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How the Shark robot vacuum takes the hassle out of my least favorite chore

This smart vacuum can run even when I’m not home, and it’s helped make my to-do list much more manageable.
Illustration of Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty XL Vacuum and a dog watching the Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty XL Vacuum
The Shark robot vacuum runs at my ideal schedule and empties itself out when it’s done.Amazon

Vacuuming is one of the most tedious household chores I deal with regularly — it’s dull, loud and physically draining. So when I moved into my shoebox apartment that currently houses a dog and two people working from home, I decided it was necessary to look into a quieter, hands-free alternative to my upright vacuum that could minimize the labor of vacuuming multiple times a week. A robot vacuum seemed to be the most obvious solution to my laziness — it starts tackling the chore itself without forcing me to actually put in the work.

I wanted a smart vacuum that was reliable, relatively quiet and worked on a schedule, and when I saw that the highly rated Shark IQ Robot Vacuum was on a deep discount during Prime Day last year (around $280 off), I knew I had to take the pricey plunge. While it doesn't completely replace my more powerful vacuum, it does help reduce the number of times I reach for it.

Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty XL Vacuum

I was pleasantly surprised by the Shark vacuum’s setup process. After finding a spot in my living room that was clear of surrounding furniture, I simply plugged in the base (which serves as a charging station for the vacuum itself) and let the vacuum charge for about six hours. Once I pressed the “Clean” button on the vacuum to start it up, it began immediately navigating around and mapping out my home for easy access in the future. After detecting that the mapping was complete, it conveniently traveled back to its home base without me having to physically move it or tell it where to go.

True to its “smart” vacuum name, the Shark IQ Robot Vacuum connects to the SharkClean app on my phone via Wi-Fi. In the app, I can see the map, tell my vacuum to start cleaning or schedule certain times when I want it to clean each day — you can set it to run at your preferred time in the morning, afternoon or evening (the cleaning process for my specific mapped-out space typically takes a little less than an hour). It even lets you select if you want to conduct whole-house cleaning or just target specific rooms, and you can mark any “No-Go Zones” you want the vacuum to stay out of (for me, these are the bathroom and closets).

This is a multi-surface vacuum, meaning it works on both hard floors and carpets. While most of my floors are hardwood and tile, I do have a few area rugs around my apartment that the vacuum easily mounts and cleans without getting stuck. Generally, the ease of movement has been one of my favorite aspects of the vacuum as a whole — it navigates tight corners surprisingly well and doesn’t smash into furniture or surrounding items as aggressively as other robot vacuums I’ve used in the past.

Another one of the vacuum’s standout features is its self-emptying base. After 30 minutes, the vacuum will mosey back to its charging base, where it automatically empties the debris it picked up from its canister. Once the canister is empty, it will resume cleaning until it tackles every inch it previously mapped out. According to the brand, the bagless base can hold up to 45 days of dirt and debris before it needs to be emptied out (I do it about twice a month, just to be safe). The one downside is that while the vacuum itself doesn’t make too much noise as it cleans, the actual emptying process is very loud.

The vacuum allows for voice control using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. If I’m curious about the vacuum’s runtime, its cleaning runs and the area it's cleaned in the past 30 days (measured in square feet), the app shows a history tab for me to review.

Other robot vacuums to consider

There are plenty of robot vacuums out there to consider, whether you prefer a more affordable option, a robot/mop hybrid or a vacuum with a larger self-emptying base capacity. To give you an idea of what’s available, we compiled a couple of highly rated options below that we’ve previously recommended.

iRobot Roomba s9+

An expert pick for one of the best robot vacuums, the iRobot Roomba s9+ can map out a floorplan to follow, and you can set boundaries from your smartphone to prevent the vacuum from going into specific areas, according to the brand. It can also self-empty its canister for up to 90 days and returns to its base when the battery is low, the brand says. The Roomba is compatible with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Eufy BoostIQ RoboVac

This robot vacuum can clean wood floors for up to 100 minutes on a single charge and will automatically find its way back to the included charging dock when it's low on battery, according to the brand. Select writer Justin Redman has one for his own apartment and says that while it’s not the most powerful vacuum, it does well at picking up dust and making his space feel cleaner. The vacuum also uses an infrared sensor for detecting and avoiding obstacles.

Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo T8 AIVI

If you’re looking for a vacuum and mop hybrid to save some space, this one from Ecovacs is one of our favorite robot mops. Like the Shark robot vacuum, this option can map your home, as well as detect (and remember) obstacles and even monitor your home with its camera. For the mop feature, it uses water rather than cleaning solution, and the 240-milliliter tank can mop up to 2,000 square feet, according to the brand.

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