So We Bought a Roomba

Hi! How was your Fourth?! We had such a wonderful day celebrating Joey’s half birthday (2.5 already!). Andy also took Monday and Tuesday off and worked really, really hard on a bunch of outdoor projects, including building a pretty new gate and doing a ton of landscaping. We’ll have updates on all of those soon, but first I wanted to tell you about this thing we bought. Yes, we bought a Roomba!

For years Andy has been wanting a robo-vacuum. YEARS. And honestly, I was totally against the idea. Every time he’d mention it, I’d roll my eyes. I mean, first of all, he doesn’t even do the vacuuming so what does he care?! And of all the household chores I do, I find vacuuming to be one of the least annoying. If they made a robo-laundry-put-away-er, or maybe a robo-shower-scrubber, I’m 100% all for it. But vacuuming? It’s not that bad.

I normally vacuumed our living room, kitchen, stairs and downstairs family room once or twice a week, plus spot vacuuming as needed almost every day or multiple times a day. Vacuuming the upstairs bedrooms/bathrooms was much more of a struggle, mostly because I’d do all the vacuuming while the kids were napping, but I’d have to do their rooms while they’re awake, which is just tough. So bedrooms got vacuumed, um, rarely. I’ll be honest… we’re all friends here, right?! Maybe once a month? Probably not even. Eek. How embarrassing.

But a few weeks ago Andy texted me that he found a really good deal on this iRobot Roomba 960 with WiFi, and it happened to be a day when Ruby and Joey had both tracked a bunch of dirt into the house, and I found myself vacuuming for the third time that day. After years of resisting, I finally said, JUST GET IT! I went from not at all interested in a Roomba to holy-moly-how-quickly-can-it-get-here.

We’ve had our Roomba for about a month now, so we thought we’d tell you what we think! This is a completely honest, not-sponsored review of our experience that I thought may help any of you who may be considering one.

I didn’t know anything at all about Roombas before we got one, so I’ll tell you a little bit about how it works. Ours is the iRobot Roomba 960 with WiFi. There’s a whole bunch of different models at different price points, and I’m guessing ours is sort of middle of the road as far as fanciness. The price is constantly changing on Amazon (I noticed it was almost $100 cheaper yesterday than today), so I recommend watching for the price to go down. We paid somewhere in the range of $500-550-ish. Yes it’s a lot of money, but I’ll go ahead and say right now I think it’s worth it.

So how it works is that there’s an iPhone app that allows you to control the vacuum from anywhere, as well as set up a daily cleaning schedule in advance.  There’s also buttons on top if you don’t want to use the app to start it. It has a home base that plugs in, where the vacuum’s battery recharges when it’s not in use. Technically you’re supposed to have three feet of clearance on either side of the base, which could be difficult. The last thing we wanted was to have to stare at the Roomba all the time in some super obvious place (that could be a deal breaker for me), so we actually set it up under the bar cabinet in our living room, where there isn’t even a one-foot clearance on each side, but it hasn’t been an issue at all. It’s nice that it’s completely tucked away out of sight. After the Roomba finishes, it returns itself to its base to recharge.

When I want to clean upstairs or downstairs, I just pick it up and put it wherever I want it (it’s very light, lighter than our upright Shark vacuum), and when it’s done it will return to the spot I started from (obviously it can’t return to the homebase if it’s on another floor). I’ve heard other people complain that they don’t like having to constantly carry it to different floors to clean, but we’d have to do the exact same thing with a regular vacuum. Sure we can’t schedule it to clean the whole house, just the one main floor, but to me it’s no big deal to have to carry it to another area, turn it on and let it do its thing while I do something else.

Speaking of stairs, we were terrified the first time we saw the Roomba heading for the stairs! We thought for sure it was going to fall down and break, and there goes our investment. We both went running to catch it! But it has some awesome sensors that allow it to go right up to the edge but not fall over. I don’t know how, but it’s awesome.

Here are the things that we’ve had an issue with so far:

CONS

  • It’s a little noisy. The first day we had it, we set it up to go at 1 a.m. Mistake. It woke us up and kept us up the whole time it ran for an hour. Now we have it scheduled weekdays at 6:15 a.m., which is just after Andy’s alarm goes off, so we’re awake anyway. The kids sleep through it. It takes about an hour to clean our whole living room/kitchen, and I don’t find it annoying to be in the same room while it’s cleaning. You could even watch TV. It’s also nice to be awake in case something goes wrong, like you forgot to empty the bin…
  • The dirt bin is small and needs to be emptied every time you use it. When the bin is full, it won’t run the next time. It’s a super easy process, but I often forget to do it.
  • Cat puke. We’ve all heard the story about the Roomba that went through dog poop and spread it around the entire house. That’s disgusting. Our animals never poop or pee in the house so that’s not really an issue for us, but we did have one issue with cat puke. Mocha is 16 and she’s a puker. Always has been, always will be, but she rarely pukes in the living room. Of course a couple of weeks ago she did, on a Monday morning, sometime between when I left for my workout at 5:15 and 6:30 when Andy came downstairs, while the Roomba was going. And yes, it made a mess. Andy had to take the Roomba apart and clean it. So yeah, that sucked. So if you have pets who frequently make messes, maybe don’t schedule it to start when you’re not around to watch it.
  • It doesn’t pick up every speck of everything. When you vacuum yourself, you can see things that the vacuum spits out or that you missed, so you can go back over them. The Roomba does go over each area twice, but it still sometimes misses something. The area near our back door where Ruby comes in and out gets really dirty. She tracks in dirt, leaves, acorns, you name it, and sometimes the Roomba just doesn’t quite get all of it. I’m listing this as a con, but honestly, I think it does a great job. The fact that it gets 99% of it is still a huge pro to me.
  • Our cat has no interest in riding the Roomba. Lame.

There are some specific circumstances it doesn’t work very well:

  • uneven floors — we have a couple places where there are two rugs near each other or a rug near a wall with just a few inches of clearance between the two, and the Roomba doesn’t have the suction to get down to the floor in between them as well. Sometimes I’ll just move smaller rugs when I run the Roomba, just to make sure it gets around, or I’ll even remove them some days so it gets underneath. (I also sometimes move furniture so it gets under there too.)
  • bathrooms and small spaces — similar to a regular upright vacuum, it just doesn’t fit into small spaces, like around the annoying area around a toilet.
  • thin rugs — the area rug in our bedroom is really thin, like it’s essentially a huge cotton throw blanket, so when the Roomba tries to go up onto it, it just pushes it around and bunches it up. We don’t want to risk it tearing up the rug, so we’ve decided not to use the Roomba in our bedroom for now, which is definitely disappointing. It does fine with all of our other rugs, but this rug is the thinnest I’ve ever seen (it’s pretty though). I’ve considered rug tape to hold the rug down but I worry about damaging our wood floors — anyone have any suggestions?

But then there are a lot more things that we really like:

PROS

  • CONVENIENCE — You guys. When I come downstairs in the morning, the floors are clean!!! There are no puffs of pet hair floating around. There are no crumbs under the table. And I didn’t have to do a darn thing!
  • It reaches places my upright vacuum can’t go. There’s this area under our sectional, right where the L meets, where I cannot clean no matter what. I can’t reach the swiffer under there. I can’t reach my upright vacuum. But guess what fits?! The first time I saw the Roomba go under there, I was in love. It’s the same with the area under our TV stand, which of course is where ALL the pet hair collects. I practically have to do yoga to get the vacuum under there, and since I only did that once or twice a week, there were ALWAYS puffs of pet hair floating around. Always. (Our supposedly non-shedding goldendoodle is definitely not non-shedding!) But now, no puffs. Until at least 5 p.m. We have like 5 p.m. puff shadow, haha. I just made that up. I can hear Andy right now saying, “Kerry, that’s not funny.”
  • It also does a good job of getting into corners. When you look at it, this round thing, you think, well obviously it can’t get into a corner, and I pictured little semi-circles of dirt in every corner of the room, but it actually has a little brush that sticks out farther than the main vacuum, which spins really fast while it moves around, sweeping up dust and dirt right into the vacuum. It does a good job.
  • It forces us to pick up more! This is a big one, you guys. Since we have the Roomba scheduled to clean our living room/kitchen every morning, we make sure that all the toys and shoes and junk are put away and nothing is left on the floor before we go to bed. So not only do we wake up to vacuumed floors, but it’s also tidy! Win Win!
  • Set it and forget it. I love that I can vacuum without actually having to be physically vacuuming. I just do a quick tidy of the kids’ rooms, pick up anything that shouldn’t be on the floor, turn the Roomba on, and I can spend an hour playing with them instead of an hour pushing a vacuum around and trying to keep an eye on them at the same time. I Roomba their rooms once a week, usually while we eat lunch, and I do the downstairs playroom about every other day, even sometimes while they play in there. I just pick Olly up out of the way as necessary, ha.
  • Since the Roomba is small, I thought it wouldn’t be able to pick up larger pieces, like everything Olly drops under his highchair, but it actually does a great job with 99% of those.
  • I can wash the floors easier. One of my more difficult household jobs is finding the opportunity to wash the floors. Before you can wash the floors, you need to vacuum, and when you wash the floors, you don’t want any babies crawling around or dogs walking through with muddy paws — and that magic unicorn of circumstances doesn’t come around very often. With the Roomba, my floors are already vacuumed. It’s a HUGE step that I don’t have to worry about, so when I do have an opportunity I can take it instead of, well first I have to get out the vacuum… So not only are our floors cleaner because they’re vacuumed, but they’re cleaner because they’re washed more frequently. (I think there’s a robo-floor-washer-vac of some sort, too, but we don’t have that.)

So overall thoughts:
We love the Roomba. I resisted the idea for years, but now I’m so happy we have it. It isn’t perfect. It doesn’t replace the need for a standard vacuum for getting into tight spots, the stairs, furniture, and big messes and deep cleans. But for daily cleaning, our house feels so much cleaner than it ever has, and it saves me hours of work every week. So I guess I’ll just have to admit it… Andy was right! You heard it here first.

Now can someone invent a robo-shower-scrubber, pleeeeease???

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