3 mistakes everyone makes with robot vacuum cleaners

Dodge droid disasters with these handy robot vac tips

Roborock S7 review
(Image credit: Roborock)

Robot vacuum cleaners have seen a big sales uplift in recent years. No wonder: who doesn't like the idea of having an artificially intelligent pal who does all your cleaning? Because I am from the future, I've been using robot vacs for a decade, but I must caveat that by adding that for the first 6-7 years, they were largely terrible. However, the improvements in their quality and performance over the last 3 years have been pretty unbelievable. 

Even so, the first mistake you could make with even the best robot vac is to buy one and throw your old vacuum cleaner away. Probably your best bet would be to get a robot for maintaining your floors and something lightweight and compact from our best cordless vacuum cleaner list to handle everything else. 

Used properly, however, a modern robot vac can save you a lot of time and effort, and give you floors that remain fairly immaculate, forever. What you need to know are the mistakes to avoid with them, and these are the 3 most common errors…

1. Watching your robot vac work

iRobot Roomba i7+

Just leave your pets to keep an eye on things

(Image credit: iRobot)

Do you like being watched as you work? Of course not, and you'd like it even less if you behaved as erratically as most robot vacs do. While the best robo cleaners of more recent vintage move far more intelligently and efficiently than older ones, they still get thrown by obstacles, and can still adopt some rather odd flight paths. 

As a result, watching them do their thing can be maddening – why isn't it just going around that chair leg and then completing the carpet, instead of bashing repeatedly into it, and then wondering off for a stroll to the skirting board? I find myself pointing out where my robot should go next, shouting at it, and sometimes even pushing it in the 'correct' direction with my foot. 

Don't do this. Just vacate the premises, let it get on with what it has to do, and be impressed when you return to clean carpets throughout. It's results that matter, not the slightly haphazard way they're sometimes achieved.

2. Not clearing your floors before it starts

robot cleaning floor

(Image credit: Roborock)

Again, robots are much better at obstacle avoidance than they used to be. Even so, you should clear your floors as much as is humanly possible. There are two ways to do this. One is to take what's on the floor and put it on your sofa, coffee table, bed or anything else that gets it off the floor and the hell out of your robot's way.

The other, better way, is to declutter your home so the floors are always more or less clear. I appreciate this is much harder if you have kids, pets or an untidy spouse but it is a necessary step to getting the most out of your helpful robot manservant. 

3. Not using it all the time

Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra news

When a robot can vacuum and mop and clean itself, why would you leave it idle?

(Image credit: Roborock)

Some people adopt a curious attitude to robot vacs, which is to say they use them like they did their old Hoover – once per week, or after a spill. This is madness. It's a robot; you're not paying it for its labour and it doesn't get tired, although it may need to recharge its battery now and then. Use the damn thing every day. Twice a day if you can.

Robot vacs are great at keeping dust levels down, carpets clean and – if you go for one that has a built in mop, such as the Roborock S7 – hard floors shiny. Bots aren't great at deep cleaning. Because they are so small, suction performance is never going to match a vac that you have to push around yourself. So put your robot to work as often as you can, ideally while the house is empty and the floors reasonably clear – see mistakes #1 and #2, above. 

There are plenty more mistakes a person can make with their dirt droid, but if you can avoid these three, you will be oh-so-close to living the dream of having perfectly clean floors (apart from the tricky edges and corners that robots invariably miss) at all times, with zero effort. Welcome to the future. 

Duncan Bell

Duncan is the former lifestyle editor of T3 and has been writing about tech for almost 15 years. He has covered everything from smartphones to headphones, TV to AC and air fryers to the movies of James Bond and obscure anime. His current brief is everything to do with the home and kitchen, which is good because he is an excellent cook, if he says so himself. He also covers cycling and ebikes – like over-using italics, this is another passion of his. In his long and varied lifestyle-tech career he is one of the few people to have been a fitness editor despite being unfit and a cars editor for not one but two websites, despite being unable to drive. He also has about 400 vacuum cleaners, and is possibly the UK's leading expert on cordless vacuum cleaners, despite being decidedly messy. A cricket fan for over 30 years, he also recently become T3's cricket editor, writing about how to stream obscure T20 tournaments, and turning out some typically no-nonsense opinions on the world's top teams and players.

Before T3, Duncan was a music and film reviewer, worked for a magazine about gambling that employed a surprisingly large number of convicted criminals, and then a magazine called Bizarre that was essentially like a cross between Reddit and DeviantArt, before the invention of the internet. There was also a lengthy period where he essentially wrote all of T3 magazine every month for about 3 years. 

A broadcaster, raconteur and public speaker, Duncan used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."