Pros: Fantastic little floor-scrubber; just make sure to vacuum or sweep first, use often, and clean the scrubber plates frequently
Cons: Takes practice to line up the virtual wall just right
Rating: 4 out of 5
Between my tendonitis and my husband’s work schedule, it’s hard to keep the house as clean as we’d like. Not too long ago, my awesome mother got us a Scooba 230 + Essentials Kit, one of iRobot’s floor washing robots. The essentials kit, by the way, includes a second virtual wall (takes two D batteries; keeps your robot from passing through a doorway so you can limit what it cleans) and several extra bottom plates (the part that includes the scrubbing brushes and squeegee).
You charge up the Scooba, slip on the bottom plate, open up both the fill and empty ports (so the inner bag that holds the water can expand as much as possible), pour in a small amount of non-toxic enzyme cleaner (the Scooba comes with several sample packets, but you’ll want to buy a couple of bottles from iRobot). Fill with warm (not hot) water, close both ports, put the Scooba in the middle of the floor to be cleaned, press the power button, and press the ‘clean’ button. Note that the first time I used the Scooba it gave me an error message indicating that it hadn’t been filled with water and solution even though it had; the fix for this is to give is a good shake to prime the pumps.
From there it combines various types of movement (circling, wall-following, and criss-crossing the floor) in order to clean as much of the floor as possible. It releases the water with enzymatic solution, runs its scrubbing bristles over everything, then squeegees and vacuums up the dirty water into a separate holding tank. When it finishes, you hold it over the sink with the “empty” port facing down, open that port, and let the dirty water drain out.
The virtual wall is not as smart as the later virtual lighthouses that come with the most recent Roombas—you need to remember to turn it on and off; the lighthouses come on automatically when the Roomba is in use. It has three settings for length of beam, so you can set it to guard small apertures or large room openings. Note that the beam has sort of a cone shape, so the longer the space you need it to guard, the more you need to angle the virtual wall outward to avoid its covering some of the space you’d actually like cleaned. This takes a little playing with to get right.
The Scooba can be used on sealed hardwood, linoleum, and tile. I think the sealing on our hardwood is a little rubbed down, so I haven’t dared to use it on that, but it does a fantastic job on the tile kitchen floor and the linoleum bathroom floor. While the Scooba looks rather small, that’s to a good purpose—it can actually just fit behind the average bathroom toilet, so it can clean everything.
There are a couple of handy things to keep in mind. One is that it will leave the floor a little wet even though it vacuums up the dirty water. Just give it a few minutes to dry. Since the cleanser is a non-toxic enzymatic cleanser, you don’t particularly have to worry about getting your feet (or your pets’ paws) a bit wet. Another thing to keep in mind is that the Scooba is NOT designed as a vacuum cleaner—you need to vacuum, sweep, or run its Roomba counterpart right before using it; otherwise hair and other cruft can gum up the works. Also, it’s going to have a tough time with particularly grimy floors, so make sure you run it frequently. I find weekly is about right.
When it runs into trouble, it has a little “uh-oh” sound that it makes, followed by a certain number of beeps. There’s a chart in the manual detailing what the beeps mean. The only two problems I’ve had so far are having the Scooba get “stuck” on a “cliff” (it has sensors to keep it from, for example, falling down a flight of stairs)—this only happened once. I also had it get stuck in the virtual wall once when I happened to move the virtual wall while it was up against the beam. Both problems are simple to fix—pick up the Scooba, move it to open floor, and press “clean” again.
The larger the room, the greater the possibility the Scooba might miss an area, particularly if it needs to find and fit through a small opening. You can handle this by putting it right in the middle of the area it missed (or any particularly dirty area you want to make sure it finds) and starting it up there. In general, however, it’s surprisingly good at covering an area. If you run it frequently it’ll eventually catch everything anyway.
You do need to make sure you fit the battery in flush with the surface of the Scooba, and close the plastic cover to the charging port when the Scooba is in use. You don’t want water getting in there. I’m a little paranoid about that and it always makes me nervous when that area gets wet (it’s on the same side as the empty port, so it’s bound to get a little wet). I just make sure to wait to recharge it until it’s fully dry.
Even with my tendonitis it’s easy for me to run the Roomba or Scooba, so our house stays much cleaner now! I typically run one or both, depending on the room, on one or two rooms a day. It takes a minimal amount of effort and time; you move a few things if necessary to give it better access to the whole floor, set it, and forget it. It’ll chime to let you know when it’s done.