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If you’ve read our reviews, manufacturer specs or general questions and answers about robot vacuums, it won’t have escaped your attention that they struggle with dark carpets. Eufy is a perfect example. As perhaps my favourite robot vacuum manufacturer overall, they’ve held a virtual monopoly on the top spots on the Robovac Best Robot Vacuum list with great models like the Eufy RoboVac 15C MAX and the Eufy RoboVac G30. What do both otherwise top-rated robovacs have in common? They’re not recommended for very dark carpets.
I’ll explain more about why they don’t work well later on, but if you’re here because you want a robot vacuum but don’t want to change your carpets for a lighter colour, your options are limited but not non-existent.
The Best Robot Vacuum for Dark Floors
The reason why Roombas and other robot vacuums struggle on dark carpets and other surfaces is to do with their sensors. However, iRobot and their Roomba devices, ever the innovators, are among the first to innovate a solution. The bad news? You’ll need a bit of a budget for that peace of mind. The Roomba 671 and Roomba 981 won’t cut it – they use the same sensors as most other robot vacuums and those sensors are the source of the problem. Instead, you’ll need to go with a higher-end model, such as those in the ‘i’ and ‘S’ series. On the plus side, you’ll end up with a robot vacuum that empties itself if you go for the top end!
The Roomba i7 – Best Budget Robot Vacuum for Dark Carpets and Floors
- Learns, maps and adapts to your home, determining the best way to clean.
- Knows your kitchen from your living room - imprint smart mapping technology allows you to control which rooms are cleaned and when.
- Enjoy hands-free control with Alexa/ Google Assistant - whether it’s tackling a mess in the kitchen, or an entire level of your home, Roomba i7 robot has you covered , Echo, Alexa, and all related logos are trademarks
- Our premium Aero Force 3-Stage Cleaning System uses Dual Multi-Surface Rubber Brushes and Power-Lifting Suction with 10X the air power* to pull in embedded dirt, debris, and pet hair from wherever it hides. *Compared to Roomba 600 Series Aero Vac System
- Dirt detect sensors recognize concentrated areas of dirt and prompt the robot to clean them more thoroughly.
This is probably the first and only opportunity I’ll ever have to refer to a £500/$600 robot vacuum as the budget option, but I’ll take it! Critically, the ‘i’ series Roombas use different sensors to more mainstream models from other manufacturers. Those mainstream robotic vacuum cleaners use a single infrared sensor and ‘bounce’ it off surfaces. If it doesn’t come back, the robot feels like it’s about to fall down the stairs. Dark surfaces, especially carpets, absorb the sensor beam and so the robot vacuum decides to head off in a different direction and live to clean another day.
This robot vacuum, and others in the same series, such as the i7+ below, utilises dual sensors. Rather than a two way signal, as found on other robot vacuums, this effectively converts that sensor to ‘stereo sound’ of sorts. It enables the robot to tell the difference between a real drop and a darker surface and clean accordingly.
The Roomba i7+ – Ideal for Dark Surfaces and Self-Emptying
- iRobot has over 30 years of robotics expertise and innovation with over 30 million home robots sold worldwide. Whether you choose Roomba, Braava or both - your floors get the specialized care they need.
- Forget about vacuuming for months - For up to 60 days, the i7+ automatically empties its bin into the Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal with AllergenLock bags that use 4 layers of allergen blocking material to trap 99% of pollen and mold.
- Cleans when, where, and how you want - With advanced navigation, the i7+ can clean messes where you want, when you want. And equally important, it can stay out of where you don’t want it to go.
- Vacuums messes in the moment - Cutting-edge mapping and smart navigation allow you to send the i7+ to messes when they happen, with just a simple command to your voice assistant*. *Works with Google Assistant and Alexa enabled devices Alexa and all related logos are trademarks of Amazon.com or its affiliates. Google is a trademark of Google LLC
- Small dust? Large debris? No problem - Vacuums stubborn messes with a 3-Stage Cleaning System that uses Dual Multi-Surface Rubber Brushes and 10X the Power-Lifting Suction*. *compared to the Roomba 600 series cleaning system
You’ve got to go big on the budget for a robot vacuum that works reliably on dark floors and black carpets, and if you’re happy to go bigger than just the Roomba i7, you can opt instead for the i7+. There are a couple of different models that share the name, but the one featured above is the best and most wallet-friendly in my estimations.
The picture makes it clear what else you’ll get for your money, but if you’re wondering why the base unit is so big, it’s because the Roomba i7+ empties itself. The additional tank can hold around a dozen full dust boxes from the main unit and, as iRobot themselves say, you can go for weeks without worrying about emptying your robot vacuum. Even then, having tried it myself, the process of emptying a Roomba i7+ is far more pleasant than with a regular robot vacuum. It also helps that the i7+ is a top of the line model at an incredibly attractive price nowadays – it used to sell well at upwards of £1,000/$1,200, so if you spot it in the mid to high three figures, you’re onto a winner.
The Roomba S9+ – The Rolls Royce of Robovacs for Dark Floors and Anywhere Else
Fancy a robot vacuum that’s so expensive that Amazon doesn’t even sell it directly? How about a robotic assistant with features you won’t find anywhere else?
Incredible cleaning prowess? Check. Mapping and world-class navigation? Check. Self-emptying? Check. Crucially, works on dark carpets and floors? 100% check.
The Roomba S9+ is the robot vacuum you buy when the Ferrari on the driveway doesn’t excite you anymore. As sad as it sounds, I crack a smile just thinking about it. I’ll be honest and say I’ve never had the pleasure of taking this one for a test drive first hand, but I trust Roomba to deliver and it’s robot vacuums like the Roomba S9+ that ensure that they stay ahead of the pack as a premium manufacturer.
It’s the most expensive robot vacuum money can buy, and yet it doesn’t feel unfairly priced. Dark surfaces are no issues. Talk to it nicely enough and it will probably clean the windows too (not really, don’t write in to complain).
Why Do Robot Vacuums Struggle with Dark Floors and Black Carpets?
I touched on the reasoning behind the issue earlier on while introducing the Roomba i7, and the crux of the issue comes down to sensors. The cliff and drop sensors that most robot vacuums released in 2020 use are the same as what were in use back in 2016. Through constantly sending and receiving an infrared signal, the robot vacuum is always aware of when it risks falling off a cliff, down the stairs or into a random hole.
The Roombas listed above get around this with the addition of another sensor which provides a wider picture of where it is and when. It makes sense on these higher-end models, as they also represent the pinnacle of mapping and innovation too. I wouldn’t like to guess at how much these additional sensors cost or affect the design, but it’s not an insignificant number.
That’s why, when based on price and performance, something like the Eufy RoboVac G30 comes out on top among the best robot vacuums, but I fully admit that it’s not a patch on the Roomba S9+. At over a grand less, you wouldn’t expect it to.
Can I Disable the Cliff Sensor on a Roomba or Other Robot Vacuum?
You can, but I don’t want to be the one to tell you how. Head back to Google and search “Disable [Manufacturer] Cliff Sensor” and there are plenty of videos that will help you with a spot of DIY. Do bear in mind that:
- Roomba and other manufacturers officially recommend against disabling the drop sensor (although they might just want you to buy a more expensive model)
- Those sensors are a lot more difficult to reconnect than disconnect
- As soon as you open up a robovac to that extent, your warranty won’t be valid
- Your robot vacuum can no longer clean upstairs unsupervised and risks cannoning down the stairs and taking out the unsuspecting cat.
Do Other Robot Vacuums Not Work on Dark Surfaces At All?
The selections above include robot vacuums that I know for a fact won’t have any issues at all with dark floors and black carpets. It’s not a comprehensive list of those that won’t struggle, but it is complete in terms of robot vacuums available in 2020 that don’t care what colour the floor is.
My testing environment, that being my house, consists of beige carpets throughout, dark but not black tiles in the bathrooms and lighter laminate in the kitchen. In my older testing environment, that being my last house, it was light-coloured laminate throughout and a dark grey carpet on the landing. I’ve subjected the likes of the Roomba 671, RoboVac 15C MAX and RoboVac G30 to darker surfaces, but nothing close to black.
I haven’t had any issues. The most obvious cause for concern was a dark carpet on the previous landing, which extended down the stairs. The Roomba 671 knew when to stop and didn’t show any signs of getting stuck – but I wouldn’t bet money on that being the case on black carpets.
What Happens when a Robovac Reaches Black Carpets?
If your home is partly black carpets and dark floors, and partly light, the chances are a robot vacuum that doesn’t appear above will treat it like reaching any other cliff. They usually don’t stop, but go back in the direction they came from on a calculated retreat. They’ll continue cleaning as normal, but they won’t treat that carpet as actual floor space.
If a Roomba or other robot vacuum finds itself in the middle of a dark floor and surrounded by what must only feel like massive drops, I can only assume it experiences that feeling you get when you’re drifting off to sleep and find yourself falling into nowhere in particular.
Should I Risk Another Robot Vacuum on Dark Surfaces?
Following on from what I mentioned above, I see no harm in trying a robot vacuum that catches your eye for yourself. None of the models featured in this article crossover with the official Robovac Best Robot Vacuums, but that’s a mix of them being ranked with price and performance in mind, and partly due to their suitability for black carpets not being a ranking factor. If one of them catches your eye, I’d say go for it and give it a try.
I won’t go into too much detail on why we only tend to recommend Amazon for purchasing a robotic vacuum cleaner, as this isn’t the time or the place. However, one thing the company has going for it is if you’re nice and polite, they’ll go out of their way to assist in my experience. In this case, that means a no quibble return if your robot vacuum develops an incurable case of nyctophobia.
The Best Robot Vacuum for Dark Carpet – In Summary
If you’re in the market for a robot vacuum and have black carpets or dark floors and want to know you can buy with confidence, go with one of the Roombas featured. I’ve opted to list them in ascending price order, but the more you spend, the more Roomba you’ll get for your money. Crucially, you’ll know without a shadow of a doubt that the robot vacuum will get the job done regardless of carpet colour.
If you already have a robot vacuum and it hates dark floors, you could Google a guide on disabling the drop sensors – but I’d honestly urge against it for the reasons outlined above.
If you want to try a different robot vacuum on your dark floors, I’d say go for it. Whether a robovac will be happy on darker surfaces isn’t an exact science. You might find you have no problems at all and for no discernible reason. If it doesn’t pan out as hoped, return the robot vacuum and try another – although if you’re on your fourth or fifth try, it might be worth accepting that a Roomba from the ‘i’ or ‘S’ series is the way to go!
To summarise further, here are the robot vacuums that will work on black carpets and dark floors, no questions asked:
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