Roomba review: can a robot vacuum cleaner really clean your floors?

Roomba Review: Can a Robot Vacuum Cleaner Really Clean Your Floors?

For the past couple of years now, Terry and I have regularly embarked upon an argument spirited discussion which could basically be summed up with the words, “Please can we get a Roomba?” and, “NO, absolutely not.”

I will leave it to you to work out which of those statements comes from me, and which one comes from Terry.

Oh, OK, I won’t: I’m the one who’s been begging for a robot vacuum cleaner. QUELLE SURPRISE, huh? I mean, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time at all, you probably know that I like things clean. As in, if my house is a mess, I literally can’t relax or concentrate until I’ve cleaned it up – which I have to do immediately, regardless of what else I have going on at the time.

(I’ll just pause here for a moment to allow you all to make those, “JUST YOU WAIT!” comments about how there’s no possible way I’ll be able to keep my house clean once I have a baby to mess it up.)

(And then another moment for me to collapse into a corner weeping…)

So, you know I like things clean: what you probably don’t know, however, is that I don’t actually like cleaning. I mean, I don’t detest it, the way I detest some jobs I could mention (Ironing, I’m looking at you, here…), but, although a lot of people like to assume that, if you like a clean house, then cleaning must be your hobby or something, the truth is that, like anyone else, there are approximately eleventy-one hundred things I’d rather be doing than cleaning, on any given day.

Which is why I wanted a Roomba.

Romba review: trying out the Roomba iRobot 980 robot vacuum cleaner

Roomba review: look how cute it is! Also, some people attach googly eyes to them, to personalise them even more. I am SO doing that…

As you probably know, the Roomba is a robot vacuum cleaner, although, luckily it’s not the scary kind of robot that you just KNOW is one day going to try to murder you in your sleep, before trying to take over the world. Nope, this one is a small, friendly robot, which just vacuums your floors for you. I mean, what’s not to love?

For me, there’s absolutely NOTHING not to love about that: in fact, the idea of being able to sit with my feet up get on with some work while the house gets cleaned around me is something that really appeals to me – especially now that I’m in my 3rd trimester, and already worrying about how I’m going to stay on top of the housework once the baby’s here.

There was just one problem, though: while Terry wasn’t actively opposed to the idea of a Roomba, he was boringly insistent that there were other, duller things we needed more: like food, and stuff. GOD. So, when Roomba got in touch and asked if I’d like to try out their iRobot Roomba 980, I honestly felt like Christmas had come early: and so did Terry, actually, even although he’d never admit it.

Roomba Review: The Setup

Roomba iRobot 980 Robot Vacuum cleaner

Roomba Robot Vacuum Cleaner in action cleaning pale wood kitchen floor

Roomba review: setting up your robot vacuum cleaning pet

My new pet toy vacuum cleaner arrived last week, and there were scenes of much rejoicing as I unboxed it, followed by scenes of slight confusion, as I worried about how tricky it was going to be to set up and use. Luckily, though, I needn’t have worried: the first thing you do is to download the iRobot app for my phone: it then gave me step-by-step instructions on how to set up the robot,  and honestly, it was so straightforward a child could do it – and by “a child” I mean, “I did it myself, without any help from Terry, and honestly, I’m a lot prouder of this than I really should be.” You can tell I don’t get out much, huh?

The most important part of the process? Picking a name for the Roomba. And, I mean, I guess we could just have gone with “Roomba”, but I decided to involve Terry in this decision (Well, it’s a big thing, isn’t it?), and that’s how our little robot came to be called ‘Blinky’. Which is distinct from the bunny rabbit I bought for the baby, who is called BINKY. I can sense your confusion from here…

Roomba Review: The Big Clean

Roomba iRobot 980 robot vacuum cleaner navigating around furnitureAnyway! With Blinky all set up and ready to go, all that remained was for me to hit the “CLEAN” button on my app (There’s also one on the front of the robot itself), and then … well, I’d like to say I just sat back down at this point and got on with whatever it was I was doing when it arrived (Browsing the ASOS maternity section, no doubt…), but what I ACTUALLY did was follow it around the house, filming it for my Instagram Stories, and saying things like, “Oooh, look, Terry, he’s gone into the bathroom! Now he’s in the hall!” Terry, meanwhile, sat steadfastly at his desk, feigning disinterest, but secretly watching as Blinky zoomed around the room, getting in under the desks, and carefully cleaning the edges of the carpets.

“It’s cleaning that floor a lot more thoroughly than you do!” he said, temporarily forgetting that, a) Blinky is a HE, not an “it”, and, b) He was pretending to be too cool to care about something like a robot vacuum cleaner.

I, meanwhile, am definitely NOT too cool to care, and while Terry’s “Blinky is better than you,” assessment did sting a little, not gonna lie, I also have to admit that it was TRUE. Yup, not only does Blinky take a lot more time over the cleaning than I do, he also gets right into every corner, paying particular attention to the edges where the carpet meets the wall, at which point he whips out a little brush to make sure he gets into every little nook and cranny – or, within reason, anyway. There are obviously some places he’s just too big to fit into (The gap between the bath and toilet, for instance, was just too small for him, and I could almost sense Blinky’s displeasure as he realised this) but, for the most part, he does, indeed, do a better job than I do – as evidenced by the fact that, the first time my mum visited after a Blinky clean, she walked into the living room and immediately said, “Oh yes: I see that rug’s been cleaned!” Thanks, mum!

As well as how thorough the Roomba is, the other thing I love about it is the fact  that it’s small enough to get right underneath furniture like beds and sofas, which is something I really appreciate in my current, heavily pregnant state. I CAN clean under these with my existing vacuum, but I have to get down on the floor myself to do it – and that’s just not going to be happening right now, so it’s good to have Blinky on hand  to pick up the slack.

Roomba Review: Navigating different surfaces

Roomba review: the iRobot 980 navigating from wood floor to rug

Roomba review: trying out different surfaces

Speaking of rugs, one thing I was curious about was how well Blinky would handle the various different floor surfaces. Over the three floors of our house we have a mix of carpet, tile, wood/laminate, plus a selection of rugs of various different piles and thicknesses. While Blinky can’t manage the stairs, unfortunately, he has no trouble navigating from room to room (the sensors tell the robot when there’s an obstacle in the way, so it can adjust its path and manoeuvre around it), which, in our case, also involves going from tile to carpet to wood and back again. The only thing that defeated Blinky was the extra-thick rug in my dressing room: he got onto it fine, but quickly got stuck, at which point he sent me a message, asking for help: awww!

(Yes, the robot will message you via the app – not just if it gets stuck, but also to tell you when the battery is low, or when the cleaning bin needs to be emptied –  which I found pretty cute. I don’t have many friends…)

Other than that, though, the different surfaces weren’t an issue, and nor were the stairs: as I said, the Roomba isn’t going to be able to climb or clean them, but it won’t fall down them, either – as soon as it detects the edge of the staircase, it stops abruptly in its tracks, then turns around and heads off in the opposite direction.

Once its finished cleaning, meanwhile, the Roomba simply heads back to its charging dock, where it emits a satisfying little series of beeps to let you know its done. You can use the app to see a map of each room, so you can see how thorough its been….

Roomba review: iRobot cleaning map

Roomba review: inside the app

(The white areas are the places the robot couldn’t reach, as there were obstacles in the way, although it’s worth noting that some of these are closets, etc!)

… and you can also use it to set a weekly schedule, so the Roomba will just automatically start cleaning at certain times on certain days: I haven’t used this yet, but I think it would be really useful if you wanted it to vacuum while you were at work, say, and come home to clean floors!

Roomba Review: Things to bear in mind

Roomba iRobot 980 robot vacuum cleaner: reviewOf course, no Roomba review would be complete without mentioning some of the drawbacks, and while I’ve been really happy with our little Roomba so far, there are a couple of things to bear in mind, if you want to get the most out of it. The main thing I’d say is that, while the sensors will help the Roomba move around furniture etc that’s in the way, it does this by gently nudging against the item first, and then moving – so if you have items that are very lightweight, say, they might get pushed around a bit.

The first time we set Blinky to clean downstairs, for instance, we heard an almighty crash, and came down to find the giant letter ‘T’ (for Terry: we have an A for Amber, too, but it’s smaller. I’m trying not to analyse this too much…) which normally sits underneath the TV halfway across the living room, while Blinky hid sheepishly under the couch. I’ve no idea whether he’d pushed the letter there, or whether it had fallen over and then landed on top of him (I’d really love to have seen this, if so!), but this was totally my own fault for not moving it out of the way first, so if you have any smaller/lighter items lying around, I’d recommend doing a bit of ‘room prep’ first, and making sure there’s nothing sitting out that can be easily knocked over. The only other issue we had was when Blinky got tangled up in the curtains in the bedroom, which are designed to kind of drape artistically across the floor. As Terry pointed out, though, this was totally predictable, so I now tuck them out of the way if I’m going to be using the Roomba in that room.

The only other potential issue I can see is that, like any other vacuum cleaner, the Roomba is a little on the noisy side while its working. This hasn’t been a problem for us – I just make sure we’re on a different floor to the one being cleaned – but, again, this is where the scheduling tool on the app would come in handy, as you can set it to clean when you won’t be around.

Overall, though?

I love it.

There is just one tiny little potential issue, though: when  I was setting it up via the app, I noticed there were a couple of different types of robot vacuum cleaner to choose from – one being a mopping robot.

Terry, can we get a Braava? Can we, though? Can we? Can we?!

[Thanks to iRobot for collaborating on this post!]

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  • Rachel


    My two year old daughter’s two favourite toys are her pink jellycat bunny – also called Binky… – and the Roomba which she chases around squealing. We got it when she was a newborn and I couldn’t out her down to do anything. It was a lifesaver for our poor neglected floors

    November 20, 2017
  • Myra


    I want a Roomba too! How fab.

    November 20, 2017
  • I have to say, I am pretty impressed!

    November 20, 2017
  • Dana


    “Hi, I’m Blinky – I just want to be your friend”… Best treat your new friend kindly :o)

    November 20, 2017
  • Chiarina


    I started with robot vacuum cleaners when kid no. 1 arrived.. having now two children and two cats, I own TWO robot vacuum cleaners AND a mopping robot (older version, a lot cheaper than the current Braava). They help me keep the house reasonable… It CAN be done! Especially with some help…

    November 20, 2017
  • Trudy


    I really really want a Roomba! One tip I got from a friend who has one, is to make sure your outside doors are shut… she didn’t, and came along to find Roomba enthusiastically sucking up the gravel on their driveway LOL.

    The other Roomba thing I have to share is this video Probably not recommended for baby or Roomba, but so cute!

    November 21, 2017
  • Haha how good is Roomba?! Mine is called Rosie like the robot from the Jetsons and they really do vacuum well. So well in fact last year Rosie accidently got her clutches on the cable for the Christmas lights wound through the staircase garland and was so intent on vacuuming she sucked the cable apart and the battery pack was in another room where she’d pulled it along to. So, that was awkward.

    November 21, 2017
  • I WANT ONE! It looks absolutely amazing and you’ve did a brilliant review thank you.

    November 22, 2017
  • Ginger


    What a great review! I totally want one now! And I totally laughed out loud at Trudy’s comment about vacuuming the driveway. Bwahaha!

    November 22, 2017
    • Ginger


      Just to update – I put a Roomba on my Christmas list, and I was just informed that it has been ordered. SO excited, and I definitely would not have put it down if it weren’t for your review. So you totally made a sale. 😉

      November 26, 2017
  • We followed ours around for about two hours, the first time we used it! The only downsides are that it can’t do the stairs and it’s rubbish at corners/edges (but I find going round them with a squeegee quite therapeutic, for some reason) – totally outweighed by the convenience of not having to vacuum the flat myself!

    November 23, 2017
  • Nice to see how quickly you and Terry have bonded with Blinky. I don’t own one [yet], but will confess to watching the youTube video of kittens riding a Roomba several times.

    November 24, 2017
  • I’ve wanted one for years! Now, I want one this very minute. Just saw a commercial for the mopping one too. Oh, how handy that would be!!

    December 6, 2017
  • asheslaree


    Im a lttile late, but I have a Deebot N7n by ecovacs (roomba knock off) and I just love him! I named mine charlie and I like you, cant handle a not clean house..but I work all the time and have a hard time keeping up with the vaccumning espically. So I bought him to help out and he’s wonderfull! I love watching him twirl around the floor and though I havent taken pics yet, I totaly need to.

    December 12, 2017