as more power is drawn to the motor to create more powerful suction.
The basic rule of thumb is that the more a robot vacuum costs, the better robot it is. In our experience these better robots also tend to pick up less dirt. We’re talking about a 20 percent difference between the best navigators that never get close to a chair leg and a robot vacuum that scuffs everything in your house. The most exceptional robot vacuums do both and they tend to win our Editor’s Choice and Best of Year awards.
Different Types of Navigation
Robot vacuums tend to have two different types of navigation, infrared and optical (or a combination of both). Infrared sensors shoot out beams that reflect off surfaces to let the vacuum tell how far away things are. Optical navigation involves cameras, usually mounted on the top of the unit. Typically, these cameras utilize contrast and landmarks to decipher where they are.
We’ve seen excellent navigators use both methods, but they’re not equal. Robot vacuums that rely on optical navigation cannot work in a pitch black room, for instance, but infrared may miss certain objects or surfaces in your home.
How long do robot vacuums last?
This is a very tricky question. However, we find that the battery is the shortest-lived part of a robot vacuum. Both nickel and lithium batteries have hard limits on the number of times they can recharge. Nickel batteries suffer from a limitation known as memory loss—basically, over time, they lose the ability to recharge fully.
The cathodes of lithium batteries tend to wear after a few years. As a rule of thumb, you can expect to buy a new battery pack for your robot vacuum after two to four years of use, depending on how often you run your device.
Either way, you can expect most robot vacuums to handle a small cleaning and attempt to return to charge themselves at their base station. Though some models boast better battery life than others, in most cases you’ll get more utility out of a robot vacuum that is smart, navigates rooms well, and doesn’t get stuck over one that has a little bit extra life per charge.
Are robot vacuums worth the money?
If you’re a pet owner, a robot vacuum helps get at balls of fur that are everywhere. As a floor maintainer between manual cleanings, they can save a lot of time and energy.
The way to get your money’s worth is to set a robot vacuum to automatically run every day. Getting one with an app is also a bonus for those times you need to give your floors a once-over before coming home to any last-minute surprise guests.
Overall, we think they’re a good investment for someone that doesn’t like having to sweep up little debris everyday. Some of our favorite robot vacuums for the money have a price tag of just a couple hundred dollars, and over a year or two those time savings could really be worth it to you.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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