Homefocus editor Victoria Galligan reviews the iRobot Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner…
I know robotic vacuums have taken off in other countries – in the USA and Scandinavia in particular – but no-one I know has one and, to be frank, I wasn’t expecting the Roomba to be able to keep up with my family’s messing eating habits (the kids’ not my husband’s!). How wrong I was.
Setting up the Roomba is quick and easy – in fact I would go so far as to say it’s idiot-proof because even I did it within 10 minutes without asking for help from a more technically minded member of the family. I popped the circular-shaped robot onto its docking station, placed a sensor unit near the area I didn’t want it to vacuum in (under our tub chairs, where I thought it may get stuck) and sat down with my glass of wine to download the app.
The Roomba connects to your home Wi-Fi and the app is a clever way to manage the schedule of your Roomba. I set it to vacuum once a day, at 9.30pm once the kids are in bed, the cats are settled and I refuse to enter the kitchen because, quite frankly, I’ve done enough housework for one day thank you.
Via the app, you can name your Roomba (we settled on our seven-year-old’s suggestion of Robotic Resident although hubby came up with Cinders and Sweep!). You can set the Roomba off on an extra clean if, for example, you’ve just had a spillage and need immediate action. You can also check on its care. So if the bin is full, or the debris extractors need cleaning, the app will alert you. There are plenty of options to seek help, including an instructional video and a list of FAQs. I wasn’t sure at first if the Roomba was suitable for use on carpets, so I hit the FAQs and searched away. Here I found an overview on Carpet Boost – which told me that the Roomba uses its sensors to intelligently determine the type of floor it is cleaning and yes, carpet’s fine, basically. The power is increased automatically to give a deeper clean so the Roomba is a bit noisier on carpet but just as effective as on tiles, wooden flooring, laminate etc.
There are three modes to choose from, and the Roomba default is Automatic mode which selects how powerful it needs to be on various surfaces. Eco-mode uses less power and extends cleaning time. It also makes the Roomba operate more quietly. And Performance Mode is kind of the opposite – it’s a higher-powered clean which will boost performance if you need a bit of extra vacuuming. I can image needing this after a particularly gruelling craft session with the kids.
The Roomba's performance
So how did the Roomba fare in a household with two adults, two children and two cats, all with a fairly relaxed attitude to clearing up after themselves? I have to say, I was impressed. The kitchen/diner has a complex layout with an island and table and chairs. To help the little Robotic Resident get around and clean under the table, I moved the chairs to the corner of the room and ensured there were no other obstacles (eg tea towels, small toys) on the floor before it was due to clean.
As instructed, it set off on its maiden voyage at 9.30pm. Cue lots of peeking from hubby and I, who were still fairly sceptical at this point and were convinced it would pack in after a few minutes, overwhelmed at the bits of food from dinner and confused about the layout of the room. It couldn’t clean right to the edges or in the corners anyway, surely? Yet the Roomba was navigating well, operating in a back and forth pattern a bit like you’d imagine a lawnmower to run and slowing down, then changing direction when it came up against an obstacle.
Forty minutes later and we heard a beep: the Roomba had returned to its docking station, as promised, to charge for its next clean.
Our verdict on the state of the floor? Pretty much perfect. There were no bits left under the table, the edges of the laminate were clear. One tiny missed spot in one corner was swiftly dealt with using a dustpan and brush, but it was the only piece of dirt left on the floor.
Over the coming days I occasionally switched on the Roomba manually, pressing the green button on the actual vacuum or via the app, to run some extra cleans after breakfast and lunch. Although if you live in a household with neat eaters, you probably wouldn’t need these extra cleans and one a day would be enough.
We also ran on the lounge carpet and into the hall, where the Roomba switched up to Carpet Boost to cope with the pile. And if you’re planning on using upstairs, too, never fear – the Roomba has a cliff-detection feature which means it won’t drop off edges.
Is it worth the cost?
The time and effort saved in continually sweeping and hoovering is truly a gift to me – I can thoroughly recommend the Roomba and I think you’d be pleasantly surprised at the cost, too. Priced from just £249.99 for a Roomba 606, you can go all the way up to £1,199.99 for an i7+ model – which actually empties on its own! Many of the models connect to home hubs, so you can control with voice recognition too. Considering high-end vacuums cost well over £200, and your Roomba can clean every day to keep dirt levels to a minimum, with zero effort from you, I think the cost is far from expensive.
You will, over time, need to buy replacement parts (side brushes, filters, extractors etc) but these are reasonably priced. And with a cleaning performance as good as this, you won’t mind maintaining the Roomba. The filters on the 800 and 900 series are so effective, they help catch allergens, pollen and particles as small as 10 microns.
I am fully converted to robotic vacuuming and will be encouraging everyone I meet to get one (how boring will I be at parties?). I can see how, in a few years’ time, the devices will be as common as washing machines and we’ll be saying to each other: “Remember when we used to actually push vacuum cleaners around the house? What a chore!” It’s just a question of: how long are you going to wait before buying one?
If you want to get on board the robot revolution, check out the iRobot Roomba website and check out Victoria's video to see Robotic Resident in action!