iRobot Scooba 230 Review by Janyce Raynolds
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Lots of people are familiar by now with the iRobot line of robot vacuum cleaners. Fewer know that iRobot also makes a robotic floor washer line for use on hard floor surfaces, including tile, vinyl, marble, linoleum, slate, stone and sealed wood.
We already reviewed the Scooba 390 here. Now let’s take a look at the Scooba 230. Naturally, like iRobot’s vacuum cleaners, it’s not cheap. So let’s see if the price tag even for this relatively low end model is worth it.
Basic Design and Specs
The iRobot Scooba 230 bears only a passing resemblance to its vacuum cleaner cousins. The coloring and the top design is similar, but the case is much more squat. It’s only 6.5 inches in diameter. It is pretty lightweight, however, at just 3 lbs. By contrast, the iRobot 390 floor washing robot is a 14.8″ in diameter and weighs 8.6 lbs, roughly the same as the vacuum cleaners.
At that size, you could tuck this little guy just about anywhere when not in use. You could hide it behind the toilet or place it on a shelf in the laundry room. And, at that weight, it’s effortless to take it out again when you need it. More importantly, that small size lets it get into places forbidden to the full-sized Scooba 390.
Of course, the key is: how well does it clean?
The first step in answering that question is to explore the Scooba 230’s navigation ability. After all, if it can’t cover the floor well it wouldn’t matter much how well the brushes and so forth operate.
Luckily, the answer can be put in one word: iAdapt. That’s iRobot’s proprietary system of IR sensors, internal electronics, and programming. It allows the Scooba to move around the floor just like the vacuum cleaner robots. Anyone who has owned or observed one knows that system works extremely well.
Also, like the Roomba, the Scooba works with iRobot’s Virtual Walls. Those are small, floor-standing units that send an invisible beam the robot won’t cross. You could use a pair, for instance, to block off the open ends of the kitchen floor.
Even without them the Scooba – again like the Roomba – has edge detection. It won’t fall off a cliff. So, if you happen to have a bare floor hallway on the second story, you can use the 230 to clean it. No worries about it tumbling down the steps even if you don’t place a Virtual Wall at the top of the landing.
And, when the 230 does happen to bump into something, there’s no damage done. It has the same sorts of bumpers as its robot vacuum cleaner cousins.
3-Stage Cleaning Mechanism
Preparing it for that navigation is simple, too. It only takes 6 small and easy steps. You just pop off the top – which is easy to do and yet secure. No leaks in this guy unless you happen to get one of the rare lemons. Fill up the side tanks with Scooba hard floor cleaner solution and warm water and you’re ready to go. Then, similar to the vacuum cleaner robot, you just press the big, well-marked “Clean” button on top.
The cleaning process typically takes less than an hour for an average kitchen or bathroom floor, say, measuring 6 feet by 9 feet. If your bathroom, like mine, isn’t a perfect rectangle (and with a toilet in there how could it be?) the 230 will go around the corner to do the entranceway just fine. And it’s very unlikely to get stuck behind the toilet.
It ‘learns’ the layout of the room as it goes 1) while it shoots out a modest amount of cleaning fluid/water mixture. 2) The brushes are similar to those on the vacuum cleaner robot except they don’t whirl, just scrub. 3) The suction ports draw the liquid in and another component squeegee’s up the remainder. See the cleaning process in action in this short video:
The 230 does have one limitation. It lacks the dirt detection sensors of the Roomba. It can’t tell when the floor is clean, in advance or afterward. In fact, it’s generally a good idea to sweep a debris-laden floor before you start the Scooba’s session. It can tackle reasonably dirty floors but there’s much less chance of scouring the surface if any sand or grit is gone first. That’s particularly true of wood floors, of course.
By comparison, just as one example, the Mint Automatic Floor Cleaner can sweep before it cleans. There are offsetting limitations of that model, but I won’t go into the pros and cons here. Mint is now owned by iRobot, by the way.
Be prepared to charge the system in between sessions if your floors are the large size referenced in the last section. The Scooba 230 runs only about a total of 40 minutes on a charge.
Charging takes about 8 hours from “completely dead” to “fully charged”. To help out, the unit has a “short cycle” option. If you have a pair of smaller bathrooms, for example, you can set it to that selection. It will likely retain enough juice after cleaning the first room to do the second before needing a charge.
By the way, there’s no charging station to which the Scooba returns as there is with the Roomba. Another thing missing from the Scooba 230 that most of the Roomba models have is scheduling.
It’s not a major feature, in my view, even in the vacuum cleaner line. Pressing Clean on the top when you want it to go takes only a second. It might make more sense in the vacuum cleaner where you’d like to have it do the job while you’re away from home. In any case, you usually want to clean a floor washing robot right after it’s done anyway.
Once this guy is done you pop it open and pour out the dirty water. The bladder holding clean water should be empty (if not completely dry) by this time.
Clean up of the Scooba 230 afterward is easy, too. It’s a little messy, naturally. Hair, dirty water, and other things will accumulate on the wheels, case, squeegee, and other areas. But because it’s so small and light, manipulating it takes no great strength. Popping off the different parts requires no particular muscle power.
So, now for my original question: is the iRobot Scooba 230 worth the money?
Of course, no one can answer that for you. In my case, probably not. True, the 230 works and works well. It’s uber-easy to use. But you still have to clean it afterward and you might have to sweep first. My floors are few enough and small enough that it takes longer to maintain the robot than to use a Swiffer.
Your mileage may vary. If so, the 230 is small and effective and modestly priced for a robot cleaner. It’s very well built and the battery life, while limited, is adequate for one big floor or two small ones. I give it a qualified thumbs up.