Five tips for choosing a robovac/mop (2024 cleaning guide)

I have a love-hate relationship with robovacs – I love the ones that work, and I hate those that don’t. Five tips for choosing a robovac/mop might just save you from an expensive mistake.

Perhaps the most important tip is that you cannot expect most robovacs to do it all. Left unsupervised, it can be a disaster. You need to prepare the house for a robovac and understand that it will likely snag and choke on every errant charging cable, shoelace, children’s toy or rug tassel.

What are the basic differences?

When you go shopping for a robovac, you may not know what to look for. More than 20 brands/models are currently on offer – note that each generation includes features from previous generations.

Detailed feature comparison – use this as your shopping list.

A blank square means it does not have that feature.

Robovac

ItemGen 1 DumBotsGen 2
DimBots
Gen 3
AverageBots
Gen 4 BrainyBotsGen 5 SmartBots
Price<$500<$1000$1000-$1500$1500-$2000$2000+
FormatRoundRoundRoundRound
Square: Eufy X9
Round Ecovacs T20
Eufy X10 Pro
Square: Ecovacs X2
NavigationBumperBumper and 2D LiDARBumper, 2D LiDAR and mappingAI mappingAI mapping
Headlights    Dreame L20 Pro can see better in low light and under furniture
Main brush size13cm13cm13cm17cm17cm
Pet-friendly zero tangle   
LiDAR 2D 180°   
LiDAR 3D 360°   
MapPattern clean
Set basic no-go zones.

Editable

Set more comprehensive options.

Set more comprehensive options
ToF laser obstacle detection   Some ToF is better than forward IR detectionNot required with a camera.
Forward camera AI obstacle detection    
A camera differentiates Gen 4 from Gen 5
AI recognition    At least 50 objects, which should include animal faeces.
Forward Bumper 180° obstacle detection
IR front obstacle detection  
IR right-side obstacle detection 
IR left-side obstacle detection   SomeMost
IR Cliff Detection22244
Carpet Detection   
Pascal suction maximum2000200040005000-80008000+
Auto-adjust suction speed   
Right Edge Clean whisker
Left Edge Clean whisker   SomeSome
Corner Clean    Some. The square format is better, but some use AI to crab walk along the edges.
The Ecovacs T30 has a whisker extend feature.
Sill height negotiation   Some10-15mm10-20mm
MopPlatenPlatenPlaten or rotary padsRotary pads
Mop lift over carpet   Some. Up to 10mmSome. Up to 20mm
Mop pad extension on right side    Some
Dreame L20
Dreame L10s
Ecovacs T30

Dock

ItemGen 1Gen 2Gen 3Gen 4Gen 5
Self-empty dustbin dock  FewSomeMost
Water and wastewater container   SomeMost
Can be plumbed in   SomeSome
Return to the dock to clean and refill water.   MostMost
Mop Clean   MostMost. Some use hot water – Dreame L10s
Hot Air mop dry   SomeMost
Floor clean solution dispenser   SomeSome.
Dreame L20
Dreame L10s

App

ItemGen 1Gen 2Gen 3Gen 4Gen 5
Basic App  
Fully featured App and AI   
Multi-floor map  Some, if you move the base station to each floor.Ditto, and up to five mapsDitto
Intelligent, clean/mop   Uses AI to map cleaned areas and returns to areas not cleanedSame
Voice control   Most have very limited Alexa, Google or Siri commandsDitto. Ecovacs has Yiko that has many more commands
Area, room clean  A few can go to a named roomMostAll
Schedule  MostMost with the option of selecting room order and multiple daysDitto. Ecovacs has a Housekeeper mode that learns the best cleaning pattern, etc.
Maintenance tracking   

Five tips for choosing a robovac/mop

How do they see?

Generation 1 Dumbots do not see. They simply bump their way around the area and perform a set cleaning pattern. Don’t bother with these unless low-cost is your driver.

Generation 2 Dimbots 2D LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging radar) and SLAM (Simultaneous localisation and mapping software). Add to this collision bumper avoidance, which describes 90% of robovacs. Pro: lower cost. Con: No AI to improve the experience.

Generation 3 Averagebots add IR object detection sensors to LiDAR to reduce the need for bumper collision avoidance. Pro: What most people buy who don’t know what Gen 4 and Gen 5 can do.

Generation 4 Brainybots add 360° 3D LiDAR that can see around the robovac (2D) and up and down, giving it a 3D image. They may also have more sensors (dToF and IR) and an Ultrasonic sensor (for carpet or hard floor detection). These are vastly superior in navigation and larger obstacle avoidance.

Generation 5 SmartBots rely heavily on AI and cameras for small object recognition. Some can even recognise and avoid pet poo. The Dreame L20 and L10s and EcoVacs Debot X2 and T20 are in this category.

What are the different types?

Most are round, with about a 13-17cm rotating brush supplemented by one or two side whisker brushes. They usually have a mop attachment, which can be enabled by swapping the vacuum dust bin for a water tank and a static microfibre mop pad.

D-shape are harder to find and usually have a larger rotating brush that cleans faster. But this is not a big issue as round robovacs are getting faster and more powerful.

Some have a cleaning station that empties the robovac and charges it. The Ecovacs Deebot X2 Omni – can a robot vacuum/mop get any better? really does add a convenience factor, but costs close to $2,600.

How do smarter robovacs know the areas to clean?

During the first setup, the Wi-Fi recharge base station acts as the ‘anchor’ for robovac to build a map from and return to. Home Wi-Fi is typically 2.4Ghz with an effective indoor transmission distance of about 30 metres. If the robovac loses the signal, it cannot get home, so make sure you have decent Wi-Fi. 90% of complaints about dropout are due to the cheap router supplied by so many NBN resellers – see Crappy NBN FTTN Modem – here are a few better ones (guide).

Gen 3 or later, robovacs ‘see’ the area and track around all walls and fixed objects like furniture. This is stage one of its map – an outline drawing of your home. Next, it cleans in between those outlines using a zig-zag or U-shape cleaning pattern to finish the map. Once saved, you can name rooms, set no-go zones, set up schedules and get feedback on cleaning. If you have a multi-story home, you can carry the base station (or buy another – they are usually pretty low cost) and repeat the process on different floors – most store about three maps.

robovac

What do you need to do to prepare for a robovac?

Gen 4 or later model robovacs are better at obstacle avoidance, but it is far better to prepare the home first. Let’s put it this way— few we have tested can complete the clean without some issues.

  • Remove clothes/shoes/bags off the floor
  • Tie up loose cables off the floor
  • Lift dining chairs, stools, side tables, and wastebins off the ground
  • Lift floor rugs (especially those with tassels) that could tangle in the brush
  • Close doors to areas you don’t want to map or clean

If you use the robomop attachment, ensure no-go lines are drawn and doors are closed to carpeted areas, or it will mop them. For example, this is a pain if you want to mop a bathroom off a carpeted bedroom.

Whole-of-home one pass clean. Fact or fantasy?

The new Gen 4 or later robovac/mops have a mop/no mop feature and a carpet sensor to lift and turn off mopping/water while on the carpet. In theory, these can do a one-pass clean and mop on a mix of hard and carpeted floors.

In practice, carpet comes in many styles and pile heights. The lowest pile or sisal weave style need a 7-10mm lift to avoid the mopping pads. Longer pile will need the mopping pads removed.

But it is a fact now that Dreame L20 and L10s and Ecovacs X2 can do whole of home.

Battery Life

Most can go for at least an hour or 100m2 of cleaning. Then they need a recharge – typically 4-6 hours. The better ones restart and continue cleaning.

How good are they?

No matter what any salesperson or website hypes, a robovac or robomop does not substitute for a traditional vacuum or mop. It comes down to how acceptable that is to you.

All robovacs are reasonably efficient on hard surfaces – tiles to laminated timber but can be inefficient on carpet, particularly sisal (ridged) and longer pile. Forget feature carpets or shag pile. They don’t do steps or edges! And most need considerable home preparation before being set free.

We use 100g of test detritus ranging from dust to Nutirgrain test efficiency. Most will only pick up about 40-50g because they don’t do edges very well. Some whisker brushes are of little help, often flicking larger detritus out of the vacuum path.

By comparison, Dyson Gen5detect – the evolution continues counts both the dust size particles and the amount collected) and gets 100%. But if you run the robovac twice weekly, its efficiency figure gets closer to 8%. Most Gen 1-3 robovacs do poorly on carpet. Gen 4 and 5 with 500+ Pascals suction are fine.

Robomops are, at best, a maintenance mop

They typically drag a microfibre cloth around that lacks the ‘elbow grease’ needed to remove dried milk/coffee/soft drink stains and cut through grime. The exception is the Hobot Legee 7, which uses a vibrating plate. It is more of a robomop first with a small conventional vacuum, but it is the only one that comes close to proper mop results.

The new Ecovacs X2. Dreame L20, Dreame L10S and eufy X10 Pro have dual rotating pads and a downward pulsating force to add elbow grease to mopping.

So don’t expect the combo robovac/robomop to do it all. You will still need a good stick vac for edges and stairs, and do a thorough mop if you want a clean and healthy home.

Reading

Five tips for choosing a cordless power mop (guide)

CyberShack robovac news and reviews

Update – CyberShack’s view 2024

We have reviewed most of the better robovacs – at least Generation 4 or 5 this year. There is a definite improvement in AI navigation and AI/Camera obstacle avoidance, including pet poo.

Gen 5

The most impressive in 2023 was the $2799 DreameBot L20 Ultra is a very smart, efficient robovac/mop, a very smart, efficient robovac/mop that also has a floor-cleaning solution dispenser, mop extender and fully-featured dock.

The runner-up is the $2499 Ecovacs Deebot X2 Omni – can a robot vacuum/mop get any better? which possibly has more smarts and AI and a fully featured dock.

Gen 4

This was the year that vendors snuck in an AI camera, which until now was the differentiating feature of Gen 5.

The winner is the $1999 Dreame L10s Pro Ultra Heat – value premium robovac/mop with almost every feature of the L20, including an AI camera. It, too, has an extendable mop and a fully-featured cleaning station.

The $1799 Ecovacs Deebot T20 Omni—faster, cheaper, and better (cleaning station)—is a Gen 4.5 (extra smarts like an AI camera) that did a near-perfect one-pass whole-of-house vacuum and mop on 70/30 hard floors and sisal carpet. It has just been replaced by the T30 (yet to be reviewed), which looks very fully featured.

The $1499 Eufy X9 Pro robot vacuum and mop—one of the best of 2023 (mop cleaning station)—is a Gen 4.5 (extra smarts like an AI camera), perfect for smaller homes/apartments with hard floors. It has just been replaced by the X10 Pro (yet to be reviewed), but it looks very fully featured.

Hobot Legee D8 and Lulu mop cleaning station (robot vacuum/mop cleaning ($1250 bundle price November 2023). While it is strictly a Gen 4 (no AI camera for intelligent obstacle recognition), it does a good one-pass whole-of-house vacuum and mop on 70/30 hard floors and sisal carpet.

Gen 3

The $699 Ultenic T10 Pro – one of the better self-cleaning robovac/mops with a dustbin clean dock and dual rotating mop pads is as good as GHen 3 gets.

Runner-up is the EUFY X8 PRO SES robovac/mop with a dustbin clean dock and static platen mop.

Resources

Five tips for choosing a robovac/mop