For Christmas, I unwrapped one of these babies:
That, my friends, is a Roomba 650, and you want one, trust me. YOU REALLY REALLY REALLY WANT ONE.
If you have small children? You don’t just WANT one, you NEED one. Neeeeeeeeed. Put this on your baby registry, is what I’m saying. Spend on this and save on a crib! YOU WILL ENJOY THIS MORE.
I hadn’t asked for a Roomba, so it was a total surprise. My parents are kind of big into Roombas (they have three!) and while I’ve known this about them for several years I’ve never, ever thought I wanted one of my own. I thought it was just a quirky thing my parents had an affinity for. We have never “talked Roomba.”
Let’s be serious, the vacuuming needs of two adults are dramatically different than the vacuuming needs of two adults and two small children. DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT. I mean, show me the adult who crumples up a saltine on purpose and just leaves it on the floor to be discovered by someone else a day later, you know?
I never considered a Roomba as a solution for my near-constant vacuuming needs (which, let me be clear, just because I NEEDED to vacuum almost every day, that didn’t mean I actually DID), never thought it could HANDLE the debris and detritus that two small children create. And also? I had it in my head that a Roomba was about 80% gimmick. I was super skeptical it could actually clean. All I hear about in the vacuum space is Suction! and Loss of Suction! and Roller Brushes! and Canisters! and that creepy guy on the Dyson commercials makes those things sound like a very big deal. If a Roomba was really all that awesome, wouldn’t someone other than MY PARENTS be talking about it?
I unwrapped this gift with a lot of excitement (coooool!) but a hefty dose of skepticism. I was pretty sure it would do a good job in the kitchen, where there are hardwood floors and the bulk of messes happen, but could it POSSIBLY do well on the carpet? As well as my regular vacuum? I wasn’t sure, but just the idea of not sweeping the kitchen was enough to propel me into “I GOT A ROOMBA! I GOT A ROOMBA!” Christmas morning hysterics.
Three weeks later, I haven’t gotten out my regular vacuum EVEN ONCE.
(Well, wait, I’m lying. I had to get it out to vacuum saltine crumbs from the playhouse, but that’s only because Roomba will not go in a playhouse, but I think we can agree this does not really count when evaluating the efficiency of a vacuuming robot.) (Then I got it out to perform Roomba Side-by-Side Testing, but that’s it.) (So, two times.)
This is how it works:
1) I pick up a room or make my children pick up a room.
2) Claire pushes the button. (My model will allow me to schedule it to run at certain times on certain days, but we aren’t reliably free of toys/kid crap on the floor to get on a schedule yet.)
3) We watch Roomba scoot around and clean our floors or I fold some laundry or do something else while it runs. Sometimes, we leave the house and come BACK to clean floors, which is kind of like a magic trick.
4) When Roomba is finished, it finds its little docking station and clicks in to recharge for another day.
5) Enormous feeling of satisfaction washes over me, as my floors are now clean and I was not the person who had to clean them.
When I talk about my Roomba, the two things most people seem to want to know are:
1) How does it do on multiple surfaces?
My Roomba transitions from hardwood floors to tile to carpet with zero problem. It has some hefty wheels on the bottom and it rumbles around without any terrain issues. It knows when it’s about to go off a step or a staircase, and it stops itself and turns around, so it’ll never throw itself down the stairs. It’s never gotten stuck anywhere or eaten anything disabling.
Here’s what the bottom looks like:
See? Big tready wheels to get around, two roller brushes in the middle to pick things up, and that little tri-sweeper thingy is REMARKABLY effective at slinging all the dirt into the right spots to get sucked up.
I don’t have any area rugs, but it does fine with bath mats and the small rug I keep at the back door. The reviews at Amazon say it doesn’t have a problem with tassels on rugs and I believe it.
So, it does GREAT on multiple surfaces.
2) Does it really clean? No, I mean really? For serious?
Yes! It does! It really, really does! It’s…kind of amazing that it actually cleans since it’s so wee and adorable and vroomy, but it does!
It picks up a significant amount of dust and debris, whole Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, hair clips, and bits of paper. I am particularly impressed with how well it does in the toe-kick space of the kitchen, under the cabinets. If the kitchen floor has experienced a Mass Saltine Casualty Event, then sometimes I will still find small crumbs in the corners but I’d say that it cleans to my satisfaction 95% of the time. The remaining 5%? I do not actually care because Done Is Better Than Perfect.
It’s better at cleaning hard surfaces than carpet, but it does do a pretty great job on the carpet. I ran my regular vacuum over a room that Roomba just cleaned and it picked up SOME, but not a lot. Mostly it was fluffy dusty stuff and not any actual solid particles, so Roomba definitely does a good job picking up the visible things. But…it sure wasn’t enough debris in my regular vacuum that I’d think it was worth legit-vacuuming more often. I think maybe every once in a while would be a decent complement to running the Roomba a few times a week.
(But…I will probably still not legit-vacuum very much any more.) (Remember? DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT!)
This isn’t to say Roomba doesn’t pick up a crapton of fluffy, dusty, mite-and-allergy-laden material. OH HO NO. It picks up plenty of that. I empty the dust/dirt tray thingy after every room and it’s usually full. (Please, no judgement on how fast it fills up at my house, mmmkay?)
One of the things I really like, that I hadn’t considered at first, is it will vacuum places I don’t normally vacuum: underneath beds and dressers and tables. Since it’s so slim, it just rumbles under all of those, which isn’t SUCH an amazing thing (I couldn’t SEE how dirty it was in the first place), but it IS keeping the dust in the house to a minimum and if we still had a dog that’s exactly where all the fur would be collecting anyway.
The girls like Roomba. Claire likes to push the button and she likes to come home and “go find Roomba and see if he did a good job!” If I tell them that Roomba is going to vacuum, toys get picked up pretty fast. (I’m not sure this is a LASTING benefit, they’ll surely get over it, but I am enjoying it for now.)
I vacuum more often. Well, Roomba vacuums more often. I’ve been running it about every other day in various parts of the house. Did I vacuum every other day before Roomba? Uh, NO I DID NOT. It’s nice to have clean floors more often. Also, I find that running Roomba requires a consistent level of basic toy, coat, and backpack cleanup, so there’s definitely some bleed-over into our general housekeeping ticking up a notch.
I can stick it in a room, close the door, and it will vacuum while I do something else entirely. I can turn it on, go to Target, and blammo! Clean floors when I get home! Breakfast crumbs have miraculously vanished! The bowl of Cheerios someone stepped on and obliterated in my bathroom is gone!
I can’t be the only one like this but…vacuumed floors make me HAPPY. I’m not sure I’m adequately describing how great this is, to be doing something else while another room gets vacuumed for me.
Vacuuming is not all there is to cleaning a room, but at my house it seems to make a dramatic difference in my mood if a room has clean floors. Clean floors also usually mean things are picked up, and if things are picked up I have time to handle other things robots don’t do for me.
The children are closest to the floors, they dirty them faster and they make bigger messes there than on any other surface in my house. It’s enormously satisfying to outsource this job.
Things I Don’t Like
The charging station is a bit inelegant. I have yet to figure out a good place to keep it in my house that is easy for Roomba to access, but is a place I don’t have to look at it very often, but is still next to an outlet. Right now it’s living in the dining room and I’m not entirely happy with this location.
It’s a little noisy. It’s quieter than a regular vacuum, but it has to run for a while to go over a room properly and when it shuts off there’s definitely that feeling of, “Oh! That was rather loud there for a while, wasn’t it?”
I find myself performing maintenance on it once a week or so. I take the roller brushes out, clean them off and make sure there’s not any sticky stuff on them, and cut out the hair that seems to get wound around them. (Not a problem if you have short-haired people in your house, perhaps? Claire and I both have long hair.) This doesn’t take me a long time, but I’m told that doing this keeps it more efficient and will make it last longer.
It’s expensive. My model goes for $400, which is no trivial amount of money, but I just keep thinking that’s less than the retail price on most Dysons and you still have to push a Dyson around yourself. (I am of the opinion that a $400+ vacuum should do all the vacuuming FOR ME, which, Hi! Roomba does!) There are plenty of vacuums in the several-hundred-dollars range. But even still, not everyone wants spend $400 on a vacuum. (Which is why it makes a great gift.)
Can you tell I really like it? I really like it. Highly recommend. It makes life easier and better in my house and there are very few products I can say such a thing about. LOVE IT.