Hate poop? Then $500 may not be too much to pay for this toilet-cleaning robot

Giddel Toilet-Cleaning Robot
Kim Wetzel/Digital Trends

I probably shouldn’t be admitting this, but cleaning a toilet doesn’t totally gross me out.

Ok, if I were scrubbing a filthy, smelly, overly disgusting toilet in, say, a prison or a football stadium, I might sing a different tune. As it is, I’ve only scrubbed the pee-splattered ones in my home. But I’ve always felt that toilets get a bit of a bad rap as the grossest place in the home — when they’re actually not.

From a germ perspective, we should be more fearful of neglected areas like door handles, computer keyboards, and phones. And if you have a good toilet brush, you don’t even have to touch the places where poop touches. So, what’s the big deal?

The minute I pulled the Giddel out of the box, I found myself impressed with the workmanship.

This was exactly what I was thinking when I first heard about Giddel, the $500 toilet-cleaning robot from Altan Robotics. Come on, I thought. Do we really hate cleaning toilets so much that we’ll buy a $500 robot to do it for us? Is this something that society really needs?

But the more I learned about it and talked about it on Digital Trends Live, the more my thoughts about the robot morphed from skepticism to curiosity to fascination. Finally, unable to stop myself, I requested one for review. I had to try this sucker — er, scrubber — out.

I figured I’d let it twirl around in my dirty toilet just to see if the cute little thing would have me ditching toilet brushes forever or cursing our tech-solution-without-a-problem society.

Here’s a rundown — or should I say scrub down — of my experience with “Bowley” the toilet-cleaning robot. (Note: Credit for the name “Bowley” goes to my 5-year-old son).

This is not a toy

The minute I pulled the Giddel out of the box, I found myself impressed with the workmanship. It’s a well-crafted, sturdy machine. The device comes with a large charging station, a bottle for adding water to the robot, mounting brackets, and extra brushes. Its “eyeballs” serve as simple play and pause buttons, and there’s an on/off button on the top of the robot’s “head”.

There’s no app, which I think is a good thing. It’s far enough out there to have a toilet-cleaning robot doing your bidding for you, but to do it via an app while you’re at, say, a dinner party or some other outing just seems like overkill. (“Oh, excuse me, I need to tell my robot to clean my toilet.”)

There’s something to be said for technology that is truly autonomous.

“I wanna play with it!” my son yelled as he clamored for it. I pulled it away from him, saying what all parents say to 5 year olds who try to grab expensive things: “This is not a toy.”

The robot must be charged before use. While it charged on the base station, I removed the toilet seat, installed the brackets underneath per the instructions that were provided, then reinstalled the toilet seat. The installation process only took a few minutes.

Once charged, I put some toilet cleaner in the bowl, clipped the robot via the handle to the brackets, turned the device on, and then hit the play button. The robot whizzed to life, mapping out my toilet like a robot vacuum might do to my floor the first time it’s used. Then it went to work systematically scrubbing the inner rim, outer rim, and deep inside the bowl. The device rotated around in an efficient manner, doing a decent job of hitting every inch.

Me, my husband, and son stared at the twirling device.

“It’s kind of fascinating,” my husband said.

I agreed. I turned off Bowley and brought it to our second bathroom, where I repeated the process. Removing the robot from the first toilet was as easy as pushing a lever to detach it.

While the device does a great job of cleaning the inside of the bowl, it barely touches the rim and cannot scrub the toilet seat at all.

While it worked its magic in the second bathroom, I looked happily at it whirling around my toilet bowl without me lifting a finger to help it. There’s something to be said for technology that is truly autonomous. Then I looked at my nasty, forlorn-looking old toilet brush, sitting inactive behind my toilet. There really was no comparison between the two.

Was it time to say good riddance to the brush? Well, not so fast.

Drawbacks

While there are plenty of reasons to celebrate this little robot (ease of installation, hands-free cleaning, the robot coolness factor), there are some definite issues with the device.

For one, it comes with a large charging/base station that you have to figure out where to store. If you have a small bathroom, this could be problematic. We plopped ours on our bathroom countertop, but this is a less-than-ideal location for a toilet cleaner.

Giddel Toilet-Cleaning Robot
Kim Wetzel/Digital Trends

Also, when the robot finishes cleaning, a chime sounds. But if you don’t tend to it right away and turn it off, the device stays on instead of shutting itself down, dangling over your toilet and running the battery down. We wish it had an automatic off feature that kicks in once it’s done cleaning.

And while the device does a great job of cleaning the inside of the bowl, it barely touches the rim and cannot scrub the toilet seat at all, so after all that investment, you’ll still have to do some work on your toilet yourself. During testing, we twice found residue left over on our rim after the robot was done cleaning.

But perhaps the biggest flaw of this device is the price tag. Paying $100 for a device people aren’t sure they’ll need is a hard sell, but $500 is outlandish, and to be honest, if I wasn’t given the opportunity to test it for free, I probably wouldn’t have looked twice at it. When you can get a toilet brush for $15, why pony up $500 for a robot?

Verdict

While my son is pretty enamored of Bowley and I think it’s a nifty little device, until they significantly drop the price, I doubt that the Giddel will catch on as a must-have household item. Shoot, even if they did drop the price, I don’t know that people would buy. It’s a very novel, specialized product. And like I said before, is cleaning the toilet such a big deal that you need a robot to do it? Unless it costs the same as a toilet brush, the answer is no.

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