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The Joy of a Mopping Robot

Posted on October 28th, 2017

Dave!As I've mentioned several times, one of my favorite technology purchases of all time has been Carl, my RoboVac. I've had him for almost three months now and I still feel the same. I had anticipated that I would need to "vacuum for reals" once or twice a month to get at the dirt and cat hair that Carl wasn't capable of sucking up... but I was wrong. I haven't had to vacuum once since Carl took over. He does an amazing job, and I continue to be amazed when I open his waste bin each day and see how much crap he manages to find on my floors. Where is it all coming from?!?

Carl is the gift that keeps on giving.

And so...

I decided to take the plunge and get a mopping robot too because... well... the idea of not having to mop the bathrooms and kitchen any more was just too appealing. And the iRobot "Braava Jet" was on sale at Amazon for $169, which was almost completely covered by the $150 gift certificate I had burning a hole in my wallet...

The iRobot Braava Jet!

Carl the RoboVac was named after the faithful janitor in The Breakfast Club...

Carl the Janitor!

So I decided to name my RoboMop after Joy, the woman who invented the Miracle Mop (and was played by Jennifer Lawrence in the movie Joy)...

Joy the Mopper!

Now let's cut to the chase... was Joy a worthy purchase? Does she do as good a job as Carl when it comes to cleaning?

Well, it's complicated.

To begin with, Joy is not really a "mopping robot." She's more of a "Swiffer robot." That's because she doesn't slop water around with a mop, rinse the mop off, then repeat that until she's done. Instead she spits plain water on the floor then scrubs it with a disposable pad that has some kind of cleaning agent baked in. The pad is on a vibrating head that rubs your floor and "traps" the filth so you can toss it out when the Braava Jet is done.

Much to my surprise, Joy does a pretty darn good job... at least as good a job as my Swiffer.

Her first run was in the upstairs bathroom, which is my primary bathroom. Before she started, I vacuumed everything with a ShopVac, then Swiffered with a wet pad. Not surprisingly, the pad was pretty dirty since I don't have time to mop very often.

After I was done cleaning, I unleashed Joy.

This was the result...

Joy the Mopper Filthy Pad!

Now, most of that dirt and cat hair you see had to be hiding underneath my sink and linen hutch. Which I was cleaning by blindly shoving a vacuum hose and Swiffer under there. Obviously Joy did a better job than I did... I just didn't realize how good a job she did until I saw this.

Like Carl, Joy kind of drunkenly stumbles around cleaning until she bumps into something, then she changes direction. Unlike Carl, whose path seems completely random, Joy actually tries to clean in a pattern. And because she's smart like that, you can create a "virtual wall" so Joy's cleaning area is confined. My kitchen/entryway is shaped in a big "U." To keep her cleaning where I wanted, I set Joy down with her "no fly zone" behind her when I define the "wall." This is a very cool feature and works exactly as advertised in the manual...

Joy's Room Map!

When she's cleaning a bathroom floor, I just close the door and let her go to town. That works too.

Like most RoboVacs, Joy has sensors to keep her from falling down stairs or mopping over something she shouldn't. Like, for example, my heater vents. The raised edge is not that high, but it's enough to deter Joy from running over it...

Joy the Mopper Avoids a Vent!

When Joy stumbles across an obstacle, she carefully navigates around them...

Even better, she doesn't spray water onto furniture or places other than the floor. Instead she backs away and squirts in front of it, which is pretty smart. As if that weren't enough, she is surprisingly small. Her diminutive size means she had no problem artfully cleaning around toilets or under furniture, which is exactly the kind of thing you want in a mopping robot...

Filling the water tank is a bit of a pain because there's a microscreen to prevent stuff from getting in there and clogging Joy's nozzle. The microscreen is so good at its job that it's actually kind of tough to even get water through! You have to fill with a slow dribble to give the water time to settle...

Joy the Mopper Microscreen!

The Braava Jet has four types of cleaning pads available, and can automatically sense which is attached so she knows how to clean and whether or not to spit water out...

  • Wet Mopping Pad: Has a mild cleaning agent and fresh scent. When attached, Joy will spit out max water and do a triple pass cleaning (ideal for tile and other floors that have great water resistance).
  • Damp Sweeping Pad: Has a mild cleaning agent and fresh scent. When attached, Joy will spit out minimal water and do a single pass cleaning (great for wood floors and less water-resistant surfaces... or quick cleaning on any surface).
  • Dry Sweeping Pad: Single-pass cleaning without any water. Basically just for dusting your floors. Recommended to use these before a wet pad to minimize dirt getting wet. No cleaning agent or scent.
  • Washable Wet Mopping Pad: A more environmentally-friendly option, these wet-mopping pads can be washed and reused up to 50 times. No cleaning agent or scent.

I bought some of the reusable pads but, since I can't fill Joy with a cleaning agent, you're pretty much just wet mopping. The fuzzy head does seem like it might clean grout between tiles a little better than a flat pad, but otherwise it doesn't seem like it can break down dirt as well as the disposable pads? Maybe if you pre-sprayed a vinegar/water solution on dirty spots it would be okay. Since I've only used the reusable pads after cleaning with the regular wet-mop pads, I'm not sure.

Right about now you may be saying "All that's well and good, Dave, but how do your cats like Joy?"

I've said many times how much my cats hate Carl the RoboVac. It's so bad that I am convinced that Jenny is conspiring with Clay the Litter-Robot to kill him. But Joy is a different story. Jake and Jenny don't seem to have a problem with her, and can sit and watch her clean for long periods of time...

The Cats Love Joy!

Jenny Eyes Joy Suspiciously!

Heaven only knows how long this friendly relationship will last. My hope is that eventually the cats will just ignore her.

And now the pros and cons of the iRobot Braava Jet...

  • PRO: Actually works! Obviously Joy doesn't have the downward force to really scrub your floor like a human on their hands and knees with a scrub brush, but she manages to pick up surface dirt and cat hair just fine.
  • PRO: Quiet. There's a pumping action when she's spitting water on the floor, but the mopping itself is near-silent.
  • CON: Can only be filled with plain water, not a cleaner. And the micro-screen which makes sure nothing falls into the tank and plugs the nozzle makes filling it a pain since you can only dribble the water in.
  • CON: Disposable pads are expensive and wasteful. Reusable pads don't do quite as a good a job since there's no cleaning agent "baked in" to help break down dirt and leave a fresh scent.
  • CON: Flat surfaces only. Can't really clean grout between tiles.
  • CON: Does not return to a charging base. You have to manually remove the battery and charge it separately.
  • CON: Cannot be scheduled to automatically clean. You have to manually position her and press "start" for operation.
  • PRO: Smart navigation. Does a surprisingly good job of cleaning around objects. Also... the small size and short height means the Braava Jet can clean underneath many furniture pieces.
  • CON: The sensor bar which rams into something is hard plastic, not soft rubber, which could leave marks on wood furniture.
  • PRO: The "virtual wall" feature actually does a good job of keeping the Braava Jet contained.
  • CON: You can only have one "virtual wall" at a time, so it's impossible to keep Joy contained in just a section of an open area unless you use something to block her path.
  • CON: Designed for smaller places like bathrooms or kitchens... not a good fit for larger rooms.

Overall? I'm quite happy with the Braava Jet RoboMop. For what she is and what she's designed to do, Joy is a great addition to my growing robot collection. She makes me want to investigate buying her bigger brother, the Braava 380t, which is designed for larger rooms. That might be a good solution for mopping my open-concept living/dining room's wood floors. The only thing that gives me pause is that my hideously-expensive wood ended up being total crap that slivers and splinters in spots, which causes Swiffer-type pads to snag. I've already gone around on my hands and knees to try and sand them out, but more are always appearing. Carl doesn't seem to have a problem with it, thankfully, so maybe a Braava isn't in the cards. Manually "spot-mopping" might be the way to go. I'm not too broken up about this because the bathrooms and kitchens are the places most in need of mopping.

If you need an occasional light mopping in your home, then the Braava Jet might be the robot for you. Especially if you have furniture that needs cleaning under. I'm giving Joy my Dave Seal of Approval.



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