iRobot Scooba 450 review: Can this floor-cleaning bot mop up the competition?

The Scooba is fairly easy to use, although it isn't as simple as its Roomba robot vacuum counterparts. With no dock or scheduling, you have to physically press the clean button on the unit itself to tell it to start. That of course also means that you have to be home to get it running. In addition to the lack of dock, mopping bots are also inherently more involved than standard robot vacuums-- you have to add water (or water mixed with cleaning solution) and clean out both the clean and dirty water tanks regularly.

Also, the Scooba's battery doesn't last very long. So, if you're hoping to mop, say, a 1,200-square-foot space, you're going to get roughly a quarter of the way done (40 minutes and 300 square feet maxes out its battery) and have to stop, clean out the dirty tank, possibly refresh the clean tank, let it charge for 2 to 3 hours and then resume. While that's probably still less effort than mopping the floor yourself, it isn't the most efficient process if you want to clean a larger space (especially if you want to clean a large space quickly).

Still, it isn't hugely inconvenient, especially compared to other robot floor cleaners we've tested. The iRobot Braava 380t may have a longer battery life, but you also have to deal with attaching and removing mop pads for cleaning. Plus, the Scooba comes with a Virtual Wall that you can use to section off your floor for cleaning. If you live in a smaller home or have minimal amounts of hardwood/vinyl/laminate, etc., the Scooba might just simplify your floor cleaning routine.

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Cleaning marinara off of hardwood Megan Wollerton/CNET

I tested the Scooba 450 on hardwood, vinyl, and tile. Each surface got dosed with a fair amount of canola oil (to mimic oil splatters, and with green food coloring added so leftover spots would show up), marinara, and a mud mixture (made from combining plain potting soil with water).

The Scooba performed the best among the $300 iRobot Braava 380t, the $500 Yujin Robot iClebo Arte, and the $250 Techko Maid Smart Maid. However, none of those three models are designed to tackle floor cleaning with the same gusto as the Scooba. It's sort of like comparing a stick vacuum to a full upright -- not quite fair. Still, there aren't a lot of products in the category available for comparison. That helps Scooba to some extent because it stands out among the light-duty cleaners, but it also shows that there's a lot of room for improvement.

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The Scooba 450 had trouble reaching corners. Megan Wollerton/CNET

The Scooba's three-stage cleaning process managed to decimate most of the smudges and stains on all three surfaces. However, it also had a couple problems. As you can see in the photo above, the Scooba couldn't clean corners and had occasional trouble along edges in general. This bot could benefit from a side scrubber (similar to the Roomba's side brush) that could get closer to edges. Otherwise you have a rounded robot facing off against a 90-degree angle -- not ideal.

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Some mud was still stuck to the grout post cleaning cycle. Megan Wollerton/CNET

Most of the tile looked clean after each mopping cycle, but small bits of mud did cling stubbornly to the grout. Interestingly, I let mud sit on the hardwood floor for 24 hours to test how the Scooba handles caked-on messes and it left the floor in perfect condition. So, while it can definitely handle a significant mess, you may have to do minimal post-mopping bot spot cleaning.

I also tested the Scooba in my kitchen to see how it would navigate around obstacles. It did a pretty good job maneuvering around my kitchen table, but it definitely left inches of unmopped space between the table legs and the bot. Once again, the Scooba isn't great at getting close to corners, edges, or really any obstacles.

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There's no option for scheduling cleaning cycles. Colin West McDonald/CNET

The Scooba 450's dual water reservoir and uniquely powerful three-step cleaning process makes it stand out from the other floor cleaners we've tested. Still, I wouldn't recommend this small space floor scrubber to everyone. If your goal is fast and efficient cleaning of large spaces, you might actually prefer the lighter-duty iRobot Braava 380t. It's designed for maintenance cleaning, but it can cover more ground per charge.

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  • Cleaner Type Robotic