You probably know iRobot as the purveyor of robotic vacuum cleaners, but they do more than just Roomba. In addition to the company’s iconic carpet-cleaning bot, the company also produces robotic servants of all kinds, including gutter cleaners, pool cleaners, and autonomous floor scrubbers. Not being fans of manual labor, we had to get our hands on one of the latter to see if it was actually better than scrubbing floors manually. Here’s what we found.
Scooba 450 cleaning video
Setup and installation
Getting this little bot up and running is about as simple as it gets. Don’t even bother with the instructions manual — just pop in the batteries, fill up the water and soap compartment, punch a couple buttons, and you’re done. The pictorial directions iRobot includes in the accompanying Quick Start guide are practically impossible to screw up, which we really appreciated. All in all, you’ll have this thing out of the box and roving your floors in just a couple minutes.
Features and design
Somewhat unsurprisingly, iRobot decided to stick with it’s iconic “oversized hockey puck” look with the Scooba. It’s a bit taller and beefier than your average Roomba, but otherwise retains the exact same design aesthetic – minimalist, round, and low-profile.
It lays down clean water and sucks up the dirty stuff all in one pass.
But don’t let the look fool you – under the hood, this little bot is completely different than Roomba. On the undercarriage, it sports a different brushroll that’s better suited for scrubbing flat floor surfaces like tile, laminate, concrete, and hardwood. Additionally, because this is a floor scrubber, the bot is outfitted with a two-compartment reservoir – one for water and cleaning solution, and another for the dirty wastewater it squeegees off the floor. Unlike other robomops out there, this one doesn’t push around the same gunk-ridden water – it lays down clean water and sucks up the dirty stuff all in one pass, which is pretty nice. It’s also eliminates the need for sweeping beforehand.
When it comes to the control interface, we’ve got to give iRobot big props for outfitting Scooba with one of the easiest control systems we’ve ever encountered on a household robot – though it’s worth mentioning that this lack of difficult controls largely comes as a result of having few advanced features and settings. Even so, the Scooba is a breeze to control. There are only three buttons you use to access all the functions: one big one in the center for activation, a smaller one on the right to play voice instructions, and another that toggles the bot between its two room-size settings. Even your grandma could figure it out.
If you get the bot, it’s highly recommended that you also get a beacon or two, as this will allow you to tell the bot which sections of your floor are off limits, and help keep it quarantined to areas of your choosing. You wouldn’t want it on your carpet, after all – that might start a turf war between this bot and your Roomba.
Performance and use
Unlike Roomba, which can be configured to run on a recurring schedule and operate on its own, Scooba requires direct interaction with you, the user, every time it’s deployed.
Why? Well, as it is a floor scrubber instead of a vacuum, the Scooba needs to have its reservoir filled with soap and water before every use. Obviously, this makes it slightly less convenient than the mostly-autonomous Roomba, but in our experience, setting this thing up isn’t nearly as tedious as busting out the mop and bucket and doing everything the old-fashioned way.
What it lacks in speed it makes up for in thoroughness.
In terms of performance, the Scooba isn’t particularly fast at the job, but what it lacks in speed it makes up for in thoroughness. The bot can be set for either 20- or 40-minute cycles, and will clean your floor for that long regardless of the size of the room. This translates to multiple passes for most normal-sized rooms, but might mean missed spots if you’re cleaning a particularly wide area. For smaller rooms, this means the bot will likely make multiple passes over the same spots.
Scooba is outfitted with a slightly different version of iRobots cleaning software. It’s not entirely random and bouncy like a Roomba, but also not nearly as calculated and methodical as other robotic floor cleaners we’ve seen. When the cycle begins, the bot’s first move is to create a small, outwardly-expanding spiral. After it creates a spiral of a certain size, it suddenly switches gears and begins a much more Roomba-like pattern, bouncing around in a pseudo-random fashion until the floor is done. We did notice it making slight corrections to its path though, as well as some wall-following and mid-path corrections that we don’t recall seeing with Roomba.
To put it to the test, we set it loose in a handful of different environments – the concrete floors in our office lunch room, the laminate floor of our office kitchen, and even the grimy, disgusting faux wood-panel floors of my own house. Since we had no idea how much dirt was there to begin with, we just let the bot do its thing and pick up as much gunk as possible – the idea being that we’d give the collected wastewater a look when it was done to see how much it differed from the clear the clear tapwater we filled it with.
For the first trial –our small kitchen floor—we didn’t expect too much gunk to come off, since it gets cleaned fairly regularly, but we were surprised by the results, which you can see below:
When we set the bot loose on the dirty faux-wood floors of my basement, however, the results were much more dramatic. This time around, Scooba had more floor area to work with, and the resulting gunk collection it amassed was far, far dirtier. However, despite the extra measure of dirt, the bot never got hung up on anything – not even small pebbles or long strands of hair. Just don’t let it roll over power cables or drawstrings for your blinds: in later tests we discovered that those things will definitely cause it to choke.
After these first two rounds, we were impressed with Scooba’s abilities, but picking up loose dirt and debris is completely different than cleaning caked-on gunk that’s actually stuck to the floor. We were curious how this thing could handle sticky messes, so for the third test we intentionally spilled Diet Coke and maple syrup on the floor and let the resulting puddles sit for about 24 hours each. When we let the bot have at the resulting stains, the bot’s pre-soak first/squeegee next cycle made short work of the diet coke, but wasn’t quite enough to get the dried maple syrup off the floorboards. We would’ve appreciated a spot cleaning function in this instance, but in all fairness, caked-on maple syrup globs probably aren’t going to be a common issue for most people, so we’ll cut Scooba some slack.
All things considered, there’s a lot to love about this bot. It’s ridiculously simple to use, it cleans floors thoroughly, and it only requires a small amount of effort to set up before each use. No matter how you look at it, Scooba is a thoughtfully-designed robot that delivers on iRobot’s promises – so the only question remains is this: Is this thing worth the 600 price tag?
If you don’t have trouble cleaning your floors the old fashioned way, and your floors don’t require much attention to keep clean, by all means, save the 600 bucks and keep doing what you’re doing. If, however, you spend a fair amount of time sweeping and mopping your floors to keep them clean, and find yourself tearing through Swiffer pads at an alarming rate, this bot would probably be a smart purchase for you. Having a robot to do that work for you will save you time, energy, and maybe even some money in the long run.
Unlike Roomba, which isn’t a true replacement for a full-sized vacuum, Scooba is a full-fledged replacement for a mop and bucket. You might have to scrub the occasional caked-on mess yourself, but if used regularly, Scooba will almost completely eliminate the need for you to sweep and mop manually. If you value your time and clean floors, it’s totally worth the asking price.
- Simple to operate
- Cleans thoroughly
- Lacks spot cleaning mode
- Not entirely autonomous
- No smartphone connectivity