Pros: Basically effective. Neat gadget. You're not doing the mopping yourself.
Cons: Not as efficient or effective as mopping by hand is. Expensive.
I am not much of a housekeeper. Though I like to see things neat and clean, I just don't have much of a will to make it happen on a regular basis. Consequently, I always get a little bit excited whenever something comes on the market that promises to make my household chores easier. I have been eyeing the iRobot Scooba with interest ever since it came on the market in 2005. The Scooba is a robot made by iRobot, the same folks who brought us the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. I had a Roomba for awhile, back in 2006. I got rid of it when we moved overseas for a couple of years, but when I had it, I liked using it. So, when I spotted the iRobot Scooba 385 at a competitive price on Woot!, I decided to make a new purchase.
How does the iRobot Scooba work?
The Scooba is a robotic floor washer. While the Roomba is a self-propelled vacuum, the Scooba is meant to actually use water and cleaner to wash your floors. You can use it on linoleum, tile, and even sealed hard wood. My current house has hardwood floors and linoleum, so the Scooba was especially attractive to me.
After you charge your Scooba, you can place it in the middle of the floor, turn on the power, then hit the "play button". It will start to run first in a spiral, until it runs into something. The Scooba has a bumper on it that, when it gently taps something, tells it to turn in a different direction. The Scooba will then run all in a more random direction all over the floor until it runs out of power or water or you turn it off.
Features of the Scooba 385
The Scooba 385 is one of the second generation Scoobas and is the European version of the Scooba 380. Both the Scooba 380 and the Scooba 385 are considered "premium" floor washing machines because they clean up to four rooms (850 square feet). There are two other less premium second generation Scoobas available that clean less per charge.
The Scooba 385 differs from the Scooba 380 in that it doesn't come with a charging base or a storage dock and has only one virtual wall. The virtual walls have infrared beams that are used as markers in doorways or archways to keep the Scooba from straying into an area you don't want it to clean. American Roombas and Scoobas come with two of these "walls", which each run on two D sized batteries that are not included, but the Scooba 385 only comes with one. Although my Scooba 385 is technically a European model, it did come with an American style plug. Unlike my Roomba, the Scooba 385 did not come with a remote control.
Using the Scooba 385
I pulled my new Scooba 385 out of its box and was immediately confronted by several sets of directions in quite a few different languages. The box contained the one virtual wall, a battery, and a power cord. Setting up the Scooba was very easy. All I had to do was remove a couple of cardboard pieces in the machine, put in the battery, put batteries in the virtual wall, and plug the Scooba into an outlet. The directions suggest charging the Scooba overnight for the first charge and giving it at least a couple of hours for other charges. My unit was showing that it was fully charged after only three hours. I would have expected this if my Scooba had been refurbished, but it was a new machine, so I was surprised it was charged up so quickly.
The next thing to do was fill up the tank with clean water. The Scooba 385 can be used with Scooba's special cleaner, an envelope of which came with the machine, white vinegar and tap water, or just plain tap water. I opted to use vinegar and water. A 60 ml shot mixed with warm water supposedly does the trick. I filled up the tank, then easily snapped it back to the base of the machine.
I set the Scooba in the middle of the floor. I did not do any pre-cleaning before I started the floor washer. It supposedly employs a four stage cleaning system that engages with each pass-- prep, wash, scrub, and dry. The machine has a vacuum capability, which means it supposedly sucks up debris before it ends up stuck to the floor.
I pressed the power button, which was green and telling me that the Scooba 385 was ready to roll. There was a fanfare of electronic tones, reminiscent of 70s era electronic football games. The machine immediately started working in a spiral, then went in a random direction. I watched it intently, to see what kind of effect the Scooba was having on my cleaning the floor. I could feel that the floor was wet after the Scooba passed over it, but the robot did not leave any big puddles. It did not appear to me that the Scooba deep cleaned any spots particularly well. What's more, the machine is a bit loud, with a high pitched whine that I didn't enjoy. Oddly enough, my dogs didn't seem to mind the robot. They didn't act afraid of it, try to kill it, or even seem upset by the noise. They usually hate vacuum cleaners, so I don't know what that was all about! I did notice that the Scooba got stuck once or twice under some cabinets. For that reason, you should keep an eye on the robot when it's in use.
After about 45 minutes, I turned off the Scooba, cleaned some solid debris out of its filter, and dumped the water out of its tanks. The dirty water tank did have quite a bit of gray water in it, letting me know that it did do some cleaning after all. The clean water side still had plenty of water left. I could have kept the machine running longer and maybe my first results would be better.
I used the Scooba again in the master bathroom, where we have a linoleum floor. Once again, the Scooba set to work and did a passable job cleaning. It was not much better than it would have been if I had done my usual perfunctory mopping job, but it was also no worse.
My Scooba 385 came with a one year limited warranty. The machine itself seems reasonably well constructed of plastic. That being said, I wouldn't make a point of dropping it.
I'd say the Scooba is one of those gadgets that is nice to have, but certainly not essential. It does do what it's supposed to do, but I don't think it's any more efficient or more powerful than good old elbow grease. I think it'll work well in my house, because I'm not particularly good about mopping the floors to start with and anything that is done is an improvement. Perfectionists will probably be disappointed, though. Besides not being efficient or extremely effective, the Scooba also requires occasional battery changes and the batteries are not cheap. In any case, for now at least, I'm glad I bought the Scooba 385 on Woot! I'll use it until it croaks. Maybe by then, a new gadget will be ready for me to try.
I would say that even though the European Scooba 385 comes with less than the American Scooba 380 does, I didn't really miss the extra virtual wall, the storage mat, or the docking base. And weighing in at about 15 pounds, this machine is easy to handle.
For more information: www.roomba.com