iRobot Scooba 390 Review by Janyce Raynolds
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For a long time now I’ve been using a robot to vacuum my carpet. But I also have a pretty big tiled kitchen floor and two tile-floor bathrooms. So naturally, being often too busy with other things, they’ve been neglected more than I wanted. iRobot to the rescue! The Scooba 390 floor washing robot was just what I needed.
4-Stage Cleaning Mechanism
Utilizing much of the same technology found in the Roomba robot vacuum cleaners, the Scooba 390 adds floor washing features. It does that by a multi-stage process. It vacuums, then lays down a cleaning liquid. Then, it gently scrubs and, lastly, squeegees up the excess.
Fortunately, the cleaning brush is made of material designed to be safe not just on marble, stone, or vinyl but also sealed hardwood. That said, it’s wise to test a small and less visible area of similar material before you let it loose on your expensive wood floors. In particular, it’s not recommended for unsealed, laminated floors nor for waxed floors.
See the cleaning process in action in this short 30 sec video:
It does all that cleaning in a case that is visually and physically similar to the Roomba line. If you don’t know iRobot’s vacuum cleaner line designs well you might not suspect the 390’s floor cleansing ability. In this case, that design is a 14.8 inch diameter plastic hockey puck that weighs 8.6 lbs.
It’s easy to discover that ability, though. Just separate the case into two parts by a press on the handle. The top part pulls away to reveal the tank. It houses 2 separate compartments: a clean and a dirty tank.
Getting started is near-idiot proof. Similar to the Roombas, the case has buttons on top that make starting the process simplicity itself: Power and Clean.
You just fill the clean tank chamber with water and/or Scooba hard floor cleaner solution. The box it comes in houses four packets of the latter to get you started. Then use the controls on top of the case to begin. The Scooba 390 moves along and slurps up the dirty water into the dirty tank.
Like the Roombas from which it descended, the 390 houses the company’s iAdapt system. It’s a combination of sensors and software that let the robot avoid stairs and cliffs and calculate the best path to clean your floor using any of three cleaning patterns: wall-following, spiral, or criss-cross.
After using a robot lawn mower and a robot vacuum cleaner (not to mention their manual equivalents), I don’t mind the noise level of the floor washer at all. Still, to anyone sensitive to high-pitched whine, the 390 can be irritating. No one trying to watch TV while it operates is likely to be thrilled, certainly.
Battery – Up to 425 Square Feet
One important difference with a Roomba is that the 390 does not return automatically to a base/charger. That makes some sense actually, given that it’s necessary after cleaning to empty the dirty water and (possibly) clean the roller of hair, and other debris. Of course, iRobot could add that feature in the future but it’s much harder to clean once everything has dried up.
Though technically an update to the Scooba 380, there’s probably a better comparison to an earlier Scooba model: the Scooba 230. The Scooba 390 is a considerable advance on the 230 in one important way: battery lifetime. That translates into coverage per charge. The older model would cover about 150 square feet on a charge; the 390 can clean up to 425 square feet at a go.
Each tankful of solution should perform about 45 minutes of cleaning, so the battery lifetime and tank capacity are well matched now.
The downside of the device, as it is for all such machine cleaners, is the cost of the hard floor cleaning solution. If you use iRobot’s enzymatic mix it’s around $12. But you get about 60 uses from a container. A small price to pay, imho, for being lazy. If you want to stretch your budget a little, you can use water and vinegar instead or just water down the solution a bit.
On the whole it’s best to use the solution most of the time. Not only does it clean a good-sized area with a surprisingly small amount of solution, the solution itself helps kill bacteria. So, your floors are not only getting cleaned they’re getting disinfected, an especially good thing for those who have young children who crawl around.
Like the iRobot vacuum cleaners, the Scooba 390 comes with a Virtual Wall (and you can add more). This component is a small ‘brick’ with electronics inside that sends out a signal the main unit can detect. It prevents the robot from wandering into a space you want to restrict.
That ability is, it should go without saying, even more important in cleaning floors than in straight vacuuming. The downside is that if you have more than one opening to your floor (I have two, for example) you’ll need more than one Virtual Wall. Calculate the total price in your situation accordingly.
Of course, it’s possible just to physically block the other openings and let the 390 bounce off it, which it does gently, but that makes the process less convenient. At some point, it becomes easier just to mop the floor by hand.
The Scooba 390 robot floor cleaner is basically a modified iRobot Roomba, altered to incorporate a cleaning solution tank. It lacks the vacuuming power of the real deal, as well as the ability to return to the charger, but it incorporates a battery that can clean up to 425 square feet on one charge. Most importantly, it really does clean your floors. To lazy/busy people everywhere, that’s a big blessing.