"How busy are you, really?" It was a question I asked when reviewing the iRobot Roomba 780 and it is one that should be considered even more seriously before buying the company's latest invention: the Scooba 230. The 230 has just been released in the UK and, unlike the Roomba series, it washes hard floors - an activity which takes us even less time than vacuuming. And yet this guilty pleasure is good…
The first thing you will notice about the Scooba 230 is its size. With a diameter of just 16.5cm and measuring 9.2cm high it is 50 per cent smaller than the Roomba 780 and weighs just 1.92Kg. In fact it looks like someone hit it with a shrink ray. Despite this iRobot has still packed a lot of familiar technology inside such as its iAdapt Responsive Cleaning system which covers areas multiple times, Cliff Detection sensors to avoid stairs and other drop-offs and Virtual Wall technology which allows the Scooba to be confined to specific areas or rooms with the supplied Virtual Wall accessory.
So why so small? Primarily it is because the 230 is designed to clean smaller rooms (think hard floor kitchens and bathrooms, rather than an entire house) and get into hard to reach areas. Furthermore battery life remains pretty good with the 230 covering 41.8 square metres on a single charge. Where the size limitations do start to press is water capacity with cleaning limited to 13.9 square metres (typically two to three rooms) before the dirty water needs to be emptied and fresh water added.
So how does it work? The setup is simple: pour clean water and the cleaning solution (more of later) in one end, empty dirty water out the other, shut their respective watertight caps, switch it on and press the big 'clean' button on top. What happens under the bonnet, however, is a little more complex. Using the imaginatively named 'Advanced Water Management System' the 230 is fitted with an active-reservoir which keeps clean and dirty water apart.
In action this means a thin film of clean water is deposited on the floor from one reservoir and it then washes, scrubs and squeegee-vacuums the dirty water up into the other. iRobot claims no dirty water is ever re-used and the process neutralises up to 97 per cent of common household bacteria from sealed hardwood, tile and linoleum floors. Look at the small print and this reveals "When used as directed, laboratory testing results indicate removal of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria."