Roomba and ramblings: Thoughts on our robot vacuum

Costco is dangerous for a number of reasons, some of which include five pound bags of chocolate chips, but every time Dan and I go to the store together, we end up with an impulse buy.  Separately we can keep unplanned spending in check, but together?  We are a recipe for disaster.


Several weeks ago, we found ourselves browsing the aisles of Costco as we were waiting for the Tire Center to finish rotating our tires.  We looked enviously at the outdoor furniture and made grand plans for our someday backyard.  But we found ourselves stuck by the Roomba vacuum display.

Had we ever talked about getting a robot vacuum?  No.  I have read online reviews from time to time, and a few of Dan's bachelor friends have them.  As much joy as Gigi brings us, ever since she has entered our life, I feel that I am living beneath a layer of black hair.  That, coupled with my very limited time--that, admittedly, I do not want to spend cleaning--led us to plunk $300 down for the iRobot Pet Series Vacuum.  We told ourselves that we could simply try the vacuum out and return it if we were not dazzled and amazed.


Well, we now have used our vacuum for fifteen days in a row, but we have not yet reached a verdict.  Life-changing?  No.  Helpful?  Yes.


In case you are looking for a way to burn $300 of disposable income, or if pet hair is the bane of your existence, here is what we have found:




  • Costco's deals really are good.  The version we got specializes in pet debris, for whatever that's worth, and it does not significantly differ from much more expensive models.

  • Our floor is actually a lot brighter and whiter than we thought.  Yuck.  There really was a lot of black hair on the floor.

  • The vacuum can be automatically scheduled to run at a certain time each day.

  • The vacuum can slide underneath furniture and tight spaces.

  • The vacuum's container is easy to empty.

  • Because the cleaning time is so much longer (I would guess on average the vacuum spends at least an hour each cleaning jaunt.



  • The vacuum is not particularly "smart." It does not learn a room but relies on sensors to move away from obstacles, so it will repeatedly bump into furniture, walls, and anything else in its path.  Some have complained of marks and damage.  We have not had that issue, but one lamp repeatedly falls off the same side table.
  • The vacuum does not pick up everything.  You still will need to spot clean.
  • The vacuum cannot navigate stairs.
  • Because the vacuum runs so long, the noise becomes obnoxious.  I would recommend running it when you are not around.  It also can be frustrating to watch because its zigzag pattern is illogical and random.
  • If you live in a multi-level house, you will need physically to move the vacuum from floor to floor and set up some sort of rotation schedule.
  • Open concept floor plans can be tricky for the vacuum.  It does not always know where to stop.
  • The vacuum can get lost and run out of battery before returning to the charging dock.


Despite all of the cons, we are leaning towards keeping our Roomba.  When we first purchased it, we expected a hands off, no maintenance vacuum, and that is not what we got.  But since, we have adjusted our expectations--and we have questioned whether we should adjust them, since we should not just "settle" on a such a pricey piece of equipment--and we do believe that our house is significantly cleaner.  We only need check the canister at the end of every day to see that dust that the vacuum regularly gathers and clears away.  Robotic cleaning equipment does not promise no work, but it promises far less work.


I have decided that I really like gaining that extra time back that would otherwise be spent vacuuming (although, let's be real--I didn't vacuum nearly as thoroughly or as frequently as the Roomba).  And I have decided that it bothers me to know how dirty our floors actually are.  So for now, I'm taking all the help that I can get.

Emily Rowell Brown