Scooba: best thing since, well, Roomba

weeznutsMarch 1, 2006

My very short review of my new Scooba:

LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT. It is worth every penny. Cleans GREAT. Smells great. Well engineered. HAS CHANGED MY LIFE.

My very long review, lovingly recorded with glee because of all the time I have saved not sweeping and mopping my floor:

Bought my new Scooba (robot sweep and mop machine) in January and have been running it into the ground (nearly daily) ever since. I bought it after moving back into our newly remodeled home; we can't afford a housecleaner anymore, but I've got 1000 sq. ft. more of hardwood floors to clean, so I managed to justify the cost with DH. I ordered mine from the Sharper Image web site, and with my company corporate discount, I paid $370. I saw them in the Target ad this week for $399. I paid an extra $44 for a two-year replacement guarantee, since I plan to use mine so much. I figure it might wear out after a few hundred washings, and this way I'll be able to swap it out for a new one.

I bought my first Roomba (robot duster/sweeper) several months ago and I've been calling it my new best friend ever since. We have endless hardwood floors in our new house and the dust bunnies seem to materialize overnight. By running my Roomba in various rooms every day, I'm able to keep the dust under control. LOVE it. By running my Roomba AND Scooba alternately throughout the house, my floors are cleaner than they would EVER be if I had to keep after them manually with broom and mop. (OK, it just wouldn't happen between working full-time, driving my teens around to their various activities, and well, having a life!)

Differences between Scooba and Roomba:

Roomba sucks up dirt, dust, and pet hair from floors. In my experience, it does not have strong enough suction to do much beyond "dusting" carpeted areas, so I use it mostly on floors. I've never had it fill up beyond its dirt-holder capacity, though I understand earlier models had a smaller capacity (I have the Discovery model). Roomba scoots around quickly, makes a lot of noise, and bangs into the things it encounters with a little bit of force (enough to knock some light things over). It also can "four-wheel" over area rugs (that don't have fringe) and other low barriers, like transition strips between floor and carpet areas, for example. It also can sense when a room is clean and shuts off. It can dock itself back into its recharger (some models). It is easy to clean out, though I find it often drops dust and debris when I pick it up to empty it. I usually take it outside to empty because it because it tends to kick up a lot of dust when emptied.

Scooba sucks up dust, squirts out cleaning solution, scrubs the floor with little scrub brushes, then squeegies the floor dry, sucking up the dirty water and storing it in a dirty water tank. It really is a miracle machine! Scooba is heavier (being filled with water) and much slower than the Roomba. It chugs along leaving a "snail trail" of wet floor behind it. It is noisy but not as noisy as Roomba, and it doesn't slam into walls with the force that Roomba does; rather, it gently nudges a barrier before turning, but doesn't do it with much force. Scooba cannot seem to travel over any sort of slight barrier like a throw rug (which is actually a good thing). Scooba does NOT shut off when a room is clean, it just keeps cleaning until it runs out of cleaning solution, which is about 45 minutes. Scooba cannot redock itself--there is no dock available for it (yet--I imagine they will come out with one eventually). Cleaning the Scooba after each cycle is a bit more involved, and you have to have a water source to do it. It can be messy to do at the kitchen sink, and you have to keep the cleaning solution handy for refills. You have to empty out the dirty water tank and rinse it out until it is clean, then refill the clean water tank with clean water and solution. Then you have to clean out two separate filter areas by rinsing them under water. But it only takes a few minutes, and is well worth the time IMHO.

The best things about the Scooba are:

- My floors are really, really clean. Scooba always washes your floor with clean water, and it sucks away the dirty water into a separate tank. You never end up washing your floor with dirty water (like you do with a mop and bucket). Both Roomba and Scooba pick up all kinds of stuff that I never knew was there and that, for whatever reason, doesn't get picked up by a regular broom and mop. I'm not a clean freak, but both these machines ROCK!

- Scooba works GREAT cleaning tile floor with grout--I will never have to scrub on my hands and knees again (except to reach the little bit of the corners of the room that the machine can't get to)! This alone is worth the price.

- Scooba goes under my couch and chairs (same with Roomba). I don't have to move my furniture to clean under it! This alone is also worth the price.

- Scooba and Roomba both clean while you are gone! I set them up to clean when I leave the house for the day, and I am so tickled when I come home to a clean floor. Brilliant!

- Both my Scooba and Roomba units seem very well engineered; I am impressed with the design, ease of cleaning, and construction. They are easy to use and the instructions are simple and straightforward. I know from being in the computer business that to make a complicated machine seem simple and easy to use is extremely difficult and is usually a sign of good quality. I waited years to buy my first Roomba because I wasn't convinced that it could clean well enough to be worth the price. Boy was I wrong.

The few flaws:

- The biggest drawback to both Roomba and Scooba is that they can't clean corners and very tightly around furniture legs and such. So I have to go around after them and clean up some corners and edges. But they do get about 95% of the floor clean, and by running them alternately, they keep things so clean in general that I don't have to do that much follow up.

- It can take some time to clean the brushes on both units, especially if you have long-haired people or pets in the house. I can't fathom where all the bits of string and other stuff that gets wrapped around the brushes comes from. But this is no different from cleaning the brushes on a vacuum cleaner.

- I've found Scooba needs a bit of babysitting when running. Not always, but sometimes. Once the squeegee somehow got knocked out of place and stopped working, and the floor was left with a bubbly wet mess all over. Easy to fix, just readjusted the squeegee, but a bit annoying. Another time it picked up a small piece of paper and dragged it all over and it didn't clean very well. A few times it has picked up something really dusty that it couldn't suck up and it then left trails of it behind, spreading it everywhere. But these messes were minor compared to the messes it has cleaned up. But if your floor is REALLY dirty, with lots of chunks of debris, you might run into some problems. My floors are so clean now that they are cleaned so regularly that I don't have that problem often. (My floors were NEVER this clean before, even when I had housecleaners.)

- Before I knew better, I managed to dump quite a bit of dirty water out onto my shoes (and the floor) a few times when picking up the Scooba unit after its cleaning cycle. You have to hold it level and not tip it at all to avoid spilling water when it is full (guess that would qualify as one instance of poor engineering).

- Both units can easily get snagged up with any cords or area rugs that have fringe or stray socks or pencils or what have you that might be on the floor. You have to do some prep work before you can use the units. But you would have to clear those items as you sweep or mop anyway, and keeping the floor free of debris has been a good habit I've developed just so I can run these puppies regularly. I have learned which of my throw rugs Roomba can power over without getting stuck, and I can leave those out when I set it out to sweep up.

- Both Roomba and Scooba are noisy. My DH hates the sound of them if I run them when he is home, but any time he complains, I point him to the old mop and bucket and tell him he is welcome to clean the floors himself if he prefers. That usually shuts him up . . . !

Even with these few inconveniences, both the Roomba and Scooba have been well worth the $$ investment and the small amount of maintenance time they require.

About the cleaning solution you have to use with Scooba:

Buy a few extra bottles of the cleaning solution when you buy your unit. I used the tiny little bottle that they give you in the box with the machine in just a few short cycles. The cleaning solution is where iRobot is going to make a ton of after-market $$ with the Scooba. The solution costs $5 for a 32-oz. bottle, and you HAVE to use at least half or more of the recommended amount of solution (about 1/4 cup) or THE UNIT WILL NOT RUN! I don't know how they did it, but there's a sensor in there that will not allow the machine to run without a certain percentage of the cleaning solution mixed with the water you add. This fact is NOT in any of the documentation for this product, but I know because I tried to run it with just a tiny bit of the solution and it did not work. I called the company, and that's when they told me that you had to use a minimal amount of the cleaning solution. I told them they should have put that in the documentation! Also, you cannot use any other solution except the one they made to work with Scooba.

That said, I really can't complain, because the cleaning solution smells GREAT; I've cleaned with dozens if not hundreds of different cleaning solutions in my life, and this stuff is not too chemically or overpowering, it just leaves a fresh, clean scent that is really quite pleasant. One bottle of the cleaning solution should last around 20-30 cleaning cycles, in my estimation, and I only use the minimal amount (1/2 the recommended amount). I haven't used a full bottle yet, so I'm guessing.

Bonus: my "virtual walls" for my Roomba work with my Scooba!

Bonus for those under construction: My Scooba worked like magic on the very fine, impossible-to-get-up construction dust that I simply could not clean with a regular broom and mop or even with my Roomba.

Conclusion: To me, Scooba is worth its weight in gold. A godsend. Best thing since sliced bread. Fill in your own cliches, it's AWESOME! No, I am not associated with the company or product in any way. I'm just a desperate housewife who has one less thing to be desperate about!

Here is a link that might be useful: Scooba and Roomba web site

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"THE UNIT WILL NOT RUN! I don't know how they did it, but there's a sensor in there that will not allow the machine to run without a certain percentage of the cleaning solution mixed with the water you add."

Interesting ... it's probably got a sensor in there to detect the ions from the cleaner. I wish I had a lab.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 9:25PM
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Thanks so much for taking the time to share such details with us. I just had 450 SF of tile and grout cleaned and I love it and was wondering about the effectiveness of the Scooba.


    Bookmark   March 4, 2006 at 9:25PM
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I showed your review to a coworker and we both want to get this. Thank you so much for posting.

In this week's Linens and Things ad, I noticed that they are selling this. And they have the 20% off coupon.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2006 at 5:49PM
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From the Scooba FAQ:

"Scoobas warranty will be voided if you use any solution other than the Clorox® Scooba cleaning solution; water; or a weak concentration of white vinegar and water (2 oz. of white vinegar per tank)."

So it sounds like you CAN use plain water, or vinegar and water.

Most soaps are very alkaline ... the Scooba stuff must be neutral to acidic, which would be easy for them to detecy.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2006 at 9:27PM
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Haven't gotten a coupon yet but I am wonder if the LNT coupon will exclude the Scooba purchase like it does on other big ticket items.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 5:45PM
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Someone on a roomba/scooba message board did some experiments and found that you could use a diluted Mr. Clean instead of the Clorox cleaner.

Now, a question for you about your roomba. My house is 1500 sq. feet and, except for two tiled bathrooms, is all hardwood floors. Would I be able to turn the roomba on when I leave and have it clean the whole house? Or can you only do one room at a time? I have searched for the answer but haven't been able to find it.

The scooba sounds appealing, but I am thinking of starting out with the roomba since crumbs, dust, and dog hair are my main problems.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 11:25AM
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I bought my scooba two weeks ago, when it went on sale for $299 at Best Buy ($100 off).

So far, I love it! We have three dogs, and especially after a rainy day, there is mud tracked everywhere. I was having to mop the floor two or three times a week. Actually, I SHOULD have been mopping the floor that much, but never had the time, so it was pretty bad.

Scooba took care of all of that. I put it down on the floor after dinner, and 30 minutes later, it beeps and it's done. I pour out the disgusting black filthy water, rinse off a few of the parts, and I'm done. Now, I don't feel like I need to put shoes on to walk on my kitchen floor anymore.

You are better off taking a very large area and squaring it off with the virtual wall. The Scooba does its best cleaning when it can run over a spot on the floor more than once. The larger the area you have it clean, the less likely it is to hit the same spot multiple times.

As for the cleaning fluid, the tank has a sensor in it, to let the scooba know when the tank is dry and to stop cleaning. Plain water can't trigger the ion sensor by itself, so that won't work. The iRobot people suggest vinegar and water, if you really hate the Clorox so much. But, using the Mr. Clean will void the waranty, so I'd stay away from that.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 6:00PM
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Is there a bleaching agent in the solution? Is the scooba solution okay for hardwood floors?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 2:11PM
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Hi Stacia,

The Clorox solution is pretty mild, so that it can't corrode the inside of the robot. Other cleaners will eat away at the innards and ruin it.

It's recommended for sealed hardwood only--wood that has polyurethane coating on it to keep the water from soaking in.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 3:24PM
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After another couple months of use, I too am finding that the Scooba does best with a smaller defined area. I'm not very good at dimensions, but I'd say you could let it loose in a 12 x 12 room and it would give it a pretty good cleaning before running out of juice. So I would recommend running it a room at a time, or a smaller defined space at a time.

The Roomba runs much longer than the Scooba before its power runs out, and it moves a lot faster, so it can cover a lot more space than the Scooba can.

Scooba is great on hardwood and tile floors, but NOT on laminate floors like Pergo. (I'm thinking about running it on my saltillo tile in the back yard! I'll probably have to stay with it to make sure it doesn't fall off into the lawn.)

There is no bleach in the solution. Here are the ingredients listed on the label: nonionic surfactant, chelating agent, fragrance. The solution label also has a note that says: Not recommended for use on visibly worn, unsealed, unfinished, waxed, or oiled wood floors.

One more note after some hard use: I dropped the Scooba unit about two feet into my sink a few weeks ago. It fell pretty hard, as the unit is heavy. It wouldn't run after that, and I was devastated. Then I realized that the front wheel had fallen off into the sink when I dropped it. I just popped the wheel back on, and it has run pefectly ever since. Both my Roomba and Scooba units have had heavy use for several months now (Roomba going on six months), and though my Roomba is looking a little worse for the wear, they are both running just fine.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 10:10PM
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Well I have a Roomba and I can't figure out how to dock it or much of anything. The directions suck. Remember we older folks use 10 year olds to help us with all the new technology.....

Anyway, I used it on one big room and it just kept going to the same places and was a total bust. It was actually more confused than I am. And that is pretty bad. he he

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 1:44AM
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I have a long island in my open kitchen. I also have 2 wide hallways that are part of this open tiled area.

Because of the island, would the scooba need a defined area? There is carpet right next to 1/2 of the tiled area. Do I have to worry about the scooba going onto the carpet?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 10:51AM
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I am remodeling my house and am putting down ceramic tile in the kitchen, baths, utility room and a sunroom, but otherwise am putting down wood laminate floors. I think the info on the wood laminate floors says something about not vacuuming it. I know you have to be careful about getting it too wet, but do any of you who have the Roomba use it on wood laminate? I have already put it down in my bedroom and am finding I see much more dust than I ever realized I had when I had carpet hiding it. By the time I get down and clean all underneath my king size bed, etc., I am tired. I am thinking I will be worn out by the time I clean the floors in the entire house this way. It really needs it everyday and I work full time and have other interests besides just cleaning house, so if the Roomba would work on the wood laminate without scratching it, then I would be inclined to purchase one after reading all of your comments. I have a student worker whose Mom has one and loves it, but she doesn't have wood laminate.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2006 at 3:32PM
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Thanks for the review and all the info from people. I long for a Rumba. Maybe I should put on my list to Santa this year.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 5:54PM
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Had to follow up since my original post, since I've had problems with both machines.

My Roomba stopped working around June and I had to send it back to iRoomba. Cost me $20 to package it and send it, but they sent me a brand new one. It took three weeks. Then my Scooba started acting up in August, and they sent me a new battery, which seems to have solved the problem. They are both running fine. The customer service folks are very helpful on the phone, but a few times I had to wait more than 20 minutes on hold for "the next available rep."

Roomba is perfect for laminate floors.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 9:39PM
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Does the manufacturer mention the safety of the solution with pets? Clorox is deadly to pets, especially cats if they walk in it when it's wet. I would love to have a Scooba, but I know some of my cats would be following it around stepping in the cleaning solution and that would worry me.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 5:10PM
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Our Roomba failed us. I loved it when it worked. but it got stuck a lot under our rocker-recliners. We had to have the charger replaced twice. It cant be used in my master bedroom because it builds up static and then goes ZOT! on the baseboard heater which runs the length of the room. It doesn't have that problem downstairs; the difference is downstairs the baseboards have been painted multiple times to match the walls and upstairs have factory finish. After I developed a dependable routine, Roomba finally failed for good after the warranty ran out. The fall-downstairs sensor is permanently engaged so it goes in a circle and backs up all the time but that's it. And my house is full of dog hair, so I finally bought a Dyson Animal. Now that is a vacuum cleaner! 'really wish Roomba had continued to work - I liked it scurrying around between regular cleanings with an upright. But it was more aggravating to keep rescuing it from under the chairs or have to pull the dining chairs to another room just like I was doing the vacuuming myself. It it wasn't broken and worked in the bedroom I would have kept using it up there to avoid lugging a Vacuum up the stairs. At least the Dysonisn't heavy!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 6:19PM
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brutuses: The literature says that the cleaner which is made by Clorox, but which is not Clorox bleach, is safe for pets.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 9:54AM
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I love my Scooba. The only problem that I have with it is that it often gets stuck -- the distance from my kitchen floor to the bottom of my kitchen cabinet doors is just about exactly the height of the Scooba. Also, it doesn't take much to clog the filter -- even though I usually give the floor a cursory sweep before running the Scooba, it often gets clogged with cat hair partway through the cycle. But recovering from either of these conditions takes less than a minute, and using the Scooba is an extremely easy way to get my tile kitchen floor squeaky-clean.

Marie26: my Scooba works just fine in my L-shaped kitchen, so I think it would handle and island pretty well. The only thing you might have to worry about is whether the total tiled area is more than the Scooba will cover. As far as the rugs go, the Scooba comes with a "virtual wall" (you can buy additional ones) that you can use to create a border that the Scooba won't cross.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2006 at 6:25AM
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