Less square footage doesn’t automatically make vacuuming less of a chore.
By Leah Stodart and Miller Kern on July 11, 2023
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Living modestly space-wise doesn’t rule out the convenience of outsourcing chores where you can. Actually, it turns out that robot vacuums can actually make a lot of sense in a small space like a studio apartment — you just have to get creative with placement.
Limited floor space sets the stage for a jam-packed furniture arrangement sprinkled with miscellaneous crap that doesn’t have a permanent home. While basic row-by-row robot vacuums would crash and burn in a tricky setup like this, robot vacuums with smart mapping and precise small obstacle avoidance could save you the headache of trying to maneuver a stick vacuum in tight areas. Ditching an upright vacuum also frees up sweet, sweet closet space.
Here are our top six picks for robot vacuums for small spaces:
Why we picked this:The j7 uses a new PrecisionVision Navigation camera that helps it to avoid small (less than four inches) obstacles that are typically blind spots for robot vacuums, particularly cords and pet waste. Small spaces that are home to kids or pets with toys laying about come to mind immediately, but tidy homes aren’t immune to phone chargers, laptop chargers, or TV cords laying around just waiting to be slurped up by a vacuum.
As iRobot’s smartest vacuum, the j7’s broader navigation in terms of maneuvering around furniture and accurately mapping rooms (or non-walled areas like the entryway) are similarly reliable.
Who it’s for:The j7 is ideal for people in homes with tight furniture arrangements and people who don’t want to have to clean up phone chargers and socks before sending their robot vacuum out to, you know, clean.
Why we picked this:Eufy has been known for its ultra-slim take on robot vacuums since the release of the 11s (literally “s” for “slim”) and now offers a slew of options measuring a mere 2.8 inches tall. Our pick for small spaces is the G30 Hybrid for its included magnetic boundary strips and gyroscope-guided navigation, both of which enable more customized cleaning patterns in tight quarters. The Hybrid version also mops, and does all of its cleaning almost silently.
Who it’s for:This is an ideal option for people whose couches or bed frames have a super low clearance underneath, people concerned about noise level, or people who, despite being on a budget, are willing to take the next-to-cheapest route to squeeze in an extra feature or two. The G30 Hybrid manages to perform decent wet and dry cleaning at a noticeably lower noise level than many competitors while following a slightly more meticulous cleaning path than pure bump-and-go models.
Read our full review of the Eufy G30 Hybrid.
Why we picked this:The mopping feature on many self-proclaimed hybrids doesn’t do much more than push water around. Roborock’s sonic mopping actually deploys some elbow grease, scrubbing up to 3,000 times per minute to go after dried-on stains and footprints. The S7 is gentle on hardwood, linoleum, and tile, seamlessly switching gears to rugs and carpets. Laser scale sensors scan each room to adapt the route accordingly, adjusting suction for large debris like cereal or small ones like salt. The mopping feature is just as attentive to soft floors, lifting the entire vacuum off of the surface to avoid a soaked rug.
Between that mindful mopping, strong suction, and LiDAR mapping that accurately pinpoints different zones, the Roborock S7 is major for folks dealing with both carpet and hard floors. With its self-empty dock (a wise bundle for people with shedding pets), the S7+ is triple threat under $1,000.
Who it’s for:We recommend the Roborock S7+ to people who cringe whilst walking barefoot on a floor that isn’t spotless. The S7’s sonic mopping comes in clutch on dried spills or dirty shoe (or paw) prints, especially in a small space where the whole floor could be considered high traffic.
Read our full review of the Roborock S7.
Why we picked this:Earn Roomba bragging rights without going over $300 with iRobot’s current baseline vac, the 692 (interchangeable with the 694). It’s objectively sleeker, holds a larger dustbin, and has better battery life than the older 675.
This Roomba relies on adaptive navigation that gets more methodical over time, seeking out high-traffic areas with Dirt Detect and tackling debris with a three-stage loosen and lift system. While its suction power doesn’t stand out among similarly-priced competitors, opting for a Roomba is worth it just to deal with an app so user-friendly. iRobot Genius makes scheduling wickedly easy, including suggestions for new schedules based on time of year or high-debris areas that the Roomba noticed on a previous lap.
Who it’s for:The Roomba 692 is best for those who are set on a Roomba as their first robot vacuum but don’t need (or want to pay for) automatic emptying. It’s also great for people who aren’t keeping up with shedding from multiple pets.
Why we picked this:Autonomous wet and dry cleaning plus auto-emptying is typically a pricey checklist, but this Yeedi makes the whole process hands-free for less than $400 on sale (which it almost always is). The presence of room mapping is also impressive at such a practical price point, despite undercooked quirks like only having the capacity to hold a map of one story at a time. However, that main complaint will rarely affect simple single-floor homes anyway, and you can still enjoy the convenience of targeting specific rooms and setting virtual boundaries in the app.
Who it’s for:We recommend the Yeedi Vac Station for households who can deal with the pre-cleaning ritual and occasionally help the bot if it means their money covers all three extra hands-off features: mopping, room mapping, and automatic emptying. Those who cohabit with pets in their small space would particularly benefit from automatic emptying, as a bot vac’s bin fills faster when it’s keeping up with shedding.
Why we picked this:We don’t blame you if you don’t find it necessary to go all out on a vacuum for such a short route. ILIFE whittles the robot vacuum down to its most basic form with the ILIFE V3S Pro, and if you can manage your expectations, it suffices for super chill daily upkeep. The V3 puts in work on hardwood, sucking up a majority of recurring debris like balls of hair and kitty litter. Given the V3s Pro’s complete lack of a main roller brush (it’s literally just a hole), the performance isn’t there on carpet or rugs.
Targeted cleaning consists of setting the vac exactly where the mess is and pressing a button to send it in circles in that general area. It’s a very literal take on spot cleaning, but there’s something to be said for not having to draw a zone in an app and hoping the bot gets where you mean.
Who it’s for:The ILIFE V3S Pro is for homes with mostly hard floors and people who don’t want to open an app just to clean up crumbs after breakfast.
Read our full review of the ILIFE V3S Pro.
Frequently Asked Questions Eufy has the most options under three inches tall, but multiple brands offer vacs that make the cut. Even if you don’t pick one that short, almost every option on the market sits well below four inches. Be sure to measure the clearance under your lowest-hanging furniture, like the couch or the bed, to assure that your robovac can scoot under the entire way under.
The 10 minutes it takes to manually vacuum a 600-square-foot apartment probably isn’t enough to send someone over the edge as far as chores are concerned. While the time-saving factor may be a moot point here, it doesn’t completely diminish the appeal of using a robot vacuum in a small space. (Plus, the less floor there is to cover, the less you need to worry about battery life.)
It’s crucial to not automatically assume that less floor to cover means that the cheapest vacuum you can find will suffice. Cramped furniture arrangements and quick changes between floor types actually call for a vac on the more competent end navigation-wise, or you’ll risk arriving home to a bot that got stuck within the first five minutes of cleaning.
Size: Think about size both in terms of the dimensions of the vacuum itself and how much space the vacuum takes up while it’s charging. The shortest robot vacuums are near or slightly under three inches tall while others reach past five inches. Most non-self-emptying docks aren’t bigger than a shoe and can be squeezed inconspicuously into a tight corner or under furniture to maximize your space (assuming that there’s sufficient space out front for the robot vac to return).
Automatic emptying: Because robot vacuums are typically under four inches tall, their onboard dust bins are also small and require frequent emptying. (Dustbins fill up particularly quickly in homes with pets.) A self-emptying vacuum takes that job out of your hands, emptying itself into a larger dustbin in its charging dock that holds weeks of dirt without needing to be dumped. You’ll want to rule out those with a behemoth of a base, but some slim auto-empty docks don’t require much more space than the width and depth of the robot vac itself.
Mopping: If the majority of your space is hard flooring, a robot vacuum that can also mop clears up the space you were using to store a manual mop or Swiffer.
Smart mapping and virtual boundaries: All robot vacuums, even cheap ones, are equipped with sensors and drop detection. But more advanced models take a more strategic route by using LiDAR scanners to map out your home. Through the app, the owner can send the vac to specific rooms or areas of the home, and draw virtual boundaries around areas the vac shouldn’t go, like near the pet’s food bowls or through the toy corner’s perpetual pile of Legos.
Noise: The drone of a vacuum feels a lot louder in close quarters. If you’re concerned with keeping kids, roommates, or neighbors on the other side of a thin wall undisturbed, you’ll want a robot vac that’s been hyped for its sound level. Keep in mind that auto-empty docks create the most noise of the whole process, though some have a shorter, quieter whoosh than others.
Leah Stodart is a Senior Shopping Reporter at Mashable. She covers shopping trends, gift ideas, and products that make life easier, specializing in vacuums, TVs, and sustainable swaps. She graduated from Penn State University in 2016 and is watching horror movies or “The Office” when she’s not shopping online herself. You can follow her on Twitter at @notleah(opens in a new tab).