A robot cleans my floors.

thThis is an unsolicited, unreimbursed testimonial for the robotic vacuum cleaner known as the iRobot Roomba. When I first heard the words “robotic vacuum” years ago I made a rude noise with my lips. It sounded like a pricey toy more than a useful appliance.

But DF, that most frugal and practical of men, has owned one model or another for years. When I moved in with him I decided to learn how to use it.

And then I fell in love with a little self-propelled disc.

Roomba delights me when she’s not scaring me with just how much dust and crud she’s picked up on what looked like clean-enough floors. (Yes, our Roomba is female. She makes us think of the robot maid from “The Jetsons.”)

Given that I have asthma, it’s smart to keep the environment as dust-free as possible. But vacuuming frequently hasn’t generally been high on my to-do list, even though I knew it should have been.

Recently I realized my asthma attacks have all but disappeared since I came to live with DF. Initially I thought it was because I was so much happier. Now I think it’s mostly Roomba’s doing.

Happiness does have a lot to do with overall health, of course. But dust does, too. Every time DF or I open up Roomba and see what’s been removed from our environment I think, “Eeeeewwww, I could have been breathing that.”


Welcome to ‘Mopping Monday’

Roomba has also solved another housework issue. Clean floors have always been an issue for me because  mopping seemed like a huge time suck: First I’d have to move chairs and numerous other items up off the floor, sweep or vacuum the whole area and then mop.

Somehow this felt onerous so I’d put it off. And off. And off, to the point where a simple mopping wouldn’t be sufficient and I’d have to get down on my knees and scrub with a brush.

This wasn’t so bad when I lived in places with minimal linoleum, but almost all of our living area here has wood laminate flooring. Even though it’s not a huge house (under 1,100 square feet), the move-vacuum-scrub trifecta would likely take hours. While DF and I share the housework, I don’t feel I should order him to mop on a specific schedule. (Especially since he often does more cleaning than I do.)

Thus I’ve instituted “Mopping Monday.” Before he leaves for work DF gets chairs, the piano bench, the ottoman, the trash can and other items up and out of the way and gets Roomba going. I write until Roomba has done two full passes.

After that I mop the living room and part of the kitchen, empty and refill the pail and do the rest of the kitchen, the entry area and mop my way down the hall toward the office (with a quick side trip to the bathroom linoleum). Then it’s back to work until the floors dry.


Imperfect, but worth it

Is Roomba perfect? Nope. She’s a little laissez-faire about corners and can’t reach all the way under the baseboard heaters, so DF or I use a broom to pull dust from tight spots out where Roomba can grab it.

Consumer Reports agrees, saying that robotic vacuums can’t “match the deep cleaning you’ll get with the best upright and canister vacuums.” That’s probably true for those with carpets, but only one small room in this house has wall-to-wall.

It’s so easy to mop every week, the way I prefer, now that DF moves the furniture and Roomba does the sweeping. Having a clean living area makes me feel happy. Having needed to use my rescue inhaler just once in the past year – and that was during an illness – makes me happy, too.

Before MSN Money fired all its writers I purchased a Roomba as an anniversary gift for my daughter and son-in-law. Very glad I did so, since these days I’d hesitate to drop more than $400 (and maybe upwards of $700) for a single present. (However, a nice chunk of the price was covered by Amazon gift cards I earned from the Swagbucks reward program.)

These critters aren’t for everybody. Yet despite my initial skepticism I’m amazed how big a difference this little item has made in my life. While it doesn’t sound like a frugal hack, the impact on both my health and my peace of mind are completely worth the cost.

That’s why I’m going to split the cost of a new model with DF when this version gives up the ghost. Once you’ve gone Roomba, it’s hard to go back.


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  1. I LOVE my roomba. I even named her Rosie!

  2. Mine did great until I got a long haired cat. It wasn’t long until it died.

  3. How is the roomba on the wood/laminate floors? Does it scratch them? That’s my only concern, since I have bamboo floors that scratch very easily. My sister has a roomba and swears by it. She sets it to start cleaning every morning at 10AM. But all her floors are tiled, so no scratch worries.

  4. We’re meh on the roomba (we have an older model and it’s more of a pain to set up and clean out than to just vacuum), but we LOVE the scooba.

    • Donna Freedman

      That’s the floor-scrubbing one, right? How does that work?

      • Same as the roomba, but easier to set up and clean (and mops are bigger PITAs than vacuum cleaners). You can either use their super expensive cleaner or white vinegar.

        • Thanks for the vinegar tip! I love our scooba. There’s a bit of set up required, but I hate mopping so it’s worth it. We now have three pets instead of one so I find myself feeling the need to clean the tile with bleach occasionally. I use the mopnado for that because I feel the strings get into the grout better for a deep down clean which I’m willing to do seasonally to support regular cleaning with the scooba. My husband can’t see a visual difference so I’d credit it more to my peace of mind versus actual necessity. In other words the scooba does a fantastic job on its own and I don’t procrastinate like I do with mopping. I was early on the scene with one of the original roombas so I probably need to revisit that to see if they have improved. We have a wide open floor plan and the thing really got on my nerves. I felt like I could just vacuum in the time I moved things and setup the barriers. I’m just really worried about scratching my hardwoods. I use a Dyson on those and turn the brush off. Learned the hard way on that after some scratches. I use the mopnado and vinegar seasonally to mop those which I need to do more often in all honesty. The scooba dumps too much liquid and would ruin them I feel. Mine could be defective but it works great on tile which is all I use it for anyway. I have no carpet.

  5. We have one! (His name is Burt the Roomba. We didn’t think twice about giving him a male name 😉 Burt does not do a perfect job, but he does well when the alternative is dust marmots (much bigger than dust bunnies).

    We learned the lesson the hard way that you can’t have hanging plants anywhere near the floor (in this case, on the fireplace hearth). He sucked up a vine, and pulled that plant onto the floor. Much more dirt than when he started, but not his fault!

    Burt is currently in storage while I am working on the East Coast and living in a very small, vertical space. I look forward to pulling him out when I have more space for him to roam!

  6. I have been mulling this over for weeks (months?)! And particularly because of the price tag… I’m still saving for ours, bit by bit.
    Do you have any rugs Roomba has to navigate? If so, are there limits to how much pile she can handle? That’d be one of the things I’d most be concerned about.

    • Donna Freedman

      That Consumer Reports link mentions that shag carpets are probably not a good idea. We have a few area rugs and the machine handles them just fine. In fact, we always do two runs: one with the rugs down, one without.
      You can always save up those Swagbucks codes for Amazon GCs, to help defray the cost. Or if anyone asks what you guys want as a baby present, ask people to go in on a Roomba….? They could even order it from the widget on your site for a win-win.

      • Thankfully we’ve learned our lesson with shag, we just have a couple rugs.

        I’m definitely saving up the SB redemptions, though I had to wipe out a good lot of them for Christmas. Just can’t earn quite fast enough! I’m actually cost comparing to Costco to see if we can get one there for a better price. If so, I’m better off redeeming for Paypal cash, I expect. Interestingly, the few people who have wanted to buy us things (especially those willing to spend more) just go and pick things without telling or asking us about it til it’s too late. The drawback, I’m finding, of not having a registry.

  7. Ours is named Robbie. We installed laminate on our 2nd floor to help with my allergies. He works pretty well but tends to lock himself in the closet if we forget to lodge it open.

    • Donna Freedman

      Once we came home to find that Roomba had nudged the not-quite-closed bathroom door open and entered, and ultimately locked herself in. That little scamp!

  8. Robin Gonzalez

    My daughter has a Roomba and she loves hers. She also has a dog that constantly sheds. I keep thinking about one, but haven’t saved up enough yet. Is it better to do one room at a time? I think daughter does 2 or 3, but it covers such a large area that it seems to have to go back and recharge often.

  9. Caroline Kipps

    I’ve always wondered about the Roomba; helpful post and comments. I have multiple pets, and rely on my Dyson, but a Roomba down the road may be helpful for in-between days. And I forgot to thank you for the Roth IRA post about your nephew. Great idea. We are opening one tomorrow for our 17-year-old son. Thank you!

    • Donna Freedman

      What a thoughtful gesture for your son! Bonus: It gets him in the habit of saving a portion of each paycheck, even if that’s only $10 or $20 a week right now.

  10. Maggie G

    When you said that DF has owned one model or another over the years, did he trade up or did he need to replace them because they quit? We have been thinking about getting one since we have 4 pets (3 cats and a dog, so lots of shedding) but I’ve been concerned about its longevity.

  11. You come up with the best things! I just thought they were a gimmick. I’ll start looking for a good price right now!

    • So Bed Bath & Beyond offers a 20% discount to new cell phone signups and certain models of the Roomba are included. Then I remember SOMEONE mentioned buying discounted gift cards. Between the two, I shaved $105.

      Thank you ma’am!

  12. Cindy Brooks

    Oh, I love the idea of Mopping Monday! Why have I never thought to ask my sweet husband to pick up all the chairs, etc for me before he starts his day??? That’s the part I really hate and as a result I go waaaaay to long between floor cleanings. We have 2 long haired cats…picture clouds of cat hair blowing into the corners and under the sofa. I’ve often thought of getting a robot vac to clean in between. I believe you’ve convinced me!

  13. 🙂 Bet you don’t have dogs that shed a lot. My li’l Roomba suffered terminal dog-hair clog and was rendered nonfunctional. Eventually it became impossible to disentangle the dog hair from the brushes and gears. {sigh}

    • Donna Freedman

      If we did, we’d buy the pet-hair-friendly version. Fortunately, no dogs.

      • Are you referring to the 650? We have a long haired ragdoll cat with health issues that causes shedding and GI issues. Our two whippets add to the shedding. My kids have allergies so I’d like to do a better job of eliminating the hair without eliminating our sweet pets. Currently I need to vacuum every day with our Dyson which I honestly don’t do. Between work and keeping up with everything else I’m lucky to hit it twice a week. I thought about a roomba again because I do love my scooba although I find myself using the mopnado more and more often since I’m afraid to use the scooba on anything other than tile. I’m very worried about scratching my hard wood floors my husband and I spent our vacation time installing. I scratched them initially with my Dyson before I realized you are supposed to turn the brush off on wood floors. User error. I just cant find a robotic vacuum that has that option or one without a rotating brush. I think what I really need is an actual robot with human form to run the Dyson daily and mopnado once a week at a very low price point.

        • Donna Freedman

          Not sure which model is the pet-hair one. Our floors are that interlocking laminate type (think “Pergo” except a different brand) and are scratched here and there because DF raised kids in this house. Nothing awful, and I don’t think the Roomba makes a difference along those lines. But if I’d spent my vacation time installing real hardwood flooring, I’d visit forums on the manufacturer’s site and/or Amazon to ask other users about their experiences.

          Thanks for reading and for leaving comments.


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