How Do Robot Vacuums Work

Do Robot Vacuums

This is an article detailing how robot vacuums work.

Robot vacuums are becoming a household staple across many households. They’re especially useful for families with pets and who deal with pet hair. They keep the house clean with minimal human supervision, perfect for people who hate vacuuming. And though they can’t completely replace regularly-scheduled deep cleans, they do minimize the dust and dirt on the daily.

I have been on the lookout for a robot vacuum, but as with anything I purchase, I like to know everything about the product, including how it works. Learning how a product works and how it’s able to benefit your day to days is essential to screen the product options you’re choosing from.

Learning exactly how products work will allow consumers to know what to look for to get their hands on the best option for them.

If you want to find out how robot vacuums work, I’ve got you covered right here!

How Do Robot Vacuums Work?

Robot vacuum cleaners are automated vacuums that roam, navigate, and clean rooms and other spaces without much human intervention. They are capable of getting familiar with spaces the more it navigates and travels.

So, how do they do it?

How a robot vacuum cleaner cleans

Much like upright traditional vacuums, robot vacuums work by picking up dirt off of floors. They use spinning brushes and a brush roll working together to collect and pick up dirt, dust, and hair.

And with the electric motor inside the unit, it suction collects all the dirt in a removable dust bin. Most units come with a dust bin that would have to be emptied at the end of the day as it most likely would get full by then.

But some advanced robotic vacuums have self-empty features. With this feature, the robot vacuum automatically empties into a base that can hold up to many days’ worth of dirt and dust.

They allow you to set up schedules for when it will clean and places it can and can’t go to clean. Some even have an optional mop feature that lets you vacuum and mop in one run!

Some newer robot vacuums are also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for hands-free control and operation.

How a robot vacuum navigates and moves

A robotic vacuum cleaner is a smart home appliance that can navigate and find its way in rooms and tricky places. Much like humans, they do so by ‘seeing’ the world around them. But instead of eyes, they use different types of sensors to move and navigate.

Obstacle sensors

Households are scattered with furniture from tables to chairs to shelves. Without the right bump sensors, robot vacuums are likely to bump into them. The resulting collision can result in damage to your furniture or to the vacuum itself.

Robot vacuums have infrared lasers capable of sensing when it’s near obstacles like chairs or tables. Once it senses obstacles along its cleaning path, it will stop and maneuver away from what it’s detecting and sensing.

Robotic vacuum cleaners, when they bump into any obstacle, will continue moving forward and maneuvering away and to the opposite direction.

Cliff sensors

Cliff sensors, very much like what it’s called, are able to scan for and detect cliffs and ledges in your home. And like with the obstacle sensors, they utilize infrared lasers to scan and sense cliffs, ledges, and stairs.

Though robot vacuums boast of very advanced technologies, they are yet to be able to climb up and down stairs. For now, what they can do is stop and turn around when they detect them.

These sensors allow robot vacuums to prevent falling off of stairs and damaging itself.

Wall sensors

Robot vacuums can detect and sense the walls in your home. But unlike obstacle sensors, they don’t use wall sensors to avoid them. Instead, they use wall sensors to detect and follow them, so they can navigate along that path.

These sensors allow them to clean along the corners and edges where dirt and dust are likely stuck and lodged. They also allow robot vacuums to clean along the edges without bumping too much and too hard on the walls.

Wheel sensors

With light sensors on the wheels of today’s robot vacuums, it’s able to calculate the total distance it has traveled while cleaning. These sensors measure wheel rotation, which then gives it a calculation of how far it has come for that cleaning session.

Mapping technology

Some of the best robot vacuum cleaners use mapping technology to know and see its surroundings.

Mapping technology allows robot vacs to generate a map of your home as it travels and navigates. It also allows the device to take pictures of your home and the space it’s traveling in, including walls, ceilings, furniture, and other noteworthy objects. This allows the vacuum to collect data so it becomes aware of the environment it’s moving in.

This allows the vacuum to have more effective cleaning results.

Magnetic boundary strips

Some more budget-friendly vacuum robots aren’t equipped with the most advanced sensors. That’s what makes them more budget-friendly and affordable. So, how do they travel and navigate?

They do so with magnetic boundary strips. These are strips of tape placed on the floor of areas you want to keep your unit out of. Once the vacuum detects these trips, it will turn around and will not enter specific rooms or areas.

Robot Vacuum Cleaners: The Good and The Bad

To help you decide whether or not a robot vac is for you, we have both the good and the bad below!

The good

They’re easy and convenient

Robot vacuums operate and run with very minimal human supervision. Just set them up and they will clean when you tell them to. They can clean when you aren’t even home so you go home to a clean house.

One of the main reasons people get one is because it’s a very convenient and easy way to a spotless home without breaking a sweat.

They save you some cleaning time

Because you don’t have to physically and manually hold them to clean, you can busy yourself with other stuff or even some me time while it roams and cleans. No more spending so much time in a day dusting, sweeping, or manually vacuuming your home.

Even if you have pets walking around your house, you won’t have to spend much time getting rid of dust, dirt, and hair.

They’re programmable

Part of why robot vacuums are easily one of the most convenient home appliances is they’re programmable. With a downloadable app, you can easily set up schedules, turn them on or off, and check progress anywhere with just your phone.

They get under furniture

Unlike most cleaning methods, robot vacuums are the perfect size to get under furniture and clean. They can easily get in and out of tight spaces thanks to their low-profile design and construction.

The bad

They don’t do too well on carpets

No matter how powerful their suction is or how much they say they can clean carpets, robot vacuums are just not as effective in cleaning carpets as they are for hardwood floors. Sure, they can pick up some crumbs and dirt off of carpets but it’s nowhere near a deep carpet clean.

They don’t replace upright vacuums

Though they can keep homes dust and dirt-free most days, they can’t entirely replace deep cleaning with upright vacuums. Even with a robot vacuum, you might still need to deep clean with your upright vacuum every few weeks or so.

They can get stuck

Robot vacuums, though inherently smart, are not 100% free from human intervention. Even the smartest and most expensive unit can get stuck in tricky places and situations. When this happens, you might need to intervene and free it from its misery.

They’re pricey

Truth be told, robot vacuums can be expensive, especially ones from a more well-known brand and those with more high-end technologies. Of course, there are more affordable options but keep in mind that you might be sacrificing some advanced technologies with them.


Robot vacuums are slowly becoming a household staple. They provide convenient and effective cleaning results, even for families with pets that tend to shed a lot.

Robot vacuums provide effective cleaning results with the help of spinning brushes and a brush roll to collect and pick up dirt, dust, and hair. The motor then sucks in all the dirt into a dustbin that gets mostly full at the end of the day.

Robot vacuums are able to smartly navigate and move around your home as it is clean. So, how do they do it?

They do this with a combination of different types of sensors: obstacle, cliff, wall, and wheel sensors. Some are also engineered with mapping technology while some can detect and work around magnetic boundary strips.

A combination of these sensors and technologies allows robot vacuums to smartly navigate and get to know a home.

And that has been our guide on how robot vacuums work! Thanks for sticking with us till the end!