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Vacuum varieties

Tiny and hi-tech cleaners give you choices

Looking for an alternative to a traditional full-size, plug-in vacuum cleaner? Hint: not cleaning the floor for a few years is not it. Perhaps you need to clean where space is tight in a dorm room or cabin, or you have special tasks to do, such as cleaning out the car or attacking a small spill. Maybe you just can’t resist the lure of technology, delighted by the idea of a robot that will clean the floors while you’re off doing something else.

Hand-held vacuums fit small jobs
A hand-held vacuum is a good option for small spaces. When choosing one, think about how and where you’ll use it, and consider the gadget’s weight and portability. Both cordless and corded options are available. The corded models tend to be more powerful (with more oomph to suck up the dirt)—but make sure the cord is long enough to reach from an outlet to where you need to clean. With cordless models, check to see how long the battery lasts per cleaning and how long it takes to recharge.

Consider, too, what functions you need most. Some hand-helds come with a rotating brush, useful for trying to loosen and extract dirt from carpet, and some include a flexible hose. Some models offer attachments for special tasks, such as tools to clean upholstery or in crevices.

Smoothing the path for robot sweepers
Robots are generally battery-powered and rechargeable, with sensors to keep the robot from running into furniture or other obstacles. They tend to work best if the floor is not too cluttered (beware stray shoes and toys). Note that a robot can also get hung up on loose electric cords or low-hanging cabinets or furniture, so plan accordingly. If your home has different flooring surfaces (tile in the kitchen, thick carpet in the living room) look for a model that can transition from one surface to the next.

Most robots offer a selection of vacuuming patterns (such as a sequence of spirals, following the walls, or straight back and forth) to make sure all the floor area is covered. Some models also allow a user to program the device to clean at a particular time of day. Some will automatically return to the docking station to recharge after a bout of cleaning.

Remember that while the robot will clean your floors, you’ll also need to clean the robot, emptying out the grime periodically so the brushes and filters continue to work.

A robot vacuum can be a definite time-saver for everyday use to keep dirt, dust, and pet hair under control. But you may still need to do more thorough deep cleaning with a traditional vacuum from time to time. 

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