Here's the Deal on Robot Vacuums—According to the Owner of a Long-Haired Dog

It’ll take a little work.

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Nothing is foolproof and shortcuts rarely wind up being quite as shortcut-y as one might have hoped. The same can be said of robot vacuums when it comes to cleaning up a pet-friendly household but, if you're willing to put in a little work, they can greatly decrease the fur buildup and result in a cleaner home between manual vacuuming sessions. Here are the best tips I've gleaned through my experience as the owner of both a long-haired dog and a robotic vacuum—both of which I highly recommend.

Robot Vacuum and Dog
Getty/Jaroslav Frank

You'll Still Need To Vacuum Manually

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. While robot vacuums can be a great tool for keeping dirt, debris, and fur to a minimum between more thorough cleanings, you're still going to want to fire up your standard vacuum regularly. It'll help you clear out tight corners, give rugs and carpeted areas a deeper clean, and cut back on the excessive fur balls that could clog up your machine.

Keeping a Cleaning Schedule Is Key

The trick to keeping your vacuum from requiring nearly constant fur de-jamming or dust-bin-emptying is to not let the fur situation get out of control. You can do this by keeping on top of your vacuuming schedule. Many robotic vacuums have apps that let you set a cleaning schedule, which could be a game changer for busy households. Just be sure to empty the dust bin after every run.

Lift Up Rugs If Possible, Even Low Pile Ones

I've learned that when my robot vacuum goes over a rug it will sometimes spew out chunks of fur or dirt that haven't yet made it through the filter—even if the dust bin isn't at capacity. While it's definitely better suited for low-pile rugs and carpet, it will turn up the edges of your thinnest rugs as it scoots over. This might go without saying, but you'll also want to tuck away any cords and tassels that could get twisted up in the machine's wheels or brushes in addition to picking up toys, floor baskets, and small moveable décor items to ensure you don't provide a safe haven for lurking dust or fur.

It'll Help Some of Those Hard-To-Reach Areas

As long as you keep your under-furniture areas clear (i.e. don't store all your shoes under your bed), you'll make the most of your new investment by letting the vacuum clean these hard-to-reach areas that might otherwise only be swept out during deep cleans. The ability for the vacuum to clean under all the beds in my house, not to mention the TV console, dining room buffet, and tables has worked wonders for my allergies and has also resulted in fewer fur balls floating out of the abyss into our higher-trafficked areas.

It's Ideal If You Spend Most Days at Home

Because robotic vacuums aren't completely hands-off—especially when it comes to pet-friendly households—being able to empty the bin and get it back to the charging station if it wanders too far off, is oftentimes necessary. Some versions will send an alert to your phone letting you know that your vacuum is in need of assistance, which can be remedied in just a few minutes if you're in the next room over. However, having just sat down at the office and getting an alert that your tool is tangled just 20 minutes into its cleaning job? Now that's a one-way ticket to frustration station.

It's Best Suited for One-Level Jobs

If you have more than one level in your house, you might want to invest in a second robot if you're hoping to make the most of your household helper. You could move the unit from one floor to the next, but it could mess with the robot's mapping system. That being said, look into it before committing. There might be an efficient workaround that doesn't require doubling up on your investment.

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