October 2021: Make your life easier with these time-saving, labour-saving gadgets

The seemingly constant advance of technology is largely aimed at making life easier or better in some way. The last century has seen the arrival of numerous labour-saving machines and time-saving gadgets for domestic use. The washing machine, tumble dryer, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, microwave, electric sewing machine, blender, mixer… They’re all designed to help you do things faster and more efficiently. Most of us now take all those examples for granted. And still life can be pretty hectic. Still there are household chores we don’t really want to do…

Here, we take a look at some of the latest labour-saving gadgets on the market. You’ll find something for every budget. You could claw back some leisure time and give your joints a well-earned break. Or you could view your cleaning jobs as invaluable exercise and save your money for real treats… Which of these gadgets will be commonplace 20, 30 or 50 years into the future? Only time will tell.

Robot vacuum

As satisfying as it is to sit back and survey a freshly vacuumed home, is it more satisfying to sit and watch a robot vacuum cleaner do it for you! There are several self-propelled vacuum cleaners on the market now, but the iRobot Roomba gets a big thumbs-up from plenty of reviewers. The range starts from under £300, with a Roomba that connects to your WiFi, has special edge-sweeping brushes and even learns about the parts of your home which experience debris most frequently, to make sure they stay as clean as everywhere else.

Cordless vacuum

If you’d rather stick to vacuuming by hand, getting a cordless vacuum cleaner will still save some effort of swapping sockets when you’ve run out of power cord! Cordless vacuum cleaners now have better battery charging capacity than in previous years, so you’re unlikely to get to the second bedroom and have the vacuum cleaner die on you while drifting cat hair wafts by and laughs in your direction.

Robot lawn mower

Imagine never having to mow the lawn again. Granted, you won’t get a picture-perfect stripey lawn, but you’ll also never have grass that gets too long. Robot mowers beetle about the garden regularly, keeping the grass trimmed at all times. The more expensive options (you could pay anywhere between about £300 and £2000!) detect the weather, have GPS trackers in case they’re stolen and even sensors to sound an alarm on your phone if it’s even picked up. On the downside, they need external power on a flat surface in order to dock and recharge, so your initial outlay is likely to include paying for an electrician. On second thoughts, maybe we’ll just stick with a hover mower.

Robot mop

Well, why not? Apart from the price tag… which could be anywhere from £139 to £1,199 for a Roomba combined vacuum and mop. If you don’t wear shoes around the house and you generally don’t throw fluids left, right and centre, there are definitely better ways to spend your money. But if you have a lot of tiled flooring, pets, visiting grandchildren with their sticky hands and fondness for spilling stuff, perhaps a robot mop is just what you’ve been dreaming of…

Robot window cleaner

It’s the last robot, we promise. And while it sounds like a Cyberman standing outside your house with a chamois (it couldn’t be a Dalek – they can’t climb ladders), this is much less frightening. And none of those awkward moments as you sit watching television while a man lathers your windows. You’ll still need to move the device from window to window, of course, so it’s actually more effort than having a human window cleaner. But these devices stick to your window, you control them via a remote control or an app on your phone, and since they often retail at below £200, you might just save money in the long run.

Self-cleaning litter tray

Cats are wonderful company and hours of entertainment. Crouching down and scooping out used litter and, well, poo, is not entertaining. Enter the automatic self-cleaning litter tray. Don’t actually enter it - leave that to your cats. These devices separate clean litter from the used litter and solids, dropping the used stuff into a separate compartment. You still need to empty that, but it’s a lot less fiddly. The real bonus, arguably, is that your cat won’t have to walk on wet litter or poo, and then traipse it around the house, upsetting your robot vacuum cleaner and robot mop. We’re rather less convinced by the idea of a self-cleaning dog potty for puppies and small dogs.

Electric cleaning brush

This is more like it – certainly in terms of affordability! Sometimes called sonic scrubbers, these devices are much like a rechargeable electric toothbrush, but with an array of different cleaning brushes for different jobs. Cleaning the hob, bath, sink, shower tiles, the loo… it all just became far less hard work and much faster to accomplish. And with most prices between £15 and £30, these aren’t bank-balance-busters.

Blind duster

There’s absolutely nothing futuristic about this device. It doesn’t even take batteries. But if you’ve got venetian blinds, you need one of these. The slats of a venetian blind are almost designed to catch dust. And because they’re in the natural light of the window, they’re lit up for all to see. And they’re a pain in the backside to dust and wipe. With up to six ‘fingers’ on a single handheld dusting device, you can clean more than a handful of slats (top and bottom) at once. Look for a model with removable sleeves, so you can wash them regularly. At as little as a fiver apiece, test your ambidexterity by buying two and using them at the same time.

We absolutely see the merits of all of these devices, but for many the costs are still prohibitive. As more and more are bought, though, those prices will drop. We think they’re a safe bet for commonplace home tech in the future, but for now we’re pressing the ‘confirm order’ button on some electric cleaning brushes…