I won’t be doing much cleaning over the bank holiday weekend *smug face*. Wanna know why? Because I’ve finally found something that’s helped me to keep on top of the endless housework that comes hand-in-hand with a busy family home with two young kids, a mud-loving puppy and a constantly-moulting cat.
I’ve got to be honest, when the iRobot Roomba 966 – an all-singing, all-dancing robot vacuum cleaner – first arrived, I was cynical. It comes with a hefty price tag (retails at around £800), so it needed to be something pretty special to convince me it would make a worthwhile purchase for a family.
I needed to do some vacuuming, so I got the Roomba 966 unboxed, set up (super quick thanks to easy-to-follow instruction) and put to work. I’m not the most patient person in the world, and tend to do everything at high speed, so I found the Roomba’s slow meandering more than a little frustrating. I just wanted to whiz round and get it all done.
This feeling persisted until, after a few outings, I had the robot vacuum eureka moment. This isn’t a tool to use when I have a window of time to get some vacuuming done. The Roomba is designed to get on with the job while I’m busy doing something else entirely.
As I work from home most of the time, this is actually a perfect solution for me, as it allows me to get on with work while the Roomba gets on and does its thing. I forget all about it until I get the alert that it’s finished cleaning.
The Roomba 966’s key features give the vacuum an impressive list of benefits when it comes to helping with our cleaning routine.
It cleans right to the edge
I do a lot of my vacuuming using a hose on our old machine. So when I saw the Roomba’s circular shape I was dubious about how it would manage edges and corners. However it has a cleaning system that uses a combination of agitation, brushing and suction to make it really powerful, and corners and edges aren’t an issue at all.
And it cleans all floor types without having to change any settings – it just automatically adjusts – another plus point for our home because we have carpet upstairs and hard flooring downstairs.
It whizzes round the kitchen
Keeping the kitchen floor clean has always been a never-ending battle in which I never come out on top. The kids drop food (which I thought the dog would hoover up, but turns out she doesn’t), and it just seems to gather huge amounts of fluff, crumbs and general detritus. This picture above was not staged at all. This is standard for the floor under our kitchen table.
There’s a function on the Roomba 966 that’s perfect for this. ‘Spot cleaning’ will intensely clean one particular area (such as under my table) by spiralling outward to cover a circle about a metre in diameter.
Now when I get back from the school run (on my wfh days), I make a coffee, pop the Roomba 966 into the kitchen, set it to clean, and head off to my desk. By the time I’m ready for my second coffee, the Roomba has finished its cleaning cycle and my kitchen looks spick and span again.
You can leave the Roomba to it
When the Roomba’s fully charged (it charges on a very discreet dock), it can run for up to 75 minutes at a time. So I can pop it upstairs in the bedroom, shut the door, and not have to think about it again.
It tells you when it needs emptying
When it’s cleaning the carpeted areas of our house, I do find that the bin fills up quicker. Once I’d figured out how to connect it to the iRobot HOME app (this was a little less simple for me as Roomba cannot connect to 5 GHz wifi), I could make the most of the smart features.
It alerts me when the bin is full, tells me if the robot has got itself stuck somewhere (rare, but it does happen), says when the battery’s running low, and notifies me when it’s finished its task. You can set it to work via the app without even needing to touch the Roomba, and there’s a feature to set an automatic cleaning schedule (which I haven’t experimented with yet, but fully intend to make use of).
It’s neat and compact
There’s a nifty little handle so it’s easy to pick up and move between spaces. The bin slots out and is straightforward to empty. I need to clean the filters regularly too, especially as we have pets, but those are very simple to access, remove and put back.
It won’t fall down the stairs
I was so unsure about this (£800 robot vacuum anyone?!), that I hovered like a helicopter parent the first time I set the Roomba to clean our landing. But it quickly became clear that it wasn’t going to take a tumble down the stairs, so that meant another area that it will clean.
I just wish it could navigate stairs, as vacuuming those is one of my least favourite household chores.
It keeps the dog amused
Luckily our dog doesn’t shed much hair. But the cat leaves little piles of white fluff everywhere, and the puppy is drawn to mud and dirt like a magnet. The Roomba’s cleaning brushes are tangle-free, so that pick up pet hair, fur and debris without any problems.
Oh, and it’s great at distracting the dog from sitting at my feet and whining for attention when I’m trying to work! She follows it around, checking on it and giving it the occasional swat (which it doesn’t seem to mind too much).
Those are all big plus points for the Roomba 966. But this wouldn’t be an honest review without covering a few of the things that didn’t work so well for our home.
The not quite so good
The Roomba 966 struggled with our living room. There’s furniture around all the walls (and pieces that the robot couldn’t navigate under or between, because of their width/height), so it couldn’t get to those little areas of dirt and debris under the side tables, armchairs and various other spots.
Then there’s the thick living room rug, which drives me made by constantly shedding little tufts of fluff and which I’d love the Roomba to deal with more than anything. But it couldn’t get up onto the rug, and even if I put it onto the rug, it would almost immediately trundle off it, and then skirt round the edge again.
Finally, our sofa is obviously just the wrong height for the Roomba. It can get under it (hurrah, I thought, it’s even going to clean under the sofa!), but there are points at which it gets itself wedged and then I get the alert to come and free it.
The other thing I’ve had to work around is that our ground-floor is open plan, so if I want the Roomba to just clean the kitchen for example, I have to put something up to act as a barrier so it doesn’t escape.
One Virtual Wall Barrier (does what it says on the tin – creates a virtual wall or a ‘halo zone’ depending on what mode you have it in) comes with the Roomba, but I could do with a couple more, so I also use something as a physical barrier for the other openings for now.
Putting that in place has now simply become part of the routine – same as popping the kitchen chairs up on the table and pulling the table out slightly so the Roomba can navigate all the way around it.
And finally, it’s pretty loud. I’d love to put it on to vacuum the kitchen in the evening while I’m Netflixing on the sofa in the living room, but it’s too noisy for that.
All in all
All things considered, the Roomba successfully cleans well over half the total floor area of our ground floor, and these are the areas that get the most traffic and need more frequent cleaning. Upstairs it’s great too, but there is more to tidy up first so that it has a clear run (the kids’ rooms have been on my ‘to tackle’ list for weeks).
So even if I still have to get the old vacuum out to do the living room and the stairs (groan), I’m saving a significant amount of time overall. For me, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives, making it a win, and a welcome addition to our home.
I was given the Roomba 966 by iRobot for the purposes of this review but the views and opinions are very much my own.