Friday, 24 June 2016

My Kinda Guys: Roomba & Braava


For a long time, I have always wanted to blog about the two very important guys in my life but never got down to it.

The Grandmother's Story

I had read tonnes of reviews on Roomba and secretly harboured hope of acquiring one, way back 6 or 7 years ago! The cheapest model then cost about $500 to $600? It was, and still is, a lot of money for a vacuum cleaner. For this kind of dough, I had checked out other vacuum cleaners, cord or no cord. From Philips to Dyson to Miele, I still came back to the attractive idea of owning the best robot cleaner in the world. 

We had a bulky corded traditional vacuum machine when I was young. At first, we loved to 'play' with it. We liked to see how the staples and other small objects disappear magically under the suction nozzle. For little children, it felt kind of 'powerful' to do that kind of chore. The vacuum cleaner also came with a electrical cord that returned to its nook at the press of a button. We loved to play with that one too! We would deliberately pull the cord to the farthest we could and then run back to the machine to press the button just to see how fast and furious the cord snapped back to the body!

But it was a heavy monster. 

Before we got tired of playing with it, we were willing to lug the heavy nozzle that was attached to a wriggly and bulky hose around. By and by, the novelty wore off and gradually none of us wanted to play with it anymore. It became even lonelier when the button to recall the cord spoiled. 

After that, I was never keen to get a vacuum cleaner as the bulk and clumsy part of our vacuum cleaner was better etched in my memory than its ability to clean the floor. None of us was keen to get one actually. No one ever mentioned anything remotely about getting a vacuum cleaner. We stuck to Magiclean wipes for many years.

After I got married, I went with the wipes too for many years. Dry wipes for sweeping and wet for mopping. But it was labour-intensive and I found that they were ineffective floor cleaners. William and I often fought over who should clean it. It got to a point where I gave up fighting and let the floor be - dusty and full of hair. I still tried to Magiclean it using the dry wipes but it could only get rid of the obvious dust and hair. You know the floor is not quite clean even though you have cleaned it. Quite depressing.

The decision to get a vacuum cleaner was sealed last year when I renovated the girls' bedroom. Magiclean wipes just don't cut it when it comes to cleaning up the invisible sawdust. For a few weeks, I kept having that irritating feeling of minute particles stuck to my soles. Every time I felt the sawdust on my feet, I whipped out my Magiclean sweep and wet wipes to wipe the floors, but they were no help. It was like a never-ending chore.

My kind neighbour lent me her corded Dyson vacuum cleaner to suck up the sawdust and it was a lifesaver, but I still did not like the bulky hose and the restrictive cord. That was when I made up my mind to get a Roomba.

I had been looking out for iRobot sales for a long time but I was also concerned about the fact that the older models were using bristles or brush rollers. They pick up hair but the hair gets tangled on the bristles which you have to spend time disentangling them by the bin. I shuddered to think that I could end up picking hair out from a brush for hours. It may be fun when you do it once or twice but it becomes very painful to do it every time you run the robot.

So when iRobot's Singapore exclusive distributor held a sale at the IT Show 2015, I decided to go and take a look.

I was pleasantly surprised to know that the latest model then, Roomba 880, had rubber roller brush instead of bristles. It's supposed to suck in the hair as well as fine dust, what with the hepa filter to capture very fine dust.

The demonstration also included showing Roomba sucking up a $1 coin and 50-cent coin. The promotion had the desirable robot going at $1098. I thought it was pricey as my budget was about $500-$700, but since I had been thinking about getting a Roomba for so many years, I decided to grit my teeth to get it.

At the same sale, quite a few people were looking at Braava 380t. It was also a new product then and was priced at an attractive $450. I was impressed with its intelligent ability to mop systematically and decided to buy it together with Roomba 880.

Both robots came with some freebies. For Braava, an extra detachable mopping device, a piece of sweeping cloth and two more pieces of micro fibre cloth were given; and for Roomba, an extra hepa filter and an $80 voucher for accessories.

Roomba 880

Roomba comes with a few cool features such as a remote control, the ability to schedule cleaning from Monday to Sunday, 2 lighthouses-cum-virtual walls that either guide Roomba to the rooms you want to clean (lighthouse) or block off Roomba from the rooms you don't want it to enter (virtual wall).

But I stopped using these features after a few times as I really just need to carry Roomba to the room I want it to clean and start it running there. As simple as that. How lazy do I need to be? I also realised I don't need the floors to be vacuumed every single day, so I stopped setting the weekly cleaning schedule. Another reason for me not to set the schedule is because I find it a bit eerie that a robot is coming out of the room on its own. A case of watching too many horror flicks, I know, but ...

The first time I ran Roomba, a red light indicated that the bin was full when it was half done. I was surprised that it was filled so quickly. However, I soon realised that my living room must have been so dusty and filthy that Roomba was filled up that quickly. After that, the rate that Roomba's bin was full gradually decreases. At first, it got filled up at the end of one run. I had to clear the bin every single time I ran it. Nowadays I can wait for a few runs before it's filled. It tells me that my house is getting cleaner by the day!

The best thing about Roomba is its ability to go under my bed. For so many years, the floor under the bed was very dusty. It was hard to reach the centre under a king sized bed! And dust built up at an incredible rate. I always dread to look for things under the bed as I would expect to see a thick layer of dust staring back at me.

With Roomba, I am happy to look under my bed! No more dust, and even cleaner than when I had Magicleaned it!

One thing, though. Although Roomba sucks in some hair, a lot of hair tend to roll around the sides of the roller brushes. I have to remove the brushes to get rid of the hair that would be rolled up in a coil. However, even though I did not read anything about that, it doesn't bother me much as removing coiled hair is definitely easier than removing tangled hair from bristles. If I had known that such was part of the maintenance required, I would still have gladly bought it.

Unlike some of its competitors, Roomba starts out  cleaning the floor in a circular mode. As it moves in an expanding manner, it inevitably hits something and changes to a haphazard mode. There are areas it over cleans and others it touches and go, and yet others, misses totally. However, it cleans about 90% of the floor area and I am more than happy with it. It actually cleans better than I do!

When it first came home with me, we were all amused at how Roomba was moving. I said it behaved like a human being who is capable of finding its way while Coco thought it was like a blind dog running all over the place and getting itself trapped under a chair. It also pushes light objects left on the floor such as curtains and shoes. Once, it played with Coco's dirty laundry and left it outside the bathroom. I said in jest that Roomba was getting to be more and more like a man.

Braava 380t

I adore this little guy. It's absolutely quiet and goes about its work systematically. I have read that it has a dry-mop function but most of what it does is to push the dust to the sides of the room while its ability to mop is similar to wiping the floor with Magiclean wipes. It doesn't scrub the floor like the legendary Scooba but it's more efficient and energy-saving (literally) than human effort.

I just need to:
1) pour a little bit of cleaning solution with water into the pro-clean reservoir pad, which is a fancy name for the detachable mopping device that contains the solution
2) stick the damp cloth on the pad
3) snap the pad onto Braava's main body
4) place Braava on the floor at a corner of the room
5) put the Northstar Cube, the guide, on a table, and let the system run

Braava is primarily a wiping device, so you need to make sure the floor is vacuumed or swept before setting it to work. Otherwise, the cloth will be collecting lots of dirt under it and it will bring the dirt everywhere it goes.

Unlike Roomba's haphazard moving pattern, Braava maps the room and cleans the floor methodically in a back and forth manner. When it hits an obstacle, it usually moves around it and continues with its systematic cleaning.

It is shorter in height than Roomba and goes under the bed too! Guess what? Like Roomba, it cleans better than I too! I could not reach the nooks and crannies under the bed but Braava can!


I think there isn't a better invention than Roomba and Braava. I can't imagine my life without them ever. As for now, I list them down as life's essentials, like a washing machine. When these two guys bid me farewell, you can be sure I am going out to get their more advanced siblings. 


Anonymous said...

Hi Rain,

Enjoyed reading your informative (yet humourous) write-up! Now so tempted to get them too. However deterred by the $$:(


Rain said...

Hi Amy,

Thanks for reading! I know, right? I myself took years to mull over it and bite the bullet to get them. 'Like' the iRobot Facebook page so that you get updates on the distributor's promo on special occasions or IT shows.