'Round the house robot roundup: the latest mopping ‘bots

For those who hate household chores, there are few tasks as dreaded as mopping. Hauling a bucket of dirty water around while you push what amounts to a rag on the end of a stick —it all seems so primitive, so twentieth century. Luckily there are a number of cleaning robots that can tackle this hated task, giving you clean floors without all the effort.

Mopping ‘bots have been on the market for a few years, but a second generation of cleaners has hit the market in the last year, offering a few improvements over previous models.

So whether you’re looking to upgrade, or buy a mopping robot for the first time, check out the newest robo-cleaners on the scene.

iRobot Scooba 390 ($499)

Weighing in at 8.6 pounds and sporting a 14-inch diameter, the iRobot Scooba is a floor-scrubbing beast. The Scooba 390 features a multi-stage cleaning system that vacuums the floor of larger items, sprays the floor with water, scrubs with a rotating brush and then squeegees the floor clean.

The 390 series, which the company released earlier this year, is an incremental upgrade to the previous generation. The latest model sports an improved battery that’s 30 percent more powerful, which means you can clean up to 425 square feet on a single charge. The company has also improved the device’s cleaning cycle, allowing it to clean a little smarter and harder than previous models.

While the improvements are welcome, iRobot has failed to fix some of the original problems with the ‘bot. Because of its round shape and wide diameter, the Scooba can’t get into corners to clean, leaving you with telltale triangles of dust and grime on your floor.

And for an automated cleaner, the Scooba requires a lot of hands-on prep to work properly. You need to fill it with water each time you use it, remember to plug it in after it’s done mopping, clean the scrubbing brushes and empty the vacuum filter on a regular basis. That said, if you’re loathe to pick up a mop, the Scooba is an adequate replacement and will certainly lighten the load. Just don’t expect it to do all the work for you.

Best for: People who want a really deep clean, but recoil at the idea of picking up a mop.

iRobot Scooba 230 ($299)

At just 6.5 inches across, the Scooba 230 is half the size of its bigger brother, but it still packs a punch. Its tiny form factor means that it can fit into tight spaces, like behind the toilet, cleaning areas in your home that probably haven’t seen a mop in years.

On the robot’s underside, there’s a series of stationary brushes, a squeegee and two water jets. Because it’s much smaller than the 390, this model doesn’t have the same horsepower, dispensing with the vacuum and the rotating scrub brushes. So while its smaller size makes it a more nimble cleaner, it does come with a few drawbacks.

On particularly dusty floors, the ‘bot tends to push dust into unsightly clumps, leaving you to pick up after it. And with a range of only 150 square feet, the 230 can’t handle larger rooms, like a typical kitchen, making it more suited for bathrooms and smaller spaces.

That said, for those looking for an entry-level ‘bot, or those with limited hard surfaces, the 230 is a great little machine.

Best for: People who hate mopping the bathroom; apartment dwellers with small spaces to clean.

Mint Plus ($299)

While the Mint Plus is a hard-surface cleaner like the Scoobas, it takes a very different approach. Scoobas tend to clean in a rather haphazard manner, going over the same spots repeatedly. The Mint Plus, however, features a sort of indoor GPS system. Place the NorthStar navigation cube on top of a high surface and it communicates with the ‘bot, telling it where it has already cleaned and where it needs to go.

The original Mint cleaner already included this innovative feature, but the Mint Plus’ biggest improvement is that it allows you to link multiple cubes together, extending the robot’s range to a whopping 2,000 square feet.

Rather than rely on a large water tank like the Scooba, the Mint Plus uses reusable microfiber cloths — a dry cloth for lighter cleaning jobs and a wet one for a more thorough clean. While it lacks the deep-scrubbing power of the Scooba 390, the Mint Plus does come with a few advantages. First, since it’s basically a push-mop on wheels, the Mint Plus is nearly silent. The Scooba 390, with its vacuum and rotating scrub brush, on the other hand, is noisy enough to drown out a conversation.

Second, without all that extra machinery, the Mint Plus’s battery life is much longer than a Scooba, allowing it to clean for up to four hours on a single charge. So if you have a lot of hard surfaces to clean, and never let your floors get too dirty, the Mint can get the job done.

Best for: People with large spaces and light cleaning needs.