iRobot Scooba 390 automatic mop review

A robot that cleans floors sounds great, but can a machine really replace a mop and bucket?

Welcome to your robot-mopping future

Robot vacuum cleaners have brought us one step closer to a Jetsons-like utopian world free from housework, so it seems only reasonable that there are now robot mops too. We take the iRobot Scooba for a spin to find out how this automatic mop performs.

How does the Scooba robot mop work?

The Scooba has a rotating brush, a tank of water and cleaning solution, and a built-in squeegee/vacuum to suck up the dirty water (into a separate tank, so the used water doesn't go back onto the floor).

It works on tiles, linoleum and sealed hardwood, and like its Roomba vacuum cousin, it automatically avoids stairs and drop-offs. It's even claimed to remove up to 98% of common bacteria from floors. It's not completely sentient, of course; you need to remove any clutter, large debris and rugs from the area to be cleaned.

Easy to use

The Scooba is easy to use. Charge it, fill the tank with water and the supplied cleaning solution, turn it on and press the "clean" button. Afterwards, empty the dirty water, rinse the tanks, and clean the filter, vacuum port, cleaning head and brush. It's fairly noisy when running (70-74dB, about the same as a typical vacuum cleaner).

Good at washing, but vacuum first

The Scooba is supposed to pick up dust and grit as well as scrub the floor, so that you don't need to pre-vacuum. We put this to the test by sprinkling a modest amount of sand over a moderately dirty linoleum floor and letting it go to work. While the Scooba did a decent job of scrubbing the lino (a paper towel wiped over the floor came up clean afterwards, and the water from the dirty water tank was almost black) it was hopeless at picking up the sand. It only collected 30% and smeared the rest around the floor, leaving wet sandy patches, mainly around the edges and corners. The floor remained wet for about 90 minutes after the test and looked very untidy.

CHOICE verdict

The iRobot Scooba is easy to use and can clean a dirty floor fairly well, but for a proper clean you'll need to first sweep or vacuum any grit or loose dirt. Used regularly it can keep a hard floor reasonably clean.

If you have a lot of hard flooring that regularly gets grubby but not gritty, the Scooba could be a timesaver for you. However, given its price and limitations, we aren't convinced it's a worthwhile buy for most households.

But will my cat ride it?

If you're concerned your pet might not take to the Scooba as it would a Roomba, this YouTube clip shows that the ride quality for cats is much the same: 


Price: $679


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