When I was offered a chance to take iRobot's little sucker for a spin, I didn't have high expectations -- maybe I'd come out of this with a Cats vs Roomba Youtube sensation, but, you know, still have dirty floors.
Well, after three months of letting this autonomous vacuum do its thing, I can tell you that you won't be seeing my kitties on Tosh.0 anytime soon. But I won't be getting off my bootay to vacuum anytime soon either! This is the extent of my cats' reactions to the Roomba.
The Roomba 530 ships with a charging station (that it rolls up to on its own!) and two Virtual Wall modules, that allow you to set boundaries the Roomba can't cross. These are useful if you have door-less rooms you don't want the Roomba sniffing around, or areas, such as under media centers, where your tangle of wires may be an issue. (The Roomba does have a safeguard in place that if it does get tripped up by cords, it'll stop it's brushes and try to back away. This can be a little scary if he's picked up a lamp wire and is about to pull it off the fireplace mantle, so I recommend picking up any cords prior to firing up the Roomba).
Pros and Cons
At first it seemed like the Roomba had no idea where he was. Dude just woke up from a manufacturing coma and found himself in a complete stranger's house. He's freaking out; spinning around and around and arou--oh wait! He's got his bearings now!
It took only a few minutes before I noticed that the Roomba had already begun to sketch out in his little robot brain the layout of our living/dining room. He knew where the walls, dining table and chairs, and media stand were and adjusted his behavior accordingly when he approached them. He would slink up next to the wall and hug it as he slowly moved from one end to the other, never once hitting the actual wall with his plastic frame.When he got to our chairs, I thought for sure I'd have to do my own sweep through once this experiment was over. You should have heard me scream when I suddenly saw Roomba shimmying around each table and chair leg, using his rotating "edge-cleaning side brush" to kick off balls of fur that had collected and then suck them up his little pie hole. I believe it was at this point that my husband started to call the Roomba, "our son" and I started to believe James Cameron's Terminator was actually a documentary sent from the future.
One of my favorite features, and it's such a simple one, is that the Roomba's low frame allows it to get all the way under our low slung couch and clean up all the dust bunnies hiding underneath. I can't tell you how hard it is to suck up those bastards, without moving the entire couch, with my upright vacuum.iRobot suggests emptying the collection bin after every use. It's super easy to do, so there's really no excuse not to. The brushes pick up a lot of crap themselves, so it's a good idea to clean those after each use as well. iRobot makes it super easy by including a small plastic ring that you push the brush through. The ring acts as a comb, collecting all the loose gunk off the bristles. Now for the aspects that still need some fine tuning. iRobot claims that the Roomba can easily switch from cleaning floors to carpet. Not so. Or at least, not the case when you have small pieces of carpet such as entry way rugs or bathroom mats. What I noticed, if I kept these small floor coverings down, when the Roomba would ride up onto them, he would leave a snail trail of all the hair and gunk he collected via his brushes. I'm not sure if this would be the same case if you had larger rugs, since I did notice that occasionally the Roomba would do multiple passes on my rugs and collect some of what he deposited. My second concern, while the Roomba does a mighty good job tidying up, his sucking power is only so strong. Occasionally, especially in doorways with lips, I noticed my little dude didn't suck up everything. This was especially the case in the bathroom where I'm always battling loose pieces of cat litter. Summary While the Roomba does a great job tidying up, I won't be getting rid of my main vacuum. But that's not a bad thing. Currently we use the Roomba to sub in for our bi-weekly sweeps, but we still use our Dyson to do an extensive clean up every month. It's been especially helpful since we live near the beach and have three cats. Being able to press a button and have something else suck up all the sand and fur on our floors is super liberating. More time to procrastinate on the web!
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
Images: Sonia Zjawinski