- Washes and dries floors quickly
- Quiet in operation
- Extremely compact
- Simple setup & maintenance
- Works with white vinegar
- Only covers a small area
- Entry level pricing still significant
- Review Price: £249.99
- iAdapt navigation system
- Compatible with all hard floor types
- 16.5cm diametre, 9.2cm tall
- Cliff detect
- Soft touch bumpers
- Advanced Water Management System
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.”
So other than creepily-named bacteria, does the Scooba 230 actually do a good job of cleaning floors? Perhaps surprisingly yes, but this comes with caveats.
The good news is testing it in both a kitchen and bathroom we were left with clean floors that dried within 5 minutes. The last part is particularly significant since manually mopping the floor is well known to make floors treacherously wet for hours at a time. Furthermore the iAdapt tracking system – which can look horribly random to the naked eye – is here more controlled, cleaning in straight lines along walls, washing in efficient, ever widening circles in large open areas and finishing a four metre by three metre kitchen in under 15 minutes.
We say ‘finish’ because that is exactly what the 230 does. Unlike robot vacuums, which clean until they run out of battery then return to their base station for charging, the Scooba can detect when it has done its designated area and switches off with a celebratory jingle. This saves battery and water (particularly if the supplied Virtual Wall [pictured below] has it restricted to a particularly small area) and signals it can be moved to the next destination.
A further highlight is the 230 is quiet. Working in the same room may be difficult (and rather pointless with the floor being made damp) but it is possible and even just one room away the noise becomes little more than a distant hum. We’re sure the size of the 230 is a key factor here, but it sets new standards for other robot vacuums to aspire to. Maintenance is also simple as you just wash out both clean and dirty inlets and wipe clean the bottom.
So what about those caveats? The first is that while the 230 does have some limited vacuuming functionality it is primarily a floor washer. This means you’d be wise to sweep/vacuum any heavy dirt prior to using it (something iRobot does mention upfront) and leave the 230 nothing more challenging than breadcrumbs. In particular fluff can be a problem as it is made wet during the washing process and can then stick to the floor or get caught up in its brushes. Again the thought crops up: if you have to manually clean in the first place maybe you should just go the next step and mop too.
On top of this is a lengthy eight hour charge time – frustrating if it doesn’t quite get finished – and for those that could truly benefit from such a device – owners of large hard floored apartments for instance – the 41.8 square metre range is unlikely to be enough. Other caveats include incompatibility between its virtual wall and that of Roomba vacuums which means multiple virtual walls must be set up to divide a room if you are to leave two devices working. The 230 also has no dock so you will need to manually plug in the cable at the end of each cycle meaning your 230 is always flat when you come home.
iRobot cleaners usually alienate most due to their pricing (competitive though they are for robot vacuums), but with a £249.99 RRP the Scooba 230 is the most affordable product in iRobot’s product line. This doesn’t make it an instinctual purchase by any means, but it is worth remembering that this makes it nearly £200 less than the company’s other two washing robots, the full size Scooba 385 and 390.
The expense doesn’t stop there though as the 230 will only work with iRobot approved cleaning solutions, naturally including its own Natural Enzyme based product. The company claims non-approved solutions can reduce the life of the robot and bleach in particular is an absolute no-no. On the upside 2oz of white vinegar is accepted (though not recommended for marble floors) which makes for a hugely affordable option for most surfaces. As it happens iRobot’s cleaner isn’t expensive in any case with a 64 use bottle priced at £6.99. That said it is worth remembering a ‘use’ is just 13.9 metres square.
All of which sees us return to our original question: how busy are you, really? In some ways the Scooba 230 is the bargain of iRobot’s products with the lowest price and excellent performance if you stick to the company’s guidelines. The flip side is whether you need to spend £249 for a machine designed for smaller areas and whether the charging and maintenance of the 230 actually adds up to as much time as getting the mop out yourself. For those with the financial means though the 230 is more sanitary than keeping a natty old mop, smaller to store and the feeling of love for something which performs such an unwanted task is undeniable.
We recommend the iRobot Scooba 230, but we do so with some reservations. In terms of pure performance the cute little unit delivers, cleaning floors well and drying them quickly all the while working quietly and methodically. Furthermore it is the cheapest iRobot cleaner available and even if only approved cleaning solutions can be used they are cheap and the company allows vinegar! Against this is the fact you are still paying £250 for a device designed to wash small pre-swept areas and that makes you very lazy indeed.
Score in detail
Build Quality 8