iRobot Scooba 450 Review by Janyce Raynolds
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I openly confess I’m a fan of robot helpers and of iRobot products in particular. As a long-time techno-geek and all-around lazy person when it comes to housecleaning, I love them. So, it’s with some enthusiasm that I observe the launching of a new one: the Scooba 450. However, in this case, my joy soon turned to confusion. Here’s why.
The basic aspects of the iRobot Scooba 450 will surprise no one familiar with the company’s previous models. Its now-traditional round body measures 14.4 inches in diameter and weighs a moderate 8.3 lbs. Even the coloring is by now pretty common: shiny black with a blue highlight around 3/4 of the top, very similar to others. As with other iRobots, it’s about 3.6″ high.
In truth, the 450 is more evolutionary than revolutionary. That evolution is a nice step up, kind of like from the change from simians to New World Monkeys. An improvement, but still not possessed of human intelligence. That’s kind of a shame, but I’m still hopeful based on early tests.
The technique the unit uses is by now well proven, thanks in part to the “older” Scooba 390. It works similarly to a carpet cleaner: release liquid from a tank, brush it over the surface, then draw up the dirty water into a separate tank. It’s certainly very easy to use. Like earlier models, you fill the tank, Press Clean, and off it goes.
You can see how effective that simple idea is when you empty the “used” container and find a ton of dirty water. That’s pretty easy for most users, by the way.
To that time-tested technique, the 450 (like the 390) adds a pre-cleansing stage. The robot vacuums up dirt and debris, ala one of the company’s Roomba robot vacuum cleaners, and then lays down some water to pre-soak stains.
Area Coverage and Battery
One of the key elements of any robot floor cleaner is the battery, of course. The 450 is decent but, unsurprisingly, not as good as all of us wish. The unit offers 2 cleaning cycles. The Room Size button on top of the unit lets you choose the desired cycle.
It works steadily for up to about 40 minutes. You can also take advantage of the built-in option for a 20-minute cycle. If you have a pair of smaller spaces, you can unleash the 450 on one, then move it to the other without charging the robot in between the two sessions.
It can clean a lot of floor in that time, even using the usual iRobot random pattern. Frankly, I prefer the more regular Neato method, but that may be my personal quirks influencing my judgment.
In any case, the shorter session is rated to cover about 150 square feet. The company claims the larger session “scrubs up to 300 sq ft”. I can believe that’s possible during the 40 minute option. But, with the random pattern it uses, it’s an open question how effective it would be. The experience of other users suggests that’s a reasonable question.
Moving over 200 square feet of floor in that time is no problem, as real-world use shows. The claim that it can dry mop up to 1000 square feet has been confirmed more than once, but that’s not usually how you use a robot floor washer.
3-Stage Cleaning Mechanism
Of course, going over that area in one session is pointless if the robot cleaner doesn’t do a good job. Fortunately, the Scooba 450 does well in several ways.
Step 1 sweeps and pre-soaks the area, laying down cleanser after the brushes and vacuum have removed loose particles from the floor. That cleanser can be the Hard Floor Cleaner iRobot offers or just plain water. The brushes are plenty robust enough to get ordinary grime off the floor if you use the cleanser, but ordinary dirt is removed with water, too.
Even better, the built-in iAdapt algorithms are clever enough to concentrate on truly dirty spots that need extra attention. Spilled, dried, dirty grease at the base of the stove island get the needed focus automatically.
In the next step there’s also a squeegee following right behind that aids the process. The brushes get it loose, the vacuum sucks up the dirty water, and the rubber squeegee cleans as you would a window. It’s not perfect, but it’s very good. Rotating at 600 rpm is, no doubt, one of the reasons. After all that, there’s a final pass with the squeegee to get about 99% of the remainder.
See the cleaning process in action in this short 1 minute video:
One other objective measurement of that, beyond what you can actually see, is the ability of the 450 to remove up to 99.3% of common household bacteria. That figure is according to the manufacturer, of course. I’m always skeptical when I see figures reported to such accuracy, but independent tests suggest it’s not bogus.
Like so many iRobot products, the Scooba 450 can work in conjunction with the Virtual Wall. This small cube projects an IR beam that the base unit can detect to keep it within an area.
I prefer it to the magnetic tape the otherwise-fine Neato uses. It’s mobile and doesn’t require you to place something across the floor. One other good thing: the 450 can work with the Virtual Wall you might have from a Roomba.
You can purchase additional Virtual Walls (one comes with the unit). But at $60 a pop, I generally wouldn’t. The 450 itself is already pretty pricey (currently at $600 full retail) and the robot is supposed to be able to recognize the beginning of carpet already. Whether you think it’s a must-have depends, of course, on your room layout and intended use.
There’s also an (optional) Dry Dock Charging and Drying Stand. For those who use the unit regularly, especially in a home that’s a little on the cool side, $80 (again, full retail) might be worthwhile in some eyes.
It keeps the unit in optimal shape for the next session. Among other things, a dry robot floor cleaner is one that doesn’t build up mold on its surfaces. It’s designed to hang the robot vertically, though. So it’s not like other iRobots where the unit returns automatically. You have to put it there.
If you want to forego that, all is not lost. At the end of the cleaning session, the robot does a certain amount of self-cleaning. Once it finishes the floor, it goes into a rinse cycle.
It lays down some more water and performs a little ice-skater figure-8 to lap it up again. That reduces the amount of effort you have to expend on the brushes. If you do need to clean the unit, removing the cleaning mechanism is easy.
Technically, the cleansing solution isn’t an accessory but you’re not required to use it to get a lot of good out of the floor cleaner. Some might see it as a bit pricey at roughly $13 per bottle, but you get 32 sessions out of that.
The iRobot Scooba 450 is a well-made unit that does reasonably well what’s it’s designed to do: scrub floors automatically. On the other hand, because of the design, it doesn’t get all the way to the walls; there’s about a 1/4 gap between the roller and any edge it runs along.