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Can a robotic vacuum self-clean?

When the first robotic vacuum was released to the public twenty years ago, it was a luxury item that cost $1,800. While those early Electrolux models were arguably the most powerful robotic vacuums ever made, they lacked in a few key areas: you still had to clean and care for them, which meant you could never really forget about your vacuuming chores.

The leading robotic vacuums of today, however, are designed to be much more independent. If you choose the right model, you might not have to think about vacuuming for weeks at a time. This is possible because some robotic vacuums can clean themselves.

What to consider about robotic vacuums

The most advanced robotic vacuum maps the layout of your floor and moves in a systematic, row-by-row pattern that allows it to clean every nook and cranny. Additionally, the top model has sensors that detect dirt and help the unit avoid obstacles.

When the vacuum’s dust bin fills up, it goes on strike until you come to the rescue and empty the dirt. With some smaller models, you might not even get a complete vacuum before this happens. Additionally, any stray pet hairs the unit comes across will gather around the brushroll until it is no longer an effective cleaning tool.

How a robotic vacuum self-empties

When you tell a robotic vacuum to dock or charge, the base will emit an infrared signal the vacuum finds and follows home. Once engaged with the base, the model begins charging. On specific units, the base also functions as a vacuum. So when the two connect, the base quickly sucks out the debris, and the vacuum is once again empty and ready for its next scheduled task. 

How a self-cleaning brushroll works

When vacuuming, any hair on the floor will get sucked up. While most hair is pulled straight to the dust bin, some can wrap around the brushroll, eventually building up to cause a problem. Cleaning hair off of a brushroll is a difficult and time-consuming task. Luckily, a few manufacturers have devised some ways for a robotic vacuum to clean its own brushroll.


Electrolux uses a blade operated by a foot pedal – when the user steps on the pedal, the blade cuts through the hair so it can be more easily removed.

Counter-rotating brush heads

Dyson’s solution is to use two rotating brush heads that funnel anything picked up to the middle of the unit where there is no brushroll for the hair to wrap around. This solution allows the unit to safely pick up a wide variety of debris ranging from hair to shoelaces. Unfortunately, Dyson doesn’t have any robotic vacuums in its product line.

Tangle-free brush roll

A popular design used by many manufacturers is a small fin and a large brushroll that help keep shorter hair from tangling – longer hair, however, can still be an issue.


Shark’s solution is brilliant in its simplicity. Besides using a tangle-free brush roll, Shark has a built-in comb that cleans the hair off of the brushroll as it spins.

Suction power is vital in a self-cleaning robotic vacuum

The most important feature of a self-cleaning vacuum is powerful suction. This will help keep hair from lingering around the brushroll so it won’t be able to wrap up. Additionally, powerful suction will pull debris more thoroughly through the unit, so all of the dirt and dust end up in the dust bin, not building up on the sides of the chamber. 

Best self-cleaning robotic vacuums

iRobot Roomba s9+

iRobot Roomba s9+

For the homeowner who wants to forget about vacuuming for up to two months at a time, this is your top choice. This high-end model features powerful suction and an intelligent mapping system that allows the unit to learn your home’s layout.

Where to buy: Sold by Best Buy

Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty Vacuum

Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty Vacuum

If you want the model that offers the best bang for your buck, this is it. This unit gives the homeowner powerful suction, row-by-row cleaning and recharge and resume cleaning. It also has a self-cleaning brushroll and is a self-emptying unit.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Best Buy and Home Depot

Neabot Robot Vacuum

Neabot Robot Vacuum

With three levels of self-adjusting suction, this robot vacuum is ready to clean nearly any floor. Advanced technology helps ensure the unit never gets trapped and the dust bin on the base can hold up to four weeks worth of dirt.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 iRobot Roomba i7+

iRobot Roomba i7+

This iRobot option is best for homeowners with pets. It is a triple threat with powerful suction, a self-emptying feature and a tangle-free brushroll. Like the s9+, it can go up to 60 days before the base needs emptying.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Best Buy and Home Depot.

 Shark AI Robot VACMOP PRO


This is the most affordable option on our shortlist. While it doesn’t self-empty, it does feature a self-cleaning brushroll and can either vacuum or mop.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Best Buy.

Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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