Mop around the clock
The $599 iRobot Braava floor-mopping robot is designed to automatically sweep and mop your hard floors – and with such a hefty price tag, you'd expect it to do a stellar job of earning its keep.
Unfortunately, the machine has too much of a light touch to really tackle the set-in stains in the home kitchen we used. We found that the rewashable microfibre pads it uses for cleaning (in either dry sweep mode or damp mop mode) weren't nearly large enough to tackle our decent-sized floor without getting soiled pretty quickly, although this depends on the level of existing dirt (so it may be OK for a daily maintenance clean).
It's also slow, taking half an hour to map out and sweep our tiled kitchen floor (a broom does the same in next to no time) and an hour to systematically crawl around using slow back-and-forth motions to mop it. Perhaps a crawling toddler wearing damp microfibre kneepads could have done the job quicker, albeit a little less tidily?
To its credit, the light and compact Braava (8cm tall and 22cm wide) is very simple to operate. It takes just two hours to charge in turbo mode, and attaching the microfibre cloths to the magnetic cleaning pads is quick and easy. In wet mop mode, you put a small amount of water into the supplied reservoir pad, and this keeps the microfibre cloth damp as it crawls around your kitchen. The supplied 'NorthStar Navigation Cube' is a beacon you place on a table with a clear view of the ceiling that guides Braava around the room. This works for rooms up to 32m2 (in mop mode) and 92m2 (in sweep mode) but if you want to extend this to more of the house, you need to buy extra cubes at $80 each.
The robot did a reasonable job of mapping out the kitchen in wet and dry modes. It detected the step at the edge and happily navigated its way around edges and bins, backtracking when it encountered an obstruction. However, it missed some corners of the unusually shaped room and pushed some dirt to the edges, and our set-in liquid food stains were mostly still there. There are other minor quibbles; unlike many robot vacuums, it doesn't return to "base" to charge, but instead goes back to where it started. Also, its handle is counterintuitively placed on the same side as the docking cradle so you can't use the handle to place it in and out of the cradle. The robot did manage to last for one sweep and one mop run before requiring a recharge.
All in all, if you've already done a major clean of your kitchen and you'd like a robot to give your room a maintenance clean every day or two, this will do the job. But getting into any set-in floor stains or shifting a decent amount of loose dirt is far too much to ask of this tiny worker.