Self-Emptying Robot Vacuums are a Game Changer

A white robot mop next to a black robot vacuum with bin under a card catalog.

Over the past decade, I’ve had a few versions of the robot vacuum. I’ve never been very impressed with them. They got stuck, they’d stop because the bin was full, they never seemed to get the carpets and rugs clean. But I’d see one on Woot and think, maybe this time will be different. It never was.

Then, iRobot debuted the clean base. A thing that allowed the Roomba to empty itself. And it’s finally come down in price enough for me to justify buying one. And finally, the vacuuming robot lives up to its promise.

Life with a Robot Vacuum

I have the Roomba i7+, but this isn’t a review of that vacuum per se. There are far better reviews of the various robot vacuums out there. (I recommend the Vacuum Wars channel on YouTube.) It fit my use case mainly because of the clean base. Reviews stated that it had the best self empty base, which is a requirement with my double coated dog.

When I first started using the i7+, I thought I was in for another robot vacuum disappointment. It was leaving clumps of dog fur on the rugs and carpets that I then had to go around and pick up. Emptying itself was great and all, but if I still had to to pick up hairballs it really wasn’t making my life easier.

But, I set up a schedule and let it run. This is when I really started to see an improvement. The vacuum would a room and empty itself and charge as needed. Then, it’d go back to where-ever it left off and resume. This cycle does take a while (roughly 4 hours for an approx 825 sq ft area), but it’s completely hands off for me.

This is where a robot vacuum really starts to shine. It’s not the best vacuum. It is, the most persistent vacuum. I run mine every day. Three days a week on my “main” floor. And twice a week in my step-down living room. With that kind of frequency, dirt doesn’t pile up like it used to. Since I don’t really have to do anything with it (other than move it to the living room) it isn’t a hassle to run it as it used to be.

The Robot Mop on the Other Hand…

I was so happy with the vacuum, I bought iRobot’s smart mop the Braava m6. I am less impressed with this device. I went with the m6 because the vacuum can trigger the mop to run after vacuuming which sounded awesome. I thought it would make my life just as easy as the vacuum did.

What I didn’t account for is that robot mops, by their nature, can’t be as automated as a vacuum. They can’t refill their own solution tanks. They can’t switch out their own mop pads. They require a lot more hands on time because of that alone. In addition to that, the m6 seems to have a way worse algorithm than the vacuum. It seems to get confused and go in odd directions frequently. It’ll clean rooms that are not the room I asked it to clean. My home has a lot of transitions, and it gets stuck on them. It either thinks it’s a rug and stops, or complains that it needs to be placed on flat ground. It has, however, made me much less concerned about a robot uprising.

That’s not to say I don’t think the mop is valuable. I don’t really mop with any kind of frequency, so anything is better than where I was before. But I don’t think “smart” robot mops are quite there yet. They’re comparable to the old robot vacuums. Where you were always fussing with it. In retrospect, I would have just bought a cheaper dumb version. Right now, it just doesn’t feel like it was worth the extra cost over something like a Braava 240.

Totally Worth It

This is what we were promised with robot vacuums. It just does it’s thing, and you don’t really have to think about it beyond weekly/monthly maintenance. There are side benefits too. I’ve gotten better at not leaving junk on the floor, since I know it’s just in the way for the vacuum. And when your home is vacuumed this often, the dust doesn’t get kicked up and around in the air any more. Meaning I’ve cut the frequency that I have to dust in half.

It just makes life easier.

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