Reviews you can trust.See why.
Tending to kitchen floors is one of our least favorite kitchen chores; can a robot do a better job than a broom and mop?
What You Need To Know
While Rosie, the house-cleaning robot from the Jetsons, may once have seemed like a science-fiction fantasy, floor-cleaning robots have become increasingly commonplace in American homes. According to Statista, as of 2018, 12 percent of American households own a robot vacuum and that number is only growing. A large portion of these machines are robotic vacuums, which have increased in intelligence and complexity over the last decade—starting out as wimpy vacuums that bounced around rooms randomly and evolving into high-powered, smart vacuums that use lasers and cameras to plot the most efficient paths through rooms. The technology is constantly changing, but when we last tested robot vacuums we found that they weren’t a replacement for regular vacuuming and were best used as a way to maintain your floors between deeper cleanings. At that time, robot vacuums were just starting to add mopping capabilities, but we were largely unimpressed with these settings; they mostly amounted to the vacuum running its usual route with a damp cloth attached.
If you’re a cook, you know the daily struggle of trying to keep a kitchen floor clean. While our favorite robot vacuum is adept at picking up food scraps and other debris, it stops short of actually scrubbing the floors. Manufacturers have started to bridge the gap by making dedicated robot mops intended to mop hard-surface floors. Can they offer a hands-off solution for keeping kitchen floors sparkling?
We tried four robot mops, priced from about $175 to about $500. Three of the models were made by iRobot, which owns the Roomba brand. We didn’t include any hybrid vacuum/mops in this testing; We’ll evaluate them in a separate review. We used each robot to sweep (a setting similar to running a dry cloth along the floor) and mop hard-surface spaces ranging from a small, 24-square-foot bathroom to a 100-square-foot kitchen. We ran the robots on linoleum, wood, and tile surfaces, evaluating each robot’s ability to sweep up measured amounts of garlic skins, cereal, and carrot peels and mop up set-in smoothie, coffee, and ketchup stains.
Robot Mops Have Some Limitations
Each robot required a bit of setup, but most were intuitive and easy to get up and running. We charged their batteries, slipped on the included sweeping or mopping pads or roller, filled their water tanks, and set the robots loose on our floors. (It’s worth noting that you can only use water and/or the manufacturer’s cleaning solution with each; all manufacturers state that using other household cleaners or vinegar will void the warranty.) Unlike robot vacuums, which whir loudly as they work, the mops were notably qu...
Everything We Tested
- Mopping: 2 stars out of 3.
- Sweeping: 2 stars out of 3.
- Navigation: 2.5 stars out of 3.
- Ease of Use: 3 stars out of 3.
By far the most hands-off and intelligent mopping robot we tried, this model uses vSLAM, a navigation system that employs an onboard camera and motion sensor to plot an efficient route through a room. When paired with iRobot’s free app, this technology makes maps of your spaces and refines them with each use. After five runs, you can see a map of your home in the app, name different rooms, and mark off areas where you don’t want the mop to clean. The app allows you to instruct the robot to clean specific rooms, set an automatic cleaning schedule, and even coordinate cleaning with an iRobot vacuum for completely hands-off vacuuming and mopping in one go. It’s also compatible with Amazon Echo and Google Home (“Alexa, tell Braava to clean the kitchen”). That said, if you’re not interested in using an app, this mop is still easy to program and operate: three on-board buttons allow you to initiate a spot- or whole-room clean. No matter how you operate the mop (by app or by the on-board buttons), the robot automatically returns to its base for charging when it’s done cleaning (or when it needs a recharge while cleaning larger rooms). However, while this mop was hands-down the easiest and more pleasant to use, it still had a few drawbacks: its cleaning ability is more akin to a Swiffer than a mop, so it’s not great for deep cleaning—even after multiple passes with the robot we still had bits of caked-on smoothie on our kitchen floors. You’re also better off presweeping the floor if there is visible debris, as the robot’s sweeping pad is adept at picking up dust and hair, but can’t pick up larger pieces of food such as cereal grains or garlic peels and instead abandons them in the corners of the room. It also isn’t completely hands-off, as you’ll still have to switch out the mopping pad daily and refill the water tank once or twice a week. Finally, it was larger than some of the other robots we tried and couldn’t reach small or irregularly shaped spaces such as around and behind the sink and toilet in the bathroom. Like most robot cleaners, this mop works best at keeping clean floors clean, but when used regularly, it can prolong the time needed between deep cleans and keep your floors shining with hardly any effort on your part.
- Mopping: 2 stars out of 3.
- Sweeping: 2 stars out of 3.
- Navigation: 2 stars out of 3.
- Ease of Use: 2 stars out of 3.
This petite robot packed a fair amount of cleaning power for such a small machine. Like other models we tried, sweeping up food scraps wasn’t its strong suit, but its spray nozzle and triple-pass cleaning mopped our floors surprisingly well. Its smaller frame was also adept at maneuvering into tight spots, such as through a tangle of chair legs in the kitchen or around a pedestal sink and toilet in the bathroom. Since it’s so short, it can also scoot under bookshelves, dressers, and other pieces of low-sitting furniture (it unearthed a big ball of dust from one long-forgotten corner under a bed). iAdapt 2.0 technology helps the robot navigate intelligently around the room and provides great coverage, no matter what size room it was cleaning. Since it’s smaller, it takes longer (about an hour for a 100-square-foot kitchen, where other robots covered the same area in half the time) for it to complete its cleaning cycle. Also, it can only clean an area that measures about 150 to 200 square feet per charge. While it does work with iRobot’s app, the functions are limited; you can instruct the robot to clean or spot-clean from the app, but not schedule cleanings or instruct it to clean or avoid certain areas. We also thought the tiny water tank was a bit tricky to fill; we had to run the tap very slowly or else the tank overflowed, and there was no way to easily gauge how full the tank was.
Recommended with reservations
- Mopping: 2.5 stars out of 3.
- Navigation: 1.5 stars out of 3.
- Ease of Use: 1.5 stars out of 3.
While this mop didn’t have a sweeping feature (you’ll have to sweep yourself before setting it loose), it did have the most sophisticated and effective mopping system of the robots we tried. Simply fill the main tank with clean water (and some of the included cleaner, if you’re using it) and let it go. This model uses a cloth roller and rubber scraper to scrub the floors before suctioning up the dirty water and debris into a separate tank. While our floors looked noticeably cleaner (the robot even suctioned up years of caked-in dust from in between wood floorboards), the absence of a sophisticated navigation system meant we often had to babysit the robot as it cleaned and that it sometimes missed large swaths of the room. When cleaning a kitchen with many obstacles, the robot would often get stuck between chair legs, release itself, and then proceed to get stuck in the exact same position seconds later. We watched the Shinebot repeat this maneuver four times before manually moving it to a different part of the room. We found that the Shinebot works best in simple, open rooms with few obstacles, where it can clean in an unobstructed back-and-forth pattern. The tank that collected the dirty water was difficult to clean, and we had to use the included wire hook and brush to extract bits of hair from the filter and tank crevices. Its larger body also couldn’t get under some furniture and cabinet toe kicks, so those areas would need to be cleaned by hand.
- Mopping: NaN stars out of 3.
- Sweeping: NaN stars out of 3.
- Navigation: NaN stars out of 3.
- Ease of Use: NaN stars out of 3.
The midrange offering from iRobot, this robot mop was among the least effective cleaners we tried. Unlike other models that spray water or cleaner, this robot had a mopping plate that held about half a cup of water. Once it was attached to the bottom of the machine, water slowly dripped onto the mopping pad to dampen it. Neither the pad nor our floors got very wet; as such, they didn’t get very clean either. To help it navigate, we had to set up a small battery-powered cube that sat on the counter and projected an invisible pattern on the ceiling that the mop uses to figure out where it is in relation to the rest of the room. However, we frequently had trouble getting the robot to connect to the cube, even with the help of tech support. According to the company, the cube also doesn’t function well in rooms with cathedral ceilings or whirling ceiling fans, though our testing rooms had neither. Without the cube, the robot only cleans a small area in a preprogrammed pattern. Unlike iRobot’s other offerings, this mop doesn’t work with their app.
Reviews you can trust
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.