At first glance, robot vacuums would see to be an allergy suffering pet owner’s dream come true! Since managing allergies is all about containing allergens and reducing pet hair/dander/dirt in the home, having a device to clean every other day or so is ideal. However, robotic vacuums are quite different from your standard upright or canister machine. Don’t get us wrong–we absolutely love robot vacuums. They’re most definitely the future, especially as we all move into the collective smart home. They’re the ideal way to manage homes with pets and kids in particular.
There’s a major flaw with nearly all robot vacuums currently available, though. They don’t have HEPA filtration. Instead, they advertise “high-efficiency” filters or some similar terminology. Look closely, and you’ll see that these proprietary filters only remove 99% of particles larger than 10 microns. Frankly speaking, that’s useless to someone who has allergies. That’s why we still recommend that most people buy some sort of HEPA-certified full-size vacuum (to find our recommended models, click over to our homepage!).
Thankfully, some of the big manufacturers are moving in the right direction. Dyson introduced their first robot vacuum last year, the 360 Eye. It doesn’t have HEPA filtration or particularly good performance, but since every other vacuum they make includes HEPA filtration, we’re pretty sure their next-generation model will have it. Likewise, Samsung’s PowerBot series includes HEPA filtration already. Those vacuums are just too unreliable to recommend with confidence, but they do perform to an allergy sufferer’s standards when they’re working.
Roomba: Why We Don’t Currently Recommend It
Roomba was the first company on the block with robotic vacuum cleaners, and Roomba models continue to be at the forefront of the market. However, we don’t recommend Roomba models to folks with pet allergies. Why not? There’s one key reason. It’s the same reason we don’t recommend so many of the other robotic models on the market today. Roomba vacuums don’t feature HEPA-grade filtration. That’s a deal-breaker, as far as we’re concerned.
There’s a common misconception that pet hairs are what cause allergic reactions and that the key to reducing symptoms is reducing the pet fur around the house. While that can help, it’s actually the microscopic particles of dead skin and dander which cling to pet hairs, and the proteins which cover all these things, which cause allergic reactions. That’s why some robotic vacuums actually aggravate symptoms! They can’t filter out those fine allergen particles, so you’re left sneezing even more than before the cleaning cycle began.
So, Which Models Are Good For Allergy Sufferers?
At the moment, the only robot vacuum we recommend for dealing with pet allergies is a lesser-known model from Veridian. The X310 is a HEPA-grade robot vacuum that’s not sold in many major retailers (and it’s fairly unknown on Amazon). Despite its lack of popularity on the mainstream market, it’s a “must-have” product in the allergy community, It follows a fairly standard design: the body is circular, and there are 4 side-sweeping brushes to gather dirt and pet hair into the cleaning path. There’s nothing to complain about in the suction department, which is impressive given the use of HEPA filtration.
While hardly the glitziest thing you could buy, it’s plenty smart. It detects the dirt level on your floor and adjusts between three different cleaning modes. Everything’s automatic. It will transition between carpets and hardwoods easily, too. Since it tweaks its suction level to suit the task at hand, it’s quite good at preserving battery life. The Veridian will run for up to 100 minutes. That’s longer than many of the major brand offerings, and plenty of time to clean most small to midsize living spaces.
It has a nice, low profile, so it fits easily under most furniture pieces. It’s only 3” high, Even so, it should get through a whole maintenance cleaning without having to be emptied. The compartment holds about 1.5 cups of debris at a time. With robot vacuums, we’ve found that you should do one big clean with your full-size vacuum, then set the robot on maintenance runs every other day/twice a week. That way it never has to deal with a massive amount of fur at once. If you try to start your robot routine with a super messy house, it won’t be particularly pleasant.
There’s a HEPA filter onboard, and it’s washable! The filtration system is the big factor setting the Veridian apart from other robot vacuums, at least as far as allergens are concerned. It will do as good a job containing fine particles as your average full-size vac. You should get about 2 years of use from the filter before you have to replace it. It finds its way back to the base when it finishes a cleaning cycle. That ought to be a given on a robot vacuum, but far too many cheap models don’t have that feature. It includes a mopping cloth, which allows you to use it to dry-mop (a la Swiffer) your hard flooring. That’s a nice way to catch any stuck-on allergen particles. You can throw the mop cloth in the washer to sanitize and neutralize pet proteins.
It doesn’t do well with fringed carpets. Then again, neither does any other robot vacuum. It’s not the quietest on the market. That’s a small price to pay for the improved filtration, though. It’s not as high-tech as more mainstream offerings. You can’t use your smartphone to control it, it doesn’t connect to wifi, and there aren’t a lot of things to customize. Here’s to some of the more gadgety models including HEPA filtration in future!