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I live in a studio apartment that’s about 20 x 9 feet, plus a bathroom, and honestly, I’ve always thought my place was too small to house a robot vacuum. I mean, one arm of my sofa practically touches my bed while the other side of the couch is mere inches away from the fridge.
I rely on my Swiffer and stick vacuum to keep my minimal amount of floor space clean. But living modestly shouldn’t rule out the convenience of outsourcing chores where you can — and it turns out that robot vacuums can actually make a lot of sense in a small space. You just have to get creative with it.
Are robot vacuums worth it for small spaces?
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.) We’d even argue that there are some instances where robot vacuums make more sense than a manual vacuum.
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.
The convenience of a robot vacuum hits a new level if there are animals in the house. Having pets in small spaces usually means that their items heavily overflow into your high-traffic areas, like the classic litter box in the living room that you’re hoping is sufficiently inconspicuous. You could set the robot vacuum to sweep while you’re away, welcoming you home to floors free of rogue litter or kibble that made their way over.
What to consider when getting a robot vacuum for a small space
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 around three inches tall and will be the safest choice for homes with low-hanging furniture. Most non-self-emptying docks aren’t bigger than a shoe and can be squeezed inconspicuously into an awkwardly-sized corner or under a side table or desk to maximize your space. Just make sure there’s sufficient space out front for the botvac 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. Obviously, 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 can save space in a closet after you ditch your upright Swiffer or steam cleaner.
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 (rather than bumping around or cleaning in uniform rows). This boosts the vac’s chances of making it out of a cramped furniture arrangement alive, and through an app, allows the owner to draw virtual no-go lines around areas like a kid’s toy corner or pet’s food bowls. Though a small space might render specific room cleaning abilities relatively useless, even a studio apartment could benefit from the perks of such customized cleaning.
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. Some are naturally quiet and some use special technology to dull the roar. Keep in mind that auto-empty docks create the most noise of the whole process, though the whoosh only lasts for 10 or 15 seconds.
Check out our picks for the best robot vacuums for small spaces in 2023: