Upright vs Robot Vacuum – 2023

Upright vs. Robot Vacuum

Robot vacuums are the new ‘It’ machines in the vacuum cleaner world. Everyone’s talking about it, and everyone’s wondering about it. But upright vacuum owners have advocated their disapproval time and time again.

They have requested buyers to tread cautiously before they think of buying these cute (but expensive) little creatures that will crawl around your house like they belong there!

So who do you listen to? Team upright or team robot? Let’s have a face-off (Upright vs Robot Vacuum Cleaners) and see who wins!

What is an Upright Vacuum Cleaner?

An upright vacuum cleaner is essentially a tallish type of cleaner that has both the cleaning head and the handle coupled together, so the user can conveniently push the unit in front of them. The motor sits right on top of the cleaning head, which mostly consists of a rotating brush.

Upright Vacuum cleaners are often referred to as the ‘traditional type’ of a vacuum cleaner. They are widely used in the United States, but virtually unknown in a lot of countries.

The design of the upright vacuums caught on owing to the fact that the user does not have to bend down while cleaning as is required by traditional canister vacuums.

The cleaning head is quite wide, providing for a wider cleaning path, and they usually come with high capacity bags or dirt bins, letting you go for many days, without the need for clearing the bin.

The motorized bristles that often accompany the cleaning head are ideal for deep cleaning, especially for thick or heavy carpets, though nowadays, a lot of them are also suited for hard floors.

Upright Vacuum Cleaner

Why Use Upright Vacuum Cleaners?

The traditional upright vacuum is a workhorse and it is for this reason that it is revered and loved by a large portion of people. The upright vacuum usually comes with powerful suction and covers a larger area.

Since they use motorized brushes, upright vacuum cleaners are typically an ideal option for heavy weight cleaning, especially for thick carpets. This is something that other vacuum types may find hard to work with.

Although conventional Uprights were made for the traditional carpeted homes, most companies like Shark, Hoover, Bissell and Miele have managed to upgrade their uprights to suit modern day hard floors, like wooden, tiled or marbled.

This has been made possible through an on/off brush roll system, which allows you to switch off the brush-roll when working on tiled floors to ensure that it does not scatter the dirt. Many are also equipped with an automatic cut-off of the motor in case the brush-roll gets jammed, thereby preventing damage.

Since all components like the dust bag, motor, cleaning head and handle are clubbed into one unit, storage of the upright vacuum cleaner is fairly easy, as you don’t need to dismount any accessories or put them away.

They are extremely good for cleaning large areas of a carpet. Most importantly, all these features come at quite a low cost. In fact, the upright vacuum cleaners tend to be cheaper than their canister counterparts.

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Click here to find the best vacuum cleaners under $100.

Pros and Cons of an Upright Vacuum Cleaner



Suitable for

  • Upright models are good for large areas of carpet due to their built-in power heads.

  • Barrel models are easier to use in awkward places, such as stairs, car interiors and behind furniture.

  • They use cable, have good capacity and are good at picking up pet hair.

  • They have wider cleaning paths.

  • All units are combined into one so there’s no need to dismount and remount accessories at each use.

  • They tend to be heavier (up to 9.5 kg).

  • Can be difficult to maneuver

  • Since they tend to be larger in size, they get tricky to store.

  • Usually a little loud.

  • Large carpeted areas, larger homes.

  • People with back issues and those who don’t like to bend while cleaning.

Upright Vacuum FAQs

Can I use an upright vacuum cleaner on a hardwood floor?

Yes, though they work best with carpeted floors, they can also work on hard surfaces. For effective cleaning, it is best if the brush roll is disengaged, so that it does not disperse dust around as it cleans.

Are bag-less upright vacuums better than those with dust bags?

Bag-less uprights are slightly more convenient as the disposal of dust is easier. For allergy sufferers, though, dust bags are better as they keep the dust inside the bags. Disposable bags are the best options in such cases.

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Do upright vacuums pick large debris?

This depends on the height of the vacuum head. Upright vacuums usually come with high power suction, that can pick heavier items, but it will only work once the item comes under the suction head.

Are upright vacuums effective with pet hair?

Yes, upright vacuums work very well with pet hair. They usually have high suction and are great for heavy-duty and deep cleaning.

What is a Robot Vacuum Cleaner?

A robotic vacuum cleaner is a cute little autonomous cleaner that scurries around the house or designated areas of the house.

They were built to follow either a designated path or a self-calculated path, picking up dirt and debris along the way.

These vacuum cleaners have a small motor that helps them move on wheels and rotate brushes that push dirt into the suction point and into an internal dust collection chamber.

They can be programmed to run at designated times of the day or week, or can be controlled remotely through an app.

Some robot vacuums move autonomously and map out their way through the house, while others allow you to control their path remotely.

They can come equipped with either sensors, cameras or laser systems to detect obstacles as well as areas with more concentration of dirt.

Owing to their convenience, robot vacuums are becoming increasingly popular. A number of companies are also bringing out lower-end robot vacuums for those on a lower budget!

Robot Vacuum Cleaner
Robot Vacuum Cleaner

Why use Robot Vacuum Cleaners?

Robot vacuum can give your modern home a very futuristic feel. Almost as if you have your very own (tiny-version) R2-D2 roaming your home.

In this era, house cleaning services don’t come cheap. So a robot vacuum can be a godsend for busy souls, as it gives you one less thing to do in your list of never-ending chores.

For homes with elderly people or those with disabilities, this trumps over any conventional vacuum cleaner as there is zero pressure on arms, legs and backs. All it needs is a push of a remote control button.

If you have an elderly parent living alone, you can even program the robot for them, if they are not comfortable dealing with high-tech products.

Since they are autonomous, you can schedule them to run every 2-3 hours or once or twice a day. In this way, you can ensure that your home is spotless all the time, without having to take the effort of cleaning.

Finally, these vacuums are self-charging. So you don’t need to worry about what happens if they get charged out before they finish their rounds.

They usually know when their charge starts depleting and return to their charging points before getting back to the last spot to resume cleaning.

Storage is not even an issue, since all robot vacuums are short and disc shaped. So you can basically store it just about anywhere in your home, even in a drawer! Thanks to their compact size, they can easily slide under low furniture to ensure better cleaning.

These vacuum cleaners are ideal for smaller homes with less clutter and low-pile rugs. If you own a small apartment, check out our article to see if a robot vacuum is good for you.

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Pros and Cons of a Robot Vacuum Cleaner



Suitable for

  • They require less effort

  • They can be controlled remotely

  • They can detect low power and self-charge

  • They have wider cleaning paths.

  • They can be scheduled to clean as required

  • They can detect dirt and debris automatically.

  • Some models can detect change in height when moving from hard floor to carpets and adjust accordingly.

  • Dust collection chamber fills up quickly so it needs regular emptying and cleaning

  • Rotating brush often gets tangled in high pile carpets, or stray wires.

  • Barring a few models, most models need to work with the lights on.

  • Not ideal for darker colored floors.

  • Smaller homes with less clutter.

  • People with disabilities and back issues.

  • Elderly people.

  • Homes with hard floors or low-pile car

Robot Vacuum FAQs

Can a robot vacuum be used to spy on you?

Robot vacuums do collect mapping information. They need that to navigate your home. This also lets you monitor it from anywhere using your smartphone.

If data privacy worries you, you can simply not use the app and choose not to connect the robot to WiFi.

What happens if the robot vacuum runs out of charge?

Most robot vacuums have internal sensors that prompt them when charge starts going low. When this happens, the vacuum stops cleaning and returns to its charging point. Once fully charged, it usually remembers where it stopped and resumes working from there.

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Do robot vacuums work on carpet floors?

Yes, robot vacuums do work on carpet floors, but are better with low-pile carpets. With taller carpets they usually get their brushes tangled up and fail to effectively clean dirt that is seated deeper in the carpet. With low-pile carpets they usually pick surface debris.

Do robot vacuums fall down stairs?

Robot vacuums usually have sensors that detect obstacles and drop-off points like staircases. Robots like the Roomba have Cliff Detect features.

However sometimes these sensors might become less effective. A good solution is to use metal strips provided by some manufacturers or virtual wall barriers like the ones provided by iRobot.

Upright vs Robot Vacuum Cleaners

So now that we’ve seen the good, the bad and the…ok not the ugly….of both upright and robot vacuums, let’s put them face to face and see which one is better. We will look at both types of vacuums and compare them on how they fare in six areas:

Upright vs. Robot Vacuum
Upright vs. Robot Vacuum Cleaners

Suction Power

Most robot vacuums do have the suction to pick up dirt, especially from more exposed surfaces, like hard floors. But they lack the suction needed to actually go deeper into carpets and pick up dirt from within.

As such, robot vacuums are great for touch-ups on a daily basis, but not as the sole means of cleaning your home.

Upright vacuums, on the other hand, possess the highest suction power among all the vacuum cleaner types. So they can suction deep into high pile carpets and get out all the dirt in a few swipes.

Upright Vacuum: 1 point

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Upright vacuums are usually large and hefty. Pushing them around can sometimes be quite inconvenient and demand a lot of muscle power on the owner’s part. Moreover, they often require a good number of swipes over the same area to effectively take out stubborn dirt.

Robot vacuum cleaners have been made for the owner’s comfort. They let you just sit back and relax while they go about cleaning your home. As such, no other vacuum cleaner can compete with the robot vacuum in terms of convenience.

Robot Vacuum: 1 point

Hard/Carpeted floors

Upright vacuums are ideal for carpeted floors, as they are capable of effectively pulling out dirt from the depths of the carpet. They also work on hard floors but require the brush roll to be disabled so that they don’t disperse the dirt around.

Robot vacuums are more ideal for hard floors, they have a nice rotating brush that actually pulls dirt into the suction head to effectively clean.

On carpeted floors, some robot vacuums tend to get their brushes tangled. There are some robot models that work well on carpets, but they’re usually not that effective in picking up dirt stuck deeper in the fibers.

Robot Vacuum: 1 point for hard floors

Upright Vacuum: 1 point for carpeted floors

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Robot vacuums travel throughout your designated area and easily maneuver around furniture. They can glide in under sofas and other lower furniture, so they cover more area and give you a thorough clean.

Their paths, however, if not monitored (at least the first few sessions), sometimes tend to leave out certain areas.

With the upright vacuum cleaner you can navigate it to clean the areas that you think need more cleaning and they also suck up the dirt quite well.

They are, however, a little difficult to maneuver and are difficult to get under sofas and low furniture.

Robot Vacuum: 0.5 points

Upright Vacuum: 0.5 points


The dust collection chamber of robot vacuum cleaners usually tend to be quite small, so they fill up quickly and need more frequent clean ups.

Upright vacuums, on the other hand, have a larger dust collection capacity, so they need fewer bag changes or canister cleanups.

Another issue that often comes up with robot vacuums is their tendency to get lost often. You will often come across situations where you find your robot vacuum stuck under a carpet or lost far under a sofa.

As such, robot vacuums need more frequent maintenance than upright vacuums.

Upright Vacuum: 1 point

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This one’s practically a no-brainer. A robot vacuum is smaller, disc shaped and sleek. As such storage is hardly an issue.

Just push them under a bed, or into a drawer. Most people like to keep them in their docking stations where they get charged and ready for their next round.

Upright vacuums on the other hand, are quite bulky and oddly shaped. As such, they can get quite tricky to store. No points for guessing who gets this round!

Robot Vacuum: 1 point

Verdict – Which is Better? Upright or Robot Vacuum Cleaners?

From the above analogy, we find both robot and upright vacuums get an equal score (3.5 points). Robot vacuum cleaners are small, sleek, easy to store and require minimum effort on the owner’s part. They are best for hard floors, and can skim off surface debris from the top of carpets. Owing to their smaller sized dust collection bin, they need more maintenance and cleaning.

Upright vacuums are larger, heftier and require muscle to drag around. They do, however, clean better and deeper, and are thus, ideal for carpeted floors. With a larger-sized dust collection chamber, they also require less frequent maintenance, as you need to empty the bin less often.

In my opinion, keeping a combination of the two would be ideal. Do the heavy-duty cleaning with the upright vacuum and then let the robot vacuum do light touch ups once or twice a day. When there are bigger messes, lug out the upright vacuum and when you just want to clean up an otherwise tidy room, fire up the robot vacuum.

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Bottom Line

In a competition between upright and robot vacuums, both come out victorious. Ideally, keeping both around the house helps.

You can let your robot vacuum automatically clean the house on a daily basis and do a more deep cleaning of the house every third day with the upright vacuum.

In this way, you can ensure that you home remains pristine and spotless while you still get time to relax most of the weeks.


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